November 23, 2014

By what authority do we choose between authorities? Reason and the ‘Republic of Opinion’

Long live negativity! We must learn again to think negatively. Negations may be emancipations. Negations may operate in the service of affirmations. But happy talk, the uplift of pure positivity, is the rhetoric of the status quo. - Leon Wieseltier, literary editor of The New Republic

Why is reason important? Leon Wieseltier explains: “We need not be a nation of intellectuals, but we must not be a nation of idiots.”

Reason and the Republic of Opinion
Leon Wieseltier The New Republic USA November 11, 2014

“At this period … of wreck and ruin, the one power that can save, can heal, can fortify, is clear and intelligent thought,” the editors of The New Republic wrote in 1915, in a promotional letter to its first subscribers “to state again the general purposes of the paper.” The statement is not as banal as it may seem. There are people who prefer ardent thought to clear thought, and loyal thought to strict thought. There are people who mistrust thought altogether and prefer the unarguable authenticities of the heart—the individual heart and the collective heart. There are people who regard thought, at least as the editors of The New Republic conceived it, and as the “public reason” of which philosophers now speak, as an activity of an elite; and there is some sociological truth to their misgiving, though the social provenance of an idea says nothing about its value. (Hardship may make one wise, but it does not make one smart.) Yet the ideal of “clear and intelligent thought,” stripped of its condescension and its indifference to the non-rational dimensions of human life, deserves to be defended. We need not be a nation of intellectuals, but we must not be a nation of idiots.

The task is not to intellectualize humanity. It is to humanize intellectuality. To this end, the cultural reputation of reason needs to be revised. Reason is an intensely romantic pursuit, especially if one finds romance in struggle. Reason’s victories are almost never final. It is always surrounded by unreason, which is always more popular. Reason is the stout resistance, the flickering lamp in the darkness, the perpetual underdog, the stoic connoisseur of defeat, the loser that dusts itself off and fights another day. If, as some of its enemies claim, reason aspires to control, it is a futile aspiration. The anti-rationalist mob in contemporary thought can relax: reason will never come to rule. Not a chance. Thomas Mann once remarked, against Nietzsche, that the world never suffers from a surfeit of reason. And he never went online!

If the world were rational, there would be no need for rationalism.

Feeling may be a relief from reason, but where is the relief from feeling?

One of the most absurd charges against reason is that it is authoritarian. The postwar Marxist intellectuals who conflated reason with “instrumental reason” and “instrumental reason” with authoritarianism helped to perpetuate this canard. There is nothing rational about tyranny: it is stupid and it is mad. Its “rationality,” which is to say, its internal coherence and its capacity to function, is not the same as reason. Quite the contrary: it is reason that exposes this rationality for what it really is. More importantly, reason is essentially anti-authoritarian because a rational discussion is never closed. (Whereas nothing shuts down a conversation more brusquely than an emotion.) That is why modern thinkers still engage with ancient thinkers. That is why science never ends. New objections and new findings are always welcome. In the war against reason in much of contemporary philosophy, one of the cleverest tricks is to present reason’s rigor, its insistence upon the importance of the inquiry into truth and falsehood, as discouraging to thought. But the contrary is the case. What could be more encouraging to thought than the belief in the possibility of intellectual progress? This is a gathering to which all minds are invited. They have merely to agree to behave like minds. But then minds are not supposed to behave like hearts.

Reason frightens some people, but reason is never as frightening as its opposite.

Here is Mill’s version of the dream: “to enable average human beings to attain the mental stature which they are capable of.” The egalitarianism of the intellect! The aim of freedom of thought, Mill contended, is not “solely, or chiefly, to form great thinkers,” but to create “an intellectually active people.”

“An intellectually active people”—is this idealism, or is it a hallucination?

A democracy imposes an extraordinary intellectual responsibility upon ordinary people. Our system is finally determined by what our citizenry thinks. This is thrilling and this is terrifying.

A thoughtless member of a democracy is a delinquent member of a democracy. Anti-intellectualism has been one of the regular features of populism, but in this respect populism is an offense against the people, because it denies their mental capability and scants their mental agency. Anti-intellectualism is always pseudo-democratic. In enshrining prejudices and dogmas, it robs the citizen of his exacting and proper role.

Social vindication can be attained only by means of ideas, by representing (or misrepresenting) one’s interests as a social good. But to claim a social good is to hold a concept of society and a concept of goodness. There is no other way, in a society that determines its course by persuasion, to convince you that my advantage is also your advantage, if I seek your support for my advantage. That is why avarice and aggression are outfitted with ideologies, and hatreds spawn philosophies of history.

Dictators employ intellectuals, but finally they fear intellectuals. They live in dread that their liars will one day decide to tell the truth. Sooner or later, therefore, they destroy them.

A just order is an order in which truth has no need of courage.

Do not look down on nonsense. Nonsense comes to power. Nonsense murders millions. It prospers if we are too exquisite, too intellectually respectable, to bother with it.

Related: Below: Luke Brinker is Salon’s deputy politics editor.

Glenn Greenwald: U.S. manufactured militant threat as pretext to bomb Syria
Luke Brinker Salon USA September 29, 2014

Visit this page for its embedded links and video (Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman’s interview with Murtaza Hussain).

Until the Obama administration announced last week that it was launching air strikes in Syria to target the Islamic State (ISIS) and an al-Qaida affiliate called the Khorasan Group, most Americans had never heard of the latter organization.

That’s because the U.S. government invented the threat, the Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald and Murtaza Hussain charge. In an extensive new report, the journalists document a carefully orchestrated campaign by U.S. officials to depict an imminent threat of terror attacks by Khorasan against U.S. targets. Media outlets suddenly zeroed in on Khorasan, hyping the alleged threat the group could pose, Greenwald and Hussain write.

Claims that Khorasan planned to launch attacks on the U.S. came from anonymous officials who provided thin evidence that any such plans were at risk of being carried out. But, Greenwald and Hussain contend, “American media outlets – eager, as always, to justify Americans wars – spewed all of this with very little skepticism.”

However, mere days after anonymous officials were telling journalists of the sophisticated, far-reaching plots hacked by Khorasan, officials are backtracking. A new AP story – written by a journalist who’d previously spoken with officials hyping the Khorasan threat – notes that FBI director James Comey and Pentagon spokesman Adm. James Kirby have said they don’t have “precise intelligence about where or when the cell … would attempt to strike a Western target.”

Meanwhile, sources on the ground have told NBC’s Richard Engel that they’ve “never heard of Khorasan or its leader,” while former CIA official Aki Peritz and former federal terror prosecutor Andrew McCarthy have also cast doubt on Khorasan’s existence. Former ambassador to Syria Robert Ford has also stated that while government officials used “Khorasan” to describe some militants, “they don’t call themselves that.”

Lacking congressional authorization for the Syrian strikes – and hobbled by assessments that ISIS has no designs on attacking the U.S. – the Obama administration manufactured the Khorasan threat to justify its Syrian air war, Greenwald and Hussain conclude.

“But, as always with these government/media propaganda campaigns, the truth emerges only when it’s impotent,” the pair write.

Below: Michael Barker is a doctoral candidate at Griffith University, Australia. He concludes his argument

However, at the end of the day it is vital that all people, with even a passing interest in the foreign affairs of their elected governments, work to create a media that can support democratic principles, not undermine them. This can be done in a number of ways but of course providing financial support for independent media outlets is a must. This is because as Robert McChesney (1997) points out: “regardless of what a progressive group’s first issue of importance is, its second issue should be media and communication, because so long as the media are in corporate hands, the task of social change will be vastly more difficult, if not impossible, across the board.”

Manufacturing consent for World War III
Michael Barker Global Research Canada November 22, 2014

Visit this page for its embedded and appended links.

“When President Bush used an October 17 [2007] White House press conference to threaten that the escalating US confrontation with Iran posed a danger of ‘World War III’ his remark was passed over in silence by most of the media. Those that did report it seemed, for the most part, to accept the White House claim that the president was engaging in hyperbole and merely making a ‘rhetorical point.’” Bill Van Auken (2007).

The key role the mainstream media plays in manufacturing public consent for elite decision makers has a long and inglorious history that has wreaked havoc on progressive aspirations for the development a truly democratic globa l p olity. While the antidemocratic implications of Manufacturing Consent were first popularized in the late 1980s by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky’s (1988) classic book of the same title, the methods of manufacturing public consent were honed much earlier by communications researchers participating in the seminal (Rockefeller Foundation funded) Communications Group, and many of the founding fathers of mass communication research.[1] Given the high level of involvement of mass communications researchers in refining the means by which to manufacture consent, it is little wonder that recent studies provide ample evidence illustrating the US government’s ability to exploit the system-supportive tendencies of the mainstream media to justify overt wars and cover-up covert wars,[2] distract attention from their support (throughout the Cold War) of right-wing terrorist armies in every European country,[3] legitimize controversial ‘humanitarian’ interventions,[4] play down genocides in which their government is implicated, and manufacture public consent for economic sanctions that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children.[5] More recent events (post 9/11) also demonstrate how a relentless propaganda campaign waged through the American media was able to persuade a significant proportion of the domestic population that the destruction of Afghanistan and Iraq was both necessary and justified.[6]

Thus considering the historical willingness of the US media to propound antidemocratic elite propaganda, it is entirely predicable that the media would play an integral role in manufacturing the next perceived threat to international stability, that is, the Iranian ‘threat’. As Marjorie Cohn (2007) notes: “It’s déja vu. This time the Bush gang wants war with Iran. Following a carefully orchestrated strategy, they have ratcheted up the ‘threat’ from Iran, designed to mislead us into a new war four years after they misled us into Iraq.” John Pilger (2007) adds that this ‘threat’ is “entirely manufactured, aided and abetted by familiar, compliant media language that refers to Iran’s ‘nuclear ambitions’, just as the vocabulary of Saddam’s non-existent WMD arsenal became common usage.”

It is then unfortunate to note that international attention is now firmly fixated on the Iranian ‘threat.’ Furthermore, given the success of the Bush administration’s most recent propaganda offensives, which have led to the destruction and ongoing occupation of both Afghanistan and Iraq, there is little reason to doubt that the American government does not have similar plans for Iran. In an earlier study I documented how the ostensibly democratic US-based National Endowment of Democracy has funnelled money to Iranian groups and media projects in an attempt to overthrow the Iranian government from within. However, in an attempt to counter the US government’s ongoing propaganda initiatives, this article will review how the mass media is manufacturing public consent for yet another illegal war by examining the work of radical mass media critics.

Noted today: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is arriving in Vienna on Sunday for talks concerning the future of Iran’s nuclear program, according to a government source speaking to Itar-Tass. The tense negotiations involving US and Iranian delegates will go on until a consensus is reached. Iran says the deal on its nuclear program with six world powers “will be impossible” to reach by the previously agreed deadline, November 24, the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) reported, citing an unnamed member of Iran’s negotiating team in Vienna. “The issue of extension of the talks is an option on the table and we will start discussing it if no deal is reached by Sunday night,” the person added. The talks, which have lasted for more than a year between Iran and the US, Russia, the UK, France, Germany and China, focus on Iran’s nuclear ambitions – the country’s uranium enrichment capacity and the lifting of the sanctions pressed against Tehran over its nuclear program.

Posted at: November 23, 2014 - 12:42 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

Fighting back against advanced-stage, 21st Century Neoliberalism. Social organization in Venezuela: The silent success of cooperatives & An excellent model for small scale sustainable agriculture and food security

These days the sign of an honest man is that he is sick of media. - Leon Wieseltier, bemoaning the democratic deficit in North America (to describe our sorry state of affairs in the mildest possible way). By extension, that democratic deficit applies to all corporations and nations who adhere to the Western Axis ideology. The quote is found in Wieseltier’s essay, “Reason and the Republic of Opinion”

Intro: Below: A connect-the-dots guide to advanced-stage, 21st Century Neoliberalism. Martin Kirk is Global Campaigns Director for /The Rules. /The Rules is a collective of organizers and activists that aim to address the root causes of inequality. They focus on building citizen power in the Global South.

Do we live on a one party planet?”
Martin Kirk Common Dreams USA November 18, 2014

Visit this page for its embedded links.

The truth can be a slippery thing. We each have a version but it slips and slides about in our minds as we deal with the constant flood of information coming at us from all sides, not to mention trying to balance this expert view against that, between what we know, what we think we know, and what we suspect. We are all at the mercy of cognitive biases and layers of assumptions and associations built up over our lifetimes. And so we need reference points to help mark the key geographical features of our worldview. And, sometimes, we need some of those reference points visible in our world, amongst our tribes of friends, colleagues, allies and families. It’s very difficult for most of us to make our way in the world and act with the determination we often crave without some acknowledgement that we’re not the only ones seeing the world as we do. The bigger the thought, the less pleasant it is to assimilate, and the further out from the mainstream it lives, the more important that acknowledgment can be.

At /The Rules, we think its time for a new marker; one that grows very much from the 1%-99% meme, and, hopefully, adds something important. And it’s that we now all live on a One Party Planet.

This is a provocative claim, pregnant with meaning and implication. If it’s true in the way we believe it to be, it means there is an identifiable form of totalitarianism casting a shadow over the entire human race. It means that there is a force so broad, so enmeshed within the logic of modern global power, that the solutions we all work toward in the specific struggles we care most about – be that rampant inequalities in income and opportunity, widespread poverty, or climate change – are all facing it. Not a force that lives in any single person, organization or structure, but that is ephemeral in the way that all ideology is ephemeral. It transcends and thereby unites the leadership of the vast majority of political parties, governments and corporations that have any proximity to global power. But for all this, it is also specific, definable, and visible through the right lenses. Which means it can be challenged.

It’s got many names but we call it Neoliberalism, because that fits it well enough and is very common, recognizable currency. It’s not primarily an economic agenda; it’s a moral philosophy. As Margaret Thatcher, one of its seminal champions herself said, “economics are the method, the object is to change the heart and soul”.

It is defined by a circular and hermetically sealed logic, in three parts. Firstly, that survival of the fittest through eternal competition between self-interested parties is, practically speaking, the only law upon which human society can realistically be ordered; secondly, that, in the moral hierarchy, financial wealth equates with life success which equates with virtue; and thirdly that man [sic] is, if not an island, then, at most, a part of an archipelago of islands of shared interests, answerable only to himself, his peers and, possibly, his God, in that order. To see only the familiar economics – i.e. belief in small government, low taxes, the sanctity of private property and private industries, and ‘free’ markets, particularly in labor, all of which feed, above all else, the double-headed hydra of profit and economic growth – and not connect it back to the moral philosophy is to miss the point.

To back up this provocative claim, we have released a pamphlet today called, “The One Party Planet”. We start it by looking inwards, at our cognitive capacities. The world we see around us today is a reflection of human consciousness; we long since passed the point where we could say, “it wasn’t us.” So whatever challenges we face—climate change, rampant inequality, endless violent conflict or vast impoverishment—are challenges, first and foremost, of and for the human mind. It helps, therefore, to spend a small amount of time reflecting on what we know about its character in a section called, How True is True?

Lori Rhyne Shapansky wrote from Calgary in response to Do we live on a one party planet?:

It’s difficult to put into words, but we all squirm (deep down in the heart of us) under the talking points of Neoliberalism. They aren’t kind. They encourage selfishness and lack of care for human beings across the board.

“The poor are poor because they are lazy and drug addicts/alcoholics”, “If you didn’t want a child you should have kept your legs closed”, “Too many people abuse the health care system”, “You should have saved your money so you wouldn’t have to live off the state when you’re old”, “Unions are taking money out of your wallets”, “We’ve helped the First Nations enough, it’s time they started taking care of themselves”, “All collectors of welfare are drug abusers and should be drug tested before receiving any public assistance”, “you did the crime so do the incredibly unreasonable time – in many cases”.

These are some of the Neoliberal talking points, but they aren’t bound in facts, they are just repeated over and over until people actually believe them. Our healthcare system isn’t over-burdened – it’s under-funded. The vast majority of the poor simply don’t have enough education to get better jobs and the low skills jobs don’t pay a living wage. Unions aren’t the bad guys……they have won 5-day work weeks, fair wages, holidays, a 40-hour work week (and many more things) and they are the ones that will fight to save worker’s rights – for non-unions workers as well. Because a few people abuse a social program we should just throw it all out without care for those that absolutely need those programs for survival.

Neoliberalism is the worst of all of us. It gives us permission to be assholes without thinking the issues through to a logical conclusion.

As more and more people are looking around at the absolute horrors that Neoliberalism is committing around the planet, perhaps we can all wake up and start making choices for the betterment of all instead of the betterment of a few. Fingers crossed.

Item: Venezuelanalysis.com is a project of Venezuela Analysis, Inc., which is registered as a non-profit organization in New York State and of the Fundación para la Justicia Económica Global, which is a foundation that is registered in Caracas, Venezuela. The website started out in Caracas, Venezuela, in mid-2003 but by early 2008 its writers were, and still are, all working on the site from their homes in various places in Venezuela, with volunteers contributing from around world. While the site publishes opinion articles, it also aims for accuracy in the news and facts presented in all articles. Its goal is to be the primary resource for information and analysis on Venezuela in the English language. Dada Maheshvarananda is Director of the Prout Research Institute of Venezuela and author of After Capitalism: Economic Democracy in Action.

The silent success of cooperatives in the Bolivarian Revolution
Dada Maheshvarananda venezuelanalysis.com USA/Venezuela November 21, 2014

Solidarity, cooperation, and community empowerment are socialist values promoted by the Bolivarian Revolution in contrast to the individualism and selfishness promoted by the corporate-owned mass media. Cooperatives are quietly transforming people’s values in Venezuela, and the rest of the world, though they have been mostly ignored by the mass media and by many political leaders, too.

The International Cooperative Alliance defines a cooperative as “an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned and democratically-controlled enterprise.” Worker cooperatives develop trust, solidarity, and teamwork.

Because cooperatives promote socialist values, it is natural that the Bolivarian government once promoted cooperatives in Venezuela; what is surprising is that now it does not.

Before President Hugo Chávez took office in February 1999, there were 813 registered cooperatives in the country with 230,000 total members. Most of these original cooperatives are still active, tough, and resilient because they were created independent of government support or funding. The strongest of these is CECOSESOLA (Cooperatives of Social Services of Lara State). Founded in 1967, the food co-op consists of 538 worker members who sell to 60,000 shoppers each week from three locations in the city of Barquisimeto. Though their prices average 30 percent less than those of commercial supermarkets, their annual sales top US$20 million. This incredibly sophisticated business operation has no bosses or managers; the workers rotate jobs; and all workers receive the same pay. The network also has many different types of small producer cooperatives, credit unions, a health clinic with both conventional medicine and alternative therapies, and a network of cooperative funeral homes.

The Cooperative Law of 2001 is an excellent piece of legislation that was written by cooperative experts; it sets the minimum number of members at five and requires the government to give preference to cooperatives when awarding contracts. After the failed coup in April 2002, President Chávez began to emphasize cooperatives in a big way in order to transform property into collective forms of ownership and management. He set up a national job-training program, Mission Vuelvan Caras (“About Face”), that paid the minimum wage to the unemployed while they learned basic occupational skills; the trainers taught about cooperatives in every course, and they encouraged the graduates to form one. Co-op registration was made free of charge, co-ops were exempted from income tax, and micro-credit was made available to them.

CATURVEN is a very successful cooperative today that was formed during that campaign in 2002. It services the heavy machinery produced by Caterpillar Inc., the world’s leading manufacturer of earth moving and mining equipment. There are now 38 members, 40 percent of them women, who express they are very happy belonging to a cooperative that pays good salaries to everyone, with less than two times the difference between the highest paid and lowest paid members. They work in greater Caracas, and are part of the Strategic Solidarity Alliance, a network of 17 cooperatives with a total of 986 members that service the Caterpillar heavy equipment throughout the country. In an interview with a team from the Prout Research Institute of Venezuela, Lisset Reyes admitted, and her colleagues agreed, that the only real challenge they face as a cooperative is that it takes a bit longer to come to a decision. But none of them would trade their weekly meetings for an autocratic workplace.

For six years, from 2002 to 2008, the government invested heavily in their campaign to form cooperatives. The national cooperative supervision institute, SUNACOOP, which headed the government’s campaign, focused on basic education and the legal registration of new cooperatives. This resulted in the phenomenal creation of over 280,000 registered cooperatives; however, the vast majority of those never became active or collapsed. To understand why this big investment failed to make strong co-ops, we need to look at the key factors of their success.

As would be expected, the basic factors for success in any business also apply to co-ops: there has to be a real demand for the product or service; planning has to be thorough and realistic; and the enterprise has to make money. However because they are local enterprises that are owned and managed collectively, they also require good communication among the members, transparent accounting and community support.

Honesty is also critical to success. I asked some of the CECOSESOLA workers if they had problems with stealing. They laughed and explained that the nature of their huge operation included situations where money had to be counted unsupervised; in a poor society, temptation was always there. Each year, about five or six of the over five hundred members were caught stealing money; the general assembly then collectively decided they had to leave the cooperative. The annual budget also adds a one percent loss due to theft–if it ever crosses that, the amount is deducted from the end of the year bonus that each member receives. However the workers pointed out that all the commercial supermarkets in the area factor in a five percent loss due to theft, so in comparison they are doing quite well.

In 2006 SUNACOOP did a “census” to count how many co-ops were active – they were very disappointed to find that due to insufficient training, poor supervision, and lack of followup support, only around 50,000 cooperatives were actually functioning. Though it still represented the highest total for any country after China, the upcoming presidential elections prompted attacks from opposition media, who headlined “Venezuela is a Graveyard of Cooperatives!”

This stinging critique about the high rate of failure among registered cooperatives prompted President Chávez to shift the government’s approach from cooperatives to “socialist enterprises” and worker takeovers of factories. In this way, the government pays the salaries, but keeps the ownership, and can guarantee that the enterprise does not close.

Luis Delgado of Cooperativa Gestión Participativa was the former Venezuelan National Superintendent of Cooperatives from 1975-1979. He said to us, “I think the campaign by the government had an echo, because after the government completely stopped promoting co-ops in 2008, another 40,000 new ones have been registered. Why are people forming new cooperatives now? First, because more than 50 percent of our economy is the informal sector. If people aren’t employed by a private company or the government, they need to do something to survive. Many Venezuelans feel more security when they work together than when they go it alone.”

A second reason that new cooperatives are being registered is that the vast majority of poor and middle class Venezuelans have, at one time or another, participated in a SAN, a BOLSA or a SUSU. These are three names for the same thing, a system of trust whereby ten friends agree to each contribute a certain amount weekly for ten weeks, and the total is given to one of the members in rotation. This collective savings system helps poor families to be strict and self-disciplined to “save” the money and not spend it, until they eventually receive a large sum that they can then use to buy an expensive item they normally could not afford. No contract is ever signed, and the organizer of the SAN is always the last member to receive it. Millions of Venezuelans have participated in this simple community cooperative venture, so they have a positive idea that cooperatives can work even without financial support.

Delgado said, “A research study in 2005 by Centro Gumilla, a Jesuit Center, found that 80 percent of the cooperatives that function in Venezuela did not receive any financial support from the government. This is a situation where receiving money from the government seems to have a detrimental effect on the strength and determination of the cooperative workers.”

SUNACOOP has done no followup census and has no figures since 2008 for how many cooperatives are running in Venezuela. Delgado, comparing all the estimates from different sources, believes the number today to be approximately 90,000, with over a million members. The Venezuelan solidarity economy of cooperatives is a strong force of community empowerment that is transforming people’s values from being self-centered to actively working for the common good.

Related: Centro Madre is a national model of small scale sustainable agriculture
Dada Maheshvarananda Venezuelan Analysis/Prout Research Institute of Venezuela Venezuela May 16 & May 30, 2014

On only 3.5 hectares (8 acres) of fertile land near San José de Barlovento in the state of Miranda, a two-hour drive from Caracas, this holistic farm integrates fruit trees, vegetables, medicinal plants, bee-keeping, fish ponds, egg-laying chickens, worm production and a commercial guava nursery. For five years Cuban agronomists dedicated numerous hours each week to this flourishing project. The Center gets many visitors each day, including local farmers, university agriculture students and school classes. The Banco de Venezuela acknowledged this progressive project by awarding $23,000 to build a community store that will open next month. Both the national and local governments have recognized Centro Madre as an excellent model for small scale sustainable agriculture and food security.

The project began in 2000 when the director, Didi Ananda Sadhana, a yogic nun from the Netherlands, started doing relief work in the area following the devastating floods in December 1999 that killed an estimated 50,000 people in landslides in the state of Vargas. There were no deaths in Barlovento, but the mud homes of many rural villages were badly damaged. After leading the AMURT team that distributed drinking water, mattresses and organized medical missions, she then decided to start a permanent service project that eventually became known as Centro Madre.

A large amount of food is being produced each year on this small property. Five hundred guava trees produce 20-30 tons of guavas each year. The variety, which is from Cuba, is especially resistant to flooding, which has happened three times in the last 14 years. In their covered nursery, they grow 6,000 seedlings at a time, with automatic watering system–80,000 seedlings have been sold to other farmers in Miranda and other states. A total of more than 60 varieties of crops are grown there.

Community outreach programs

Most of the people of Barlovento District are Afro-Venezuelans. Descendants of enslaved people, they have suffered poverty, discrimination and exclusion. Empowering women, adolescents and children is the goal of Centro Madre’s dynamic educational projects. Volunteers from the community have visited families in the nearby towns to lend children’s books and share parenting techniques. Neo-humanist storytelling and gardening programs were held to enhance local school classes. Centro Madre supports teenage mothers and women that are raising children with special needs. Venezuelan professionals and graduate students have assisted in linking the cooperative social service projects of Centro Madre with various government ministries. Twice each year children’s programs of creative expression are organized in the five local communities.

The project employs local people from Barlovento, and receives volunteers from Venezuela and international “wwoofers” (“World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms” is a loose network of organizations that facilitates the placement of volunteers). Free yoga and meditation instruction is offered, and the vegetarian food that is served is delicious, most of which is grown on the land. This tiny global community works to help create a more ecologically sustainable and loving future.

Creating Networks of Local Farmers

In 2006 the late President Hugo Chávez announced an agricultural program called REPLA: Red de Productores Libres y Asociados or Networks of Free Associate Producers. The objective was to unite small and medium scale farmers into social movements to support the Bolivarian Revolution. They were mentioned again in the Socialist Economic Plan for 2013-2019.

Inspired by this, Dada Atmapranananda, a yogic monk from the Philippines who has been working hard in Centro Madre since its beginning, decided to organize local farmers in Barlovento. So far he has formed REPLAs in seven towns and villages, each one with 10 to 15 producers, to discuss common problems they are facing and make proposals how to solve them. For example the need for water for irrigation has inspired the groups to jointly dig wells and to apply for government assistance to construct a desalination plant. By together selling their produce at affordable prices in the weekly market, they have been able to bypass the intermediaries. Harvesting and sharing seeds is another valuable project of the networks.

Didi Ananda Sadhana explains the purpose of Centro Madre: “After three floods, two armed robberies and countless other crises, we are still here. After each setback, we have grown stronger than before. Barlovento has tremendous potential in both its natural resources and its people. Our main goal is to rescue the self-esteem of the people, to empower them personally, socially and economically.”

Posted at: November 23, 2014 - 12:37 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

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The Ukrainian coup and the resulting civil war/secessions: China supports Russia’s stance on settling the crisis in Ukraine & The US, Canada and Ukraine refuse to condemn the heroization of Nazism & Related items—US meddling in Russia affairs; German foreign minister speaks out against Ukraine joining NATO

China against declaration of independence at referendums
Itar-Tass Russia November 21, 2014

BEIJING, November 21. /TASS/. China is against the declaration of independence by any ethnic groups through referendums, but this does not apply to Crimea, the acting director of the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s European-Central Asian Affairs department, Gui Congyou, told Russian media on Friday.

“We should take a very careful and well-considered attitude to tackling nationalities’ issues. We are against any nationality gaining independence through referendums. As far as Crimea is concerned, it has very special features. We know well the history of Crimea’s affiliation,” the diplomat said.

“On the whole, the nationalities’ problems in some countries stem from double standard policies by certain states, which, proceeding from their own selfish interests, support one ethnic group and push it towards holding an independence referendum. This is a manifestation of double standards serving the interests of the United States. In a bid to achieve its aims, the US resorts to intervention in the internal affairs of other states by using force without UN Security Council authorization. China is firmly against this approach,” Gui said.

In his opinion, “such actions trigger aggravations of inter-ethnic contradictions and result in armed conflicts.”

China supports Russia’s stance on settling the crisis in Ukraine, Gui Congyou stressed.

“China reacts with full understanding to the challenges and threats Russia has faced in connection with the Ukrainian issue and supports Moscow’s approach to its settlement. We are not interested in an armed conflict on the Ukrainian territory and wish to see the issue settled by political means. We are against external intervention in Ukraine’s internal affairs through government coups.”

“As for the causes of the Ukrainian crisis, in a telephone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin the Chinese leader, Xi Jingping said that ‘there is no smoke without fire’,” Gui added.

“Personally, I believe that some states and blocs stick to the Cold War mentality and are involved in geopolitical games with the aim to infringe on the geopolitical interests of Russia. China is strongly against anyone harming the security of other countries for the purpose of protecting one’s ‘absolute security’,” he noted.

Below: Alexander Mercouris is a writer on international affairs with a special interest in Russia and law. He has written extensively on the legal aspects of NSA spying and events in Ukraine in terms of human rights, constitutionality and international law. He worked for 12 years in the Royal Courts of Justice in London as a lawyer, specializing in human rights and constitutional law.

Official – China recognises Crimean referendum
Alexander Mercouris The Vineyard of the Saker USA November 22, 2014

This is the clear meaning of the statement TASS reports that a senior official of the Chinese Foreign Ministry has made.

The fact that China recognises the Crimean referendum means that de facto (and surely before long de jure) China has recognised Crimea’s unification with Russia. Note also that the official has expressed support for Russia’s Ukrainian policy.

This is the clearest statement from an official source (as opposed to the news media) of China’s position viz the Ukrainian crisis that China has made to date. Because it is made by an official rather than a minister it has gone almost unnoticed. However that is how China works: statements of this sort are first floated in the media, then made formally but at a relatively low level, following which they become uncontested policy. Suffice to say that it is inconceivable that the official in question would have spoken out in this way without clearance from the very highest levels of the Chinese government and the fact that in his conversation to TASS he actually quotes comments made by Xi Jinping in telephone conversations with Putin puts that question beyond doubt.

I have always felt that the Chinese dimension in influencing Russia’s Ukrainian policy is consistently underestimated. I am sure that every single step Moscow has taken since the start of the Ukrainian crisis has been discussed and coordinated with Beijing at the highest possible level. We should not make the mistake of thinking that the only conversations between Putin and Xi Jinping are those that are officially or publicly reported. The Chinese do not want to be seen taking an active or public role in the Ukrainian crisis – which formally speaking has nothing to do with them – but given the importance of China’s support for Russia and the importance of Russia to China, it is a certainty that the two sides have been working closely together with each other and that they are discussing every aspect of this crisis all the time. Knowledge that he has China’s support is one reason for Putin’s confidence in his dealings with the US and the Europeans.

The need to coordinate with Beijing does however place certain constraints on Moscow’s actions. Again I am sure that one reason amongst many why Russia has been wary of intervening actively in the Donbas or of formally recognising the various votes there is because it knows that doing so too obviously or too hastily would not be welcome in Beijing.

China is traditionally very wary of independence declarations (a policy restated with specific reference to the Ukraine by the official quoted by TASS) not because it is worried about Xinjiang or Tibet (where the situation is fully under control) as the west alleges but because it does not want to create a precedent for Taiwan.

Again I do not think many people especially in the west but also in Russia understand what a sensitive issue for China Taiwan is. Suffice to say that a key reason for the Sino Soviet split of the 1960s was precisely Mao Zedong’s anger at what he correctly saw as a lack of support from Moscow over Taiwan.

That does not mean Novorossian independence will not happen or that either the Russians or indeed the Chinese are reconciled to the results of the Maidan coup or to the survival of the present regime in Kiev. Both countries perceive the sort of staged US backed “revolutions” that the Maidan coup was, as a direct challenge and threat to themselves. Both countries are almost certainly agreed that the results of the coup in a key Eurasian state must be reversed. Note how the official, in the clearest possible sign that he is speaking on behalf of the Chinese government, quotes a previously unreported but very revealing remark Xi Jinping said to Putin in one of their telephone conversations, that “there is no smoke without fire”. No guesses who or what that refers to.

However the joint policy of reversing the effects of the Maidan coup is going to be done incrementally, step by step, for many reasons of which China’s concerns about Taiwan are just one.

Anyway, to those who think there is some division between Beijing and Moscow both over the Crimean issue and over the Ukrainian crisis generally, this statement from an official of the Chinese government should finally and once and for all put that question to rest: there is none.

The US, Canada and the Ukraine refuse to condemn the heroization of Nazism
‘The Saker’ The Vineyard of the Saker USA November 22, 2014

The Saker is a ‘legal alien’ currently living in the ‘Imperial Homeland’ (the United States). Visit this page for its embedded links.

It is often argued whether the Ukrainian junta is Nazi or not. I would strongly argue that even though Poroshenko did not come out, make a Nazi salute and declare “I am a Nazi” all the signs point to the conclusion that the regime in Kiev has its ideological roots in the Nazi past. The latest example of that “filiation” can be found in this absolutely amazing event last week: only three countries – the US, Canada and the Ukraine voted against a UN Resolution condemning the heroization of Nazism. The EU was not much better: it abstained. This development is so crazy, so insane, that it is important to have access to the original document which was voted on.

Here is the full text of the Resolution:

http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N14/604/26/PDF/N1460426.pdf

You can also get this text from here:

http://www.mediafire.com/view/94n40m3x00dr355/N1460426.pdf

Here is the official voting record:

http://www.un.org/en/ga/third/69/docs/voting_sheets/L56.Rev1.pdf

To me, this is disgusting beyond belief. Here we have two countries who try to positions themselves as the most pro-Israeli on the planet (the US and Canada) and the EU which has even passed laws making not only Nazi propaganda illegal, but jailing those who would dare investigate the mass murder of Jews by the Nazis (the so-called ‘Holocaust’). And yet these putatively anti-Nazi and “democratic” countries are now refusing to condemn the heroization of Nazism not so much because they particularly like Nazis, but because they want to “protect” the Ukrainian junta. As for the Ukrainians themselves, they have suffered more from Nazis then any other country or ethnic group, and yet they also refused to condemn the heroization of Nazism. This makes a mockery not only of all their so-called principles and values, it also is an act of obscene disrespect for the millions of Ukrainian murdered by the Nazis. There is one good thing about all this: it shows clearly and unequivocally how much the western elites truly hate Russia and that this hate clearly trumps any other considerations or values.

For the past few days, or weeks, really, I have seen more and more signs of total Russian disgust with the West. If, in the past, Russian diplomats and politicians were mostly trying to sound polite, now they are openly expressing their disgust. For example, they are now openly saying the Europe does not have a foreign policy or an opinion, that Europe is just a subservient colony of the US. As for the US, the Russians are now openly saying that this entire Ukrainian crisis was just a pretext and that the US are really out there to submit Russia. Putin said that openly last week, adding that nobody had every succeeded in subduing Russia and neither would the USA. This goes further than words, Russia has already announced that she was going to boycott the 2016 Summit on Nuclear Security. This became known when the Russian informed the other members of this Summit that Russia would not participate in its preparatory work.

Sergei Lavrov also made a remarkable speech today, but since the pathetic website of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs does not even bother providing a translation on the same day, we will have to wait before I can post it here.

Ukrainian Nazis seem nice
Riley Waggaman Russia Insider Russia November 22, 2014

The Wolfsangel symbol is used by some Neo-Nazi organizations, but public exhibition of the symbol is illegal in Germany if a connection with one of these groups is apparent. Visit this page for its embedded links and its British WWII anti-Nazi propaganda short film (2:13), “Hoch Der Lambeth Valk” (The Lambeth Walk).

The conflict in East Ukraine is “a choice between civilization and barbarism,” warns Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko, obviously alluding to the Associated Press photograph of “a Ukrainian volunteer soldier, with emblems of WWII SS Galician division.”

What was once described as a poor choice of Halloween costume by Prince Harry is now in vogue with celebrated government forces participating in Ukraine’s Anti-Terror Operation. Incredible, that only a few years ago, Nazi emblems and the people who wore them were under the cloud of critical disapproval – what is posterity? Or “civilization,” for that matter?

Nazi symbols representing European integration have become so trendy in West Ukraine that The Daily Beast feels the need to ask, “Why are swastikas hot in West Ukraine?” Is it because handsomepants Russell Brand has reclaimed the swastika as the ancient mascot of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir? Of course.

But it’s also because “in these times of enormous passions, kindly symbols don’t attract crowds.”

Your correspondent will not dispute the fact that the swastika has a proud tradition of attracting European crowds. But in some countries, it will also send you to European prison.

Instead of prison sentences, Ukraine’s swastika enthusiasts receive guns and laurels from their civilized government. In August, Poroshenko awarded the leader of the pro-choice knitting club Azov Battalion, Andriy Biletsky, with the Order For Courage.

Biletsky is not only a courageous Wolfsangel-bedazzled freedom fighter, he is also the head of Ukraine’s creatively named Social-National Assembly, which is committed to “punishing severely sexual perversions and any interracial contacts that lead to the extinction of the white man.”

Close your eyes and try to imagine the font size 72 Caps Lock Washington Post front page screamfest if it was discovered that Vladimir Putin had decorated a brain-dead maniac who has promised “to prepare [Russia] for further expansion and to struggle for the liberation of the entire White Race.”

Now change “Vladimir Putin” to “Petro Poroshenko” and “Russia” to “Ukraine” and you will finally understand why we live in an upside down nightmare garbage world.

(True to its mission of proliferating misery, The Washington Post describes the gentlemen who serve in Biletsky’s battalion as “battle-scarred patriots.”)

Your correspondent does not think Petro Poroshenko is Hitler, or even a semi neo-Nazi. Poroshenko is very very rich — from selling candy, incidentally. His only ideology is “please let me stay rich?” and so he has forged a very cynical and surely catastrophic alliance with Ukraine’s most passionate, battle-scarred patriots – most of whom would be rotting in prison if they lived in civilization.

We are not fibbing — they really should all be in prison. One of the “nationalist” battalions under the control of Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense has been accused by Amnesty International of “widespread abuses, including abductions, unlawful detention, ill-treatment, theft, extortion, and possible executions” – what Newsweek describes as “ISIS-style war crimes.”

Related: Below: Peter Koenig is an economist and geopolitical analyst. He is also a former World Bank staffer and worked extensively around the world in the fields of environment and water resources. He writes regularly for Global Research, ICH, the Voice of Russia, now Ria Novosti, The Vineyard of The Saker Blog, and other internet sites. He is the author of Implosion – An Economic Thriller about War, Environmental Destruction and Corporate Greed – fiction based on facts and on 30 years of World Bank experience around the globe.

Observations on President Putin’s call upon US not to meddle in Russia affairs
Peter Koenig The Vineyard of the Saker USA November 22, 2014

Press TV reports on 22 November 2014 that President Putin, speaking at a forum of the All-Russia Peoples’ Front in Moscow on 17 November, said “They [the US] want to subdue us, want to solve their problems at our expense. No one in history ever managed to do this to Russia, and no one ever will.”

This is certainly no exaggeration. Russia has not only a solid trade and monetary alliance with China which already today bypasses the western dollar dominated western system, Russia is also one of the key members of the BRICS and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) which met last September in Dushanbe, Tajikistan to expands its current membership (China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan) by including India, Pakistan, Iran and likely also Mongolia. Turkey, hosting a strategically crucial NATO base, wavering between east and west, has wanted to become an SCO member for quite a while. Turkish-speaking SCO governments would likely to support their petition. This would clearly be a huge conflict and blow to the western powers, particularly Washington – and may not go ‘unpunished’.

The expanded SCO would control some 20 percent of the world’s oil and half of all global gas reserves. On top of that, the bloc would represent about half of the world’s population. The SCO and BRICS together would cover more than half the world’s population and control about a third of the globe’s GDP.

The issuance of a joint new global currency either by these countries at once or step by step is almost a certainty. The question is when. Given the disastrous course of western economies, such a new currency and monetary system is not far off. It would gradually replace the (petro) dollar for world trading as well as a reserve currency. The latter has already started. Ten years ago about 90% of world reserves consisted of dollar denominated securities. Today this proportion has shrunk to 60% – and – to the ignorance of most of the world – is steadily declining.

According to the IMF, reserves in other currencies in emerging markets have shot up by 400% since 2003. From August 2013 to February 2014, South Korea increased its yuan holdings 25-fold.

So – Mr. Putin’s seemingly ‘bold’ statement is very much supported by facts. The western predatory economic system is decaying fast. Russia and China are already today prepared with an alternative. They are working actively with the other BRICS and SCO countries to prepare a solid larger scale alternative currency and monetary system, free from the FED, Wall Street, the IMF and the BIS (Bank for International Settlements).

***

Epidemics and Pandemics

On a seemingly unrelated matter, a new phenomenon is emerging. From the outset it looks like detached from the east-west economic power struggle. But it may be all but detached from the western faltering economy.

It is the threat of deadly pandemics that seem to emerge at the same time – and all are under control of the UN and its specialized organization, WHO which is assisted and advised by a number of international laboratories whose identifications largely escapes common knowledge. Most of the epidemics, potential pandemics, started in Africa, which is home to about 60% of the world’s remaining natural unrenewable resources – and which are sought by the western and Northern Hemisphere’s elite for their continued comfort and well-being.

Ebola broke out a few months ago in West Africa – Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and has since spread to Mali and Nigeria. Ebola is not a new disease. It has been reported and observed in Central Africa and former Zaïre in the seventies. WHO disposes of antidotes or vaccines. However, the US Department of Defense – which incidentally also has a research program on biological warfare – has contracted a Canadian laboratory two years ago to test and develop an Ebola vaccine in specially built hospitals in Liberia and Sierra Leone. Since the new Ebola outbreak in July 2014, more than 5,000 people have been killed according to WHO.

A couple of days ago it was reported by WHO that in Madagascar a plague epidemic had claimed the lives of at least 40 people since August 2014. – The bubonic plague, also called Black Death, was considered to be basically extinct since it killed a third of the European population in the 14ht Century, although a less virulent form may still be present today. No major outbreaks have occurred since 1904, when a Plague epidemic killed about 3% of Bombay’s population, when antidotes where not yet available. Today’s version can apparently fairly easily be suppressed with antibiotics and pesticides. – So – why is it still killing people in Madagascar? And why has the news become available only now?

A few weeks ago the deadly H5N1 avian influenza virus was newly discovered in the Netherlands, Germany and the UK. Out of seven recent cases of Bird Flu in Egypt, two died. In 2009 thanks to a WHO false flag alarm, Europe bought hundreds of millions of H5N1 vaccines – a bonanza for the pharmaceuticals – a scandal for WHO that has deeply tarnished the organization’s image. In countries like Switzerland, people who showed any indication of a cold were practically force-vaccinated.

Aids – the HIV virus, also a Pentagon biological warfare experiment –broke out in the 1980’s, likewise in Africa, spread to Haiti from where it was ‘imported’ to the US and the rest of the world. Today it is, though incurable, under control. But a new strain could easily be designed to make current drugs impotent.

All of this looks like a concerted effort by the power elite to (i) keep populations in check; justify Marshall law at a whim to oppress any potential uprising, for example against a new wave of organized theft of the western predatory greed economy; and (ii) to gradually help reduce world population – a target that the elite has strived for since the end of WWII – it’s also one of the key objectives of the Bilderberg Society as voiced by many power figures, like Bill Gates and on several occasions by Henry Kissinger, arguably the worst war criminal still alive.

People could be easily quarantined by Presidential Executive Order under the guise of protecting the population at large from a pandemic – for which most likely vaccines and antidotes have been clandestinely developed as part of the biological warfare program – to protect the elite – and other strains for the public at large possibly laced with the very disease they pretend to prevent. Once Washington gives the order, say for force-vaccination, or Marshall Law – the European lackeys would simply follow suit; an easy way to keep populations under control, while the western financial system could run their final deed – depredation of the remaining social safety nets and public savings.

Again – on the dismal western economic scenario and the pandemic threats to the world, Mr. Putin’s harsh words to the US, a warning against interference in Russia – are but a signal for Washington to reckon with a vigilant Russia (and China) – vigilant vis-à-vis the impending collapse of the western monetary system, and vigilant vis-à-vis the west’s massive military and biological warfare threats.

Worth a tought? – And worth massive publication, so people may connect the dots.

German foreign minister speaks out against Ukraine joining NATO
RT Russia November 23, 2014


German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Photo: Odd Andersen/AFP

Germany’s FM, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, has said he is against Ukraine joining NATO. In an interview with Der Spiegel, he said he considers “that it is possible for NATO to have a partnership with Ukraine, but not membership.”

He also added that he does not believe it is realistic for Ukraine to join the European Union in the foreseeable future, as the economic and political modernization of Ukraine is a “project for a few generations.”

He also urged Kiev to introduce reforms to fight corruption and mismanagement of the economy, saying they had to start immediately and that there was no time to lose.

Meanwhile, Russia President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said one of the means of changing the balance of power in the world to eventually subdue Russia was NATO’s gradual approach toward its borders, which made Russia “nervous”, he said, speaking to the BBC.

Russia needs a “100 percent guarantee that no one would think about Ukraine joining NATO,” Peskov said.

On Friday, Jeff Rathke, a spokesman for the US State Department, said that Washington supported Ukraine’s ambitions to join NATO, but the final decision should of course be made by Kiev.

Rathke also said that lethal assistance to Ukraine was not yet “off the table.”

“Our position on lethal aid hasn’t changed. Nothing is off the table, and we continue to believe there’s no military solution. But we, in light of Russia’s actions, as the nominee mentioned yesterday in his testimony, this is – as he indicated, this is something that we should be looking at,” Rathke said.

Posted at: November 23, 2014 - 12:32 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

November 22, 2014

Weekly Headlines

Click on a headline below to go to that news item

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Commentary

Modern accounts are instruments of deception: The Western Axis financial and economic system has become distorted beyond belief

World News

Stonewalling: Kiev won’t negotiate with Donbass separatists & Dutch government refuses to reveal ‘secret deal’ into MH17 crash probe

Civil Society

How will radical change occur, and what will it look like? You’ll get an inkling from what is happening on Burnaby Mountain today: “These are really good people who are really the leaders of our society…They’re leading the way for the society we need to go, and they’re being arrested”

Environment

Eight foods you’re about to lose due to climate change: A list of the foods to enjoy now – while they’re comparatively plentiful

Regional News

British Columbia ferry traffic drops to lowest level since 1991. Latest chapter in the slow but steady destruction of an essential ferry system and, with it, the economies of ferry-dependent communities

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Commentary

Eurasian consolidation and India’s policy

Commentary

The keyword is Khurasan: Af-Pak a frontline against IS goals & Commentary on IS’s November 4 attack inside Saudia Arabia’s eastern province

Commentary

Living with insanity: Harper, Abbott, and Cameron at the Brisbane G-20

National News

Canada’s military procurements blunder along: Royal Canadian Navy will rely on allies in short-term, may lease vessels as it awaits new ships

Environment

Keystone XL pipeline a forest killer. Andrew Nikiforuk explains why & Obama’s climate deal: Your move, Mr. Harper

Environment

Climate change and declining ocean health: Acidic ocean deadly for Vancouver Island shellfish industry & Sea star wasting disease likely caused by virus; warming ocean temperature suspected as a causative factor. (On the surface, climate-induced sea ice conditions threatening Polar Bears)

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Labour News

On what values should society be founded? One issue; one example: Worker’s rights and the arguments of those fighting against those rights

Commentary

Playing geopolitics with the environment. Has China by bilaterally coming to climate change terms with the United States, simultaneously spurned the Kyoto Treaty and the at-risk nations (known as the G-77 bloc)? & American crowing: In U.S.-China climate deal, big loser Is Russia

Environment

To whom does land belong? Private hunting reserves, pipelines and illegal settlements; no intergenerational justice

Monday, November 17, 2014

Commentary

Not looking for conflict, just different institutions/infrastructures: China and other emerging powers developing a world without the Western Axis

World News

Contrasting levels of maturity. Putin says that there is a “good chance of resolution” in the Ukraine conflict, outlines how & Gorbachev despairs as Obama once again puts Russia on the list of the greatest threats to the world

National News

Stephen Harper has been losing friends for a decade — now he’s losing his base

National News

Ill-informed, intolerant and irrational overall. Just one example, the titanic blunders of military procurement during Stephen Harper’s benighted reign

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Agriculture

Protecting farmworkers, protecting crops: The USA’s Environmental Protection Agency is facing strong pressure from industry to keep the rules weak

Agriculture

The real reason corporate-commercially produced and marketed wheat is toxic (it’s not the gluten)

Posted at: November 22, 2014 - 7:01 am -- Posted by: SSNews -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

November 21, 2014

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The crisis over California’s water. Let’s stop calling it a drought: The lack of water isn’t temporary, it’s the new norm

Jim comment: I harvested the last Honey Boat squash from the garden today. Seeds are all saved for next year. But to my point: I was in the produce section of my grocery store to pick up one stick of celery for my Beef Mushroom and Barley Soup tonight. One month ago, one stick of celery cost me 23 cents. Ten days ago one stick cost me 41 cents. Today one stick was 92 cents. If a British Columbian purchased a bundle of fresh fruits or vegetables recently, there’s nearly a 50 percent chance they were grown in California. And while we’ve become accustomed to paying very little for such goods, that may soon change. The garden will be expanding in area and variety of crops next year.

The crisis over California’s water
Joshua Frank CounterPunch USA November 21-23, 2014

The following article appeared last August in the CounterPunch print edition, Volume 21, Number 7.

“Whiskey is for drinking, water is for fighting over.”
– Mark Twain

It doesn’t take long once you’ve left the greater Los Angeles area, away from all the lush lawns, water features, green parkways and manicured foliage to see that California is in the midsts of a real, and potentially deadly water crisis. Acres and acres of abandoned farms, dry lake beds, empty reservoirs—the water is simply no longer there and likely won’t ever be back.

What’s happening here in California is far more than a ‘severe drought’ as the media has dubbed the situation. The word ‘drought’ gives the impression that this is all short lived, an inconvenience we have to deal with for a little while. But the lack of water isn’t temporary, it’s the new norm. California’s ecology as some 38 million residents know it is forever changing—and climate change is the culprit. At least that’s the prognosis a few well-respected climatologists have been saying for the last two decades, and their predictions have not only been accurate, they’ve been conservative in their estimates.

UC Santa Cruz Professor Lisa Sloan co-authored a 2004 report in which she and her colleague Jacob Sewall predicted the melting of the Arctic ice shelf would cause a decrease in precipitation in California and hence a severe drought. The Arctic melting, they claimed, would warp the offshore jet stream in the Pacific Ocean. Not only have their models proved correct, Prof. Sloan recently told Joe Fromm of ThinkProgress she believes “the actual situation in the next few decades could be even more dire” than their study suggested.

As they anticipated ten years ago, the jet stream has indeed shifted, essentially pushing winter storms up north and out of California. As a result, snowpack in the Sierra Nevadas, which feeds water to most of Southern California and the agricultural operators of the Central Valley, have all but disappeared. Winters are drier and springs are no longer wet, which means when the warm summer months roll around there’s no water to be cultivated.

The Los Angeles basin is a region that has long relied on snowmelt from mountains hundreds of miles away to feed its insatiable appetite for development, but that resource is rapidly evaporating. It is, perhaps, a just irony for the water thieves of Southern California that their wells are finally running dry. Prudence and restraint in water usage will soon be forced upon those who value the extravagant over the practical. It’s the new way of the West as climate change’s many impacts come to fruition.

Perhaps there is a reason why people don’t understand how bad the water crisis really is—they’re daily lives have yet to be impacted. Unless the winter and spring of 2015 bring drench- ing rains, California only has 12-18 months of reserves left. Even the most optimistic of forecasts show a rapid decline in water reserves in the state in the decades to come. To put it in perspective, California hasn’t seen this drastic of a decline in rainfall since the mid-1500s.

“This is a real emergency that requires a real emergency response,” argues Jay Famiglietti, a senior water scientist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “If Southern California does not step up and conserve its water, and if the drought continues on its epic course, there is nothing more that our water managers can do for us. Water availability in Southern California would be drastically reduced. With those reductions, we should expect skyrocketing water, food and energy prices, as well as the demise of agriculture.”

While it’s clear that the decline in the state’s water reserves will have a very real economic and day-to-day impact on Californians in the near future, it’s also having an inexorable and devastating effect on the environment.

Rigid conservation and appropriate resource management may act as a bandaid for California’s water crisis, but if climate models remain accurate, the melting of Arctic ice will continue to have a severe impact on the Pacific jet stream, weakening winter storm activity in the state.

It’s a precarious situation, not only for millions of people and the nation’s largest state economy—but it could be the death knell for much of California’s remaining wildlife and iconic beauty as well.

Posted at: November 21, 2014 - 3:34 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

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This is their vaunted democracy? The one they are trying to impose worldwide through their paid operatives and military? Well, they may forment civil unrest or eventually a war here too. Corporations, courts and police usurp public lands in British Columbia

The people belong to the land. Conquest and settlement invert this relationship, create property, and then assert exclusive rights over that property. - Paul Woodward

Before corporations had become so powerful, every generation aspired to leave a better future to their children. That is not on the corporate agenda. I beg you to consider the fact that there are few legal avenues to protest what I believe is criminal activity of corporations like Kinder Morgan so citizens are being forced to participate in civil disobedience. Are we so blinded by the power and influence of corporations that their short sighted agendas are above consideration of their potential of catastrophic ecological and social consequences? - Environmental leader David Suzuki, Emeritus professor, UBC. “David Suzuki writes letter to grandson arrested at Kinder Morgan protest on Burnaby Mountain”, November 21, 2014

B.C. outdoorsmen risk criminal records in David vs. Goliath battle to keep lakes public
CBC News Canada Last updated November 21, 2014


Nicole Valley Fish and Game Club member Rick McGowan says he’s done nothing wrong because you can’t bar access to a public road. Photo: CBC

A group of outdoorsmen near Merritt, B.C., say they’re being threatened with criminal charges and accuse the RCMP of taking sides in a dispute over access to lakes on a massive cattle ranch owned by a U.S. billionaire.

The Douglas Lake Cattle Company is trying to restrict access to more than 30 lakes on a spread the size of Luxembourg.

CBC first reported two years ago on the David and Goliath battle between the ranch, said to be the largest working cattle ranch in Canada, and the Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club.

But now the fight, reminiscent of an old-fashioned western, is heating up again as members of the fish and game club risk criminal charges by cutting locks on gates across roads that were once public.

“These locked gates are significant because we are trying to keep them open for future generations of the public to get in here and they keep locking ‘em on us, and we are going to keep unlocking them until somebody does something about it,” the club’s Rick McGowan told CBC News.
Ranch officials say the land on their more than half-a-million acres is private. That includes the roads to the popular fishing and hunting grounds near Stoney and Minnie lakes.

Those who force their way in are getting more than just threats. They’re facing criminal charges.

“It’s like a great big schoolyard bullying game they are playing. And they figure well, if we charge a few people, kick a few butts, then everybody will stay out of here,” said McGowan.

So far, billionaire Stan Kroenke is saying little. Kroenke owns the St. Louis Rams, is the largest shareholder of Arsenal in the English Premier League, and is married to Ann Walton, daughter of the founder of Wal-Mart.

Kroenke has earned the nickname “Silent Stan” for his shrewd business deals and general lack of comment.

​Kroenke’s historic ranch is no stranger to standoffs.

B.C.’s first train robber, the famed “gentleman bandit” Bill Miner, who allegedly coined the phrase, “hands up,” once hid out at Douglas Lake Ranch back in 1905 before being arrested at the ranch following a manhunt.

Years later a movie about the saga, The Grey Fox, was filmed in these same dusty foothills.

Ranch manager Joe Gardner said people who cut locks are trespassing on private land.

“It doesn’t really matter how much money owner Stanley Kroenke has,” Gardner told CBC back in 2011. “What matters is our legal right.”

McGowan said he’s not broken any laws.

“They are threatening to charge us with public mischief and our point of view is — this is what’s illegal,” he said. “These are public roads and you have to have a permit to lock a public road. They have no permit.”

McGowan and other members of the Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club were recently summoned to the Merritt Community Corrections office, where they were shown documents that offered them a compromise.

If they signed the “adult alternative dispute resolution” agreement it meant they admitted to mischief, agreed to community supervision, but would avoid criminal court.

So far, members have all refused and every chance they get, they continue to cut locks.

“There is not a chance I am going to do it,” said club member Kim Robinson. “If I sign this and say I’m responsible and I did this, it can come back and bite me in the ass.”

The RCMP say the men could end up in court.

“This is the exact thing we don’t want happening,” said RCMP Sgt. Norm Flemming. “Could he be charged for that? Absolutely. [This person is] expressing their frustration and they are going about it in the wrong way.”

The property dispute is winding its way through B.C. Supreme Court, which will consider whether the roads in question, and the land around the lakes, are public or private.

In the meantime, the RCMP have said they will arrest and charge anybody who damages locks, because the locks are ranch property — whether the road is or not.

So the standoff may end up in criminal as well as civil court. If so, it won’t be the first time Douglas Lake is the backdrop for a wild western-style showdown.

Related: ‘This is going to be a war,’ says Burnaby mayor as 26 pipeline protesters arrested (with video)
Dan Fumano The Province British Columbia Canada November 21, 2014

Visit this page for its related links.

As pipeline protesters clashed with police on Burnaby Mountain — leading to 26 arrests — Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan said his government was ready for a “war” in the courts.

“This is going to be a war, and it’s going to be one that carries on for a number of years,” Corrigan said of the legal challenges his city has mounted in various levels of court, in attempts to stop Kinder Morgan’s work on Burnaby Mountain.

“The bigger argument that needs to be fought is: How much can the federal government impose its will on local governments and the ability of people to make local decisions? That’s really the quintessential issue that takes this beyond a merely local situation to being one that attracts interest from municipalities right across Canada.”

What had been a peaceful protest early Thursday became tense later that afternoon as officers ordered the crowd of over 100 chanting demonstrators to move back.

Police arrived on the scene Thursday at around 8:30 a.m. to enforce last week’s B.C. Supreme Court injunction ordering protesters to clear encampments blocking surveyors from doing work for the proposed expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline.

By Thursday evening, police confirmed 26 protesters were arrested, including five in custody.

Those released were done so on the condition that they no longer interfere or obstruct work being carried out by Trans Mountain, a subsidiary of Kinder Morgan.

Later in the day, Corrigan encouraged protesters not to put themselves in a situation where they could be arrested or hurt, and said his government was ready to take on Kinder Morgan and Canada’s National Energy Board in their own way.

Corrigan, a former criminal lawyer who grew up in East Vancouver, told The Province on Thursday that he and his city’s staff are well-prepared for the battles ahead.

“I didn’t look for the fight. But like any good east end boy, if it comes to me, I’m not going to back down,” said Corrigan, recently re-elected to a fifth term as mayor of Burnaby. “This came to our doorstep. We didn’t go looking for this fight … but this will likely turn into a case that will have implications for cities right across Canada for a long time.

“This is a fight that’s been a long time coming. We’ve been dealing with 21st-century problems using a 19th-century statute.”

While Corrigan expressed gratitude and respect for the police, he said he was “very disappointed” people were being arrested Thursday, and that RCMP had to enforce the court order before the city’s legal appeal had been resolved.

BREAKING: SFU scientist Lynne Quarmby arrested in Kinder Morgan protest at Burnaby Mountain
Jenny Uechi and Mychaylo Prystupa Vancouver Observer British Columbia Canada November 21, 2014


Simon Fraser University molecular biology department chair Lynne Quarmby waving to supporters during her arrest on Burnaby Mountain on Friday. Photo: Mychaylo Prystupa. Visit this page for its embedded and related links and video (1:11).

Scientist Lynne Quarmby — the chair of SFU’s molecular biology and biochemistry department, and face of public opposition against pipeline giant Kinder Morgan — has just been arrested at Burnaby Mountain.

“The reason we’re in this predicament here in Burnaby has to do with the Conservative Harper government and what they did at the end of 2012 in the omnibus bill that stripped environmental regulations,” she said in a speech minutes before her arrest.

“The NEB process is now a sham…We have a process that does not allow consideration of climate change…at a time that climate change is the biggest problem facing humanity. It’s unethical. The new NEB Act is written as requested by the oil industry.”

“At the end of the day when you’re dealing with unjust law and abusive power, the last resource we have is civil disobedience. It’s done in full respect of the rule of law. But it’s also done with serious responsibility with being a citizen in this country,” she said, as cheers erupted.

“So now, I’m going to turn around and walk up this hill — and be the best citizen I can be.”

Soaked by a heavy downpour of rain, the scientist then turned her back to the crowd and walked calmly toward the police lines on Burnaby Mountain.

As the scientist approached, an RCMP officer asked her if she knew that what she was doing could get her arrested. Quarmby responded she was fully aware of her actions as a citizen.

Apparently reluctant to have to cuff her, police linked their arms and shook their heads, insisting she could not pass. Undeterred, Quarmby quietly walked around the police line and set foot in the injunction zone. At that moment, her wrists were cuffed.

She raised her hands above her head as the crowd cheered and sang in support. Quarmby peacefully entered the police van, along with Voters Taking Action against Climate Change spokesman Kevin Washbrook and another young woman who were also detained.

Quarmby said previously said she is ready to be arrested for her criticism of Kinder Morgan, and that she discussed it with her family yesterday.

“I have a 27-year-old son. I had a conversation with him last night,” she said. “He, of course, will be impacted (by the arrest). He understands all the risks I’m taking. But he supports me 100 per cent and is very, very proud of what I’m doing.” She said he has also been flooded by messages of support.

She said youth were on her mind as she spoke out against Kinder Morgan — a Texas-based pipeline giant founded by Rich Kinder, a former executive at Enron.

Kinder Morgan is currently proposing to twin the existing Trans Mountain pipeline by running a pipeline through Burnaby Mountain to triple bitumen capacity from Alberta’s tar sands to 890,000 barrels per day.

The project has sparked heavy citizen opposition, in part because it would multiply the number of oil tankers through Burrard Inlet seven-fold if approved.

“This is only the beginning of a very long process — we’ll just have to see how it all plays out.”

She said both her family and her community at SFU have provided “tremendous love and support”.

Quarmby has repeatedly asserted that she — and others who have protested Kinder Morgan — are “not radicals”, but merely citizens concerned about the impact on the environment if the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion goes through.

Quarmby is among five citizens (including fellow SFU professor Stephen Collis and an SFU administration worker) against whom Kinder Morgan has filed a multi-million dollar law suit last month. The company’s lawyer cited her op-ed in the case against her, and said her opposition had cost Kinder Morgan upwards of $5 million in losses.

“I am not going to let Kinder Morgan take away my freedom of speech,” she said.

When the courts granted Kinder Morgan an injunction against protesters last week, over 800 citizens — many of them Burnaby residents — showed up on Burnaby Mountain on Monday to support the protest against the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion.

SFU has expressed strong support for both Quarmby and others who Kinder Morgan sued this month. Over 300 faculty, staff and students signed a letter in support of two professors facing court actions by Kinder Morgan.

Michael Hale, a farm owner in Chilliwack and spokesperson for citizen group Pipe Up Network, said people are concerned about Kinder Morgan’s “heavy-handed tactics” and that what was happening to Burnaby Mountain and critics like Quarmby was a ‘litmus test’ for every other community along the pipeline expansion route.

“There are many parks in B.C. along the proposed pipeline route that Kinder Morgan is going to be working in,” he said. “What’s happening in Burnaby is what will happen everywhere else. Kinder Morgan made a big deal about how they’re going to listen to people. Is this their idea of consulting?”

Federal MP Kennedy Stewart, who flew in from Ottawa last night and was at Burnaby Mountain this morning, said Kinder Morgan was being “completely irresponsible,” and that he saw Burnaby constituents and business owners on the mountain today to oppose the pipeline expansion, despite the police arrests yesterday.

More Kinder Morgan protesters arrested on Burnaby Mountain
CBC News Canada November 21, 2014

Visit this page for its related links and nine picture slideshow.

Burnaby RCMP say a total of 34 anti-pipeline protesters have been arrested and charged with civil contempt since police began arresting people Thursday morning for defying a court injunction to stay clear of Kinder Morgan’s worksite.

Twenty-six people were arrested Thursday and eight today.

The protesters vowed to continue their fight to block geo-technical survey work by Kinder Morgan, even after their arrests. First Nations and environmental groups held a morning news conference to annonunce their continued defiance.

Burnaby RCMP Staff Sgt. Maj. John Buis said all but five of the protesters that were arrested have been released, All have been charged with civil contempt of court. The five people who remain in custody were to make court appearances today.

Kinder Morgan is proposing to bore a tunnel under the mountain for the rerouting and expansion of its existing Trans Mountain pipeline.

Meanwhile, Kinder Morgan spent the night moving heavy equipment to its work site on Burnaby Mountain, as police continued to block public vehicle access to the area at the bottom of Centennial Way.

Faith Notheisz was one of the protesters arrested and released yesterday.

“Honestly … I don’t feel afraid at all because I know I’m in the right,” she said on Thursday after her release.

Fellow protester Jeff Wang, who is originally from Shanghai, questioned why protesters were being arrested in a country that lectures China on human rights.

“This is democracy? It’s ridiculous,” said Wang.

From the archives: To whom does land belong? Private hunting reserves, pipelines and illegal settlements; no intergenerational justice
Salt Spring News British Columbia Canada November 18, 2014

Seven links.

Posted at: November 21, 2014 - 3:31 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

November 20, 2014

Modern accounts are instruments of deception: The Western Axis financial and economic system has become distorted beyond belief

The financial and economic system has become distorted beyond belief by artificially low interest rates, excessive leverage and countless fast-buck hedge fund operations sustained by the financial bubble. The costs of these distortions have been enormous. - Martin Hutchinson. Martin Hutchinson covers emerging markets and economic policy, drawing on 25 years of experience as an international merchant banker. He ran derivatives platforms for two European banks, before serving as director of a Spanish venture capital company, advisor to the Korean conglomerate Sunkyong and chairman of a US modular building company. In Zagreb he established the Croatian debt capital markets and set up the corporate finance operations of Privredna Banka Zagreb. Since 2000 he has been a financial journalist.

Modern accounts are instruments of deception
Martin Hutchinson The Prudent Bear, The Bear’s Lair blog USA November 17, 2014

One of the courses I took at business school was “Analysis of Financial Reports,” in which we learned to deconstruct all the scam accounts that had proliferated in the late 1960s boom. Most of these companies, undone by negative cash flow, went bust after 1970. We were informed by the professor that the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB), set up in 1973, was introducing new and more rigorous accounting principles, so that pretty soon all the accounting scams of the late 1960s would become impossible. Accounts would become readily comprehensible, with few differences in approach between those of different companies.

Well, that didn’t last long!

Since the 1970s, not only has finance become vastly more complicated, but so has accounting. The principle of “mark to market,” originally introduced only to value properly the trading portfolios of securities brokerages, has been extended again and again until it has made accounts incomprehensible to the ordinary investor. Combine this technique with the complexities of modern finance, in which derivatives are used to “hedge” all imaginable operations, and we saw perfectly simple, “vanilla” companies suddenly record huge profits or losses for no conceivable reason. We also witnessed banks recording large, spurious profits in 2008, as their credit quality collapsed and the “mark-to-market value” of their liabilities declined commensurately.

Add to that the skewed incentives produced by a decade of negative real interest rates and the ethical decay of managements who know that the regulators are plodding along at least five years behind them, and you have accounting visibility below that of the South Sea Bubble days. Needless to say, the prospects for mass fraud and chicanery are even grimmer than in 1720.

The purpose of accounting is to reflect to shareholders a realistic picture of the company’s operations and its assets. There will always be distortions. For example, in the inflationary 1970s, buyout artists were always on the lookout for companies whose headquarters or main plant had been recorded at cost in say 1926 and not revalued since. However “market to market” of fixed assets in particular destroys the historical record of how the company has been built, and makes all subsequent earnings and asset figures both meaningless and impossible to relate to either reality or competitors’ operations. For example, [the iron and coal mining company Cliffs Resources’] operations will show an artificially low depreciation charge in future quarters, making it impossible to determine its true costs compared to competitors.

The financial and economic system has in the last 20 years been distorted beyond belief by artificially low interest rates, excessive leverage and countless fast-buck hedge fund and private-equity fund operations sustained by the financial bubble. The costs of these distortions have been enormous and will need to be paid for decades to come. Accountants have contributed greatly to this mess. The profession needs to get its house in order, fast.

Posted at: November 20, 2014 - 3:17 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

Stonewalling: Kiev won’t negotiate with Donbass separatists & Dutch government refuses to reveal ‘secret deal’ into MH17 crash probe

Uncooperative, obstructive, and evasive—no wonder they’re our puppets, er, pals.

Ukraine rules out direct negotiations with rebels to end war
Jason Ditz Antiwar.com News USA November 19, 2014

Visit this page for its embedded link.

Underscoring exactly why the eastern Ukrainian Civil War still hasn’t been resolved, the Ukrainian government today reiterated that it will never directly negotiate with the eastern rebels.

The comments were a response to Russian FM Sergey Lavrov urging the two sides to hold talks to reach “mutually acceptable agreements.” As usual, they included angry condemnations of Russia.

Ukrainian Premier Arseniy Yatsenyuk insisted the call for talks amounted to Russia trying to push Ukraine into recognizing the rebels’ legitimacy, saying it was tantamount to ‘legitimizing terrorists.’ He went on to condemn the rebels as “Russian mercenaries.”

Lavrov said that talks without the rebels were “counterproductive” and criticized Ukrainian hawks looking to exclude them from any potential peace deal.

Dutch government refuses to reveal ‘secret deal’ into MH17 crash probe
RT Russia November 20, 2014

The Dutch government has refused to reveal details of a secret pact between members of the Joint Investigation Team examining the downed Flight MH17. If the participants, including Ukraine, don’t want information to be released, it will be kept secret.

The respected Dutch publication Elsevier made a request to the Dutch Ministry of Security and Justice under the Freedom of Information Act to disclose the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) agreement, along with 16 other documents. The JIT consists of four countries – the Netherlands, Belgium, Australia and Ukraine – who are carrying out an investigation into the MH17 disaster, but not Malaysia. Malaysian Airlines, who operated the flight, has been criticized for flying through a war zone.

Despite the air crash taking place on July 17 in Eastern Ukraine, very little information has been released about any potential causes. However, rather than give the public a little insight into the investigation, the Dutch Ministry of Security and Justice is more worried about saving face among the members of the investigation.

“I believe that this interest [international relations] is of greater importance than making the information public, as it is a unique investigation into an extremely serious event,” the Ministry added, according to Elsevier.

Other reasons given for the request being denied included protecting investigation techniques and tactics as well as naming the names of officials who are taking part in the investigation. The Ministry said it would be a breach of privacy if they were revealed. “If the information was to be released then sensitive information would be passed between states and organizations, which would perhaps they would be less likely to share such information in the future,” said the Ministry of Security and Justice.

Malaysia is the only country to have directly negotiated with the anti-Kiev militias in the East of Ukraine, while the country’s Ambassador to the Netherlands said he was unhappy that Malaysia had not been included within the JIT. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte flew to Kuala Lumpur on November 5, but Malaysia says it still did not receive an invitation to join.

“We must first be included in the JIT, otherwise it would be hard for us to cooperate in the investigation. The parties inside the investigation must include us in the team, right now we are just a participant,” said the Malaysian Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday, which was reported by the New Straits Times.

A preliminary report by the Dutch Safety Board, which was released September said the MH17 crash was a result of structural damage caused by a large number of high-energy objects that struck the Boeing from the outside.

Dutch investigators added that “there are no indications” that the tragedy was triggered “by a technical fault or by actions of the crew.”

Related: Noted on the news wires,

The provocative statements made by Latvia’s President Dalia Grybauskaitė directed at Russia over the Ukrainian crisis complicate the conflict’s settlement, said Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Aleksandr Lukashevich. “In her remarks Grybauskaite surpasses even the most extremist statements made by radical nationalists in Kiev,” he added. “Sensible politics of most countries that are not trying to please marginals, and are really concerned about the situation in Ukraine and the state of affairs in Europe and the world, are guided by a different, responsible approach.” According to the ministry’s website, Grybauskaite called Russia a “terrorist state” in an interview to a local radio station. She also urged support for the Kiev government, including providing military aid.

Posted at: November 20, 2014 - 2:40 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

How will radical change occur, and what will it look like? You’ll get an inkling from what is happening on Burnaby Mountain today: “These are really good people who are really the leaders of our society…They’re leading the way for the society we need to go, and they’re being arrested”

Nick Filmore is an award-winning investigative reporter and a founder of the Canadian Association of Journalists (CAJ). Nick was a news editor and producer with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation for more than 20 years. One of the founders of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), he was involved in helping press freedom organizations in developing countries for several years. Nick blogs here. Acclaimed U.S. journalist, author, radical and Pulitzer Prize winner Chris Hedges is one of the great moral voices of our age. He has the rare combination of decades of experience reporting from conflict zones in Central America, the Middle East, Africa, and the Balkans and the erudition one would expect from a student of Christian ethics and the classics at Harvard University.

How will radical change occur, and what will it look like?
Nick Filmore A Different Point of View Canada November 19, 2014

Visit this page for its embedded links.

Journalist Chris Hedges is one of my favourite rabble-rousers. This article is re-printed from Truthdig.

By Chris Hedges
TORONTO—I met with Sheldon S. Wolin in Salem, Ore., and John Ralston Saul in Toronto and asked the two political philosophers the same question. If, as Saul has written, we have undergone a corporate coup d’état and now live under a species of corporate dictatorship that Wolin calls “inverted totalitarianism,” if the internal mechanisms that once made piecemeal and incremental reform possible remain ineffective, if corporate power retains its chokehold on our economy and governance, including our legislative bodies, judiciary and systems of information, and if these corporate forces are able to use the security and surveillance apparatus and militarized police forces to criminalize dissent, how will change occur and what will it look like?

Wolin, who wrote the books Politics and Vision and Democracy Incorporated, and Saul, who wrote Voltaire’s Bastards and The Unconscious Civilization, see democratic rituals and institutions, especially in the United States, as largely a facade for unchecked global corporate power. Wolin and Saul excoriate academics, intellectuals and journalists, charging they have abrogated their calling to expose abuses of power and give voice to social criticism; they instead function as echo chambers for elites, courtiers and corporate systems managers.

Neither believes the current economic system is sustainable. And each calls for mass movements willing to carry out repeated acts of civil disobedience to disrupt and delegitimize corporate power.
“If you continue to go down the wrong road, at a certain point something happens,” Saul said during our meeting Wednesday in Toronto, where he lives. “At a certain point when the financial system is wrong it falls apart. And it did. And it will fall apart again.”

“The collapse started in 1973,” Saul continued. “There were a series of sequential collapses afterwards. The fascinating thing is that between 1850 and 1970 we put in place all sorts of mechanisms to stop collapses which we can call liberalism, social democracy or Red Toryism. It was an understanding that we can’t have boom-and-bust cycles. We can’t have poverty-stricken people. We can’t have starvation.”

“The reason today’s collapses are not leading to what happened in the 18th century and the 19th century is because all these safety nets, although under attack, are still in place. But each time we have a collapse we come out of it stripping more of the protection away. At a certain point we will find ourselves back in the pre-protection period. At that point we will get a collapse that will be incredibly dramatic. I have no idea what it will look like. A revolution from the left? A revolution from the right? Is it violence followed by state violence? Is it the collapse of the last meaningful edges of democracy? Is it a sudden decision by a critical mass of people that they are not going to take it anymore?”

This devolution of the economic system has been accompanied by corporations’ seizure of nearly all forms of political and social power. The corporate elite, through a puppet political class and compliant intellectuals, pundits and press, still employs the language of a capitalist democracy. But what has arisen is a new kind of control, inverted totalitarianism, which Wolin brilliantly dissects in his book Democracy Incorporated.

Inverted totalitarianism does not replicate past totalitarian structures, such as fascism and communism. It is therefore harder to immediately identify and understand. There is no blustering demagogue. There is no triumphant revolutionary party. There are no ideologically drenched and emotional mass political rallies. The old symbols, the old iconography and the old language of democracy are held up as virtuous. The old systems of governance—electoral politics, an independent judiciary, a free press and the Constitution—appear to be venerated. But, similar to what happened during the late Roman Empire, all the institutions that make democracy possible have been hollowed out and rendered impotent and ineffectual.

Wolin and Saul, echoing Karl Marx, view unfettered and unregulated capitalism as a revolutionary force that has within it the seeds of its own self-annihilation. It is and always has been deeply antagonistic to participatory democracy, they said. Democratic states must heavily regulate and control capitalism, for once capitalism is freed from outside restraint it seeks to snuff out democratic institutions and abolish democratic rights that are seen—often correctly—as an impediment to maximizing profit. The more ruthless and pronounced global corporate capitalism becomes, the greater the loss of democratic space.

Wolin and Saul said they expect the state, especially in an age of terminal economic decline, to employ more violent and draconian forms of control to keep restive populations in check. This coercion, they said, will fuel discontent and unrest, which will further increase state repression.

Resistance, Wolin and Saul agreed, will begin locally, with communities organizing to form autonomous groups that practice direct democracy outside the formal power structures, including the two main political parties. These groups will have to address issues such as food security, education, local governance, economic cooperation and consumption. And they will have to sever themselves, as much as possible, from the corporate economy.

Wolin and Saul … agreed that creating a class devoted full time to radical change was essential to fomenting change.

There must be people, they said, willing to dedicate their lives to confronting the corporate state outside traditional institutions and parties. Revolt, for a few, must become a vocation. The alliance between mass movements and a professional revolutionary class, they said, offers the best chance for an overthrow of corporate power.

“It is extremely important that people are willing to go into the streets,” Saul said. “Democracy has always been about the willingness of people to go into the streets. When the Occupy movement started I was pessimistic. I felt it could only go a certain distance. But the fact that a critical mass of people was willing to go into the streets and stay there, without being organized by a political party or a union, was a real statement. If you look at that, at what is happening in Canada, at the movements in Europe, the hundreds of thousands of people in Spain in the streets, you are seeing for the first time since the 19th century or early 20th century people coming into the streets in large numbers without a real political structure.

“These movements aren’t going to take power. But they are a sign that power and the respect for power is falling apart. What happens next? It could be dribbled away. But I think there is the possibility of a new generation coming in and saying we won’t accept this. That is how you get change. A new generation comes along and says no, no, no. They build their lives on the basis of that no.”

But none of these mass mobilizations, Saul and Wolin emphasized, will work unless there is a core of professional organizers.

Related: Police arrest a dozen Kinder Morgan protesters on Burnaby Mountain
Jenny Uechi and Mychaylo Prystupa Vancouver Observer British Columbia Canada November 20, 2014


Brigette DePape, a Vancouver-based activist, is among 12 protesters against Kinder Morgan getting arrested on Burnaby Mountain. Photo: Mychaylo Prystupa. Visit this page for its embedded links.

RCMP arrested 12 protesters on Burnaby Mountain this morning and are enforcing Kinder Morgan’s injunction against pipeline opponents. According to protesters, Kinder Morgan has now arrived on site.

“I’m really sad. I’ve been fighting tears all morning,” said Lynne Quarmby, an SFU scientist who is one of six citizens that Kinder Morgan has filed a multi-million dollar civil suit against.

“The injustice of it all. I know police are doing what they need to do. It’s just the whole process is unjust.”

“These are really good people who are really the leaders of our society…They’re leading the way for the society we need to go, and they’re being arrested,” she said.

Below: UBCIC is a NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.

UBCIC stands in support of those arrested at Burnaby Mountain
News release Union of BC Indian Chiefs British Columbia Canada November 20, 2014

(Coast Salish Territory/Vancouver, BC – November 20, 2014) Earlier today the Burnaby RCMP entered unceded Coast Salish Territories on Burnaby Mountain, enforced an injunction and arrested twenty-four protectors that were there to safe-guard public parklands from Kinder Morgan’s proposed expansion of the Trans Mountain Pipeline.

“The Union of BC Indian Chiefs stands in solidarity with those that have been arrested and we will continue to stand in support with those on the Mountain to uphold and defend Indigenous rights, land rights and human rights,” stated Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs. “It is infuriating and beyond frustrating that we are faced with this provocative and heavy handed approach by the RCMP when at this time the City of Burnaby’s court proceedings have not even been completed. Kinder Morgan is despoiling the Burnaby Mountain Conservation Area to brazenly push ahead with their proposed expanded pipeline in the face of massive opposition.”

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip concluded “The Union of BC Indian Chiefs stands with those on the Mountain protecting this area from further development and we call on the provincial and federal governments to reject the Kinder Morgan proposal and to respect the laws and authority of the Coast Salish to protect their respective territories, land, fisheries and surrounding ecosystem from the very real potential and increased risk of oil spills and increased coast tanker traffic travelling the Salish Sea.”

Posted at: November 20, 2014 - 2:07 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

Eight foods you’re about to lose due to climate change: A list of the foods to enjoy now – while they’re comparatively plentiful

As worsening drought and extreme weather devastate crops, you may begin seeing climate change when you open your fridge.

Eight foods you’re about to lose due to climate change
Twilight Greenaway Guardian UK October 29, 2014


Drink up: Coffee is on the endangered foods list affected by climate change. Photo: David Levene/Guardian. Visit this page for its embedded links.

What does climate change taste like?

It’s an odd question, but an increasingly pertinent one. After all, as temperatures rise and extreme weather becomes the norm, many food production systems are becoming threatened. As that trend increases, it’s worth asking which foods consumers will have to cut back on – or abandon entirely.

According to David Lobell, deputy director of the Center on Food Security and the Environment at Stanford University, “The general story is that agriculture is sensitive. It’s not the end of the world; but it will be a big enough deal to be worth our concern.”

One major issue is carbon dioxide, or CO2. Plants use the gas to fuel photosynthesis, a fact that has led some analysts to argue that an increase CO2 is a good thing for farming. Lobell disagrees, noting that CO2 is only one of many factors in agriculture. “There’s a point at which adding more and more CO2 doesn’t help,” he says. Other factors – like the availability of water, the increasing occurrence of high and low temperature swings and the impact of stress on plant health – may outweigh the benefits of a CO2 boost.

Lobell has already noticed the effect of climate change on some crops. For example, he says, yield data from corn and wheat production suggests that these two staples are already being negatively affected by the changing climate. Similarly, fruit and nuts are also showing the impact of climate change. Fruit trees require “chilling hours”, or time in cold, wintry environments, for optimum production. If they don’t hit their required number of cold, wintery days, their production – and quality – drop. These reduced yields, Lobell explains, lead to more frequent price spikes in many foods.

Here’s a list of the foods to enjoy now – while they’re comparatively plentiful.

Related: Climate change and declining ocean health: Acidic ocean deadly for Vancouver Island shellfish industry & Sea star wasting disease likely caused by virus; warming ocean temperature suspected as a causative factor. (On the surface, climate-induced sea ice conditions threatening Polar Bears)
Salt Spring News British Columbia Canada November 19, 2014

Five links. The deteriorating health of B.C.’s oceans is impacting not only the province’s marine life, but also its economy.

Posted at: November 20, 2014 - 12:17 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post