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Topic: Civil SocietyThe new items published under this topic are as follows.
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
After 30 years, it's time to eliminate food banks
How the Fight for Good Food Transformed a Community and Inspired a Movement
It began as a food bank. It turned into a movement.
In 1998, when Nick Saul became executive director of The Stop, the little urban food bank in Toronto was like thousands of other cramped, dreary, makeshift spaces, a last-hope refuge where desperate people could stave off hunger for one more day with a hamper full of canned salt, sugar and fat. The produce was wilted and the packaged foods were food-industry castoffs—mislabelled products and misguided experiments that no one wanted to buy. For users of the food bank, knowing that this was their best bet for a meal was a humiliating experience.
Since that time, The Stop has undergone a radical reinvention. Participation has overcome embarrassment, and the isolation of poverty has been replaced with a vibrant community that uses food to build hope and skills, and to reach out to those who need a meal, a hand and a voice. It is now a thriving, internationally respected Community Food Centre with gardens, kitchens, a greenhouse, farmers’ markets and a mission to revolutionize our food system. Celebrities and benefactors have embraced the vision because they have never seen anything like The Stop. Best of all, fourteen years after his journey started, Nick Saul is introducing this neighbourhood success story to the world.
In telling the remarkable story of The Stop’s transformation, Saul and Curtis argue that we need a new politics of food, one in which everyone has a dignified, healthy place at the table. By turns funny, sad and raw, The Stop is a timely story about overcoming obstacles, challenging sacred cows and creating lasting change.
Victoria councillors want to help eliminate the need for food banks within five years.
Councillors last week unanimously endorsed a resolution put forward by Coun. Lisa Helps pledging to encourage the provincial and federal governments to eliminate the need for food banks by 2018.
The resolution also calls on the city to help support community and government agencies and the private sector to establish programs that build knowledge and skills “to help people move towards healthier and more secure and dignified access to nutritious food.”
Victoria’s department of sustainability notes the city is active in a number of food-related initiatives, including allowing backyard chickens, edible community gardens in parks and Centennial Square, and a certified commercial kitchen facility available for rent by small-scale food processors, food businesses, organizations and individuals through Fairfield-Gonzalez Community Place.
Jean Swanson, a long-time Vancouver antipoverty advocate, recalls attending the opening of one of the first food banks in the city and hearing an organizer say, “This is just going to be for a year or two, and that’ll be the end of it.”
Thirty years later, the Vancouver society, like other food banks across the country, is providing emergency food to thousands of people every month. The food bank has seen a 10-percent increase in clients since last year, with over 27,000 people a week being assisted.
For Raise the Rates, the coalition of community groups chaired by Swanson, the key solution is to increase income-assistance rates.
Tom Page, a regular food-bank user and an activist with ACORN Canada, says his organization is pushing for increased income supports for people with disabilities and for a provincial poverty-reduction plan.
Seth Klein, the director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives’ B.C. office, says welfare rates have left recipients “structurally dependent” on food banks, since the majority of their income is used to cover the cost of shelter.
In its HungerCount report, Food Banks Canada makes a series of recommendations to address the lack of income that drives people to seek help. These include expanding federal supports for social and affordable housing, making changes to provincial income-support systems, and increasing the federal Working Income Tax Benefit.
For the Greater Vancouver Food Bank, the interim strategy includes initiatives to create more nutritional benefits for clients, such as bulk purchases of fresh produce from local farmers. Schuurman Hess conceded he believes the requirement for some form of food assistance will never be fully eliminated. But the organization is aiming to help figure out how to make a significant dent in the need.
Cameron comment: Giving people more money to buy food is great, but teaching them to grow, forage and prepare their own food is greater.
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Around the globe: Fighting the dominance of agribusiness and relocalizing the food system
Even as USA passes a 'Monsanto Protection Act'—in the USA and around the world—farmers and those they feed are in the field nurturing community alternatives to the corporate globalization of food.Posted at: Wednesday, April 17, 2013 - 03:47 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
Food policy is not the purview of private sector interests alone but must be taken on as a government responsibility. We must get beyond the status quo, which is unhealthy, unfair and unsustainable. - Debbie Field, Executive Director of FoodShare Toronto. FoodShare Toronto is Canada’s largest community food security organization. Working "from field to table," the organization focuses on the entire system that puts food on our tables: From the growing, processing and distribution of food to its purchasing, cooking and consumption.
Will Monsanto ties influence nutritionists' stance on GMOs?
Tom Philpott Mother Jones USA April 13, 2013
Visit this page for its embedded links.
The GMO seed giant Monsanto recently flexed its muscles in Congress, working with a senator to sneak a friendly rider into an unrelated funding bill. Now it appears to be having its way with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. As the New York Times reports, a dietician who'd been working on crafting the group's GMO policy claims she was pushed aside for pointing out her colleagues' links to Monsanto.
The controversy started during last fall's highly contested battle over a ballot initiative that would have required labeling genetically modified food in California. The prestigious dieticians' group was incorrectly listed by the official state voters' guide as one of the scientific organizations that had "concluded biotech foods are safe." Actually, the AND had taken no position on the issue, but it promised to come out with a position paper on it. (The ballot initiative ultimately failed.)
As part of the process of generating a position paper, the group appointed seven members to what it called the Advanced Technologies in Food Production working group. That's when things got hairy. Two of the members, it turned out, had ties to Monsanto. One was a "dietitian who operates a farm in Maryland, [who] won a $5,000 prize from Monsanto and is a test farmer for the company," the Times reports. The other serves as senior vice president of the International Food Information Council, a group whose funders read like a roster of Big Ag and junk-food corporations, ranging from Monsanto, Bayer Cropscience, and Cargill to Coca Cola, Red Bull, Pepsi, and Dr. Pepper Snapple Group. Several of the International Food Information Council's donor companies also contributed heavily to the $45.6 million effort to defeat California's GMO ballot initiative.
One panel member, Carole Bartolotto, a dietician for Kaiser Permanante, had the temerity to point out her colleagues' potential conflicts of interest to the academy's leadership. The result? Bartolotto found herself purged from the committee, while the two Monsanto-connected panel members maintained their positions. ...
It remains to be seen what position the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics GMO paper will take, but this is shaping up to be another victory for Monsanto.
Big Ag scores another self-serving law
Jill Richardson StraightGoods.ca Canada April 15, 2013
As this spring began, another branch in the biotech giant Monsanto’s sweep around any meaningful regulation of its products burst into bloom. Monsanto and its fellow “Big Six” pesticide and biotech companies — Syngenta, Dupont, Bayer, BASF, and Dow Chemical — pulled off a legislative coup when Congress passed its latest budget bill with a gift to them quietly (and anonymously) tucked into it.
As comedian Jon Stewart put it, “the laws of the most powerful nation on earth are written with the same level of accountability as Internet comments.”
This new law — quickly dubbed the “Monsanto Protection Act” by its critics — was snuck into the routine spending measure. After President Barack Obama signed it, Politico discovered that the “anonymous” lawmaker behind the provision was Roy Blunt. The Republican senator represents Missouri, Monsanto’s home state. ...
In the past decade, Monsanto’s been making regular US Supreme Court appearances to defend its genetically engineered crops. Luckily for the Big Ag giant, its old lawyer, Clarence Thomas, is one of the justices. And, he doesn’t recuse himself from their cases.
Despite a massive legal budget and tight ties to Justice Thomas, Monsanto has suffered some Supreme setbacks. Two of the lawsuits involved their products — sugar beets and alfalfa — that were genetically engineered to survive being sprayed by Monsanto’s bestselling herbicide, Roundup.
In both cases, the courts decided that the Department of Agriculture hadn’t performed the necessary environmental review before legalizing Monsanto’s products for commercial sale. The government had to go back and do its homework before it could give Monsanto the green light. Monsanto had to stop selling its products — if only temporarily.
But while the government performed the environmental reviews, some farmers had already bought — or even planted — Monsanto’s seeds, which were now no longer legal to sell. Would the courts make those farmers rip their crops out of the ground? They didn’t. In both cases, farmers who had already purchased and planted Monsanto’s seeds were allowed to grow them, harvest them, and sell them, even though new sales were prohibited.
Of course, the losses in court were setbacks to Monsanto and to their friends in the government. But the courts based their decisions on the law, and the laws were written to protect the American people and the environment. Monsanto’s solution? Change the law. ...
Look out Monsanto: The global food movement is rising
Daniel Moss YES! Magazine USA April 10, 2013
Visit this page for its embedded links.
Chewing on a mouthful of locally grown lettuce, I wondered if the claims I’d heard about the global food-justice movement were true. Was there a line to follow, however crooked, between my purchase of these greens, land reform in Brazil and opposition to genetically modified seeds in California. Or was it all just empty calories?
As a somewhat conscientious consumer and occasional Taco Bell boycotter, I’ve hoped that the movement was real. But it hasn't always been easy to perceive the connection between marching for improved farmworker rights, signing a petition against factory feedlots, and cooking up beets from a CSA (that is, community supported agriculture, which usually comes in the form a box of assorted veggies delivered to people who contribute to a local farm’s financial well-being).
Those connections form a tight weave in the new book, Harvesting Justice: Transforming Food, Land, and Agriculture in the Americas. Using “food sovereignty” as the secret sauce, the book sautés the individual ingredients of sister movements into a coherent, flavorful whole.
The book was created for the U.S. Food Sovereignty Alliance—a network of organizations allied with La Via Campesina, which advocates for culturally appropriate (think tortillas in Mexico instead of bread), ecologically sound (no GMOs), and small-farmer friendly food systems.
The book’s authors, Tory Field and Beverly Bell, do a lot more with food than just write about it. Field is a farmer who co-manages the Next Barn Over Farm, a CSA program in western Massachusetts. Bell has worked for decades with small farmer organizations in Haiti, including those who set fire to agricultural aid after the 2010 earthquake. The farmers didn't see the donated seeds as aid, but as a Monsanto “trojan horse” undermining their control over their own food.
Both authors are also members of Other Worlds, an organization that educates the public about citizen movements and builds community alternatives to corporate globalization. Introducing us to farmers speaking in their own voices, they describe how fighting the dominance of agribusiness and relocalizing the food system are indeed two sides of the same coin.
The book merges five years of field research and interviews, and describes more than 100 case studies of advocacy campaigns and alternative food systems in the United States and around the world. ...
Related: National Farmers Union
The National Farmers Union is a direct-membership organization made up of Canadian farm families who share common goals. Member families of the Union believe that through an organization that represents all commodities produced in Canada, it is possible to promote the family farm as the most appropriate and efficient means of agricultural production. Our goal is to work together to achieve agricultural policies which will ensure dignity and security of income for farm families while enhancing the land for future generations. Associate Members are a valued part of the National Farmers Union family as well. Associate Members are non-farmers who understand that food issues are everyone's concern, and who want to help family farmers build a sustainable and nutritious food system in Canada.
Jim comment: In recent years the NFU fought valiantly to defend the Canadian Wheat Board's monopsony on western Canadian barley and non-feed wheat. (The Canadian Wheat Board was established by the Parliament of Canada on July 5, 1935.) The Harper Government would have none of it. Using the party's newly-achieved parliamentary majority, the Harperites were determined to turn Canada's grain over to corporate agriculture and they did. The corporatist steamroller could not be stopped. Amid great criticism, the Canadian Wheat Board's monopsony officially ended on August 1, 2012 as a result of Bill C-18, which was tabled by the Harper Government and passed in December 2011.
Food Secure Canada
Food Secure Canada is based in three interlocking commitments:
Zero Hunger: All people at all times must be able to acquire, in a dignified manner, adequate quantity and quality of culturally and personally acceptable food. This is essential to the health of our population, and requires cooperation among many different sectors, including housing, social policy, transportation, agriculture, education, and community, cultural, voluntary and charitable groups, and businesses.
A Sustainable Food System: Food in Canada must be produced, harvested (including fishing and other wild food harvest), processed, distributed and consumed in a manner which maintains and enhances the quality of land, air and water for future generations, and in which people are able to earn a living wage in a safe and healthy working environment by harvesting, growing, producing, processing, handling, retailing and serving food.
Healthy and Safe Food: Safe and nourishing foods must be readily at hand (and less nourishing ones restricted); food (including wild foods) must not be contaminated with pathogens or industrial chemicals; and no novel food can be allowed to enter the environment or food chain without rigorous independent testing and the existence of an on-going tracking and surveillance system, to ensure its safety for human consumption.
Food Secure Canada is a Canada-wide alliance of civil society organizations and individuals collaborating to advance dialogue and cooperation for policies and programs that improve food security in Canada and globally.
FSC aims to unite people and organizations working for food security nationally and globally.
US Food Sovereignty Alliance
The US Food Sovereignty Alliance (USFSA) works to end poverty, rebuild local food economies, and assert democratic control over the food system. We believe all people have the right to healthy, culturally appropriate food, produced in an ecologically sound manner. As a US-based alliance of food justice, anti-hunger, labor, environmental, faith-based, and food producer groups, we uphold the right to food as a basic human right and work to connect our local and national struggles to the international movement for food sovereignty.
La Via Campesina English
The International Peasant's Movement. Via Campesina (from Spanish la vía campesina, the campesino way, or the Peasants' Way) is "an international movement which coordinates peasant organizations of small and middle-scale producers, agricultural workers, rural women, and indigenous communities from Asia, Africa, America, and Europe". It is a coalition of over 148 organizations, advocating family-farm-based sustainable agriculture and was the group that first coined the term "food sovereignty". Food sovereignty refers to the right to produce food on one's own territory. Via Campesina has carried out several campaigns including a campaign to defend farmer's seeds, a campaign to stop violence against women, a campaign for the recognition of the rights of peasants, a global campaign for agrarian reform, and others. Organized worldwide into nine regions, the group has members throughout the world (in 69 countries). It receives support from various charities, foundations and public institutions around the world. Via Campesina claims to represent an estimated 150 million people globally.
Thursday, March 7, 2013
Latin America and the Caribbean: While Canadian companies mine for gold, others strive for justice
While we mine for gold, others strive for justicePosted at: Thursday, March 07, 2013 - 07:27 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
Stephen Law Canadian Dimension Canada March 5 2013
Photo: Monica Gutierrez
Canadians vie for it, want it, and when they play hockey, they demand it. Gold. For most Canadians it’s a medal they would like to see hanging around Sidney Crosby’s neck. But that gold, silver, nickel or bronze comes from somewhere, and invariably, when it is produced there is a cost, and not just the money required to purchase the bling.
Canada is host to the largest mining sector in the world. There are more mining companies based in Canada, then anywhere else. But, increasingly, while the stock price of gold and other metals continues to remain high and bring value to its shareholders, those who are caught in the entrails of the communities where mines are operating are paying a heavy price.
Adolfo Ich Chamán was leader in the community of El Estor, a town in eastern Guatemala. It’s a small community located on the shores of Lake Izabel. “Adolfo was a teacher, he worked with the school and the students, everyone knew him. That’s why he was a leader” explains his widow, Angelica Choc. It was because he was a leader, that human rights advocates allege he was killed by the private security firm that was hired to protect the interests of the mine.
In a precedent setting case, Canadian mining company, HudBay Minerals is being sued by a group of Guatemalans, including Choc, along with German Chub who was shot and paralyzed, and eleven women who were allegedly raped by the security forces who worked for HudBay. The attacks against the Guatemalans are tied to a land dispute at the heart of the conflict between a Canadian mining company and an Indigenous community in Guatemala.
While the company claims the communities are “illegal squatters”, the indigenous Mayan Q’eqchi’ assert they have a moral and historical right to reclaim the ancestral land that was taken from them during the Guatemalan civil war. According to Choc, “We didn’t invade the land, we have the right to live in dignity. It was an abandoned area, why have abandoned land when there are so many families that need it.”
Cory Wanless, a lawyer with Klippensteins law firm that has taken on the case on behalf of the Guatemalan plaintiffs, describes how Angelica’s husband was identified as a leader by the private security forces of HudBay and “brutally murdered, hacked with machetes, beaten and shot in the head.”
A public interest group has been monitoring the practices of mining companies, and according to Jen Moore of Mining Watch Canada, this case is important “because it represents an attempt to break through the wall of corporate impunity to obtain justice for people that were egregiously harmed in Guatemala, and to hold a parent company responsible for the actions it takes that have led to terrible violence abroad.”
HudBay had vigorously disputed the allegations in court and argued the case shouldn’t be heard in Canada based on jurisdictional grounds, suggesting it was more appropriately heard in Guatemala. ...
'Water is more precious than Gold' speaking tour coming to a community near you!
Meera Karunananthan rabble.ca Canada March 4, 2013
The Council of Canadians is working with allies including KAIROS, Mining Watch Canada, Breaking the Silence Maritimes and the United Church to raise awareness about community resistance to Canadian mining in communities across the country.
Community activists from El Salvador will be on a North American speaking tour in March and April dubbed "Water is More Precious than Gold" to share stories from the frontlines about the ecologically and socially devastating impacts of metal mining in the region, the heroic efforts to have metal mining banned in the country and the ways in which the mining industry is bullying their way into Latin American communities.
Attend a public event in your community and join the campaign to defend water against mega mining in El Salvador. ...
March 9 - April 10: ‘Water is More Precious than Gold’ speaking tour to challenge Canada’s international mining practices
Council of Canadians Canada n.d.
Visit this page for more info and for its embedded links.
A continent-wide Water Is More Precious than Gold speaking tour will raise awareness about the negative impact of Canadian mining operations on El Salvador and will garner international support for Salvadoran civil society’s call to ban metal mining in the Central American country.
The tour will feature Vidalina Morales and Sandra Carolina Ascencio, representatives from the El Salvadoran National Roundtable against Metallic Mining (the Mesa). Since 2006, the Mesa has brought together hundreds of communities and thousands of people from across El Salvador, including environmental, community-based, research, legal and religious organizations, to successfully halt mining operations in the country and to call for a ban on metal mining.
The speaking tour aims to build greater awareness about the issues facing El Salvador and other Latin American countries, challenge the unjust practices of Canadian, US and other mining companies, including Pacific Rim and Goldcorp, and build relationships with groups in North America, including those confronting their own local mining issues. The speaking tour will be followed by an international Fact-Finding Mission to El Salvador on May 9-13, aiming to build awareness around the dangers of mining in El Salvador.
The Mesa is also worried about possible contamination from upstream mining projects just over the border in Guatemala and Honduras. Goldcorp’s Cerro Blanco mine, for example, is located only 18 km from El Salvador in the headwaters of the Lempa River, the main source of water for over 60% of the population of El Salvador.
Details of the tour can be found here. ...
Water and mining in Latin America
The Council of Canadians works with allied groups and organizations to support struggles for water justice in communities and countries around the world. We organize campaigns to stop the corporate takeover of water resources and services, to promote water as a human right, and to demand equitable access and responsible management of water through participatory and democratic governance models. Canadian mining companies have posed one of the largest threats to water justice globally. Our work on mining injustice is aimed at raising public awareness, building solidarity and putting pressure on the Canadian government to end the human rights and environmental abuses of the Canadian mining industry.
The Council of Canadians has been following / been involved with various struggles involving Canadian-owned mining corporations threatening the water of communities in Latin America.
Nearly 20 per cent of Canadian foreign mining operations are in Mexico, where the industry has been at the centre of deep conflicts and social tensions. Throughout Mexico, community activists who are standing up in defence of land and water against destructive mining projects are being violently attacked and killed. The Council of Canadians is supporting Mexican movements to bring an end to the injustices created by Canadian mining. Read more »
Council of Canadians Chairperson Maude Barlow visited Guatemala in September 2011, and since then, the Council of Canadians has been supporting the struggle against Vancouver-based Goldcorp’s notorious Marlin mine. Despite a number of international bodies, including the International Labour Organization, the Latin American Water Tribunal and the University of Michigan, releasing negative reports on Goldcorp’s operation, the Canadian government and the corporation continue to deny allegations of human rights violations and water contamination. Read more »
In El Salvador, where a typical metal mine uses as much water in an hour as the average El Salvadoran family takes 20 years to consume, the government has established a moratorium on metal mining to protect limited water supplies that local farming and fishing communities rely on. Pacific Rim, now a Canadian corporation, is taking the El Salvador government to court for denying a permit for a massive gold mine that threatens to contaminate the largest river in the country. Read more »
Related: Alberta's tar sands pollution refugees
Andrew Nikiforuk TheTyee.ca British Columbia Canada March 2, 2013
Residents near Baytex bitumen facility say they are being poisoned by off-gassing. Photo: Richard Labrecque. Visit this page for its embedded links and sidebar ("A FAMILY'S BITUMEN HELL").
Another Alberta pollution scandal has forced as many as six residents from their homes and poisoned scores of other citizens near the Peace River Oil Sands in the northwest corner of the province.
"It's a desperate situation," said Vivianne Laliberte who moved into her son's place last October after being repeatedly "gassed" from emissions from oil sands operations just 5 kilometres from her 85-year-old farm.
"There are a lot of sick people but they don't have the money to move," Laliberte told The Tyee. Her farm is located 48 kilometres south of Peace River.
Emissions from heavy oil extraction and storage facilities owned by Calgary-based Baytex Energy Corp., a heavy oil producer, forced her and her husband to abandon their property.
"But I don't blame the company," added Laliberte.
"I blame the ERCB (Alberta's energy regulator). They are not doing proper monitoring and are withholding data. They are responsible for this going on for years. They have lied to us more than the company. I don't know how they sleep at night."
Greg Melchin, a former Alberta Energy Minister and Tory politician, sits on the board of Baytex Energy.
Darin Barter, spokesman for the Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERBC), says the board "continues to take this matter seriously. We have worked directly and frequently with residents, industry and other government agencies on these concerns." ...
But residents, many of whom were recently profiled in a three-part CBC series, say the province has failed to regulate hydrocarbons being vented off of hundreds of bitumen storage tanks in the region.
"There are no regulations on heated bitumen products. The carcinogens coming off those tanks are just crazy," says 50-year-old Carmen Langer, who worked in the industry for two decades.
His ranch, located 27 kilometres north of Peace River, is surrounded by hundreds of wells and hundreds of bitumen storage tanks.
"Three generations built this farm and now industry pollution is taking it away from us," says Langer, who recently sold his cattle. "We're done. I won't sell my home contaminated. We're not that kind of people."
Langer, who calls bureaucrats and politicians every day for action on bitumen vapour recovery, recently presented a $3.8-million bill to the province for land contamination and property devaluation.
"The government is mental not to deal with this situation," said Langer.
But Ian Johnson, an independent scientist with a PhD in chemistry who has advised citizens on the inadequacy of government air monitoring, does not think the government has any interest in regulating.
"Industry isn't contravening any regulations because there are none that I know of. It's a case of colossal mismanagement," explained Johnson. ...
Friday, February 22, 2013
Keystone XL pipeline/factory farms: It remains to be seen whether federal and state legislators and officials will pay closer attention to corporate influence-peddling or the people on the streets
This well-funded effort to influence state and federal legislators stands in sharp contrast with the growing grassroots environmental movement opposed the pipeline. With tens of thousands of anti-pipeline activists expected in Washington DC this weekend, it remains to be seen whether federal officials reviewing the pipeline will pay closer attention to the industry's influence-peddling or the people on the streets. - Brendan FischerPosted at: Friday, February 22, 2013 - 08:14 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
Activism should focus on shifting social and political power, through whatever vehicle presents itself. - David Roberts
Four states introduce Keystone XL resolutions, lifting language from ALEC and TransCanada itself
Brendan Fischer PR Watch USA February 15, 2013
Legislators in four states have introduced bills in recent weeks supporting the controversial TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline, with language that appears to have been lifted directly from a "model" American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) bill and from TransCanada's own public relations talking points.
Some of the first bills proposed in Missouri, Mississippi, Michigan and Minnesota in 2013 have been resolutions calling on the president and Congress to approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline, which the Obama administration delayed last year in response to a wave of protest and civil disobedience. Environmentalists oppose the pipeline because extracting oil from Canadian tar sands would unlock huge amounts of carbon, increasing the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. Rallies are planned for this weekend to hold President Obama to his promise to fight climate change by urging him to not approve Keystone XL's pipeline application.
The Missouri resolution is nearly identical to an ALEC "model" resolution approved at the December 2011 ALEC meeting. TransCanada had been a member of the ALEC Energy, Environment, and Agriculture Task Force in 2010 (along with oil companies like BP and Exxon Mobil). In states like Ohio and South Dakota, the corporation paid into the state "scholarship" fund that pays for legislators' flights and hotel rooms to ALEC meetings. The ALEC resolution has been passed in a handful of states.
Both Missouri's HCR 19 and the ALEC Resolution in Support of the Keystone XL Pipeline begin: ...
Legislators in Mississippi, Minnesota, and Michigan also introduced legislation in recent weeks supporting the Keystone XL pipeline. The thrust of the resolutions are largely the same as the ALEC model, but the language deviates from the ALEC bill approved in December 2012. However, each state's proposed resolution is identical to the other states -- which certainly seems more than coincidence.
It is not known whether ALEC has been pushing an updated version of ALEC model legislation, but the language in these state resolutions can be traced back directly to TransCanada, the corporation that has been pushing the pipeline for years. Entire paragraphs from the Mississippi, Minnesota, and Michigan resolutions are nearly identical to public relations spin produced by TransCanada and posted as a "backgrounder" on its website. Check out these paragraphs in the Mississippi, Minnesota, and Michigan legislation, and compare the language from TransCanada's "backgrounder:" ...
This identical language cannot be a coincidence. But it is further proof that some legislators are doing the bidding of corporate interests rather than the people that elected them. ...
Stunning: 40,000+ rally in DC for Forward on Climate
Jamie Henn 350/org USA February 17, 2013
What a day! Over 40,000 people poured into the streets of Washington, DC today to push President Obama to take our nation “Forward on Climate” and say no to the Keystone XL pipeline.
Our team here at 350.org had expected a crowd, but this was MASSIVE. Volunteers from around the country organized 130 buses to get people to the rally and it showed: there were people of all ages from Florida to Wisconsin to California here today. ...
Canada was well represented too with delegations from Indigenous peoples (including Idle No More) and from non-Indigenous groups.
Supply, demand, and activism: What should the climate movement do next?
David Roberts Grist USA February 22, 2013
I’ve been writing a lot about the activist campaign to block the Keystone XL pipeline. Much of that writing has been devoted to pushing back against the squadron of Very Serious People who want to pooh-pooh the campaign as mistargeted, misguided, and futile.
But whether you like the campaign or not, it’s too late for second-guessing at this point. The fight is underway; it’s already freighted with symbolism. Within the next few months, the Keystone decision will be made, for good or ill. Then the question arises: What’s next for the climate movement? ...
OCA brings 'Boycott Factory-Farmed Foods' message to Forward on Climate Rally
Organic Consumers Association USA February 14, 2013
(Washington, DC) - The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) will join the Sierra Club, 350.org, the Hip Hop Caucus and more than 90 other organizations on Feb. 17, in Washington D.C., for the “Forward on Climate” rally. The rally is being billed as the largest climate rally in history. Participants will urge President Obama to reject the toxic Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, limit carbon pollution from our nation's dirty power plants, move beyond coal, oil and natural gas by investing in a clean energy economy, and transition to a healthy and sustainable food and farming system.
OCA will emphasize the critical, but often overlooked role factory farming plays in contributing to our planet’s rapidly warming climate. According to the Worldwatch Institute, the production of meat, eggs and milk on factory farms is responsible for more than 50 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.
“We have the technology to save the planet,” said OCA National Director Ronnie Cummins (OCA). “By abolishing factory farms and industrial and GMO crop cultivation, and transitioning back to carbon ranching and organic farming, we could potentially sequester the overwhelming majority of greenhouse gas emissions, and bring the CO2 level back down to the safe level of 350 parts-per-million. That’s the number scientist say we must achieve in order to avert a climate crisis.”
Industrial agriculture spews greenhouse gases into the earth's atmosphere at the rate of 3,700 pounds of CO2 per year per acre. Compare that with an acre of land farmed using organic methods, including composting and cover crops. The organically farmed acre can naturally sequester up to 7,000 pounds per year of CO2 back into the earth, according to research carried out by the Rodale Institute and others.
To facilitate this transition, OCA advocates boycotting products that come from factory farms, eating more local, organic produce, and consuming less meat; requiring mandatory labeling of all factory farm-produced meat, eggs and dairy; and empowering food and farm workers, local communities, and family farmers - the people who experience the harsh realities of factory farm abuses, pollution and economics first hand - to have a greater say in how we create a green, sustainable farming system.
Candidate Barack Obama agreed with OCA’s positions in 2008, stating: "As president, I would direct the Environmental Protection Agency to strictly monitor and regulate pollution from large factory farms, with tough fines for those that violate environmental standards. I also support efforts to provide more meaningful local control over these factory farms." ...
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
For many Canadians, defeating the Harper government is an over-riding, urgent, priority, requiring extraordinary measures. But how? Political cooperation? Bringing back 'the union'? Or ...?
Oh, we are a mighty army, though we bear no sword and gun,Posted at: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 - 07:54 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
We’re enlisted ’till the struggle for cooperation’s won,
And beneath our banner blazoned “One for all and all for one." ... - The opening stanza of "The Battle Hymn of Cooperation", written by Elizabeth Mead and Carl Ferguson, 1932. The song's second chorus begins "Oh, the world today is suffering filled with poverty and pain/And the day has come for freedom from the curse of private gain/For all may live in comfort ’neath Cooperation’s reign...
When the union's inspiration through the workers' blood shall run,
There can be no power greater anywhere beneath the sun;
Yet what force on earth is weaker than the feeble strength of one,
But the union makes us strong. ... - The opening stanza of "Solidarity Forever", written by Ralph Chaplin in 1915
Stop Harper, how? An alternative form of political co-operation
Duncan Cameron rabble.ca Canada February 13, 2013
Photo: jonathonreed/Flickr. Visit this page for its embedded links.
So you want to stop Harper. Happily, you stand with a solid majority of Canadians, who are unhappy with what he represents. His government has the support of only about one Canadian in three.
Unfortunately, the opposition to his regime, a.k.a. one-man rule, is divided. Four opposition parties share prospective anti-Harper voters. Not everybody who wants to stop Harper is as engaged politically as Brigette DePape, the page who was terminated for brandishing a Stop Harper sign on the floor of the Senate.
The blog ThreeHundredEight.com averages responses from all polling firms to questions such as: who would you vote for if an election were held today? Latest calculations show the Conservatives lead with 34 per cent, followed by the NDP at 28 per cent, Liberals at 26 per cent, Bloc at six per cent (based on 24 per cent support in Quebec), and Greens at five per cent.
Optimists point to the 1993 election when the Conservatives were reduced to two seats. Like Brian Mulroney before him, Harper and his party could fall enough out of favour to be thrown into political oblivion by angry citizens by the time of the next federal election, expected in October 2015.
Realists acknowledge that while governments are defeated rather than elected, in order for Harper to lose, someone else has to win. Unless either the Official Opposition led by Tom Mulcair, or a resurgent Liberal party behind Justin Trudeau, prove strong enough to attract the anti-Harper vote, vote splitting could see the Conservatives in power for a second majority term.
Political co-operation is touted as a way to ensure, on a riding-to-riding basis, that anti-Harper voters can coalesce around one agreed candidate capable of defeating a sitting Conservative, rather than split three or four ways. An agreed candidate could be designated in Conservative-held ridings, say, in a primary election hosted by the opposition parties. All parties could contest the riding, but only one would have the designation as the voter co-operation -- defeat a Harper Con -- candidate.
Support for political co-operation comes largely from non-partisans. Understandably, party leaders, who have to answer to their membership, are loath to see candidates other than their own win seats. Faint hope Liberal leadership candidate Joyce Murray advocates such a pact, as did NDP MP Nathan Cullen in his leadership bid. Defeating Conservative candidates is a worthy objective, but parliament could still keep Harper in power, even if his government is reduced to a minority.
The Green Party and its leader Elizabeth May, are supporting a one-time political co-operation agreement so as to elect a (coalition) government that would adopt proportional representation (PR). May has written to opposition MPs promoting the idea, and is calling on Canadians to support it.
The negative consequences of first-past-the-post voting for democracy worry the NDP, but not to the same degree the Liberals. Like the Greens, the NDP supports proportional representation. The Liberals, however, support an alternative ballot, whereby voters rank candidates preferentially, and the second choices of voters for losing candidates are added to the total until one candidate wins 50 per cent plus one of the votes. As Wilf Day has shown, elections run under the proposed Liberal voting system would produce fewer changes than under PR.
Reforming the electoral system is not a burning issue in the public mind, in the same way, for example, as free trade was in the 1988 election campaign. But, for many people, defeating Harper is an over-riding, urgent, priority, requiring extraordinary measures. ...
Wildcard result for BC election: Independents rule
Andrew MacLeod TheTyee.ca British Columbia Canada February 13, 2013
The possibility of a tightening election race in British Columbia suggests a third scenario where a diverse band of independents and MLAs from smaller parties end up with outsized influence.
It's an unlikely but possible outcome, one that would radically change the character of B.C.'s legislature. But emerging from the May 14 election holding the balance of power is an idea that's occurred to the three current independent MLAs who are running again.
"I think it's a credible question this time around," said Vicki Huntington, the MLA for Delta South, whose 2009 election was a rarity in that she won while running as an independent. "Whether it's independents, or a combination of independents, Greens, maybe a Conservative."
John van Dongen, elected as a Liberal but now sitting as an independent after briefly being a Conservative, said many voters are frustrated with the two main parties and are looking for someone else to support.
"I think this election is a fairly unique provincial election, in that we're seeing on a riding-by-riding basis many unique situations," he said.
"You combine that with the fact we see a very significant group of voters out there, across the province, who are not happy with the Liberal or NDP option... Where they have credible independent candidates, whether they're incumbents or not, or whether they're Greens or other persuasions, they're going to look at all of them, more so than ever before." ...
Huntington described visiting a seniors centre recently for a discussion about what kind of government people deserve. "People can say the masses don't have an opinion, but they do," she said. "When you took all of the discussion as a whole, at the root of every single comment was a fear that democracy was in decline. They want to see changes." ...
Related: Unions are really the only organized line of defence against the broad right-wing assault on social programs and government regulations.
Unions in Canada under siege from government, business and media
Linda McQuaig Toronto Star Ontario Canada February 12, 2013
Although much denigrated by the right these days, union activists are, as the old saying notes, “the people who brought you the weekend.”
The right apparently wants you to believe that the weekend is now out of date.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Ontario Conservative Leader Tim Hudak, along with influential members of the corporate and media world, are hostile to unions, rarely missing an opportunity to portray union leaders as autocratic “bosses.”
Yet, if you’re middle class, a union probably helped you or your ancestors get there. ...
But in recent decades, many of the precious, hard-fought union gains — job security, workplace pensions, as well as broader social goals like public pensions and unemployment insurance — have been under fierce attack by the corporate world (where workers really are under the thumb of unelected “bosses”).
Part of the strategy has been to pit worker against worker. So, as private sector workers have lost ground, they’ve been encouraged to resent public sector workers, whose unions have generally been stronger and better able to protect them.
With workers increasingly baited into a dogfight against each other, it’s been easier to make the case that unions are no longer relevant.
But, given the intensity of the attack, unions are likely more necessary than ever. ...
We’re told that many of these benefits and protections have to be cut back to make our economy more flexible in an era of globalization.
In fact, what is referred to as “globalization” is simply the set of laws governing the global economy. There’s nothing natural or inevitable about these laws, which have been crafted by corporate interests and their think-tanks. They just reflect the growing political muscle of the corporate elite, which has reshaped international and domestic laws in recent decades to their own advantage. ...
It’s that same corporate elite, and its political and media supporters, who now assure us that unions are no longer relevant. ...
Noted: Truth and Premier Photo Op remain strangers
Norman Farrell Northern Insight British Columbia Canada February 11, 2013
Visit this page for its embedded links and an enraging graph of British Columbia's recent job lossess (15-64 year-old workers).
David Akin's On the Hill, November 2/12, Latest job numbers: BC is number one — in job losses
" 'I’m going to run on (being) number one in job creation,' BC Premier Christy Clark told the Liberal Party of BC convention last Saturday, boasting at one point that BC had created 57,000 jobs and that that was more than any province in Canada.
Vancouver Sun writer Craig McInnes did a column in November titled, Clark's claims on job creation invite derision." He quoted the same David Akin,
"Do Christy Clark's boasts on job creation hold up? Nope. Nada. Not even close."
Here's one for all those who listen to corporatist-owned radio.
Liel Leibovitz Tablet Magazine USA February 11, 2011
Last year, a young man called in to a radio station with a problem. ... The caller told his story with passion and verve, and then asked the station’s listeners for their advice on how to treat his clueless pal.
Or at least he would have, had this been a real conversation. The young man—who asked to remain nameless in order to protect his chances for future employment—was an actor, and the staged call an audition. A short while later, he received the following email: “Thank you for auditioning for Premiere On Call,” it said. “Your audition was great! We’d like to invite you to join our official roster of ‘ready-to-work’ actors.” The job, the email indicated, paid $40 an hour, with one hour guaranteed per day.
But what exactly was the work? The question popped up during the audition and was explained, the actor said, clearly and simply: If he passed the audition, he would be invited periodically to call in to various talk shows and recite various scenarios that made for interesting radio. He would never be identified as an actor, and his scenarios would never be identified as fabricated—which they always were.
“I was surprised that it seemed so open,” the actor told me in an interview. “There was really no pretense of covering it up.”
Curious, the actor did some snooping and learned that Premiere On Call was a service offered by Premiere Radio Networks, the largest syndication company in the United States and a subsidiary of Clear Channel Communications, the entertainment and advertising giant. Premiere syndicates some of the more sterling names in radio, including Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and Sean Hannity. But a great radio show depends as much on great callers as it does on great hosts: Enter Premiere On Call.
“Premiere On Call is our new custom caller service,” read the service’s website, which disappeared as this story was being reported (for a cached version of the site click here). “We supply voice talent to take/make your on-air calls, improvise your scenes or deliver your scripts. Using our simple online booking tool, specify the kind of voice you need, and we’ll get your the right person fast. Unless you request it, you won’t hear that same voice again for at least two months, ensuring the authenticity of your programming for avid listeners.”
The actors hired by Premiere to provide the aforementioned voice talents sign confidentiality agreements and so would not go on the record. But their accounts leave little room for doubt. All of the actors I questioned reported receiving scripts, calling in to real shows, pretending to be real people. Frequently, one actor said, the calls were live, sometimes recorded in advance, but never presented on-air as anything but real. ...
Wednesday, January 30, 2013
The federal Harper government and the B.C. provincial Clark government savagely protect their political secrecy. B.C.'s Privacy Commissioner says private citizens should strive to do same with personal data
Statement from B.C. Privacy Commissioner on Data Privacy DayPosted at: Wednesday, January 30, 2013 - 07:20 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
Media release Office of the B.C. Information and Privacy Commissioner British Columbia Canada January 27, 2013
Jan. 27, 2013
Statement from B.C. Privacy Commissioner on Data Privacy Day
VICTORIA — B.C. Information and Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham made the following statement in celebration of Data Privacy Day:
“Held on January 28 each year, Data Privacy Day is part of a global effort to raise awareness about the importance of valuing and protecting personal information, and to highlight the impact technology is having on individual privacy.
“In Canada, this year’s theme is ‘Take control of your information, don’t let it come back to haunt you’ – a theme that reflects our collective responsibility to understand how changes in technology affect our privacy rights.
“There is no question that technology has revolutionized how we share and exchange data – between people, between citizens and government, or as part of a business transaction. The volume of data created by or about us is now measured in zettabytes, and will only continue to grow.
“While governments, public bodies and private businesses have important legal and ethical responsibilities to protect personal information, citizens are not just passive providers of data. They have the power to make informed, privacy-positive choices about who they give their personal information to and why.
“On Data Privacy Day, I encourage British Columbians to take practical steps to protect their privacy:
“In recent weeks, we have seen a number of high-profile privacy breaches affecting hundreds of thousands of British Columbians. The loss of sensitive personal data could expose individuals to significant harms such as identity theft and bank fraud. We must never lose sight of the human impact of such events.
“Today I encourage all British Columbians to take an active role in protecting privacy. Resolve to pay greater attention to the amount of personal information you provide, disclose, share and post.
Protect your personal information. Value it.”
Friday, January 25, 2013
Social movements in Canada: Organized Canadian labour & Idle No More
Intro: Don't let them tell you it can't be done. - The late Jack Layton (Leader of the Official Opposition in Canada's Parliament at the time of his death in August 2011), speaking to all CanadiansPosted at: Friday, January 25, 2013 - 03:06 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
Let's show Harper who's in charge and build a country based on fairness and equality
Dave Coles rabble.ca Canada January 24, 2013
If you have the sentiment that the country is headed in the wrong direction, you are absolutely right.
Like me, you are probably wondering what happened to building a society based on fairness, solidarity and equality for all Canadians.
Well, let's be clear. The Conservative government has been acting against these principles during its too many years in office. The protection of the environment has become less important, the rights of working people and of vulnerable communities have come under attack, and Stephen Harper is building a Canada that is devoid of compassion and solidarity.
With the setbacks of these past years, it is easy for us to lose sight of the ideas that can move our society forward, not backwards. But as it goes for all things, we must remember that we are not alone. The lesson is as old as organizing goes. Working in isolation is a sure way to let your opponents gain ground. Every so often, when we are confronted with a real threat, we acknowledge that it is time to get out of our usual comfortable place and reach out to our allies, long-standing or brand new.
Over the past few months, we at the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union (CEP) have been working together with some of our longtime allies as well as new partners. Coming from many different sectors and perspectives, we have acknowledged that defending some of our core principles such as democracy and justice is more pressing now than it has been for years. We have acknowledged that only together will we be able to stand up for the rights of all Canadians.
Together we have united under the banner of Common Causes, a new assembly for those of us who believe that it is still possible (and necessary!) to build strong social and equitable foundations for our society.
Next week, we will be flexing our muscle across the country. On Monday, January 28, along with some of our coalition partners, we will launch what we have come to call Common Causes: a gathering of those who feel we have lost ground and need to get it back.
In Ottawa, we will march in support of the Idle No More global day of action and join our Indigenous brothers and sisters in their demands for respect and dignity for all of Canada's First Nations communities. Other actions will be held in other communities such as....
Labour in Canada: We're at a real turning point. We've got to decide what kind of workforce and what kind of society we're going to have. - Laurel MacDowell, professor of labour history at the University of Toronto, speaking in eary September 2009
"Unions have forfeited a lot of the ground they once held in terms of political and policy ideas. hey need to have a concerted political strategy, because they cannot win at the collective bargaining table on their own. There has to be a more concerted political and social strategy that starts articulating alternatives and talks about the need for governments to play a role. ... If [labour] also pick[s] up on issues that resonate ... broadly, I think that holds hope for strengthening the position of unions." - Charlotte Yates, Dean of Social Sciences at McMaster University. Prof. Yates says unions need to advocate broadly on issues that affect all workers, especially low-income workers who lack a voice. Otherwise, she says many in the public look at labour-union members with resentment. (Cited by Janet McFarland, September 2012)
Canadian labour history, 1850-1999
Canadian Museum of Civilization Canada October 1999
Social progress is the weight of laws designed to alleviate human suffering. In Canada, the Labour movement has been in the forefront of groups seeking such legislation, right from its earliest days.
Pensions, health insurance, the shorter workday, a living wage, the right to organize - all these were fought for by workers in unions or trying to form unions.
This web site traces the history of Canadian Labour with the aim of showing how it served its members while forcing broader reforms on our nation.
Highlights in Canadian labour history
Pattie Phillips CBC News Canada September 4, 2009
This item contains multiple internal links related to the Canadian labour movement.
Fire up the barbeque, Labour Day has arrived.
Celebrated across the country, the holiday is often thought of as the last hurrah before kids head back to school and the long, hot days of summer give way to the crisp, fading days of autumn.
But Labour Day is more than just the unofficial end to summer — a fact many Canadians tend to forget.
"Last year, because we were reading an article about Labour Day, I asked my students how many of them went to see the Labour Day parade, or how many of them knew anything about Labour Day, and it absolutely had no connection to them whatsoever," said Laurel MacDowell, professor of labour history at the University of Toronto. "They simply see it as a day off."
The Labour Day holiday, however, was established to recognize the contribution that ordinary working people have made to the Canadian way of life, said Ken Georgetti, president of the Canadian Labour Congress.
"The union movement has built a very large part of society, both in terms of the way people are paid, but also in terms of people's rights," he said.
This includes the right to fair wages, safe working conditions and compensation for injury, and equitable labour relations.
"Lots of people lost their lives in order to establish the right to refuse unsafe work and the right to be treated fairly and without discrimination," said Georgetti. "We've done a lot and we're very proud of it."
Despite the changing priorities of the Canadian workforce and the evolution of labour issues unions still serve an important purpose for workers, Georgetti said, and at the beginning of 2008, about four-and-a-half million Canadians, or nearly 26 per cent of the civilian labour force, belonged to a union. ...
On this last long weekend of the summer, in honour of the labour movement and all it has done to recognize the role workers have had in building Canadian society, here is a look back at some of the milestones along the way....
The weakening state of Canadian labour unions
Janet McFarland Globe and Mail Canada September 2, 2012
Although four million Canadians are members of unions, organized labour is nonetheless facing shrinking coverage across Canada’s work force.
Unions are coping with growing pressure from employers and governments to accept wage freezes and reduced benefits, while they are also being asked to become active partners in boosting company productivity and improving work processes.
Labour leaders are confronting growing hostility about their role from both governments and broad swaths of the non-unionized public. In this difficult and complex climate, we talked to leaders in labour, business and education about their take on the challenges and new roles facing unions this Labour Day.
Review: Rethinking the Politics of Labour in Canada
Scott Neigh Canadian Dimenson Blog Canada January 13, 2013
[Stephanie Ross and Larry Savage, editors. Rethinking the Politics of Labour in Canada. Halifax & Winnipeg: Fernwood Publishing, 2012.]
This book is, I think, tailored for use in labour studies courses. The selection of essays on various aspects of political action by Canadian unions and workers would serve very effectively as an introduction and as an overview. The writers approach the topic from a pro-labour perspective that is nonetheless quite capable of being critical of the movement but is never polemical, and the criticism is mostly tempered by a sober appreciation of practical constraints.
The first section sets some of the context and it is where the collection does some modest but useful work to introduce new ideas for thinking most generally about labour politics. I quite appreciated Donald Swartz and Rosemary Warskett’s conceptualization of the labour movement’s history and the challenges it faces today through the frame of evolving forms of solidarity and the capacity of those forms to meet (or not) certain practical challenges. I also think that Stephanie Ross’ materialist complication of the ideal-types of “business unionism” and “social unionism” is an important piece of groundwork for effective discussions about labour’s future directions.
The second section is about labour and electoral politics — the NDP, the different trajectory between labour and parties in Quebec, strategic voting, and electoral reform. All four of these pieces combine history and contemporary analysis. I think that the essay on the NDP will be useful to me as a resource to inform discussions on the left about what we can and cannot expect from future NDP governments, particularly the author’s patient cataloguing of recent NDP regimes at the provincial level and his illustration that not a single one has been even marginally non-neoliberal since 1988. I also got a lot out of the piece on Quebec, about which I previously knew relatively little in this area. The final section is on extra-parliamentary activism, with chapters on gender equity, indigenous people, the environment, community unionism, anti-poverty organizing, migrant workers, and the prospect of progress through the courts. In each case, the included essays present useful mixtures of history, current activity, possibilities, and limitations, none of which should be taken as the final word on any of the topics but all of which provide a good basis for further discussion.
The two main limitations I see with the book are both connected to its form. ...
Despite these limitations of form, I think this book is a very useful one, and one that I hope is widely read. ...
Indigenous peoples: The remarkable Idle No More movement is the biggest and most important national outpouring of grassroots aboriginal anger ever seen in Canada. - Murray Dobbin
The power of Idle No More’s resurgent radicalism
Murray Dobbin Canadian Dimension Canada Webposted January 21, 2013
The remarkable Idle No More movement is the biggest and most important national outpouring of grassroots aboriginal anger ever seen in Canada. Not since the late 1960s when Indians (as they then referred to themselves) and Métis confronted governments with demands for justice has such a dramatic and passionate expression of resistance been seen. As the movement continues to grow we can only speculate on what its longer term outcome will be. Many movements begin with such spontaneous explosions of pent up anger and frustration. The successful ones find their feet quickly and are able, through collective leadership, to focus their energy and passion on a unifying vision and on some organizational form to press for its realization. Idle No More will be no different.
It is up against formidable odds: not just the normal difficulties of any new movement but a ruthless Harper government which responds only to power and an entrenched aboriginal leadership which is completely dependent on that same government. It is a leadership which long ago made a deal with the neo-colonial devil: you pay us and we will pretend to lead while you pretend to listen. It has been that way for over 30 years and those entrenched leaders in the national organizations — and many at the band level — will do everything in their power to sustain the status quo, notwithstanding all their radical rhetoric of the past 10 days.
In the late 1960s social movements of all kinds were at their peak — students, labour, anti-poverty, women, farmers, anti-war and “native” groups were organizing and demanding recognition from provincial and federal governments. A common message was that Canada did not have a genuine democracy because so many people had no voice in government. They also had in common a level of independence long forgotten — they raised their own money from their members and got virtually nothing from governments. But because of that they struggled to be effective voices for their causes (the exception being labour which did not lack for resources). The government of Pierre Trudeau responded to the accusations of a flawed democracy with the Ministry of Secretary of State. I once interviewed Gerard Pelletier, the department’s long time head, and he said, and I paraphrase: “The Marxists said liberal democracy was a sham so we provided funding for marginalized groups so their voices could be heard.”
I think Pelletier was genuine in his motivation. But there were other elements of the state not so sanguine about handing radicals a bunch of money to be more effective. And for aboriginal groups there was a special, racially-based fear, rooted in past conflicts on the prairies. Here the money was to be used to deflect aboriginal radicalism and channel the movements into relatively harmless activities. ...
dle No More is the most exciting development in aboriginal politics in two generations. It has rightfully scared the hell out of the entire First Nations leadership — from Shawn Atleo down to the hundreds of chiefs, too many of whom do in fact live high on the hog while their band members suffer. And it has got the attention of Stephen Harper, a man who has dedicated his political career to the interests of the oil and other resource industries threatened by Idle No More. Remember that he cancelled the Kelowna Accord soon after he became prime minister. The only reason Harper met with First Nations leaders is because his intelligence gathering told him this could be real trouble. Let’s hope it is.
Below: Suzanne Fournier has been writing about and reporting for various media on social justice, First Nations and women's issues for 37 years in B.C. She is the co-author of the award-winning book Stolen From Our Embrace: the Abduction of First Nations Children and the Restoration of Aboriginal Communities. She argues much of the Idle No More movement's vibrancy owes to young people and women, empowered to speak by its fluid structure
Idle No More's energizers
Suzanne Fournier TheTyee.ca British Columbia Canada January 22, 2013
Idle No More's Lorelei Williams (center) is a 32-year-old Capilano College student who began attending the Missing Women Inquiry in 2011 to seek accountability for the disappearance of her aunt and the murder of her cousin. Photo: David P. Ball
The groundswell of activism across Canada that is Idle No More doesn't lend itself to a tidy diagram or a roadmap of designated leaders, armed with a coherent platform or handing out a unified message.
Indeed, Idle No More has come to resemble more a meteorological map of forces that is unlikely to ever coalesce into a single united front, either behind the elected chiefs of the Assembly of First Nations, or even the four Prairie women widely-credited as founding mothers of the movement.
Though the founders have called for non-disruptive civil disobedience and public education as key goals, enthusiasm and anger have already driven INM groups to blockades, albeit brief, of key transportation routes across the country.
Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence's liquids-only fast in eastern Canada sparked an outcry across Canada, but her ultimate goals may not be widely-shared or seen as achievable in the short term. Ironically, Spence led the demand for a high-level meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper but then changed her mind, asking instead for the Governor-General. Spence remains a powerful symbol, but her demands do not form the only goal for most of those now speaking out or drumming on the street in British Columbia.
"Idle No More represents a reawakening, all across the country -- I see it in our young people, in the angry families of missing women who are now taking part in Idle No More and I see it in the bright young university students who I teach," explains Beverley Jacobs, a B.C.-based lawyer who from 2004 to 2009 was the elected head of one of Canada's four national federally-funded First Nations groups, the Native Women's Association of Canada.
"I don't see the usual faces at Idle No More; instead I see people bringing attention to the real on-the-ground issues. This is going to get bigger than it is now, I can see that from the young people on the front lines." ...
Idle No More visits the Sun
David McLaren Canadian Dimension Canada Webposted January 25, 2013
Visit this page for its embedded links.
ou have to give Ezra Levant full marks for chutzpah. A week or so ago he met a hundred Idle No More protestors at the door of the Toronto Sun.
It was an interesting scene. The Sun had taken down its big logo from the front of its offices and police stood at the entrance. But there was Ezra, waiting, microphone in hand, and camera man at the ready.
He didn’t flinch when people began to chant, “Ezra, Ezra, you can’t hide, we can see your racist side.” He even managed to engage a couple of demonstrators in discussion. And no one could answer his question, “What have I said, exactly, that was racist?”
That’s probably because he hasn’t said anything that could be nailed down as racist. It’s the atmosphere that he and others in the public pulpit create. Like calling the Idle No More demonstrations terrorist acts or, if not quite terrorism, then certainly criminal for their trespass and mischief. Or, that if First Nations meet with the Governor General, it will break up the country (as Tom Flanagan wrote in the Globe & Mail).
There is some danger in creating a climate of intolerance. It tends to give permission for the violent among us to put words into action – something the Ipperwash Inquiry noted in their report on who and what killed Dudley George.
Neither hurling around the ‘R’ word nor criminalizing dissent will reconcile us. It hasn’t yet and it’s been 22 years since Oka, 17 years since Ipperwash, 12 since Burnt Church and Calendonia keeps going…and going…and going.
The confrontation between Ezra and Idle No More was a sad reminder that our dialogue with First Nations people really hasn’t got much further than an exchange of insults. ...
Monday, December 31, 2012
Canada: 2012: A year of activism from Maple Spring to Idle No More
We have witnessed the Harper Government's blatant abuse of democratic process to serve its own needs, and we completely object to the government's questionable and underhanded tactics of including major changes to the environmental assessment process within omnibus bills that were rammed through Parliament with an expedited process that does not allow for the standard debate and checks and balances that such significant and substantive changes deserve and require. ... [T]he UBCIC will always uphold the principles and standards articulated in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples for the establishment and maintenance of a universal framework of minimum standards for the survival, dignity, well-being and rights of First Nations. We will continue to advocate for our Right of Self-Determination under international law including the pursuit of economic, social and cultural development. The UBCIC affirms and supports all First Nations’ rights to own, use, develop and control their lands, waters and resources, according to their own laws, and the requirement of federal and provincial governments to give legal recognition and protection to these rights. - Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs
Idle No More does not just belong to people of near Indigenous heritage or to those who have been relative to failed treaties. There has been a longing in this country for a very long time for justice and natural respect for the land by many more than our numbers. ... As a people we have been told that our poverty is a consequence of a lack of education. We have not had enough, not nearly as much of colonial economy and social hierarchy as we need to be full-fledged members of an affluent society that is dependent on sucking the earth dry and desolate. Perhaps, it's time to turn the table. Well, let Idle No More be instructive. Let's do everything we can to educate Canadians to the spiritual and cultural poverty they endure. - Robert Lovelace, Join the movement: Idle No More, December 30, 2012. Robert Lovelace is an adjunct lecturer at Queen's University in the Department of Global Development Studies. He is a retired chief of the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation. He lives in the Algonquin highlands at Eel Lake in the traditional Ardoch territory north of Kingston, Ontario.
First Nations are the last best hope that Canadians have of protecting lands for food and clean water for the future-not just for our people but for Canadians as well. - Pam Palmater, one of the spokespeople for Idle No More. Judy Rebeck writes below: "Unions, the NDP, churches, environmental groups, artists, academics and others have come out in full solidarity with ... the movement. As events develop and there is inevitably more conflict, that solidarity must hold. Nothing is more important, whatever your issue, than providing every support possible to this struggle."
2012: A year of activism from Maple Spring to Idle No More
Judy Rebeck Transforming Power Canada December 31, 2012
Visit this page for its appended links in "Background on Indigenous solidarity".
I think we will look back at 2012 as the year that everything changed. The year began with what became a powerful strike of Quebec students against an intransigent government and ended with an historic movement of Indigenous peoples across the country declaring they will be Idle No More.
It was a year of activism. The Quebec student strike, and related Casseroles demonstrations in neighborhoods and towns across Quebec, brought down the tone-deaf government of Jean Charest. I called this movement Occupy 2.0 because like Occupy democratic assemblies were at the centre of their success and mobilization but they also used more traditional community organizing techniques to build support among students and had a visible, sophisticated and accountable leadership.
Thanks to rabble.ca and Translating the Maple Spring, a volunteer social media effort, activists in English Canada were able to receive information from the inspiring struggle over the gap of language, mainstream politics and corporate media that have kept us ignorant of each other across the Quebec/Canada divide for so long. For the first time in my lifetime, people in the rest of Canada mobilized support for a struggle in Quebec. And the student movement in Quebec noticed. They are now in the lead of building a pan-Canadian, cross-sectoral movement to oppose Harper and his neo-liberal agenda.
In B.C., a coalition of First Nations and environmental justice groups joined by activists from Occupy Vancouver built a broad movement called Defend Our Coasts. In response the Harper government backed away from supporting the Enbridge pipeline and while Enbridge continues to fight for the pipeline, a clear majority of British Columbians now oppose the mega-project. There were other victories in B.C. along the same lines. In Ontario local property owners joined with environmentalists and city foodies to stop a Mega Quarry on their lands just north of Toronto.
In Ontario, teachers stood up against the betrayal of the Liberal government and the passage of Bill 115. They helped to ensure the Liberals lost several by-elections leading to the resignation of Premier Dalton McGuinty and then took militant action against the government through one-day strikes and work to rule.
Most importantly, the year ended with the brave and inspiring hunger strike of Chief Theresa Spence of Attawapiskat, the spark that lit the prairie fire of the Idle No More movement.
It's not just the rise of activism that leads me to the conclusion that 2012 will change everything. After all it was Occupy that made protest cool again and broke through the neo-liberal hegemony of mainstream discourse by exposing the gap between the rich and the rest of us in 2011. It is the lead of First Nations and Quebec that will change everything. ...
"Standing for What is Right"
News release Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs British Columbia Canada December 31, 2012
(Coast Salish Territories / Vancouver. December 31, 2012) Today, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, reflected upon the last year of devastating changes to federal environmental legislation and the deepening gap between the Harper Government's pro-industry agenda and the social and environment principles that First Nations share with the majority of Canadians.
"Looking back on 2012, I am proud and at the same time humbled that the Union of BC Indian Chiefs has had the opportunity to support the courageous, principled and inspirational stand of First Nations and grassroots to strengthen, assert and exercise our inherent, constitutionally-enshrined and judicially-recognized Title, Rights and Treaty Rights to our respective territories. As Indigenous Peoples we have the sacred duty and inherent obligation to defend the health and well being of our communities as well as the environmental integrity of our respective territories. We shall continue to take any and all measures necessary to defend our homelands. This is an absolute certainty.
Multi-national corporations and industry are desperately seeking certainty, unobstructed convenience of access and unfettered control of their government-granted tenures. Accordingly, they lobby, advocate and participate in federal and provincial processes with the sympathetic consideration of governments who this year have shamelessly demonstrated that they are full-pledged business partners by fast-tracking proposal reviews, gutting environmental legislation, slashing funding for government scientific research and entrusting regulatory oversight to the very same corporations who benefit the most from the completely weakened and deliberately undermined government oversight.
The reality is the dismissive and unilateral actions of the Harper Government have not brought certainty to mega-projects like Enbridge's proposed Northern Gateway pipeline, proposed expansion of Kinder Morgan's Trans-Mountain Pipeline, Taseko Mines' New Prosperity Mine proposal or BC Hydro's planned Site C dam project. First Nations and local communities are vigorously opposing these mega-projects because of the detrimental long-term impacts on their territories and on their communities outweigh the fleeting, short-term economic gain promised by government and industry. As billions flow into industry and government coffers, First Nations and local communities are left to deal with the long-term social, economic and environmental consequences. ...
Related: Below: Daniel Wilson is a former Senior Director with the Assembly of First Nations and a founding Co-chair of the New Democratic Party Aboriginal Commission. He now works as an Indigenous rights consultant.
Putting it in drive: What's next for Idle No More
Daniel Wilson rabble.ca December 31, 2012
Across the country, in shopping malls and in the streets, thousands are rallying and round-dancing and serving notice that they will be Idle No More (INM). Messages of support from around the world have given rise to comparisons with other grassroots protests such as the Occupy movement, Quebec's printemps erable and the Arab Spring. But whether in following those examples INM leads to increased awareness, a change in policy, or a change in government is an open question. Certainly, for Indigenous people in Canada, INM is a new approach and that in itself is promising.
Unlike the Assembly of First Nations' annual National Day of Action (full disclosure, my former job included organizing the 2008 version), Idle No More doesn't begin and end with one day's events. In many places, rail and road blockades now are supplementing rallies, teach-ins and flashmob dances that are increasing in number and escalating in scope. The day after Chief Spence began her hunger strike, several others like Elder Raymond Robinson began theirs in support, and Fast4Change has signed up dozens more who want to demonstrate their commitment to the cause.
Fundamentally, Idle No More means that every day is a day of action.
It is grassroots activism, with leadership from a variety of sources, most of whom do not rely on federal government funding for their continued existence and are, therefore, less constrained. There is growing support from non-Indigenous Canadians, largely due to the animosity Stephen Harper has created among progressives of all persuasions, especially environmentalists concerned about Bill C-45. And it has immediate and concrete consequences as people may die from starvation.
So now what? ...
Decolonizing in the Empire State: A view of #IdleNoMore solidarity from abroad
Sean Carleton rabble.ca December 31, 2012
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In September 2012, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper grabbed headlines in New York City. The New York-based Appeal of Conscience Foundation presented Harper with the "World Statesman of the Year" award in recognition of his being "a champion of democracy, freedom and human rights." Yes, the same man who once proclaimed that Canada has "no history of colonialism" and more recently tweeted "Mmm…bacon" while trying to ignore Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence's hunger strike was actually awarded a humanitarian award! Now, some New Yorkers are putting Harper back in the public spotlight, but for very different reasons: they are protesting the Conservatives' Bill C-45 and supporting Chief Spence's hunger strike and the #IdleNoMore movement more generally.
#IdleNoMore is no longer a solely "Canadian" phenomenon. As Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples across Canada work to build the #IdleNoMore movement and clarify its short-term and long-term goals, activists from Palestine and Cairo to London and around the United States are issuing statements of solidarity and organizing rallies, flashmobs, and round dances to bring attention to the movement and its demands of land, dignity and sovereignty. Some of those involved are "Canadian" expats but many Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples are simply inspired by the #IdleNoMore movement, its energy and creativity, and its potential to generate a sustained conversation about Indigenous rights and resistance. One group of Māori women from Aotearoa, or New Zealand, have even issued a statement of encouragement to those involved in #IdleNoMore and Chief Spence in particular, stating: "We thank you for your courage to stand in protection of future generations so that for seven generations and beyond there is a place for our descendants to stand. We thank you for your powerful expression, in these moments in time, of the dreams, visions and aspirations of our ancestors, seven generations and beyond, who held true to our protocols, beliefs and values in relationship to all living things." Check out the #IdleNoMore map illustrating the actions planned around the world: ...
In New York, activists are also mobilizing around #IdleNoMore with three actions organized so far. On December 21, 2012 in New York City, in the "Empire State," a small group gathered at Union Square to show their support for the #IdleNoMore movement and encouraged others to get involved in future gatherings. On December 28, 2012 a larger round dance in solidarity with the #IdleNoMore movement occurred at Washington Square in central Manhattan on the traditional territory of the Lenape. ...
Sunday, December 2, 2012
The secret society lodges were safe houses where freethinkers could explore everything from the laws of physics to the rights of man to the nature of God, all hidden from the oppressive, authoritarian eyes of church and state
Secret societies once flourished in Europe, their rituals obscure, their impact outsized. They incubated democracy and modern science.Posted at: Sunday, December 02, 2012 - 05:47 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
They cracked this 250-year-old code, and found a secret society inside
Noah Shachtman Wired, Danger Room blog USA November 16, 2012
For more than 200 years, this book concealed the arcane rituals of an ancient order. But cracking the code only deepened the mystery. Image courtesy: Uppsala University
The master wears an amulet with a blue eye in the center. Before him, a candidate kneels in the candlelit room, surrounded by microscopes and surgical implements. The year is roughly 1746. The initiation has begun.
The master places a piece of paper in front of the candidate and orders him to put on a pair of eyeglasses. “Read,” the master commands. The candidate squints, but it’s an impossible task. The page is blank.
he candidate is told not to panic; there is hope for his vision to improve. The master wipes the candidate’s eyes with a cloth and orders preparation for the surgery to commence. He selects a pair of tweezers from the table. The other members in attendance raise their candles.
The master starts plucking hairs from the candidate’s eyebrow. This is a ritualistic procedure; no flesh is cut. But these are “symbolic actions out of which none are without meaning,” the master assures the candidate. The candidate places his hand on the master’s amulet. Try reading again, the master says, replacing the first page with another. This page is filled with handwritten text. Congratulations, brother, the members say. Now you can see.
For more than 260 years, the contents of that page—and the details of this ritual—remained a secret. They were hidden in a coded manuscript, one of thousands produced by secret societies in the 18th and 19th centuries. At the peak of their power, these clandestine organizations, most notably the Freemasons, had hundreds of thousands of adherents, from colonial New York to imperial St. Petersburg. Dismissed today as fodder for conspiracy theorists and History Channel specials, they once served an important purpose: Their lodges were safe houses where freethinkers could explore everything from the laws of physics to the rights of man to the nature of God, all hidden from the oppressive, authoritarian eyes of church and state. But largely because they were so secretive, little is known about most of these organizations. Membership in all but the biggest died out over a century ago, and many of their encrypted texts have remained uncracked, dismissed by historians as impenetrable novelties.
It was actually an accident that brought to light the symbolic “sight-restoring” ritual. The decoding effort started as a sort of game between two friends that eventually engulfed a team of experts in disciplines ranging from machine translation to intellectual history. Its significance goes far beyond the contents of a single cipher. Hidden within coded manuscripts like these is a secret history of how esoteric, often radical notions of science, politics, and religion spread underground. At least that’s what experts believe. The only way to know for sure is to break the codes.
In this case, as it happens, the cracking began in a restaurant in Germany. ...
Thursday, October 25, 2012
If we can plan civil disobedience campaigns learning from the civil rights movement, we can divest from destructive industries and governments
Why I am excited for PowerShiftPosted at: Thursday, October 25, 2012 - 07:45 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
Brigette DePape rabble.ca Canada October 25, 2012
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About a year ago, I held up a sign to Stop Harper. I first got this idea when the Conservatives rejected the climate change bill. I felt helpless because the Conservative government was showing no intent to confront climate change - threatening the very survival of humanity.
While working as a page in the Senate, I felt alone, afraid, and hopeless in the face of a Harper agenda set on attacking people and the environment that sustains us. I witnessed Harper withdrawing funding from social services we value, and handing that money over to rich oil and gas companies. I saw the rejection of the Kyoto Protocol and the expansion of the tar sands.
What I did not see was an investment in a green and just future for all of us.
But today I feel empowered and excited. Why? Because of the growing movement for a PowerShift.
PowerShift is about moving political and social power from the elites to the rest of us, and from fossil fuels to renewable energies. It was because of people who come from the PowerShift movement that I had the idea for the 'Stop Harper' action, and it was because of their support and guidance that I was able to do it.
Now I'm wondering what is next? I want to take action. I'm excited for PowerShift to give us the skills we need to take collective political action required to truly shift power back to the public. We need to shift the power so we can build the just and sustainable future we believe in.
How can we shift the power? We can start by recognizing how social movements of the past have succeeded. We can plan civil disobedience campaigns learning from the civil rights movement, and we can divest from destructive industries and governments like the campaigns that helped end institutional apartheid in South Africa. ...
Related: Koreti Tiumalu: Building a Pacific climate movement from New Zealand
350.org Internatinal October 24, 2012
Visit this page for its embedded links and video (2:04).
There's a really amazing person that has been working with our Pacific team over the last six months. It's time we let her introduce herself and share her story. We're totally inspired and excited to be working with her - Koreti Tiumalu!
It’s time for me to introduce myself - I’m Koreti Tiumalu. I’ve been working with 350.org in New Zealand (outside of my full-time job) for the last six months now, as the Pacific Outreach Coordinator. In that time, we’ve started building a unique Pacific movement in New Zealand around climate change.
When I came on board my knowledge of climate change was next to none. In fact if you told me a year ago that I’d be the 350.org Pacific Outreach Coordinator, I would have laughed at you - it’s been that much of a journey for me. As well as my crash course on climate issues in the Pacific with Aaron, I did what any other person wanting a deeper understanding of world events would do - I went to Youtube. In one weekend I watched lectures, speeches and actions from all over the world and was blown away. It was truly my lightbulb moment.
My parents migrated to New Zealand from Samoa with my three eldest siblings, no money and no English back in 1962. I grew up in Newtown, Wellington, listening to their stories of life in the Islands – living off and working the land they loved. This instilled in me a passion for Pacific people and a desire to ‘give back’ for the sacrifices they made.
It is our families and friends who are directly impacted by the effects of climate change - extreme weather, rising sea-levels, erosion and water salination issues. That is where it hits home for me, and it hits home for all Pacific people. I know this to be true because I have seen it in the Pacific outreach work we have done so far this year. Although we have been raised here in New Zealand, our cultural links bind us to the Islands as still being "Home" and what’s happening is not okay. Pacific Youth have asked the same question at every event we've had - "What can I do? How can I help?" ...
Tuesday, May 22, 2012
War Inc. shifts homeward spreading fear and intimidation: The endless war over there, becoming the endless war at home
Did Chicago police mastermind alleged NATO terror plots?Posted at: Tuesday, May 22, 2012 - 11:47 AM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
RT Russia May 21, 2012
After a weekend of violent altercations in Chicago, Illinois between police officers and demonstrators protesting the NATO Summit, many questions remain unanswered over a string of alleged terrorist plots foiled by law enforcement.
At least 11 men were arrested in three separate incidents in the days before this weekend’s conference of world leaders in the Windy City. As events wind down on Monday, however, half of those originally detained have been released with no charges pressed and little explanation from investigators. Of those that remain behind bars, all have been linked to two alleged police informants, “Mo” and “Gloves,” that are believed to have worked undercover with law enforcement to infiltrate the Chicago activism community.
The attorney representing three men arrested on terrorist-related charges on Wednesday says that the alleged crimes in question were perpetrated by Chicago police officers and reeks of entrapment. Those close to individuals apprehended this week on separate but similar charges also say that the alleged crimes in those cases are full of holes and seem equally suspicious. ...
Immediately after the arrests, a spokesperson for the National Lawyers Guild told reporters that the house that was raided contained supplies for home-brewing beer; not explosives. ... Sarah Gelsomino, another defense attorney, adds to the AP that representatives for Neiweem “have seen zero evidence” from prosecutors. ... Both Gelsomino and attorney Steven Saltzman, representing Mr. Neiweem, tell Bloomberg news that they believe the “Mo” and “Gloves” characters were working as police informants for the Chicago PD. Gelsomino adds to the AP that other activists in the area have met “Mo” and “Gloves” at rallies and gatherings in recent weeks and now fear that they are being targeted as well.
Even if charges are dropped or reduced later, they will have succeeded in spreading fear and intimidation," Kris Hermes, an aide with the National Lawyers Guild, tells the AP.
72 hours in Chicago: Anarchists, world leaders, and two more years of war
Michael Hastings BuzzFeed USA May 21, 2012
... They are two separate worlds, the global elite and the protesters. Strangely, the only true connective tissue between these universes is the massive security presence--the thousands of cops, DHS agents, Secret Service, and other well armed men in riot gear--who are there to protect one from the other. The protesters and the summit attendees share a common bond in being surrounded by body armor, snipers, and barricades. ...
The brutality of the police response to what were sometimes deliberate provocations — caught on iPhones and videos and LiveStream — captures media attention. By participating in civil disobedience and outright violent confrontation, the protesters (who often feel their mere presence is provocation, but occasionally do toss sticks and water bottles) hope to end up revealing the extent that American authorities are prepared to go to prevent dissent and to keep people off the streets.
That was Saturday night. The NATO Summit began the next morning.
On Sunday morning, I picked up my official NATO Summit press credentials, went through an extensive security check from my hotel (dogs, metal detectors, Secret Service, all in the The Hyatt Regency, where most of the NATO media is staying) and boarded a bus to McCormack Place, the massive conference center where most of the summit is taking place.
Both the trip there and the trip back seemed designed to keep the chaos at bay, out of sight and out of mind, with roads closed down to secretly slip us by the potentially angry people in the streets. If Chicago residents were going to get annoyed by the traffic, and NATO protesters annoyed by the heavy handed police tactics, the global elite weren’t going to be bothered by any of it.
Compared to the reality of the Chicago streets — the heat, the smells, a sense of manic purpose — the cavernous McCormack place felt very sterile. World leaders faces were broadcast on big screens, played in endless loops exchanging pleasantries. (Example: “It is great to be back in Chicago,” says NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. “Welcome each and everyone of you to my hometown, “ says President Barack Obama.)
The international press corps covering NATO must be one of the most boring collectives of journalists ever assembled. They seem very keen on not missing any press releases handed out at the NATO media desk.
The summit itself is mostly a symbolic affair — we nations gather together and affirm our commitment to one another. In Afghanistan’s case this is no longer true, however: the commitment is really to get out of our commitments as quickly as possible. ... The protests weren’t taken very seriously inside, and why would they be? When mentioned, delegates and journalists dismissed them, tut-tutting the more violent tactics the protesters were taking, untroubled by the reality that they represented the world's most powerful war machines in an alliance created to maintain the balance of nuclear terror.
By the end of the afternoon, the hundreds of protesters trying to march to the summit could not get within shouting distance—they were kept blocks away. I left in the media shuttle bus, and didn’t see or hear any of them. They were invisible from the well guarded Hyatt Regency as well. I had to walk a half a mile away to find them, still protesting, late into Sunday night.
Jim comment: This item below touches a personal chord in me. Just why I will not relate. I'm proud of those among the latest generation of American troops who learn from their experience and speak out.
US war veterans tossing medals back at Nato was a heroic act
Bernard Harcourt guardian.co.uk UK May 21, 2012
NATO summit leaders 'were busy posing for photo ops' as war veterans staged protest. Photo: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images.
"No amount of medals, ribbons, or flags can cover the amount of human suffering caused by this war."
"I have only one word, and it is shame."
"This is for the people of Iraq and Afghanistan."
"Mostly, I'm sorry. I'm sorry to all of you. I am sorry…"
In the shadow of the Nato summit, under the watchful eyes of a phalanx of full-black-clad riot police, dozens of former servicemen and women in uniform, veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, threw away their medals, with apologies. It was one of the most moving experiences many of us had witnessed in our lives. It is hard to describe in words. I couldn't get the lump out of my throat. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught a woman next to me crying. Their words, their voices, crackling under the emotion of their courageous act, breaking under the weight of the pain, the trauma, their anger, sadness, and hope – theirs was a heroic and beautiful act, a moving ceremony. It was a privilege to be there with these women and men who served in our wars.
Operation Iraqi Freedom medal. Tossed. Global War on Terror medal. Thrown. National Defense medal. Pitched. Marine Corps Good Conduct medal. Flung. Navy and Marine Corps medal. Chucked.
Most of the reporting of the demonstrations that met the summit will focus on the minor violence, on the few clashes between protesters and police, on the blood, on everything that happened after the peaceful march was over. In our sad world of spectacle, the pushing and shoving will be all that gets our attention. It is a pity.
Because what was truly remarkable today was the American servicewomen and men tossing their medals back at Nato. ... Many of these men and women urged us to do something to set straight the havoc that we have wreaked in these various occupations. Some mentioned a memorial for the tens of thousands of civilians killed in Afghanistan or more than 100,000 civilians killed in Iraq. Others offered their apologies. Still others shared their pain, their torments, their nightmares. All of them spoke truth. Perhaps that was their greatest gift of peace.
If only the Nato leaders had listened. ...
The police state is here
Tim Kelly The Future of Freedom Foundation USA May 21, 2012
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“There are those who still think they are holding the pass against a revolution that may be coming up the road. But they are gazing in the wrong direction. The revolution is behind them. It went by in the Night of Depression, singing songs to freedom.”
Those are the words of Garet Garrett, the 20th-century journalist and writer, who lamented the collapse of the old Republic and the rise of the American managerial/administrative state — the consummation of which he had witnessed in Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal.
Garrett’s observation came to mind the other day as I was contemplating the current state of civil liberties and privacy in 21st-century America. Could it be that rather than fending off the possibility of a police state arising in the future, we are already confronted with the grim reality of one in the present?
The country’s degeneration into a police state has been observable for decades, but it accelerated after 9/11 when the George W. Bush administration exploited the crisis atmosphere to ram through a series of unconstitutional and tyrannical measures. Fear became the coin of the realm as the American people traded away their liberties for the empty promise of security.
That such a deal would turn sour was foreseeable. Benjamin Franklin told his fellow countrymen 250 years ago, “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
His admonition, of course, hasn’t always been heeded. The country’s history is replete with examples of the American people succumbing to paroxysms of fear and hysteria, often resulting in gross violations of civil liberties. But these episodes, however terrible, were short-lived because they were reactions to temporary crises. Today Americans are confronted with something entirely different — we are told this crisis is permanent. ...
The intent of this short essay is not to provide a “list of horribles” committed by the government (although such an accounting is useful) but to point out that the much-feared police state has come into being. Its growth had been gradual, which contributed to the public’s indifference, but it metastasized after 9/11, when the remaining legal barriers to the state’s expansion were taken down in the name of “national security.” A large portion of the public appears to be appropriately alarmed, but it remains to be seen whether this will reach a critical mass in time to reverse the country’s destructive course.
War Inc. shifts homeward
Kelley B. Vlahos Antiwar.com USA May 22, 2012
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It’s been said many times that the war is a self-sustaining industry that requires a constant threat overseas to keep the machine thriving at home. Looking at the millions if not billions of dollars spent on securing “national special security events” against its own citizens, it’s clear that protesters have become the threat that has allowed, in part, the warfare state to flourish on American soil.
Sound dramatic? One need only to look at the lockdown of our cities during these “events” — whether it be the NATO Summit in Chicago today, or preparations to militarize the cities of Tampa and Charlotte for the Democratic and Republican conventions this summer — to see that the constitutionally protected, American tradition of protest has become a reason for law enforcement to spend their quickly evaporating budgets each year on new toys and overtime — including the latest in surveillance, crowd control gear and communications equipment, not to mention the helicopters overhead and armed vehicles on the ground.
Just as important, this threat allows the federal government to extend its own powers under the Patriot Act onto Main Street, all in the order of counterterrorism and national security.
No one would dispute that the gathering of representatives from 50 member states of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), including 28 members of the military alliance in Afghanistan, warrants extra security. Indeed, we live in a world today where gunmen walk right up to U.S. members of Congress and shoot them in the head, or pack cars full of explosives on the city street. But it becomes increasingly clear, after 10 years of conventions and “special events” with little or no incident, that the specter of terrorism is being used to generate intimidating and repressive conditions, particularly against peaceful protesters, and proliferating an industry that thrives on domestic conflict and chaos. ...
Meanwhile, Tampa and Charlotte will each receive $50 million in federal taxpayer funding to secure their cities in anticipation of the
Despite the hype, there has been no major terror threat associated with the national conventions since 9/11. Given this, it is safe to assume that not only is the massive security presence an extravagant vanity exercise for the quadrennial gathering of politicians, lobbyists and party delegates, but yet another way to justify the enormous annual budgets of the burgeoning homeland enterprise. And as someone who has been to the last two rounds of conventions, I can say the display has gotten more intense each time.
Meanwhile, instead of shrinking from it, the protest movement seems to be growing in proportion to the hyper-militarization nationwide. The gulf between “civilian” and “soldier” on the street widens, too. Bursts of violent skirmishes appear inevitable now, a self-fulfilling prophecy unfolding before our eyes. While this may be quite profitable for War Inc., the impact on the health of our society, much less the republic, may be incalculable.
Monday, May 21, 2012
A Canadian 12-year old understands the anti-social premise of the Western Axis' destructive banking system. It appears the only European/NATO nation whose leaders are as smart as a 12-year-old is Iceland
Jim comment: The headline is somewhat misleading. Take Canada as just one example. Our leaders know the truth. They just don't give a damn and want to keep the debt gravy to thicken their own cannibalistic neoliberal stew. If they loved the people, they would start again and concoct the Bank of Canada according to its original recipe. Search our archives for many posts on this subject.Posted at: Monday, May 21, 2012 - 06:58 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
Below: Victoria Grant first made this speech before a gathering of 600 Rotarians in Canada. The video runs for 6:44, proof of just how simple the truth is.
Even a 12-year old knows the truth about public banking
Related: Pressenza is an international press agency headquartered in Milan Italy.
Iceland, a country that wants to punish the bankers responsible for the crisis
Pressenza International March 28, 2012
Since 2008 the vast majority of the Western population dream about saying "no" to the banks, but no one has dared to do so. No one except the Icelanders, who have carried out a peaceful revolution that has managed not only to overthrow a government and draft a new constitution, but also seeks to jail those responsible for the country's economic debacle. Among other developments, this constitution will call for the protection, like no other, of freedom of information and expression in the so-called Icelandic Modern Media Initiative, in a bill that aims to make the country a safe haven for investigative journalism and freedom of information.
Peaceful protests, pots and pans and demonstrations against the banks in Reykjavik. Photo: Helgi Hall
Pressenza International Press Agency Reikjavik, 3/28/11 - Last week 9 people were arrested in London and Reykjavik for their possible responsibility for Iceland’s financial collapse in 2008, a deep crisis which developed into an unprecedented public reaction that is changing the country's direction.
It has been a revolution without weapons in Iceland, the country that hosts the world's oldest democracy (since 930), and whose citizens have managed to effect change by going on demonstrations and banging pots and pans. Why have the rest of the Western countries not even heard about it?
Pressure from Icelandic citizens’ has managed not only to bring down a government, but also begin the drafting of a new constitution (in process) and is seeking to put in jail those bankers responsible for the financial crisis in the country. As the saying goes, if you ask for things politely it is much easier to get them.
This quiet revolutionary process has its origins in 2008 when the Icelandic government decided to nationalise the three largest banks, Landsbanki, Kaupthing and Glitnir, whose clients were mainly British, and North and South American.
After the State took over, the official currency (krona) plummeted and the stock market suspended its activity after a 76% collapse. Iceland was becoming bankrupt and to save the situation, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) injected U.S. $ 2,100 million and the Nordic countries helped with another 2,500 million.
While banks and local and foreign authorities were desperately seeking economic solutions, the Icelandic people took to the streets and their persistent daily demonstrations outside parliament in Reykjavik prompted the resignation of the conservative Prime Minister Geir H. Haarde and his entire government.
Citizens demanded, in addition, to convene early elections, and they succeeded. In April a coalition government was elected, formed by the Social Democratic Alliance and the Left Green Movement, headed by a new Prime Minister, Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir.
Throughout 2009 the Icelandic economy continued to be in a precarious situation (at the end of the year the GDP had dropped by 7%) but, despite this, the Parliament proposed to repay the debt to Britain and the Netherlands with a payment of 3,500 million Euros, a sum to be paid every month by Icelandic families for 15 years at 5.5% interest.
The move sparked anger again in the Icelanders, who returned to the streets demanding that, at least, that decision was put to a referendum. Another big small victory for the street protests: in March 2010 that vote was held and an overwhelming 93% of the population refused to repay the debt, at least with those conditions.
This forced the creditors to rethink the deal and improve it, offering 3% interest and payment over 37 years. Not even that was enough. The current president, on seeing that Parliament approved the agreement by a narrow margin, decided last month not to approve it and to call on the Icelandic people to vote in a referendum so that they would have the last word. ...
Friday, May 18, 2012
Across borders and across the entire political compass, the full extent of the burgeoning 21st century prison/surveillance state is giving rise to anger and fear: This is the future before us and we better fight back now while we can
We are in a strange period of history in which a revolutionary has to be a patriot and a patriot has to be a revolutionary. - George Orwell in a "Letter" to The Tribune (20 December 1940), later published in A Patriot After All, 1940-1941 (1999).Posted at: Friday, May 18, 2012 - 01:09 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
To see what is in front of one's nose needs a constant struggle. - George Orwell, "In Front of Your Nose," Tribune (22 March 1946).
Threats to freedom of speech, writing and action, though often trivial in isolation, are cumulative in their effect and, unless checked, lead to a general disrespect for the rights of the citizen. - George Orwell, "The Freedom Defence Committee" in The Socialist Leader (18 September 1948); also in The Collected Essays, Journalism, & Letters, George Orwell; Vol. IV : In front of your nose, 1945-1950 (2000), p. 447.
During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act. - Attributed to George Orwell, quoted in My Few Wise Words of Wisdom (2000) by Charles Walker; no source for this quote among Orwell's writings has yet been located.
Jim comment: Last year Andrew P. Napolitano, a former judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey, now the senior judicial analyst on the Fox News Channel published a book with an apt, timely title. The book, published by Thomas Nelson the world’s largest Christian publisher, providing multiple formats of inspirational books, Bibles and digital content, is It Is Dangerous to Be Right When the Government Is Wrong: The Case for Personal Freedom.
Someone you love: Coming to a gulag near you
Chris Hedges Truthdig USA April 2, 2012
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The security and surveillance state does not deal in nuance or ambiguity. Its millions of agents, intelligence gatherers, spies, clandestine operatives, analysts and armed paramilitary units live in a binary world of opposites, of good and evil, black and white, opponent and ally. There is nothing between. You are for us or against us. You are a patriot or an enemy of freedom. You either embrace the crusade to physically eradicate evildoers from the face of the Earth or you are an Islamic terrorist, a collaborator or an unwitting tool of terrorists. And now that we have created this monster it will be difficult, perhaps impossible, to free ourselves from it. Our 16 national intelligence agencies and army of private contractors feed on paranoia, rumor, rampant careerism, demonization of critical free speech and often invented narratives. They justify their existence, and their consuming of vast governmental resources, by turning even the banal and the mundane into a potential threat. And by the time they finish, the nation will be a gulag. ...
There are now 1,271 government agencies and 1,931 private companies that work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States, The Washington Post reported in a 2010 series by Dana Priest and William M. Arken. There are 854,000 people with top-secret security clearances, the reporters wrote, and in Washington, D.C., and the surrounding area 33 building complexes for top-secret intelligence work are under construction or have been built since September 2011. Investigative reporter James Bamford wrote in the latest issue of Wired magazine that the National Security Agency is building the largest spy center in the country in Bluffdale, Utah, as part of a secret NSA surveillance program code-named “Stellar Wind.” Bamford noted that the NSA has established listening posts throughout the country to collect, store and examine billions of email messages and phone calls. ...
If the National Defense Authorization Act is not reversed it will plunge us into despotism, leaving us without a voice, trapped in eddies of fear and terror, unsure of what small comment, what small action, could be misinterpreted to push us out of our jobs or send us to jail. This is the future before us. And we better fight back now while we can.
How the US uses sexual humiliation as a political tool to control the masses
Naomi Wolf guardian.co.uk UK April 5, 2012
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In a five-four ruling this week, the supreme court decided that anyone can be strip-searched upon arrest for any offense, however minor, at any time. This horror show ruling joins two recent horror show laws: the NDAA, which lets anyone be arrested forever at any time, and HR 347, the "trespass bill", which gives you a 10-year sentence for protesting anywhere near someone with secret service protection. These criminalizations of being human follow, of course, the mini-uprising of the Occupy movement.
Is American strip-searching benign? The man who had brought the initial suit, Albert Florence, described having been told to "turn around. Squat and cough. Spread your cheeks." He said he felt humiliated: "It made me feel like less of a man."
In surreal reasoning, justice Anthony Kennedy explained that this ruling is necessary because the 9/11 bomber could have been stopped for speeding. How would strip searching him have prevented the attack? Did justice Kennedy imagine that plans to blow up the twin towers had been concealed in a body cavity? In still more bizarre non-logic, his and the other justices' decision rests on concerns about weapons and contraband in prison systems. But people under arrest – that is, who are not yet convicted – haven't been introduced into a prison population.
Our surveillance state shown considerable determination to intrude on citizens sexually. ... Believe me: you don't want the state having the power to strip your clothes off. History shows that the use of forced nudity by a state that is descending into fascism is powerfully effective in controlling and subduing populations.
The political use of forced nudity by anti-democratic regimes is long established. Forcing people to undress is the first step in breaking down their sense of individuality and dignity and reinforcing their powerlessness. Enslaved women were sold naked on the blocks in the American south, and adolescent male slaves served young white ladies at table in the south, while they themselves were naked: their invisible humiliation was a trope for their emasculation. Jewish prisoners herded into concentration camps were stripped of clothing and photographed naked, as iconic images of that Holocaust reiterated. ...
I interviewed the equivalent of TSA workers in Britain and found that the genital groping that is obligatory in the US is illegal in Britain. I believe that the genital groping policy in America, too, is designed to psychologically habituate US citizens to a condition in which they are demeaned and sexually intruded upon by the state – at any moment.
The most terrifying phrase of all in the decision is justice Kennedy's striking use of the term "detainees" for "United States citizens under arrest". Some members of Occupy who were arrested in Los Angeles also reported having been referred to by police as such. Justice Kennedy's new use of what looks like a deliberate activation of that phrase is illuminating. ...
Where are we headed? Why? These recent laws criminalizing protest, and giving local police – who, recall, are now infused with [Department of Homeland Security] money, military hardware and personnel – powers to terrify and traumatise people who have not gone through due process or trial, are being set up to work in concert with a see-all-all-the-time surveillance state. ...
With that Big Brother eye in place, working alongside these strip-search laws, – between the all-seeing data-mining technology and the terrifying police powers to sexually abuse and humiliate you at will – no one will need a formal coup to have a cowed and compliant citizenry. If you say anything controversial online or on the phone, will you face arrest and sexual humiliation?
Remember, you don't need to have done anything wrong to be arrested in America any longer. You can be arrested for walking your dog without a leash. The man who was forced to spread his buttocks was stopped for a driving infraction. ...
Humiliation with sexual undertones directed at the more than 1,118 people arrested during the summit was one of the means used by the Toronto G-20 security forces. (Almost everyone of those 'detainees' was released wthout charge.)
U.S. and Canada implementing Beyond the Border perimeter security initiatives
Dana Gabriel Be Your Own Leader USA May 15, 2012
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Through the Beyond the Border agreement released in December 2011, the U.S. and Canada are implementing initiatives that are working towards establishing a North American security perimeter. This includes expanding trusted traveler programs, as well as enhancing integrated law enforcement and information sharing cooperation which has raised many privacy concerns that have yet to be properly addressed.
There are questions surrounding the Conservative government’s Bill C-38, the Budget Implementation Act that also contains changes related to the U.S.-Canada Beyond the Border action plan. This includes ratifying and making the Shiprider a legal and permanent program which will require amending the Criminal Code, along with the RCMP and Customs Act. The joint initiative officially known as the Integrated Cross-Border Maritime Law Enforcement Operations first began as a pilot project. It allows RCMP and U.S. Coast Guard officers to operate vessels together and pursue criminals in the waters of both countries. The Council of Canadians reported that the NDP is demanding that the Shiprider policing program be taken out of budget implementation bill. Brian Masse, the NDP border critic is pushing for separate legislation and pointed out that, “it’s totally irresponsible to have it as part of the Budget Implementation Act.” He added, “There’s significant policing issues that really warrant a standalone bill. If it was so important that they did all the fanfare for it, why doesn’t it warrant its own process?” The proposed changes could have serious sovereignty implications with regards to accountability, due process and civil rights and therefore, need to be fully scrutinized.
The U.S. and Canada are also scheduled to deploy a land-based version of the Shiprider program at some point this summer. As part of the security perimeter deal, both countries will, “implement two Next-Generation pilot projects to create integrated teams in areas such as intelligence and criminal investigations, and an intelligence-led uniformed presence between ports of entry.” In September 2011, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder revealed plans that would allow law enforcement officers to operate on both sides of the border. ...
On April 20 of this year, the Red River Integrated Border Enforcement Team’s (IBET) joint intelligence office was opened in Altona, Manitoba. The facility will house representatives from the RCMP, U.S. Border Patrol, Homeland Security. Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), as well as U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). ...
Last month, Canada’s federal privacy commissioner Jennifer Stoddart, along with her provincial and territorial colleagues urged transparency and respect of Canadian privacy standards with regards to the perimeter security agreement. A joint resolution recommended that, “Any initiatives under the plan that collect personal information should also include appropriate redress and remedy mechanisms to review files for accuracy, correct inaccuracies and restrict disclosures to other countries; Parliament, provincial Privacy Commissioners and civil society should be engaged as initiatives under the plan take shape; Information about Canadians should be stored on Canadian soil whenever feasible or at least be subject to Canadian protection; and Any use of new surveillance technologies within Canada such as unmanned aerial vehicles must be subject to appropriate controls set out in a proper regulatory framework.” According to a self-imposed deadline, the U.S. and Canada are supposed to release privacy provisions associated with the perimeter security deal by May 30. ... As the U.S.-Canada action plan implementation process continues, there still remains many concerns with the further integration and militarization of the northern border. This includes the loss of sovereignty and risks to privacy rights related to more cross-border sharing of personal information. While there have been online consultations surrounding the perimeter security agreement, there has yet to be any open public hearings or congressional and parliamentary debates.
The Surveillance State: Knowing every bit about you
Charles Scaliger The New American USA May 10, 2012
No one ever accused Jeremy Bentham of thinking small. The early 18th-century British philosopher, social reformer, and co-founder of the celebrated philosophical school of Utilitarianism, Bentham was known for his unconventional ideas. Like many self-styled progressive thinkers of his age, Bentham expended a considerable amount of energy dreaming up new ways to use the power of the state to protect private citizens from their own alleged follies.
The concept of the Panopticon was probably Bentham’s best-known brainchild. An extravagant idea for its time, it has proven an enduring metaphor in our time and — far more importantly — prefigured our modern obsession with high-tech surveillance. Derived from Greek roots that mean “all-seeing,” Bentham’s Panopticon was a building designed to house many people in close quarters whose rooms were so configured that a central authority, using a system of tubes and mirrors, could keep every inmate under constant surveillance. The Panopticon concept could be applied to prisons, factories, or any place where large numbers of people would live or work in close quarters. “Morals reformed — health preserved — industry invigorated — instruction diffused — public burthens [burdens] lightened — economy seated, as it were, upon a rock — the Gordian knot of the poor-law not cut, but untied — all by a simple idea in architecture,” Bentham enthused, proclaiming that his Panopticon represented “a new mode of obtaining power of mind over mind, in a quantity hitherto without example.” The energetic Bentham tried to persuade the British government to let him design a Panopticon prison, but was ultimately unsuccessful. Although he managed to persuade Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger of the Panopticon’s potential, Pitt’s successor shut down the project.
But Bentham’s premise — of a system of comprehensive state surveillance to guarantee a pliant and docile citizenry — is still with us, magnified by the potency of 21st-century technology and zealously promoted the world over, but especially in Western nations, like Great Britain and the United States, that once viewed such state activities as abhorrent and dangerous to liberty. A decade after the defining crisis of our era, the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the United States of America is on the verge of becoming a Panopticon society, with powers of state surveillance far beyond the most fevered imaginings of Bentham and fellow pre-modern utopians.
In the sagebrush desert of Bluffdale, Utah, in the shadow of the Wasatch Mountains, a vast new federal surveillance and intelligence processing center is being erected. The so-called Utah Data Center, operated by the National Security Agency, will occupy more than a million square feet when it becomes operational sometime next year. Within its ultra-secure perimeter, surveillance on a scale never before achieved will be carried out, of a vast array of digital communications — cellphone conversations, e-mails, Google searches, and the like — both on foreign and domestic soil. Thanks to significant (and highly classified) advances in decryption technology, coupled with unprecedented supercomputing power, the new facility will be the nerve center for near-total surveillance capabilities over hundreds of millions of Americans. If the Utah Data Center fulfills it ominous potential, the cherished American right to privacy will have no more substance.
But the Bluffdale facility is merely the culmination of an aggressive new effort to bring all of Americans’ private activities under at least potential surveillance by the feds, an effort undertaken soon after the 9/11 attacks. ... The total loss of privacy coupled with aggressively expanding powers of the state to encroach on our personal freedoms with impunity — these are the two prongs of the police-state pincers that are closing swiftly on American liberties. The long-feared “garrison state” is coming into being on American soil before our very eyes, with the approval, tacit or overt, of millions of Americans who believe that the only way to guarantee national security is to deprive us of personal security (the Fourth Amendment, after all, protects the “right of the people to be secure” against government encroachment on a personal level). In a coming day, unless the tide of Big Government is stemmed, we will all find ourselves living in a hi-tech Panopticon stretching from sea to shining sea. Somewhere, Bentham’s shade is smiling.
Is there a drone in your backyard?
Andrew P. Napolitano Washington Times USA May 17, 2012
Earlier this week, the federal government announced that the Air Force might be dispatching drones to a backyard near you. The stated purpose of these spies in the sky is to assist local police to find missing persons or kidnap victims, or to chase bad guys.
If the drone operator sees you doing anything of interest (Is your fertilizer for the roses or to fuel a bomb? Is that Sudafed for your cold or your meth habit? Are you smoking in front of your kids?), the feds say they may take a picture of you and keep it. The feds predict that they will dispatch or authorize about 30,000 of these unmanned aerial vehicles across America in the next 10 years. Meanwhile, more than 300 local and state police departments are awaiting federal permission to use the drones they already have purchased - usually with federal stimulus funds.
The government is out of control.
If the police use a drone without a warrant to see who or what is in your backyard or your bedroom, or if, while looking for a missing child, the drone takes a picture of you in your backyard or bedroom and the government keeps the picture, its use is unnatural and unconstitutional.
I say “unnatural” because we all have a natural right to privacy. It is a fundamental right that is inherent in our humanity. All of us have times of the day and moments in our behavior when we expect that no one - least of all the government - will be watching. When the government watches us during those times, it violates our natural right to privacy. ... Even when we don’t have an expectation of privacy, we do have a right to be left alone. But merely watching us in public isn’t enough for the police, as many street-corner cameras are equipped with listening devices and tiny megaphones. We can expect that these devices will soon bark commands: ...
NDAA detention provisions go too far
Michael Maharrey, Tenth Amendment Center and Shahid Buttar, Bill of Rights Defense Committee The Hill, Congress Blog USA May 16, 2012
Few issues unite Democrats and Republicans, much less bring people together from across the entire political spectrum. But provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), authorizing military detention without due process, did just that.
This week, Congress has the opportunity to join a rare bipartisan chorus rising across the country. An amendment to the NDAA, sponsored by Representatives Adam Smith (D-Wash.) and Justin Amash (R-Mich.), has galvanized everyone from Occupiers to Tea Partiers, united by the specter of domestic military detention without trial.
In the last two months, state legislatures in Virginia and Arizona passed, with broad bipartisan support, bills forbidding state cooperation with any attempts at federally sanctioned kidnapping under the NDAA. A dozen city and county councils in eight states from coast-to-coast -- led by Democrats, Republicans and even Green Party members -- have passed similar resolutions.
Why the fuss? ...
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
About that lightning strike on Francois Hollande's plane: Was it Zeus sending a message that his Greeks would have to be protected - or else?
Below: Countries around the world envy Germany's economic success and look up to it as a role model. But a closer look reveals a much bleaker picture. Only a few are benefiting from the boom, while stagnant wages and precarious employment conditions are making it difficult for millions to make ends meet.Posted at: Wednesday, May 16, 2012 - 07:37 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
The high cost of Germany's economic success
Spiegel Online Germany May 4, 2012
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What a year it's been for carmaker Audi and its employees, a year marked by the biggest profits in company history, a bonus in the millions for its chairman and handsome bonuses for many employees -- though little to nothing for those at the very bottom of the pay scale.
Technically speaking, Nadja Klöden isn't even at the very bottom of the hierarchy at Audi, which is based in Ingolstadt, near Munich. She's on the sidelines, yet also in the thick of things. The 28-year-old, who studied business management, works as a project assistant in administration. But her employer is BFFT, a service provider that organizes parts distribution among the Volkwagen Group's subsidiaries, which include Audi. That's why Klöden earns €800 ($1050) less than comparable Audi employees for the same 40-hour work week. In other words, although she contributes to the success of the company, she doesn't directly benefit from it. She receives neither an Audi-level salary nor any bonus whatsoever.
Helen Kozilek is in a similar situation. The 26-year-old works full-time on the assembly line at Audi, but the carmaker doesn't pay her wages. Instead, she is paid by Tuja, a temporary-employment agency and subsidiary of the Swiss temp giant Adecco. Compared with Klöden, however, Kozilek can consider herself a higher earner. The hourly rate for temporary workers in her salary group is normally about €10. But IG Metall, Germany's leading metal workers' union, has signed a wage agreement with Adecco so that Kozilek benefits from the €16 rate negotiated by the union. Still, Kozilek doesn't receive a bonus.
Franz Wolff, on the other hand, is sitting pretty. He has been working in maintenance at Audi's car painting division in Ingolstadt for the last 32 years. Wolff has a 35-hour work week and earns a gross salary of €3,300 a month, which is based on an industry-wide multi-employer agreement. Through an in-house wage agreement between the works council (the body that represents the interests of workers) and management, the 57-year-old trained auto mechanic also receives profit-sharing payments. This year, Audi will pay Wolff a bonus of €10,000. The average bonus at Audi is €8,251 -- a record. Audi values Wolff's contribution to its success -- and it provides him with a share of it.
Audi CEO Rupert Stadler's salary was also probably record-breaking, climbing 73 percent last year to reach €7.6 million.
One company. Four employees. Four worlds.
"Prosperity for all" was once the credo of Ludwig Erhard, the first economics minister of postwar Germany. This promise shaped the country for decades and set it apart from many other economies. But how much is this promise still worth today?
The working world is disintegrating. On the one side are managers, specialists and members of the core workforce, who benefit from the fact that well-trained workers are scarce. On the other side is the reserve pool of workers who can be used as needed and then let go -- as contract workers or through special-order contracts, part-time work or temporary jobs. Many of these people work outside the provisions of collective bargaining agreements. ...
Below: German Christian Democrat Chancellor Angela Merkel will say nein to French Socialist President Francois Hollande's vision of a Europe true to its construction - less technocratic, less hostage to the market and less constrained by the financial system. This would require a betrayal of the foundations of the German miracle, and an admission that Europe's economies are controlled by a cartel of bankers.
Will 'Onshela' save Europe?
Pepe Escobar Asia Times Online Hong Kong Dateline May 17, 2012
History will register his plane struck by lightning on the way to Berlin, no fancy kisses, and asparagus with veal schnitzel on the menu. This is the way the eurozone ends (or begins again); not with a bang, but a ... lightning strike. Merkollande - the new European power couple drama interpreted by French Socialist President Francois Hollande and German Christian Democrat Chancellor Angela Merkel - is a go.
Trillions of bytes already speculate whether former President Nicolas Sarkozy spilled the full beans about "Onshela" to Hollande - apart from the fact she fancies her glass of Bordeaux. King Sarko also had a knack for making stiff "Onshela" laugh. That may be a tall order, at least for now, for the sober and pragmatic Hollande.
The good omen may be that both do not eschew irony. In the middle of such a eurozone storm, that's a mighty redeeming quality. Then there's that lightning strike on the way to Berlin. Was it Zeus sending a message that his Greeks would have to be protected - or else? Not to mention that Europe is a Greek myth (Zeus made Europa, the beautiful daughter of a Phoenician king, his lover…)
So now Merkollande has to show results. There's not much they're bound to agree on - apart from the possibility of a financial transaction tax (FTT) which could yield up to 57 billion euros (US$72.5 billion) a year to battered trans-European economies, according to the European Commission (EC).
Berlin is not exactly against it. But Britain, for obvious reasons, is - seeing it as curbing the City of London. The EC, applying some fancy models, has already concluded that a FTT would not be a burden on economic growth; that would represent only 0.2% in total by 2050. ...
Monday, May 7, 2012
Popular anger rising in Europe; in Quebec
I will always refuse to ask all Quebec taxpayers to foot the bill. - Quebec Education Minister Line BeauchampPosted at: Monday, May 07, 2012 - 03:52 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
Jim comment: When I was a child my parents and my grandparents were proud to willingly pay their taxes. They believed their taxes benefited the commonweal. Directors, CEOs and shareholders of private corporations at that time felt the same way. In those days governments ensured they did. My generation was fortunate. Would that my grandchildren were so fortunate.
For the last few years in Quebec, the political elite has been seen as corrupt and disconnected from the population. This explains the orange wave [in last year's federal election]. Now you have this strong social movement taking on this elite. - Francis Dupuis-Deri, a poli sci prof at U of Quebec at Montreal.
Below: A wide cross-section of Quebec society has joined students in the largest sustained demonstrations in the history of Canada. What the rest of Canada doesn't understand about Quebec's student movement.
Quebec’s Maple Spring
Jesse Rosenfeld NOW Magazine Canada May 3-10, 2012
Montreal – As 180,000 students continue their 12-week strike against tuition increases, and police respond with concussion grenades, pepper spray, batons, kettling and mass arrests, Quebec’s major city is becoming ungovernable.
What was a fairly routine student strike has turned into what many are calling the Maple Spring. ... Outsiders, it seems, are having trouble grasping why students with the lowest post-secondary tuition in the country (generally around $2,600 yearly) would be so exercised about the Charest government’s increase of $1,625 over five years.
But the reality is, the hike portends a weakening of government commitment, and there’s a long tradition here of pushing back when public supports are threatened. Quebecers are just plain more aspirational when it comes to social rights, something Charest had to reckon with in 2005 and 06 when labour forced him to back down on cuts and privatization and a student strike nixed cuts to loans and grants.
In the nightly mass demonstrations of the past week, one feels the frustration of a generation that is seeing the promises of social security their parents benefited from being taken away.
Furthermore, the narrative about making university a fee-less service like health care has deep roots here. “It’s written in the most fundamental text of the Quebec educational system that there should be free education,” says Simon Tremblay-Pepin, of the Institute for Socio-Economic Research and Information (IRIS), referring to the 1960s Royal Commission on Education, or the Parent Report. ...
For Holly Nazar of Concordia U’s Graduate Student Association, the protests are “about a whole vision of how we want Quebec society to be.” The fee hike, she says, “has everything to do with ideology and very little to do with economic conditions. There are so many places the government can find revenue. It’s a question of where you put the burden.”
Interestingly, that’s exactly the position of former co-chair of the Parent Commission, sociologist Guy Rocher. He and prof Yvan Perrier recently penned a widely circulated letter backing the student cause. The two call for a more equitable and fairer tax system as a way of abolishing university fees altogether.
“Free university,” the two write, “is not a utopia. It would cost about 1 per cent of the entire Quebec budget, and reintroducing the tax brackets abolished between 1988 and 1998 would yield the necessary funds.” Tuition, they charge, is a “regressive” tax.
That’s not how Education Minister Line Beauchamp sees the issue. “The government of Quebec is firm and convinced that students should pay their fair share,” she tells the press.
“The debate always comes back to this demand for a freeze on tuition. I want to be very clear. I will always refuse to ask all Quebec taxpayers to foot the bill,” Beauchamp says.
Sitting across a café table in the Jean Talon Market, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, a spokesperson for CLASSE, dismisses this logic. “The government knows, if they succeed in breaking the mobilization of students, other measures will be easier,” he says, referring to attempts to destroy the welfare system and other public services. ...
Related: Mass protests in Spain emblematic of the popular anger in Europe
Archana Rampure rabble.ca Canada May 7, 2012
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This is the final installment of our three-part report on May Day in Spain. Part I looked at the political context in Spain, where austerity has been met with the Indignados movement that has inspired people worldwide. Part II provided an account of the massive May Day protests in Spain, in which an estimated one million people took part.
May 1 may have come and gone in Spain but the echoes of the mobilizations still remain.
Walking past a large bank branch near Bilbao Metro station late the other night, I met a small group of people taping up posters for a little 15-M inspired 'exchange' event where all were invited to bring in items to trade with each other. No comfort for capitalism there. Ana, who speaks a little bit of English, invites us to attend if we are still around.
Across the city, there are other signs up for debates and discussion; popular assemblies are being planned and small but spirited protests are visible in Madrid's many public spaces such as Plaza Mayor and outside their Congreso De Los Diputados (central parliament).
Students have taken to the streets of Catalonia to protest the raising of tuition fees. Public school teachers are planning demonstrations while random balconies are hung with signs against the cuts. My personal favourite is a simple Republican flag on a balcony in our square, Plaza Tirso de Molina.
Unemployment in Spain is at 25 per cent; it is well over 40 per cent for youth and in some provinces such as Granada. There is a feeling that the last elections that brought in the centre-right government of Mariano Rajoy was a mistake, a common electoral miscalculation that the right would be able to pull the country out of recession.
The truth has been the opposite: as in Greece, austerity measure after austerity measure has been imposed upon the people here and there is no improved economy to show for it. The consequences of unemployment are obvious: there are women begging for alms at church doors and men with signs about the children they are supporting without jobs on Gran Via. ...
Tuesday, May 1, 2012
Fertile ideas and citizen solidarity: May Day—time to re-occupy and rekindle in North America (as around the world) the spirit of the international day of celebration. Is there the will?
May Day has been a traditional day of festivities throughout the centuries. The earliest May Day celebrations appeared in pre-Christian times, with the festival of Flora, the Roman goddess of flowers, and the Walpurgis Night celebrations of the Germanic countries. It is also associated with the Gaelic Beltane. Many pagan celebrations were abandoned or Christianized during the process of conversion in Europe. A more secular version of May Day continues to be observed in Europe and America. In this form, May Day may be best known for its tradition of dancing the maypole dance and crowning of the Queen of the May. Various Neopagan groups celebrate reconstructed (to varying degrees) versions of these customs on May 1st.Posted at: Tuesday, May 01, 2012 - 07:42 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
International Workers' Day
Wikipedia Last modified May 1, 2012
International Workers' Day (also known as May Day) is a celebration of the international labour movement....
To look at the images from Tahrir Square in Cairo, Syntagma Square in Athens, Zuccotti/Liberty Plaza in New York, or Puerta del Sol in Madrid, to name only a few of the thousands, is to see a very similar occupation, including everything from libraries, child care, health services, food, legal, media and art. The forms of organization and relationships created in the space, all using direct democracy are massive, growing and globally consistent – not the same of course – but so similar as to be a new global phenomenon. - Marina Sitrin, a participant in the Occupy movements, the editor of Horizontalism: Voices of Popular Power in Argentina and author of the forthcoming, Everyday Revolutions: Horizontalism and Autonomy in Argentina.
As public sector workers send out their calls of distress, the official opposition needs to inspire Canadians to demand governments provide more and better public services, and better salaries and living conditions for all Canadians. - Duncan Cameron
Noam Chomsky Zucotti Park Press USA May 1, 2012
If you’re a serious revolutionary, then you are not looking for an autocratic revolution, but a popular one which will move towards freedom and democracy. That can take place only if a mass of the population are implementing it, carrying it out, and solving problems. They’re not going to undertake that commitment, understandably, unless they have discovered for themselves that there are limits to reform.
A sensible revolutionary will try to push reform to the limits, for two good reasons. First, because the reforms can be valuable in themselves. People should have an eight-hour day rather than a twelve-hour day. And in general, we should want to act in accord with decent ethical values.
Secondly, on strategic grounds, you have to show that here are limits to reform. Perhaps sometimes the system will accommodate to needed reforms. If so, well and good. But if it won’t, then new questions arise. Perhaps that is a moment when resistance is necessary, steps to overcome the barriers to justified changes. Perhaps the time has come to resort to coercive measures in defense of rights and justice, a form of self-defense. Unless the general population recognizes such measures to be a form of self-defense, they’re not going to take part in them, at least they shouldn’t.
If you get to a point where the existing institutions will not bend to the popular will, you have to eliminate the institutions. May Day started here, but then became an international day in support of American workers who were being subjected to brutal violence and judicial punishment. Today, the struggle continues to celebrate May Day not as a "law day" as defined by political leaders, but as a day whose meaning is decided by the people, a day rooted in organizing and working for a better future for the whole of society.
May Day unity on display: Hundreds of thousands rally worldwide (FESTIVE PHOTOS)
RT Russia May 1, 2012
Contains two embedded videos and 23 still photos from different countries around the world.
Countries throughout the world are celebrating May Day, also referred to as International Labor Day. In Russia, the holiday is marked in every big city. In the capital alone, an estimated 120,000 people have shown up.
The holiday is being marked worldwide, starting in the east and following the sun around the globe.
In Asia, May Day has gone beyond its roots as an international workers' holiday to a day of international protest. Thousands marched in Indonesia, Thailand, Taiwan, South Korea and other countries demanding wage increases and better working conditions.
In Manila, the Philippines, protesters burnt an effigy of the country’s President Benigno Aquino III during a rally near the Presidential Palace.
Hundreds of thousands of workers came out onto the streets of the Cuban capital Havana to mark the occasion, with the crowds addressed by various politicians and trade union officials.
The holiday is also widely celebrated in much of Europe. Great Britain, France, Germany, Spain and Greece are holding rallies. ...
May Day in Spain: Indignados against austerity
Archana Rampure rabble.ca Canada May 1, 2012
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Spain is not Greece, as everyone I meet here assures me.
However, the violent clashes in the streets of Madrid, Valencia and Barcelona over the introduction of labour reforms that would make it easier to fire workers still hang in the air here. April 29 saw demonstrations organized by the PSOE (the main left wing political party in Spain) in conjunction with trade unions. Forty thousand people were out on the streets of Madrid, and there were smaller but no less heartfelt demonstrations in at least 55 cities, towns and villages ranging from Avila to Zamora.
The series of No Se Juega con la Educacion y la Sanidad (loosely translated: "Don't Play Games with Education and Healthcare") protests were organized by major trade union centrals like the UGT and the Comisiones Obreras.
As in Canada, the austerity agenda hits hardest at public services and those who are most at risk are children, pensioners and the unemployed.
There is a reason why the Indignados movement began here in Spain, or perhaps there are many reasons. Everywhere, there are signs that the recession has hit hard in Spain. These include the signs proclaiming flats for rent and sale, as many of the British and German retirees have packed up and gone back where they came from, leaving behind unbought villas in vast sprawling "urbanizations" alongside offices and buildings that clearly once housed small industries.
Store windows are shuttered, small towns have a neglected air and young men lounge on street corners with that air of having nowhere in particular to be at any given time. Unemployment is high - 20 per cent according to some economists, up to 40 per cent for young people - and the right-wing central government of Mariano Rajoy is more focussed on cutting spending than on creating jobs. ...
As an outsider, I cannot help but be struck by the similarity of the right-wing attack machine. Spain has recently raised the retirement age from 65 to 67 outright and had electronic suveillance legislaton introduced. Spain's public sector - especially health care and education - is under threat; its unions and workers are being threatened by unfair legislation; migrant workers and immigrants are targets of right-wing rhetoric; students and youth are watching tuition rise while jobs are evaporating; and the hard-won legislative authority of its autonomous regions is being encroached upon by the central government. ...
Below: The conversation around May Day and general strikes is part of a larger, changing global conversation, growing out of new movements and new democratic forms.
On newness and history as Occupy and the world celebrate May Day
Marina Sitrin AlterNet USA April 30, 2012
This article is based on the pamphlet, "May Day – The Secret Rendezvous with History and the Present", by the Occupied Media Pamphlet Series, and the forthcoming book, Occupying Language, also with the same series as well as Adelante Alliance. http://www.zuccottiparkpress.com/posts.html.
The Walk of the New
Kefaya! (Enough!) Is declared in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt.
In Syntagma Square in Athens, Greece they hung banners declaring, in Spanish, Ya Basta! (Enough!)
Democracía Real Ya! (Real Democracy Now!) Is the framing in Spain.
We are the 99% is announced in the US.
New Social Relationships and a New Common Language
2011 has been a year of uprisings, movements and moments – all against an economic crisis and the politics of representation. Kefya! Ya Basta! and Enough! are shouted by millions against an untenable situation – and simultaneously they are met with Democracia Real Ya! and We are the 99%! - powerful affirmations. The use of the exclamation point reflects the passion – It is the shout of anger, the manifestation of collective power and the strength of people’s voices in the songs of joy in finding one another.
There have been numerous historical epochs where something massive and “new” sweeps the globe – moments such as the Revolutions and revolts of the mid 1800s, the massive working class struggles of the early 1900s, and the massive political and cultural shifts and anti-colonial struggles of the 1960s, to name only three. We believe we are in another significant historic epoch. This one is marked by an ever increasing global rejection of representative democracy, and simultaneously a massive coming together of people, not previously organized, using directly democratic forms to begin to reinvent ways of being together. These global movements are connected in ways not possible in the past with the use of immediate technology, such as the internet, twitter and facebook. These new technological forms have helped for something that in Latin America is often referred to as “contagion”, a spreading of an idea in a horizontal way, more like a virus than a political program. This should not be confused with a “social network revolution,” a description many in the media have used. The communication tools helped, but the essence and the ‘new’ in the movements is the collective construction of new social relationships – creating new territory – and the similarities of this phenomenon globally. ...
Mayday, Mayday, Mayday: A distress call on May Day
Duncan Cameron rabble.ca Canada May 1, 2012
Visit this page for its embedded links.
The other Mayday is a distress call. It comes from the French "m'aidez," or help me. When repeated three times on a radio frequency, Mayday signifies grave and imminent danger. If such a call had gone out May 2, 2011 -- the night of the election of a majority Harper government -- a significant number of Canadians would not have thought it a hoax.
Most of Europe celebrates the first day of May as Labour Day. In Canada, labour organizations also mark the event. The May 1 holiday celebrates workers: the doers, the enablers, the creators; people who work with their hands, their bodies, their heads to produce and re-produce the conditions of our existence. May 1 is a day for solidarity among working people.
The holiday has its origins in Celtic spring rituals. The workers' day coincides with the return of light, and the sun's warmth. Flowers bloom as the land is reborn each year. In Paris, people buy and wear a sprig of muguet (white lily).
As a labour event, May 1 is associated with the struggle for reductions in working time, the eight-hour day, and ending police repression of workers. Spring signifies the richness of the earth, and May 1 the collective riches workers produce on the job. ...
The Harper government plans to admit more migrant workers, more quickly, so as to drive down private sector wages even further. It is making changes to Employment Insurance to make workers unable to refuse dead-end, poorly paid jobs.
The Harper regime is removing environmental protection, food inspection and regulation, and making other modifications to about 60 pieces of significant legislative statutes by transforming the budget into an omnibus bill that will not receive normal parliamentary scrutiny. Austerity, it turns out, is about reducing the ability of government to protect citizens from private sector abuses of power.
Louis Roy, the new president of the CSN, the Quebec-based trade union central thinks Quebec student associations have something to teach trade unionists looking for ways to renew the trade union movement. Like many in Quebec, Louis Roy favours zero tuition fees for post-secondary education, and he supports the students' action to resist the 75 per cent hikes in tuition initially proposed by the Charest Quebec government, since raised to 82 per cent in its "offer" to negotiate.
Quebec students wear a square piece of red felt (carré rouge) to signify their opposition to further indebtedness implied by significant tuition increases. By defying the government, striking classes, and taking to the streets across the province, the students have captured the Quebec imagination.
The student strike is about much more than tuition fees. It represents a direct challenge to an unjust society where education and health care become commodities for sale and purchase. The call to end fees for services is a call for social solidarity, for public goods to be available on the basis of need, and for public investment in the common good. ...
A spirited crowd celebrates May Day by marching down Halifax's Spring Garden Road earlier today. Cities across Canada are hosting May Day events and have heeded the energy of the Occupy movement calling for a general strike on International Worker's Day -- and if not a general strike in each city, at least a show of support for labor and social justice movements across Canada. International Workers' Day (also known as May Day) is a celebration of the international labor movement and social justice movements. May 1 is a national holiday in more than 80 countries.
Sunday, April 29, 2012
NATO summit: Oh, Freedom. Won’t you please come to Chicago, no one else can take your place. Doubtful. That plea seems likely to be strangled
Oh freedom, oh freedom, oh freedom over me
Written in the post Civil War era, the spiritual "Oh Freedom" became an important anthem of the 20th century civil rights movement. The civil rights movement was a worldwide political movement for equality before the law occurring between approximately 1950 and 1980. Once more its spirit is awake.
It goes without saying that if world leaders and their entourages are not within sight or sound of the protests, those protests will be rendered meaningless. It’s pretty hard to change the world unless somebody sees and hears you. - Carol Marin
‘Won’t you please come to Chicago’
Carol Marin Chicago Sun-Times USA April 27, 2012
“From the bottom of the ocean
To the mountains on the moon
Won’t you please come to Chicago
No one else can take your place . . .
We can change the world.”
Crosby, Stills & Nash, 1970
You may be hearing that old song, inspired by the 1968 Democratic Convention and the Chicago Seven trial, again soon as protesters “come to Chicago” for the NATO Summit. ...
“I sat at the afternoon session of Nobel Peace Prize winners” last week,” [Rev. Phil Blackwell senior minister of the First United Methodist Church at the Chicago Temple] said. “And the Dalai Lama and Mikhail Gorbachev were talking more radically than I ever have about what makes for peace, listing things like clean water, enough food, meaningful work.”
Peace, added the minister, also requires police protection and security.
But at what level?
That has been the question as protest groups seek meaningful spaces in which to demonstrate, while law enforcement agencies insist on perimeters wide enough to protect President Barack Obama and foreign dignitaries.
The free-speech struggle took an unexpected turn last week when even Chicago officials seemed caught off guard by the news that federal authorities would set up militarized “Red Zones” to protect federal buildings in advance of the summit. ...
Police vs Protester: Feds sending armed agents to Chicago three weeks before NATO Summit
RT Russia April 28, 2012
May's NATO summit in Chicago is still weeks away, but residents of the Windy City can expect to see armed federal agents patrolling the streets in preparation much sooner than that. ...
Both the NATO and G-8 summits were initially scheduled to occur back-to-back in the major Midwest city, but the meeting between the world’s eight leading economies has since been relocated to Camp David, the fortified presidential retreat in Maryland used as a getaway destination for many of America’s past commanders-in-chief. As of now, however, the NATO summit will take place in Chicago and, citing concerns over how demonstrators may respond, law enforcement is being called in early to size up the city.
Beginning May 1, the Federal Protective Service agents will be in Chicago for “Operation Red Zone.” Although the officers will not necessarily be restricting residents from accessing any public spaces that they are normally permitted to enter, the agents will be patrolling — in complete battle gear. "Will you see a highly visible police force? Yes,” the FPS’ Cleophas Bradley told federal employees, reports the Chicago Sun-Times. “But we will not be preventing anyone from entering the red zone.” Bradley adds that the officers on patrol will be outfitted with weapons that can fire off “non-lethal” projectiles, much like the firearm that cracked the skull of war veteran Scott Olsen during an Occupy Wall Street protest in Oakland, California last year. ...
Milwaukee Red Cross told to prep for Chicago evacuation during NATO summit
CBS Chicago USA April 25, 2012
CHICAGO (CBS) – Is there a secret plan to evacuate some residents of Chicago in the event of major trouble during the NATO summit next month? CBS 2 has uncovered some evidence that there is. It comes from the Milwaukee area branch of the American Red Cross.
CBS 2 News has obtained a copy of a Red Cross e-mail sent to volunteers in the Milwaukee area. It said the NATO summit “may create unrest or another national security incident. The American Red Cross in southeastern Wisconsin has been asked to place a number of shelters on standby in the event of evacuation of Chicago.”
According to a chapter spokesperson, the evacuation plan is not theirs alone. “Our direction has come from the City of Chicago and the Secret Service,” she said. ...
To Joliet jail for NATO offenders?
Fran Spellman Chicago Sun-Times USA April 28, 2012
Mothballed for a decade, the Joliet Correctional Center could be temporarily reopened to serve as a detention facility for those arrested for serious offenses during the May 20-21 NATO summit. ... Thousands of demonstrators are expected to descend on Chicago to protest the summit that will bring President Barack Obama and the leaders, foreign and defense ministers of more than 50 nations to McCormick Place. ...
The sheriff called the 2010 G-20 summit in Toronto an “anomaly” with more than 1,100 arrests. There were also nearly 1,000 arrests at the 2007 G-8 summit in Germany that drew 25,000 demonstrators. But, the rest of the recent summits have been relatively tame. They include: the 2009 G-20 in London (35,000 protesters, 122 arrests); the 2009 G-20 in Pittsburgh (4,500 protesters, 190 arrests) and the 2008 G-8 in Japan (44 arrests). ...
The sheriff added, “The only thing everybody agrees is this is unpredictable. We’re trying to keep that in mind.” ...
Jim comment: I don't know whether protesters will be free enough to indulge in these Chicago treats, delicious french fries offered in unique ways, but those who attend upon the high pooh-bahs of Western Axis 'freedom' may want to check out this guide served up by Natalie Kuchik, a freelance writer living in Chicago. Best french fries in Chicago
Related: And now to jolly old England, the land in which Gilbert and Sullivan first coined what became the mocking term 'pooh-bah' in their comic opera The Mikado (1885). Serving the Mikado and his Lord High Executioner, Pooh-Bah is "Lord High Everything Else". Among Pooh-Bah's offices were "First Lord of the Treasury, Lord Chief Justice, Commander-in-Chief, Lord High Admiral... Archbishop of Titipu, and Lord Mayor".
London 2012: Missiles may be placed at residential flats
BBC News UK April 29, 2012
An east London estate, where 700 people live, has received leaflets saying a "Higher Velocity Missile system" could be placed on a water tower.
A spokesman said the MoD had not yet decided whether to deploy ground based air defence systems during the event.
But estate resident Brian Whelan said firing the missiles "would shower debris across the east end of London". The journalist said: "At first I thought it was a hoax. I can't see what purpose high-velocity missiles could serve over a crowded area like Tower Hamlets. They say they'll only use them as a last resort, but... you'd shower debris across the east end of London by firing these missiles."
Mr Whelan, who claims to have seen soldiers carrying a crate into the building, said his property management company put up posters and gave out the leaflets on Saturday.
He continued: "They are going to have a test run next week, putting high velocity missiles on the roof just above our apartment and on the back of it they're stationing police and military in the tower of the building for two months." ...
Rushana Ali, MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, said: "It looks like it's been imposed without proper consultation. I will be asking the government to explain why. The MoD does need to look at this again."
The leaflet states that members of the Armed Forces will be at the location for a military exercise between 2 and 7 May. It goes on to say there will be a "major national exercise" from 2 to 10 May to test the Armed Forces' capabilities for providing security during the Olympics.
The document added that if the government decides to use the missiles during the Games, the soldiers could be "operationally deployed for a period of up to two months this summer". ...
The MoD says in the leaflet that the missiles will not pose a hazard to residents and "will only be authorised for active use following specific orders from the highest levels of government in response to a confirmed and extreme security threat". ...
Of course. Only Pooh-Bah has such powers. From the Army website the missles appear to MANPADS.
Friday, April 27, 2012
CISPA: Patriot Act for the web?
The Associated Press reported April 23, 2012:Posted at: Friday, April 27, 2012 - 02:39 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
"Obama's announcement underscored the degree to which technology, from cellphones to social media, has fueled popular uprisings in countries throughout the Arab world and at the same time has given autocratic regimes new ways to track dissidents and suppress political dissent. 'These technologies should be in place to empower citizens, not to repress them,' said Obama."
To which we commented: Right. How about some 'sanctions' on the homefront? Stop the spying on dissident citizens in Western Axis countries! And the violence enacted upon them!
The NSA is watching you
Amy Goodman Truthdig USA April 25, 2012
Three targeted Americans: A career government intelligence official, a filmmaker and a hacker. None of these U.S. citizens was charged with a crime, but they have been tracked, surveilled, detained—sometimes at gunpoint—and interrogated, with no access to a lawyer. Each remains resolute in standing up to the increasing government crackdown on dissent. ...
[T]wo senators, Ron Wyden and Mark Udall, have expressed concern, but have not spoken out, as, ... they would lose their seats on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Meanwhile, Congress is set to vote on the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, or CISPA. Proponents of Internet freedom are fighting the bill, which they say will legalize what the NSA is secretly doing already.
Members of Congress, fond of quoting the country’s founders, should recall these words of Benjamin Franklin before voting on CISPA: “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
CISPA passes House in unexpected last-minute vote
RT Russia April 27, 2012
Photo: Paul J. Richards/AFP
The House of Representatives has approved Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act with a vote count of 248-168. The bill is now headed for the Senate. President Barack Obama will be able to sign or cancel it pending Senate approval. ... Apart from cyber and national security purposes, the bill would now allow the government to use private information obtained through CISPA for the investigation and prosecution of “cybersecurity crime,” protection of individuals and the protection of children. The new clauses define “cybersecurity crime” as any crime involving network disruption or hacking.
“Basically this means CISPA can no longer be called a cyber security bill at all. The government would be able to search information it collects under CISPA for the purposes of investigating American citizens with complete immunity from all privacy protections as long as they can claim someone committed a 'cybersecurity crime.' Basically it says the Fourth Amendment does not apply online, at all,” Techdirt's Leigh Beadon said.
Declan McCullagh, correspondent from CNET News, says CISPA will cause more trouble than is immediately apparent. “The most controversial section of CISPA is the language – that notwithstanding any other portion the of law, companies can share what they want as long as it’s for what they call a ‘cyber security purpose,'" he told RT. ...
The White House issued a statement Wednesday saying President Barack Obama would be advised to veto the bill if he receives it. The Obama administration denounces the proposed law for potentially giving the government cyber-sleuthing powers that would allow both federal authorities and private businesses to sneak into inboxes and online activities in the name of combating Internet terrorism tactics.
We asked our Twitter followers what they think of CISPA's possible adoption into law – and they don't seem happy. ...
‘CISPA: Patriot Act for the web’ – Internet activist
RT Russia April 27, 2012
With the House of Representatives' approval of the controversial CISPA bill, Internet users are worried about possible consequences. RT spoke to Internet activist Aaron Swartz, who said CISPA could be used to spy on people.
RT: Can you explain the difference between this legislation and the previous controversial bills aimed at combating piracy?
Aaron Swartz: The previous bills were about giving the government the power to censor the Internet. And this is more like a Patriot Act for the Internet. It sort of lets the government run roughshod over privacy protections and share personal data about you, take it from Facebook and Internet providers and use it without the normal privacy protections that are in the law.
‘We’ll protect your private data’: CISPA-embracing Facebook tries to calm users’ fears
RT Russia First posted April 14, 2012; edited April 26, 2012
Facebook has defended its support of the controversial cybersecurity bill CISPA
Facebook has defended its support of the controversial cybersecurity bill CISPA. In an address to alleviate fears that the legislation will result in massive sharing of private user data with the government, the social network promised not to do it.
In a blog post on Friday, Joel Kaplan, vice president of US public policy at Facebook, argued that if enacted into law, the bill would “give companies like ours the tools we need to protect our systems and the security of our users’ information, while also providing those users confidence that adequate privacy safeguards are in place.” ...
Earlier Kaplan praised the bill in a letter to Michael Rogers, chairman of the House Intelligence committee, saying that it “removes burdensome rules that currently can inhibit protection of the cyber ecosystem, and helps provide a more established structure for sharing within the cyber community while still respecting the privacy rights and expectations of our users.” ...
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
The Harper regime is in question
In a democratic society, no party leader, no office holder, and no government can survive for long without maintaining the public support which alone establishes legitimacy. ... The Harper Conservatives may think they have a legal right to govern as they please, and they certainly act as though the opposition parties have to accept what Conservatives decide: political reality suggests otherwise. - Duncan CameronPosted at: Tuesday, April 17, 2012 - 03:24 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
But ordinary Canadians understand that our fundamental rights as individuals are far better shielded by a document [the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms] that defines them and states which rights are protected than by Parliamentary and Common Law traditions that, as Mr. Harper has proved on more than one occasion, can be simply brushed aside and ignored without political consequences. ... “Politicians are wily enough to find a way to violate Charter rights,” [Wildrose Party leader Danielle Smith] explained in a column in the Calgary Herald on Jan. 14, 2006. ... Still, we are far better off with the Charter, which former New Democratic Saskatchewan premier Roy Romanow described as a document that “embodies a set of values and ideals and principles that resonate with the Canadian public.” So we should give thanks for it today, whether or not the Harper government ignores the anniversary, and remember both how we got it and who tried to keep us from having it. - David J. Climenhaga
The Harper regime in question
Duncan Cameron rabble.ca Canada April 17, 2012
Visit this page for its embedded links.
Stephen Harper and his government are in trouble. Charges of concealing the real costs of the F-35 fighter jets, confirmed by the auditor general, a Harper appointee, are not going away, despite an Easter parliamentary recess. These $10 billion in hidden costs were revealed by the parliamentary budget officer (an innovation of the Harper government) prior to the May 2, 2011 election, and led to the government being found in contempt of parliament, provoking a non-confidence motion, and the May election.
Elections Canada is investigating charges of voter interference in over 200 ridings in the last election. Non-Conservative supporters were falsely informed their polling stations had been moved.
Contrary to government claims, the recent federal budget clearly reduces public services, while weakening food inspection, environmental safeguards, border security, pure research, information on welfare, and foreign aid, amongst other programs. Economists see the budget killing jobs and threatening economic recovery. The retirement age is being pushed back by two years, without substantial evidence being given for the change. Ottawa, and the entire national capital region, are going to be particularly hard hit by spending and personnel cutbacks.
The knives Stephen Harper should fear the most are those of his fellow Conservatives (seven of them in the national capital region). As public support for the Harper regime recedes, party esteem for the leader will erode, rivals will step forward anxious to question policy direction, promote their own ambitions and conspire to see Harper replaced as prime minister by one of their number. ...
As the impact of the budget becomes better known, citizens' groups will be organizing to make their views known to parliamentarians. ... The Conservatives may think they can legally shut down their opponents, but the survival of the Conservative government requires they maintain public support for their actions. Otherwise, Harper and his regime will lose the only legitimacy they possess.
The press release below was in our inbox yesterday. CBOBC believes: "An extraordinary effort is needed by civil society to protect Canadian programs that are being destroyed. We must strengthen long-standing progressive values of fairness, equality and a sustainable economy. Building one large joint progressive campaign including hundreds of organizations improves the odds in challenging Harper today while building toward the next election."
New group urges progressives to build 'One Big Campaign' to take on Harper
Toronto, April 16, 2012 -- A campaign urging Canadian social activist groups to work together under one massive umbrella to take on the Harper regime and his right-wing supporters was officially launched today.
The Campaign to build 'One Big Campaign' <https://www.facebook.com/CampaignToBuildOneBigCampaign> (CBOBC) is now operating on Facebook. A website will soon be created, and other activities
The goal of the campaign is to encourage Canada's more than 15,000 activist and public interest groups, dozens of progressive unions, and grassroots organizations such as the Occupy Movement, to build a giant, cooperative campaign network.
"Groups campaigning against Harper on their own, or working in small networks, lack enough punch and public support to win many victories," said social activist/journalist Nick Fillmore, one of the coordinators of the campaign.
"At the moment, we are seeing this in the environmental arena. When even David Suzuki is discouraged, something is seriously wrong," said Fillmore.
As a first step, individual Canadians are being asked to come forward and provide ideas about how these groups and unions can be encouraged to get together and discuss the idea of forming what, for now, is being called the 'One Big Campaign.'
'One Big Campaign' would not be a new organization, but a co-operative venture bringing together the knowledge and campaigning resources of hundreds of organizations to work on a small number of vital
campaigns each year, such as income disparity and old age security.
Some of CBOBC's volunteers were also active with the Catch 22 Harper Conservatives <http://catch22campaign.ca/> during the 2011 election campaign. CBOBC is independent and not affiliated with any political party.
"The creation of 'One Big Campaign' would lift the spirits of millions of Canadians who have all but lost hope in the disastrous Harper era," said labour activist Gary Shaul, a member of CBOBC. "Instead of complaining about what Harper is doing, people and all kinds of organizations would have something positive to work for."
If a majority of the country's progressive and labour groups came together, the number of people under one big umbrella could number in the millions.
For additional information and interviews: Contact: Nick Fillmore Please email: CBOBC1@gmail.com
Be thankful for our Canadian Charter of Rights, 30 years old today, and remember who hates it
David J. Climenhaga Alberta Diary Alberta Canada April 17, 2012
April 17, 1982: The Queen signs the Constitution as Pierre Elliott Trudeau, then Canada’s prime minister, looks on, apparently bemused. Visit this page for its embedded links.
CALGARY - Today is the 30th anniversary of our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. On April 17, 1982, Queen Elizabeth signed our new Canadian Constitution, of which the Charter is part.
It should come as no surprise that the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper – normally so obsessed with history, at least when it involves feats of arms – is ignoring this turning point in Canadian history.
Part of this, naturally, is mere partisan politics. The Constitution would not have “come home,” and the Charter would not be enshrined in law, had in not been for a Liberal prime minister, and one unpopular in Mr. Harper’s circle to boot: Pierre Elliott Trudeau.
More significantly, however, it would be fair to say that the far right in Canada, of which Mr. Harper is part, dislikes the Charter, and certain extremist elements of the right despise and abhor it. Is his concern about “constitutional divisions” sincere? Not very likely.
The Charter is enormously popular among ordinary Canadians in all provinces, including Quebec, however, because they understand immediately and intuitively that stating clearly what our rights are in a document that overrides all other laws is an effective way to protect citizens from the wealthy and the mighty who throughout history have always acted in their own class interests.
The Charter is an imperfect document, the product of a difficult compromise. But most of us know we are much better off with it than without it, and we are thankful to Mr. Trudeau for pressing forward determinedly on his constitutional project throughout 1981 and into 1982.
Critics of the Charter, like Mr. Harper and former Reform Party leader Preston Manning, usually base their critiques in the notion we somehow had more rights when Parliament was supreme and our rights were traditional but undefined. Because the Charter is popular they tend to couch their criticisms in the bloodless language of pedantry.
So, Mr. Harper said in the Globe and Mail on June 13, 2000, “I share many of the concerns of my colleagues and allies about biased ‘judicial activism’ and its extremes. … Serious flaws exist in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.” ...
But ordinary Canadians understand that our fundamental rights as individuals are far better shielded by a document that defines them and states which rights are protected than by Parliamentary and Common Law traditions that, as Mr. Harper has proved on more than one occasion, can be simply brushed aside and ignored without political consequences. ...
We can be confident that much harsher things are said about the Charter by its enemies in the privacy of their in right-wing clubs than are normally made available for public consumption. (Conrad Black has dismissed the Charter as “a farce” and “a nuisance that has turned many of our under-qualified judges into feckless social tinkerers.” And the ignorant blatherskites of the prime minister’s separatist-owned media auxiliary despise the Charter literally to this day, risibly and ironically dismissing it as a mere sop to French Canadians like their boss.)
As a consequence, most enemies of the Charter have moved from assailing it directly to trying to use it to advance their own corporatist hobbyhorses and by attempting to subvert it through various stratagems. ...
Sunday, April 15, 2012
Concerning a significant time in American diplomatic history. George Kennan: The wisest of the group Lyndon Johnson’s national-security adviser, McGeorge Bundy, called the "Wise Men"
George F. Kennan An American LifePosted at: Sunday, April 15, 2012 - 04:43 PM -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: (#)
Penguin Group (USA) USA Fall 2011
George F. Kennan An American Life by John Lewis Gaddis. Published by The Penguin Press, November 2011
Drawing on extensive interviews with George Kennan and exclusive access to his archives, an eminent scholar of the Cold War delivers a revelatory biography of its troubled mastermind.
In the late 1940s, George Kennan wrote two documents, the "Long Telegram" and the "X Article," which set forward the strategy of containment that would define U.S. policy toward the Soviet Union for the next four decades. This achievement alone would qualify him as the most influential American diplomat of the Cold War era. But he was also an architect of the Marshall Plan, a prizewinning historian, and would become one of the most outspoken critics of American diplomacy, politics, and culture during the last half of the twentieth century. Now the full scope of Kennan's long life and vast influence is revealed by one of today's most important Cold War scholars.
Yale historian John Lewis Gaddis began this magisterial history almost thirty years ago, interviewing Kennan frequently and gaining complete access to his voluminous diaries and other personal papers. So frank and detailed were these materials that Kennan and Gaddis agreed that the book would not appear until after Kennan's death. It was well worth the wait: the journals give this book a breathtaking candor and intimacy that match its century-long sweep.
We see Kennan's insecurity as a Midwesterner among elites at Princeton, his budding dissatisfaction with authority and the status quo, his struggles with depression, his gift for satire, and his sharp insights on the policies and people he encountered. Kennan turned these sharp analytical gifts upon himself, even to the point of regularly recording dreams. The result is a remarkably revealing view of how this greatest of Cold War strategists came to doubt his strategy and always doubted himself.
This is a landmark work of history and biography that reveals the vast influence and rich inner landscape of a life that both mirrored and shaped the century it spanned.
John Lewis Gaddis: Unveiling Mr. X as George F. Kennan
National Post Canada February 25, 2012
Right: George F. Kennan in 1947. Photo: Harris & Ewing
The following is excerpted from George F. Kennan by John Lewis Gaddis:
The U.S. State Department announced the Policy Planning Staff’s establishment, along with George Kennan’s appointment as its director, on May 7, 1947. He combined “great strength of character, not to say toughness, with high- minded idealism,” British diplomat Jock Balfour informed London at the time, but this was “tempered by a healthy respect for the practicability of any given course.”
Kennan had thought the recently articulated Truman Doctrine (“to support free people who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures”) an “unnecessary and perhaps even dangerous” overdramatization of the need to aid Greece and Turkey. He knew a great deal about the Soviet Union, but had not “given way to the hysteria which colours the views of so many of his countrymen.”
Balfour also reported on the Kennans’ living arrangements: He would continue some lecturing at the National War College because his family wanted to hang on to the house it provided for as long as possible.
Kennan became even more visible a few weeks later when the columnists Joseph and Stewart Alsop ran the first public story on the famous Feb. 22, 1946 “long telegram,” identifying him as the hawkish document’s author. It was, they claimed, highly significant that Secretary of State George C. Marshall had given this new responsibility to the man who had produced “the most important single state paper on the Soviet Union.” Worried that the still-secret document had leaked, Kennan hastened to assure Dean Acheson that he had not been the source. He pointed out, however, that the telegram contained little, “which has not subsequently been stated as American policy on many occasions and by many other people.”
“Keep an eye on George F. Kennan,” the Christian Science Monitor advised its readers a few days after the Alsops’ column appeared. ...
Getting real: George F. Kennan’s Cold War
Louis Menand The New Yorker USA November 14, 2011
The one puzzle in John Lewis Gaddis’s first-rate biography of the diplomat George Kennan, which Gaddis began in 1982, when his subject was seventy-eight, and waited nearly thirty years to complete, since Kennan lived to be a hundred and one, is the subtitle. The book is called George F. Kennan: An American Life (The Penguin Press; $39.95), and the most peculiar thing about Kennan, a man not short on peculiarities, is that he had little love for, or even curiosity about, the country whose fortunes he devoted his life to safeguarding.
Between 1926, the year he began his Foreign Service career, in Geneva, and 1946, when he made a heroic return from Moscow as the author of the primal document of Cold War foreign policy, the Long Telegram, Kennan lived mostly abroad. The woman he married, in 1931, Annelise Sørensen, was Norwegian, and when he and his family resettled in the United States—where he remained, apart from two prematurely terminated appointments as Ambassador, first to the Soviet Union (1952), and then to Yugoslavia (1961-63)—he spent almost all of his time in the State Department, or at the Institute for Advanced Study, in Princeton, or on the secluded farm he owned in Pennsylvania, outside a town it amused some god of geopolitics to have named East Berlin.
Kennan thought that Americans were shallow, materialistic, and self-centered—he had the attitude of a typical mid-century European—and the more he saw of them the less fond of them he grew. “You have despaired of yourself,” he wrote in his diary after a visit to Chicago; “now despair of your country!” He had a special distaste for what he called “the Latin-American fringe”—Florida, Texas, and California. “Before us stretches the whole great Pacific Coast,” he wrote in the diary on a plane trip West, “and my only thought, as we approach it, is: throughout the length and breadth of it not one single thing of any importance is being said or done.”
He was firmly anti-majoritarian, not only in foreign affairs, where he considered public opinion a menace, but in governmental decision-making generally. “I hate the rough and tumble of our political life,” he wrote, in 1935, to a sister, Jeanette, to whom he was close. “I hate democracy; I hate the press. . . . I hate the ‘peepul’; I have become clearly un-American.” In the draft of an unfinished book, begun in the nineteen-thirties, he advocated restricting the vote to white males, and other measures designed to create government by an élite.
Many people gave up on liberal democracy in the nineteen-thirties, but Kennan, even after the war, and in his most widely read books—American Diplomacy, published in 1951, and the first volume of his Memoirs, which came out in 1967 and won a Pulitzer Prize—was blunt about his estrangement from American life and his antipathy to democracy. He believed that a nation’s form of government has little to do with the quality of life, and he admired conservative autocracies such as prewar Austria and Portugal under António Salazar. In the second volume of the Memoirs, published in 1972, he proposed that one of the few times American diplomacy had been conducted with integrity, and without political pandering, was the period from 1945 to 1949—which happened to be the years of his own greatest influence.
The country he felt closest to—just to make the irony complete—was Russia. Russia was “in my blood,” he says in the Memoirs. “There was some mysterious affinity which I could not explain even to myself.” ...
George Kennan by John Lewis Gaddis: A review
Jacob Heilbrunn The Daily Beast USA December 9, 2012
Svetlana Iosifovna Alliluyeva—the only daughter of Josef Stalin—might seem like an unlikely friend of an American diplomat who devised the foreign-policy doctrine that helped bring down the empire her father had worked for decades to create. But Alliluyeva, who died on Nov. 22 in Wisconsin and came to see her old man as a “moral and spiritual monster,” sought out Kennan in March 1967 after she requested political asylum at the U.S. embassy in New Dehli. “I’ve been trying very hard to get in touch with Mr. Kennan. Can you tell me where he is?” she asked the CIA. Kennan met her in Switzerland. Alliluyeva was smitten. “George Kennan was tall, thin, blue-eyed, elegant,” she later wrote of their meeting at a safe house in Bern. “That hour proved that fantasies and dreams could sometimes come true.”
Kennan put her up in his version of a Russian dacha in a town in Pennsylvania called, of all things, East Berlin. The Kremlin claimed that it was all part of a plot by Kennan to besmirch the Soviet Union upon the 50th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution. The truth was more prosaic. Kennan loved Russia. He wanted to do Alliluyeva a good turn and she provided him with a glimpse back into his own youth when he served in Moscow during the 1930s. Kennan had met Stalin. He had seen the gangsters around him. And so they had a lot to discuss. They became fast friends. His house reminded Alliluyeva of a prevolutionary Russian country estate. Where Kennan had analyzed Stalin decades earlier, so his daughter, as John Lewis Gaddis reports in his new biography, now turned the tables. She remonstrated in one letter, “You constantly do not allow yourself to be yourself. You’ve put yourself—and all your life—into the position of (pardon me, please!) that deadly Presbyterian Righteousness which looks `good’ only in pronouncements from the pulpit; which is based on human experiences of different era; different people; different social milieu, than yours.”
She was on to something. Kennan was perhaps the most brilliant intellectual of the past century. He was certainly the most tortured. For all the reams of books and essays written about George F. Kennan during his lifetime, it was a neighbor of his, one J. Richards Dilworth, who divined his true character: “George is ultra-conservative. He’s almost a monarchist.” Yes, the man who invented the doctrine of containment that saved the West from Stalinism in the late 1940s and prepared the road for victory in 1989 when the Soviet empire came crashing down was himself less than a democrat. He was as old school as it gets. He pined for an older, pristine America, one that wasn’t enraptured by automobiles, suburbs, commercialism, and choked by pollution and greed. He opposed American recognition of Israel and didn’t feel it was America’s duty to interfere abroad to spread democracy. ...
John Lewis Gaddis on George Kennan
Woodrew Wilson International Center for Scholars USA March 6, 2012
What "The Father of Containment" Can Teach Us About Today's Challenges
Henry Kissinger, writing in the New York Times, had this to say about John Lewis Gaddis' epic biography of George F. Kennan: "His magisterial work, George F. Kennan: An American Life, bids fair to be as close to the final word as possible on one of the most important, complex, moving, challenging and exasperating American public servants."
Long before his death, Kennan selected Gaddis to be his biographer. And when Kennan died in 2005, Gaddis gained unprecedented access to personal diaries and other documents that helped him create a vivid portrait of the man considered by many to be the most influential foreign policy theorists of the Cold War era. In his New York Times essay, Kissinger said that, "no other Foreign Service officer ever shaped American foreign policy so decisively or did so much to define the broader public debate over America’s world role," than did George Kennan.
We spoke to John L. Gaddis not only to learn about Kennan's life and work, but also to find out if his world view was relevant to understanding today's foreign policy challenges.
John Lewis Gaddis is the Robert A. Lovett Professor of Military and Naval History at Yale University and is considered to be the nation's preeminent Cold War historian. In fact, the New York Times has called him, the "Dean of Cold War Historians." He is also the official biographer of the seminal 20th century statesman George F. Kennan. ...
The interview is posted in video segments.