A few days ago, a prominent attorney asked me a question: can religious liberty and the growing demands of government and others occupy the same space? And if not, who wins?
This is, perhaps, not quite the right question.
Dr. Hannibal Lecter, aka “Hannibal the Cannibal” in The Silence of the Lambs asked a more fitting one:
First principles, Clarice. Simplicity. Read Marcus Aurelius. Of each particular thing ask: What is it in itself? What is its nature?
Most pundits observing what has gone on recently in Arizona and other states regarding same-sex marriage have concluded, “We are witnessing a clash between religious and civil liberties.” While many nod their heads in agreement, this analysis is wrong.
The fact is that what the left is demanding now through our courts, through legislatures, and at ballot boxes around the country does not constitute “rights” at all, or at least not in the historical sense.
This is not a “clash of religious and civil rights.” This is a clash of freedom and untenable, outrageous demands.
There is something much, much deeper going on here.
Same-sex marriage is a trial balloon of sorts, being used to test how far Americans will allow their consciences to be suppressed by the State.
“If Christians can be compelled to lend a craft to something their conscience objects to, what can’t they be compelled to participate in? We’re talking about precedent; and the cases before us are bellwether test cases about whether private actors can be forcibly mandated to go against their conscience” (“Of Consciences and Cakes,” First Things, Feb. 20, Andrew Walker).
A couple years ago, the Health and Human Services Contraceptive and Abortifacient Mandate served the same purpose, leading the way to where we now are. When the State can get away with abusive behavior and strong-arm tactics toward even The Little Sisters of the Poor, let alone privately owned businesses such as Hobby Lobby, then statists know that the time is ripe to take another big step.
This battle is much bigger than anybody thinks it is. We cannot see the forest for the trees. We are not witnessing a clash of rights; we are in the middle of a massive social experiment. This is a test for the viability of incremental totalitarianism. Nothing less.
In a kind of Cloward-Piven Strategy, the assault – or “test,” or however you want to identify it – is occurring on many different fronts and on many different levels simultaneously. In addition to same-sex marriage and the health care mandate(s), we have the IRS targeting of conservative groups, constant Second Amendment attacks, voter photo ID initiatives labeled as racist by the DOJ, and state initiatives to curb abortions labeled a “War on Women.”
Perhaps most chilling is the way that federalism is being undermined from within the states themselves. State judges are now routinely overturning the expressed will of the people, acting unilaterally to impose novel viewpoints on entire state populations.
The fifty states, which are supposed to be laboratories for experimentation – conducting trial runs, so to speak – are being stripped of that function.
The beauty of America is our diversity, much of which is still reflected in the personalities of each of our states. If the reach of the national government extends too far and we become thoroughly homogenized, we inevitably start moving toward a type of tyranny. If the rules and the standards are exactly the same in every state, where can one go either for respite or advantage? As the force of the national government grows, this key element of our American liberty recedes, perhaps to be lost forever.
The Economist magazine once described the wonderful functioning of our local governance very nicely:
America has 50 states with 50 sets of laws. Virginia will never ban hunting, but even if it did, there are 49 other states that won’t. In America, people with unusual hobbies are generally left alone. And power is so devolved that you can more or less choose which rules you want to live under.
If you like low taxes and the death penalty, try Texas. For good public schools and subsidized cycle paths, try Portland, Oregon. Even within states, the rules vary widely. Bath County, Kentucky is dry. Next-door Bourbon County, as the name implies, is not. Nearby Montgomery County is in between: a “moist” county where the sale of alcohol is banned except in one city. Liberal foreign students let it all hang out at Berkeley; those from traditional backgrounds may prefer a campus where there is no peer pressure to drink or fornicate, such as Brigham Young in Utah. (Dec. 19, 2009)
If all our laws and regulations are essentially nationalized, there will be no choices left to us other than the single choice to comply. The very thing that makes the United States such a wonderful success – E pluribus unum, “out of many, one” – is being destroyed. Ironically, in the name of diversity, we are squashing diversity, trampling out opinions anathema to progressive ideology.
Statists are tickled pink that they are able to make headway on this. And for the most part, the media are willing collaborators, as pointed out by Mollie Hemingway in The Federalist:
Religious liberty is a deeply radical concept. It was at this country’s founding and it hasn’t become less so. Preserving it has always been a full-time battle. But it’s important, because religion is at the core of people’s identity. A government that tramples religious liberty is not a government that protects economic freedom. It’s certainly not a government that protects conscience rights. A government that tramples religious liberty does not have expansive press freedoms. Can you think of one country with a narrow view of religious liberty but an expansive view of economic freedom, freedom of association, press freedoms or free speech rights? One?
A media less hostile to religious liberty would think less about scoring cheap political points, creating uncivil political climates, and disparaging institutions that help humans flourish. A media with a higher regard for truth would, it turns out, have a higher regard for religious liberty.
Sadly, we seem to have left the world of reason and tolerance. Could our media climate demonstrate that any better? And what lies ahead, if left uncorrected, is illogical and tyrannical. Freedom of religion was the central principle in the moral case of our country. Once that’s gone, how long can the Republic stand?
Returning to Dr. Lecter’s question, “what is it in itself? What is its nature?”
Its nature is this: totalitarianism.
The current visible clash of religious and asserted civil “rights” is secondary – a symptom, not an actual cause.
In fact, the logical conclusion for the trajectory we are now on is the eventual squashing of both civil and religious rights, and this will occur because we have allowed a powerful government to play us one group against another.
What can each of us do?
The only way to stop the advancement of totalitarian measures is for the grassroots of each state to bravely stand up to the bullying, silencing tactics of out-of-touch, frightened judges, legislators, corporate cronies, and media collaborators, as they lead us down a path of decreased liberty and increased totalitarianism.
Stand up for social issues that you know in your gut to be true. Don’t allow yourself to be silenced by political correctness. Stand up for marriage. Stand up for life. Stand up for the right of children to be born and to have both a mom and a dad.
Stand up also for constitutionally limited government and fiscal responsibility.
You have Truth with a capital T on your side. You are right, and they are wrong, so do not be afraid.
Don’t make the mistake of remaining quiet until you are certain you have a winning argument. That is not your responsibility, and that is what the totalitarian left is hoping you will do. All you are responsible for is to speak truthfully and to let others know your beliefs. We outnumber them. We can overwhelm them with Truth, if only each of us would open our mouths and proclaim the Truth at every opportunity.
Remember: be not afraid.
Here’s a way environmentalists can capitalize on Secretary of State Kerry’s characterization of climate change as the “most fearsome weapon of mass destruction”, a hyperbole he used in a speech in Indonesia last week. Despite the current surfeit of light oil resulting from the shale oil boom, the wave of the future is likely to be increasing production of heavy oil, the stuff that will flow (sluggishly) through the Keystone XL pipeline if it is ever built. That that is where the future lies is demonstrated by our refiners betting hard money on it, having geared up their refineries to process heavy oil coming from Canada’s tar sands and Venezuela’s Orinoco Belt.
One of the less desirable byproducts of refining heavy oil is something called petroleum coke or petcoke for short. Petcoke can substitute for coal and is used in the generation of electricity and the manufacture of various industrial products. But petcoke emits 5 to 10 percent more carbon dioxide (CO2) than coal on a per-unit-of-energy basis, 30 to 80 percent more per unit of weight. Moreover, it often has a high sulfur content, a smog-producer which wafts into the air when petcoke is burnt.
The more heavy oil refined, the more petcoke available to be sold, and the quantity churned out by our refineries has been increasing steadily over the last few years. Exports of petcoke have helped make the United States a net exporter of petroleum products, those exports now totaling over a half million barrels per day. In fact, petcoke contributes more to our export of refined petroleum products than gasoline and is second only to fuel distillates (whatever they are).
The United States provides over one-half of the petcoke traded in the global market. China is our best customer, their purchases having tripled over the last four years. Last year alone China’s purchases increased by 50 percent. With its insatiable appetite for energy and constraints placed on the burning of petcoke in this country, China is likely to import more of our petcoke in the years ahead, despite their frantic efforts to clean their air.
If we are serious about doing something about global warming, shouldn’t we save the Chinese from themselves – and ourselves and the rest of the world at the same time – by banning the export of petcoke? Free marketeers will raise a hue and cry about government intrusion into the marketplace, but they don’t have much of a leg to stand on, considering that we have banned the export of crude oil for some 40 years now. If we are unwilling to make this trivial sacrifice to our bottom line (a few hundred million, maybe billion, a year), how much are we really concerned about the threat from global warming? If we use the vile stuff to fill exhausted open pit mines, banning its export might even make good economic sense in the long run. Buried in the ground, the petcoke would represent an energy stockpile we can tap as needed, if we ever figure out how to burn the stuff cleanly.
“In this postmodern age many think that no one can know Truth. It is true that we cannot know truth if there is no revelation from God.” – Vishal Mangalwadi
Dr. Vishal Mangalwadi (1949—), founder-president of BOMI/Revelation Movement, is an Indian philosopher and social reformer. He has lectured in over 40 countries and published seventeen books including “The Book That Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization!” Mangalwadi’s Revelation Movement exists to re-establish the cultural authority of VERITAS (Truth) because God has revealed Truth in scripture and God has given man the mind and clues to help us discover what He has concealed. Proverbs 25:2. (RevelationMovement.com)
In a recent e-mail message entitled “The Kingdom of Darkness Encircles North America,” Vishal writes that his third visit to North America opened his eyes to the magnitude and the power of a massive force of darkness facing the faithful. Because darkness has deeply penetrated much of the body of the church it is hard to estimate how much essential theology and how many churches in North America have been lost.
Nevertheless, there are truth-warriors determinedly digging in their heels against the darkness that is rapidly encompassing both the church and North America. Vishal compared these truth-warriors to Jedi knights and the Hobbits of middle earth who carried the day against Sauron:
“When Luke Skywalker joined the Star Wars saga, he had no idea that he was a Jedi. Nor did the tiny, motley crew that teamed up with him know what they were up against. To mix metaphors, they were little Hobbits, unaware of the importance of their mission.”
The Return of Sauron’s Kingdom of Darkness
During the “Fading Years,” many things of “beauty and wonder remained on earth…” but also many things of “evil and dread.” Then all things began to change. A living darkness crept slowly through Greenwood the Great, and fear walked there in shadowy glades. Then the name of the forest was changed to Mirkwood, for the “nightshade lay deep there,” and few dared pass through. Whence the evil came few could tell,
“…and it was long ere even the Wise could discover it. It was the shadow of Sauron and the sign of his return…and all folk feared the Sorcerer of Dol Guldur, and yet they knew not at first how great was their peril.” (The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien, p. 299)
Sauron’s Kingdom of Darkness is evident in both the devastating loss of God’s revealed Truth, moral law and norms in our culturally desolate secular-atheist society as well as in the failure of Americans, within and without the whole body of the Christian Church, to restrain their own corrupt passions. (James 1:14-15)
Devilish depravity in the guise of special rights and privileges such as free phones, free gas, free housing, and free condoms together with the myth of evolution as scientific fact, perverse sex-education for tots and teens, same-sex and kundalini-Holy Spirit equality, the lie of global warming, paganized Christianity and a long list of destructive freedoms such as unfettered killing as ‘choice,’ and ‘gay’ marriage and pornography and sodomy as Constitutionally guaranteed rights have become dictatorial both outside of the Church, where Sauron’s ‘secular’ servants of sin demand all others give up their God-given rights in gratification of depraved desires, and within, where Sauron’s ‘Christian’ servants of sin sweep away the essentials of the faith to make room for mindless, self-centered values resulting in lawless churches:
“Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin. No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him. Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother. (1 John 3:4-10)
Lawless churches are nothing more than Sauron’s social clubs for his servants of sin where they,
“…exercise no discernment, enforce no standards, and teach more pop psychology than timeless truth. Naturally, lawless churches are populated with lawless Christians, the greatest absurdity of them all. “What fellowship have righteousness and lawlessness?” 1 Corinthians 6:14 (How can I walk North and South at the same time?” Lawless Christians, Dan Popp, Renew America, Mar. 10, 2012)
Dr. Kurt Koch (1913-1987), a noted German theologian who counseled and delivered thousands of people suffering from demonic bondage in its various forms throughout the world argues that sin cuts a person off from God. Sin opens the door to Sauron, meaning to demonic oppression and possession seen in relation to psychological distortions having the following predominant characteristics: narcissism, hard egoism, uncongenial dark nature, violent temper, belligerence, meanness, abnormal sexuality, blasphemous thoughts and rebellious, bigoted attitudes toward Christ and God, conscious atheism, and destructive, murderous rages. (Occult ABC, Koch, pp. 266-282)
Cutting Edge Ministries David Bay identifies the ‘values’ of the lawless as Satanic, and adds that lawless Americans at every level of society, both in and out of the church, have embraced Satanic values with no conscious awareness that they have done so. When a people believe in nothing higher than ‘self’, they make personal selfishness, intellectual arrogance, irrational feelings, lying, covetousness, physical lust, hate and envy their gods. The elevation of these Satanic values produces in them other strong desires: for power over others, for the amassing of material possessions and the acquisition of privilege, status, star-power, and wealth as well as powerful sexual urges that must be satisfied at any cost, no matter who or what might be harmed. (Six Step Attitudinal Change Plan, Bay, Cutting Edge Ministries)
The Christian church is the only element in society with the moral authority and the availing remedy to counteract such manifest evil, but much of America’s Christian church has been compromised, thereby rendered impotent. Having compromised and conformed itself in one way or another to our paganized culture and dictates of the scientism/evolution crowd it is no longer salt and light, thus on the fast track to being spewed out.
Malachi Martin, author of “Hostage to the Devil: the Possession and Exorcism of Five Contemporary Americans,” briefly outlines the spiritually desolate condition and resulting consequences of the compromising church:
“Among the general population of Catholics and Christians of other denominations, large numbers of people no longer learn even so basic a prayer as the Our Father. In churches and parochial schools alike, the subject of Hell is avoided, as one Midwestern priest put it, in order not to put people on a ‘guilt trip.’ The idea of sin is likewise avoided, according to the same source, in order not to do ‘irreparable damage to what has been taught for the past fifteen years.” (P. xvi)
Fearing rejection by our paganized culture and scientistic/evolutionary establishment, compromising
“….Satan does what he does best—he ceases to exist in the eyes of those who do not see.” (ibid)
Consequently, a favorable climate exists for the occurrence of demonic oppression and possession among the general population:
“Possession among the general population is so clear that it is attested to daily by competent social and psychological experts, who for the most part, appear to have no ‘religious bias.’ Our cultural desolation—a kind of agony of aimlessness coupled with a dominant self-interest—is documented for us in the disintegration of our families. In the break-up of our educational system. In the disappearance of publicly accepted norms of decency in language, dress and behavior. In the lives of our youth, everywhere deformed by stunning violence and sudden death, by teenage pregnancy; by drug and alcohol addiction; by disease; by suicide; by fear.” And whether spoken or acted out without explanation, the dominant question of the deformed generation is, “What can you do for me? What can my parents, my friends, my acquaintances, my enemies, my government, my country, do for me?” (pp. xiii-xiv)
Overshadowing secular-atheist America is a malevolent, living darkness sweeping virtually unseen in and through our society and compromising churches.
Dr. Carl Raschke, Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Denver, concurs. His chilling book “Painted Black” takes you through the minds of the deviant and murderous and then explores the growing evil sweeping through our hometowns. He concludes that the decadence, pornography, heavy metal music, drug culture, fantasy role-playing games, cruelty, mass murders, criminality, the ‘new religions’ and upsurge in overt Satanism in American culture have certain social and spiritual ties that bind them together, revealing that they are part of a similar dark spiritual genus enabled by mystification of the most corrupt passions and secular values:
“Satanism is but the spiritual Frankenstein created by a social order that has attempted to sustain itself without God.” (Satanism and Witchcraft: The Occult and the West — Part 6, Dr. John Ankerberg and Dr. John Weldon)
America’s spiritual Frankenstein bears a striking similarity to the pre-flood Frankenstein of Noah’s time:
“Barbarism is that which prevailed from the days of Adam down through ten generations to the time of Noah. It is called barbarism because of the fact that in those times men had no ruling authority or mutual accord, but every man was independent and a law unto himself after the dictates of his own will.” (John of Damascus, “The Fount of Knowledge,” cited in Political Apocalypse, Ellis Sandoz, p. 131)
Sauron’s Kingdom of Darkness has slowly crept into and changed all things in the West and America. Within its’ living shadow barbarians situated within our government, media, entertainment, military, law enforcement, academia, and compromised church work their destructive magic while fell beasts and shapes of dread openly hunt the spiritually blind in the shadowy glades of the American Mirkwood.
Please pray that our Lord will cleanse, revive and fortify His church and build up a force for spiritual and cultural resistance and renewal. America desperately needs an army of courageous, selfless Hobbits: faithful male and female truth-warriors who will stand and fight the forces of darkness for both the soul of America and individual souls who, though their eyes are open, they cannot see the infernal darkness closing in on them.
It’s all too customary for those analyzing the crises humanity faces to associate climate change, aka global warming, with whatever proximate cause they postulate for our imminent demise. John Tirman, for instance, in his book 100 Ways America Is Screwing Up the World lists as the first way “Altering the Earth’s Climate”. Richard Heinberg of the Post Carbon Institute includes Climate along with Energy and Debt as the three problem areas which threaten our future. Nafez Mossadeq Ahmed, author of A User’s Guide to the Crisis of Civilization, integrates climate change with the other crises he believes civilization faces: the financial meltdown, dwindling oil reserves, terrorism and food shortages. This linking of concrete, demonstrable societal ills with the less grounded, more debatable theory of global warming is an ill-considered, strategic mistake, I think, as I believe critics of the global warming theory, the so-called “deniers”, are going to win the debate, at least for the near future. It would be a tragedy if valid, much-needed warnings about the dangers haunting our future were to be discredited because of their being tied to discredited fears about climate change.
Here’s why I think this is likely to happen. The warming trend which the earth experienced in the thirty years before the turn of this century has virtually stopped. This “hiatus”, as it is called, has been going on for over a decade and is likely to continue for another two. Check out this graph from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration:
What do you see? I see a 60-year cycle in which a 30-year cooling period alternates with a 30-year warming period; to wit, from about 1880 to 1910 the mean global temperature went down, then from 1910 to 1940 the earth warmed up, then from 1940 to 1970, the earth cooled slightly, followed by the 30-year period from 1970 to 2000 when the earth warmed dramatically, and finally the dozen years from the turn of the century till now during which the mean temperature hasn’t risen (the hiatus). Given that the concept of a mean global temperature is an artificial construct subject to error and manipulation, just looking at this graph what would you predict for the near future? Wouldn’t you bet that for the next 20 years or so the earth is not going to get warmer, may even cool a bit?
If this does come to pass, what will be the consequence for the theory of global warming? Won’t it be viewed with increasing skepticism by the pubic at large, at least until the next warming demi-cycle commences 20 years from now? Won’t the discrediting of the global warming theory infect theories which have been linked to it? Are you willing to wait 20 years for your forewarnings of impending doom to be taken seriously?
Unless you have been following the issue as I have, you are probably not aware that the debate over the theory of global warming has been heating up (pardon the pun) of late, largely because of the prolonged global tepidness. If you believe the science is settled, consider that the “settled” science has generated a multiplicity of climate models which have done a terrible job of forecasting, invariably predicting warmer temperatures than what has actually occurred. If the science is so settled, why have global warming adherents only recently postulated that heat from the warming of the atmosphere is being absorbed by the oceans, their explanation for the hiatus? The models did not foresee this.What about that august body of climate scientists who comprise the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), you ask. Just recently the IPCC certified once again – with 95% certainty (whatever that means) – that human activities are causing global warming? We are told that 1800 scientists arrived at this conclusion; but, if you look into it, you will find the majority of the scientists on the panel are not climatologists and some not scientists at all. One scientist who served on the IPCC’s review committee called global warming fears the worst scientific scandal in history, predicting “When people come to know what the truth is, they will feel deceived by science and scientists.”For one side in a debate to label the opposition “deniers” is a sleazy rhetorical gambit usually employed by the name-callers when they are losing the debate (equally true in the case of another group of iconoclasts routinely labeled “deniers”, but that’s a story for another day). Consider who some of these so-called “deniers” are:
Richard Lindzen, Professor of Meteorology at MIT
Fred Singer, Professor emeritus of environmental science at the University of Virginia
Roy Spencer, former NASA Senior Scientist for Climate Studies
Judith Curry, chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Tech
Pat Michaels, past president of the American Association of State Climatologists
Do you really believe such people deny science?
Perhaps you believe such credentialed skeptics are in the pay of Big Oil. It’s true that the global warming theory was once opposed by powerful interests who dominated the debate; but, when a former Vice President of the United States can win both an Academy Award and a Noble Prize for a highly tendentious film full of hyperbole and misinformation, you know there are powerful interests behind the global warming scare, too. If Big Oil has bought off the media, why is it that so many people are aware that sea ice in the Arctic shrank to its smallest extent in modern times in 2012 but not that sea ice in the Antarctic was expanding at the same time or that ice in the Arctic made its largest rebound ever last year, approaching the average for the last thirty years? Why is every extreme weather event – even blizzards- attributed to global warming when, in fact, extreme events like hurricanes, forest fires, tornados and even record high temperatures are less prevalent today than in the past?
I’m not a climatologist, so I’m neither inclined nor competent to expound on the science of global warming, but I do hope to have convinced you that the science surrounding global warming is far from settled and consequently to hitch your wagon to that fading star is not a good idea. Please, at least listen to what the skeptics have to say – for instance, by consulting the websites I’ve cited – before you link the fate of your own doleful prophecies to that of climate change.
The corporate media would have us believe that the nation is in the midst of an economic recovery.
In the shadow of the approaching mid-term elections, the president cites the number of jobs created and speaks optimistically about America’s economic future. The future is indeed bright, but only if you are among the wealthiest one percent of the population.
For instance, since the 2007 recession, the greatest crisis of capitalism in 75 years, corporate profits have risen, CEO salaries and bonuses are at record levels and the stock market is soaring. By contrast, workers’ wages have stagnated for more than four decades, benefits are either few or non-existent, and workers are encumbered with debt that forces them to perform multiple jobs— if they can find them—in order to survive.
Jobs that offer long-term security and a living wage are scarce even for those with university degrees. Adjusted for inflation, today’s workers are worse off than they were in the late 1960s.
Whose economic recovery is this?
According to economic forecaster Gerald Celente, 90 percent of the jobs created in 2013 were part-time, most of them paying low wages and providing no benefits. Student loan debt exceeds $1.1 trillion, a number that surpasses the combined credit card liability of the nation.
These debts cannot be discharged through bankruptcy. The big banks and corporations that finance political campaigns have no such restrictions placed upon them.
Even the unemployment figures are deceiving. According to the latest government data, unemployment is at 6.7 percent. In reality, that number is probably closer to 17 or 18 percent, according to economist Richard Wolff.
The government does not count people whose unemployment benefits have expired or those who have given up looking for work. A cashier working 10 hours a week at Food Lion is counted as fully employed.
We have students, many of them burdened with immense debt, entering a job market that makes it difficult for them to earn a decent living. This is the economic minefield that workers across America must navigate. A little truth might help them find their way and comprehend why this is happening.
One of the many reasons we face such a bleak economic future is the implementation of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs).
In 1992, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was implemented between the governments of the United States, Canada and Mexico. NAFTA was fast-tracked through Congress by President H.W. Bush and signed into law by President Clinton. NAFTA was promoted in the commercial media as an engine for job creation in the United States, an assertion that is contradicted by the facts. According to Wolff, more than 700,000 jobs fled the country as the result of NAFTA, many of them providing middle class incomes and benefits.
Those jobs are never coming back. It is not just the number of jobs created that matter, it is the quality of those jobs that is a predictor of economic success.
Furthermore, the mass movement of U.S. corporations to Mexico wrecked the already struggling Mexican economy, particularly its sustainable, locally-based businesses. The situation initiated a mass migration of immigrant Mexican workers to the U.S. in search of better-paying jobs than were available to them in the homeland. Multinational corporations seeking a source of cheap labor and a climate of deregulation are the primary benefactors. The quantifiable effect that NAFTA has had on the U.S. workers is staggering job loss, reduced wages and increasing economic disparity.
Now, with the backing of corporate lobbyists, yet another FTA—the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)—is being fast-tracked through Congress. Both Democrats and Republicans are enthusiastically backing the legislation.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation describes the process: “The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a secretive, multi-national trade agreement that threatens to extend restrictive intellectual property (IP) laws across the globe and rewrite international rules on its enforcement.” TPP is currently being negotiated between nine to 12 nations.
If enacted, TPP will permit privately-owned corporations to have hegemony over the governments of sovereign nations. For instance, if the state of West Virginia were to ban the use of genetically modified soybeans, Monsanto Corporation could either overturn the decision or extort billions of dollars in remuneration from their projected loss of profits. FTAs belligerently put corporate profits before the legitimate needs of the people and the welfare of the biosphere.
The implications for students and working class people will be profoundly detrimental.
Hundreds of thousands of jobs will flee the country, wages will fall yet again, autonomy will be lost, and the job market will resemble the wreckage of the Hesperus. FTAs are the means by which the power elite are turning the U.S. into a Third World economy.
A geopolitically tense atmosphere prevails.
Security is extremely tight. It’s prioritized for good reason. Terrorist attacks are possible. Don’t discount potential Washington shenanigans.
Perhaps raining on Putin’s parade is planned. Obama may want him embarrassed. False flags are a longstanding US tradition. Will Sochi be Washington’s next target? The fullness of time will tell.
It’s a virtual armed camp. Measures in place are unprecedented. Around $2 billion was spent on security.
Ahead of February 6, around 23,000 personnel assured proper measures were in place as planned.
Tens of thousands of police officers are deployed. They’re backed by helicopters, drones, gunboats, submarines, and 70,000 Russian troops.
Hundreds of Cossacks are involved. They’ll check IDs. They’ll detain suspects. Sochi’s proximity to the North Caucasus raised concerns.
Islamist jihadists named it a target. They’re US assets. They’re used strategically. Washington used likeminded ones against Soviet Russia in Afghanistan.
Libya was targeted this way. They comprise America’s anti-Syrian proxy death squads.
Russia raised concerns after December Volgograd bombings killed 34 people. Were Washington’s dirty hands involved?
Is something similar planned for Sochi? Hegemons operate this way. America is by far the worst. Anything ahead is possible.
According to Sochi Organizing Committee chairman Dmitry Chernyshenko:
“Terrorism is a global threat, and for terrorism there is no boundaries, no territories, but here in Sochi from the very beginning of the construction phase the state authorities did their utmost to prepare special measures, starting from the screening of raw materials, checking all the venues and preparing far-reaching security measures to provide the safest ever environment here.”
A controlled zone was established. It covers 60 kilometers. It runs along the coast. It extends 25 kilometers inland.
It includes all venues. They’re heavily guarded. The entire area is for authorized visitors only.
Western anti-Russian sentiment persists. Cold War politics continues. Putin bashing is featured. He’s not about to roll over for Washington.
He wants rule of law principles respected. He opposes Western imperialism. He’s against meddling in the internal affairs of Russia, Syria, Ukraine and other nations.
He stresses Moscow’s “independent foreign policy.” He affirms the “inalienable right to security for all states, the inadmissibility of excessive force, and unconditional observance of international law.”
He and Obama disagree on fundamental geopolitical issues. Key is national sovereignty. So are war and peace. America claims a divine right to fight. Putin prioritizes diplomatic conflict resolution.
Disagreements between both countries play out in dueling agendas. Washington notoriously plays hardball. Putin protects Russia’s national interests. They’re too important to sacrifice.
US media scoundrels target him. They vilify him. They mischaracterize him. They call him a Russian strongman. They make all kinds of baseless accusations.
Lies, damns lies and misinformation substitute for truth and full disclosure. They want him embarrassed. They’re raining on his Sochi parade.
On February 6, the Financial Times headlined “Putin gambles all on creation myth behind Sochi.”
“I am particularly pleased to see what is happening here because I chose this place myself,” he said.
“It must have been in 2001 or 2002,” he added. “(W)e were driving around and arrived at this brook, and I said: ‘Let’s start from here.’ That’s how it all began.”
Putin staked much on the games, said the FT. George Washington University’s Sufian Zhemukhov said “(i)f all goes well, (he’ll) be seen as the leader who resurrected Russia.”
Failure perhaps won’t be forgiven, he added. His forthrightness for peace “made him a force on the world stage,” said the FT.
A January Levada Center poll showed he’d be elected today by a wide margin. At the same time, his overall support dropped.
Excluding undecided respondents, its “higher than ever.”
He’s taking no chances. He’s going all out to make Sochi successful. FT comments were tame compared to America’s media.
The Wall Street Journal headlined “The Putin Games.” He wants them to “showcase…modern Russia.”
“(H)e succeeded (but) not as he intended…What could go wrong?” Sochi is the most expensive Olympics in history.
Around $50 billion was spent. It’s five times the original estimate. It’s double what Britain’s 2012 summer games cost. It’s a fourth more than China spent in 2008.
Much of Sochi’s cost related to building vital infrastructure. It had to be done from scratch. Doing so added enormously to costs.
Major projects are expensive. According to Journal editors, “(t)he games are proving to be a case study in the Putin political and economic method.”
They claim billions of dollars “lost to corruption.” They provide no evidence proving it. They said “Russians call this Olympiad the Korimpiad.”
More Putin bashing followed. It’s standard scoundrel media practice. Journal editors feature it.
They claim he “made it impossible to hold his regime accountable through free elections or media.”
Russian elections shame America’s sham ones. They’re democratic. They not rigged. Monied interests don’t control them.
Outcomes aren’t predetermined. Russian voters decide. US ones have no say.
Don’t expect Journal editors to explain. Or how Voice of Russia and RT (formerly Russia Today) shame America’s corporate media.
They feature news, information and opinion viewers most need to know. They do it forthrightly. They’re polar opposite America’s managed news misinformation.
Truth is systematically suppressed. Demagoguery, propaganda, scandal, sleaze, junk food news, and warmongering substitute.
Journal editors ignore truth and full disclosure. Bias permeates their opinions. They betray readers. They shame themselves doing so.
They claimed billions spent on Sochi left it unprepared. They cite “unfinished hotel rooms, incomplete road work and now the famous photographs of two toilets in a single stall.”
RT.com responded. On February 6, it headlined “Spread fear, toilet humor? MSM guide to ‘Worst. Olympics. EVAR!” (Repeat: EVAR!)
Even before the opening ceremony, MSM scoundrels drew conclusions “Sports? Not really,” said RT. At issue is malicious Putin bashing. It’s longstanding practice.
It’s MSM’s “own Sochi 2014 moan-athon.” Imagine claiming something yet to occur the “worst Olympics ever.” They beat up on Beijing the same way.
They “never believed in Sochi,” said RT. They called its climate unfit for winter games. They cite corruption with no substantiating evidence.
They claim lax security despite unprecedented measures in place. They discuss possible terrorist threats. They leave unexplained what most worrisome – a possible disruptive US false flag attack.
It bears repeating. Perhaps Washington plans raining on Putin’s parade.
On August 7, 2008, hours before Beijing’s summer Olympics’ opening ceremony, Georgia’s Mikheil Saakashvili invaded South Ossetia. He did so at Washington’s behest. Attacking was strategically timed.
After Soviet Russia’s 1991 dissolution, South Assetia broke away from Georgia. It declared independence. It’s home to many Russian nationals.
Moscow responded responsibly. Conflict continued for days. Then President Medvedev was on vacation. Then Prime Minister Putin was in Beijing.
In half a day before Russia intervened, 1,700 people were killed. Included were 12 Russian peacekeepers.
Moscow was blamed for Georgian aggression. Does Washington plan something similar this time? Will a false flag attack occur?
Will Obama usurp a freer hand in Ukraine? Will he take advantage in Syria? Does he plan other mischief? Is disrupting Sochi planned?
Hegemons operate this way. Washington’s disturbing history gives Russia good reason for concern.
Preparations in Sochi aren’t perfect, said RT. “(F)laws and problems” exist. “But what makes the Sochi Olympics ‘the worst’ so far is…accommodation for the global media elite.”
“See it, slam it,” said RT. “Intrepid Olympic reporters, we thought, would get behind the scenes, unravel the PR.”
“Nope. Not this time. Of global importance were rooms (if they were available), toilets, floors, and shower curtains.”
“Oh – and a request to not flush toilet paper (it’s rarely done in public toilets) had the press pack throwing up.”
Washington Post reporter Kathy Lally was upset about “a tiny, tiny (hotel room) sink.”
It “sits atop an exposed white plastic pipe, stuck to the wall and surrounded by an unruly gob of caulk,” she said.
“The single room has two lamps – which don’t have light bulbs, but that’s okay because they aren’t near any unused outlets.”
Other journalists reported missing shower curtains, lamps, chairs, inadequate heat and hot water, and whatever else they wanted to cite to bash Putin.
Fox News called conditions “laughably bad.” It warned about event coverage being just as dreadful.
MSM scoundrels feature daily “hotel horror stories.” They regurgitate similar tweets to each other. They find new reasons to complain.
BBC journalist Steve Rosenberg tweeted about two sit-down toilets shown side-by-side with no partition. It went viral.
RT calls it a “must have” for every Sochi story. Imagine toilet humor substituting for real journalism. It gets worse.
Whatever is happening in Russia multiple time zones away gets reported. A Moscow school shooting creates Sochi shudders.
So does a derailed gas-laden freight train exploding. It happened 500 miles northeast of Moscow. It made Sochi headlines.
CNN connected Sochi to the September 2004 Beslan school siege. Its February 5 report said:
“Amid the shrill noise of militant threats ahead of the Sochi Olympic Winter Games, the gym in Beslan is now steeped in silence, a monument to the dead, untouched almost.”
Trashing Sochi bashes Putin. MSM scoundrels are deplorable. They disgrace themselves before dwindling audiences.
CNN and other US cable news networks report increasing to fewer viewers. Maybe one day they’ll all tune out.
RT called Sochi the “biggest construction site in the world over the past seven years.”
“Everything there – most of the hotels, sport venues, high-speed rail links, highways, 50 bridges, even the Olympic village itself – was built from scratch.”
It’s an extraordinary achievement in a short time. It’s almost like building an entirely new city in record time. Sochi deserves praise, not criticism.
Toronto Star reporter Rosie Dimanno wrote:
“Mounds of debris, parts of roads unpaved, mesh hoarding to hide the eyesore bits, lots of trash, unreliable power – nothing upsets journalists more than an internet that goes up and down – these have all featured in Olympics over the past three decades, as the Games have grown too big, too gaudy and too complicated.”
“The Olympics are no (place) for old sissies,” she added. “So I’ll take my own advice: Just chill.”
Most MSM scoundrels report as expected. They mock legitimate journalism. It’s verboten in America. It’s lacking in Canada. It’s largely absent in Western Europe. Managed news misinformation substitutes.
WSJ editors called Sochi “a shrine to authoritarianism.” They bashed Putin relentlessly. One bald-faced lie followed others.
“(T)he underbelly of Mr. Putin’s regime (was) exposed,” they claimed.
New York Times editors were just as bad. They headlined “A Spotlight on Mr. Putin’s Russia,” saying:
“(T)he reality of (his) Russia…conflicts starkly with Olympic ideals and fundamental human rights.”
“There is no way to ignore the dark side – the soul-crushing repression, the cruel new anti-gay and blasphemy laws, and the corrupt legal system in which political dissidents are sentenced to lengthy terms on false charges.”
NYT editors have a longstanding disturbing history. They one-sidedly support wealth, power and privilege. Whenever Washington wages imperial wars or plans them, they march in lockstep.
They long ago lost credibility. They feature mind-numbing misinformation. They violate their own journalistic code doing so.
They invented anti-gay law controversy. Russian gay propaganda law has nothing to do with persecuting people for their sexual orientation.
Everyone’s rights are respected. Russia wants its children protected from malicious anti-gay propaganda, illicit drugs, alcohol abuse and whatever else harms them.
Responsible governance demands it. America leaves millions of children unprotected. Cutting food stamps alone denies them vital nutrition.
Don’t expect Times editors to explain. Or about thousands of political prisoners languishing in America’s gulag.
About torture being official US policy. About rigged US elections. About impoverishing neoliberal harshness.
About destroying social America. About eliminating America’s middle class. About waging war on freedom.
About unprecedented levels of public and private corruption. About kleptocracy masquerading as democracy.
About out-of-control corporate empowerment. About Washington being corporate occupied territory. About crushing organized labor.
About commodifying public education. About ignoring international, constitutional and US statute laws.
About violating fundamental human and civil rights. About Obama’s war on humanity.
Bashing Putin takes precedence. Managed news misinformation proliferates.
Times editors report like other media scoundrels. MSM ones long ago lost credibility. They replicate the worst of each other.
They support what demands condemnation. They back wrong over right. Readers and viewers demand better.
MSM scoundrels don’t deliver. Sochi games run through February 23. Expect lots more Putin bashing ahead.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
Can the sharing economy movement address the root causes of the world’s converging crises? Unless the sharing of resources is promoted in relation to human rights and concerns for equity, democracy, social justice and sustainability, then such claims are without substantiation – although there are many hopeful signs that the conversation is slowly moving in the right direction.
In recent years, the concept and practice of sharing resources is fast becoming a mainstream phenomenon across North America, Western Europe and other world regions. The internet is awash with articles and websites that celebrate the vast potential of sharing human and physical assets, in everything from cars and bicycles to housing, workplaces, food, household items, and even time or expertise. According to most general definitions that are widely available online, the sharing economy leverages information technology to empower individuals or organisations to distribute, share and re-use excess capacity in goods and services. The business icons of the new sharing economy include the likes of Airbnb, Zipcar, Lyft, Taskrabbit and Poshmark, although hundreds of other for-profit as well as non-profit organisations are associated with this burgeoning movement that is predicated, in one way or another, on the age-old principle of sharing.
As the sharing economy receives increasing attention from the media, a debate is beginning to emerge around its overall importance and future direction. There is no doubt that the emergent paradigm of sharing resources is set to expand and further flourish in coming years, especially in the face of continuing economic recession, government austerity and environmental concerns. As a result of the concerted advocacy work and mobilisation of sharing groups in the US, fifteen city mayors have now signed the Shareable Cities Resolution in which they officially recognise the importance of economic sharing for both the public and private sectors. Seoul in South Korea has also adopted a city-funded project called Sharing City in which it plans to expand its ‘sharing infrastructure’, promote existing sharing enterprises and incubate sharing economy start-ups as a partial solution to problems in housing, transportation, job creation and community cohesion. Furthermore, Medellin in Colombia is embracing transport-sharing schemes and reimagining the use of its shared public spaces, while Ecuador is the first country in the world to commit itself to becoming a ‘shared knowledge’-based society, under an official strategy named ‘buen saber’.
Many proponents of the sharing economy therefore have great hopes for a future based on sharing as the new modus operandi. Almost everyone recognises that drastic change is needed in the wake of a collapsed economy and an overstretched planet, and the old idea of the American dream – in which a culture that promotes excessive consumerism and commercialisation leads us to see the ‘good life’ as the ‘goods life’, as described by the psychologist Tim Kasser – is no longer tenable in a world of rising affluence among possibly 9.6 billion people by 2050. Hence more and more people are rejecting the materialistic attitudes that defined recent decades, and are gradually shifting towards a different way of living that is based on connectedness and sharing rather than ownership and conspicuous consumption. ‘Sharing more and owning less’ is the ethic that underlies a discernible change in attitudes among affluent society that is being led by today’s young, tech-savvy generation known as Generation Y or the Millennials.
However, many entrepreneurial sharing pioneers also profess a big picture vision of what sharing can achieve in relation to the world’s most pressing issues, such as population growth, environmental degradation and food security. As Ryan Gourley of A2Share posits, for example, a network of cities that embrace the sharing economy could mount up into a Sharing Regions Network, then Sharing Nations, and finally a Sharing World: “A globally networked sharing economy would be a whole new paradigm, a game-changer for humanity and the planet”. Neal Gorenflo, the co-founder and publisher of Shareable, also argues that peer-to-peer collaboration can form the basis of a new social contract, with an extensive sharing movement acting as the catalyst for systemic changesthat can address the root causes of both poverty and climate change. Or to quote the words of Benita Matofska, founder of The People Who Share, we are going to have to “share to survive” if we want to face up to a sustainable future. In such a light, it behoves us all to investigate the potential of sharing to effect a social and economic transformation that is sufficient to meet the grave challenges of the 21st century.
Two sides of a debate on sharing
There is no doubt that sharing resources can contribute to the greater good in a number of ways, from economic as well as environmental and social perspectives. A number of studies show the environmental benefits that are common to many sharing schemes, such as the resource efficiency and potential energy savings that could result from car sharing and bike sharing in cities. Almost all forms of localised sharing are economical, and can lead to significant cost savings or earnings for individuals and enterprises. In terms of subjective well-being and social impacts, common experience demonstrates how sharing can also help us to feel connected to neighbours or co-workers, and even build community and make us feel happier.
Few could disagree on these beneficial aspects of sharing resources within communities or across municipalities, but some controversy surrounds the broader vision of how the sharing economy movement can contribute to a fair and sustainable world. For many advocates of the burgeoning trend towards economic sharing in modern cities, it is about much more than couch-surfing, car sharing or tool libraries, and holds the potential to disrupt the individualist and materialistic assumptions of neoliberal capitalism. For example, Juliet Schor in her book Plenitude perceives that a new economics based on sharing could be an antidote to the hyper-individualised, hyper-consumer culture of today, and could help rebuild the social ties that have been lost through market culture. Annie Leonard of the Story of Stuff project, in her latest short video on how to move society in an environmentally sustainable and just direction, also considers sharing as a key ‘game changing’ solution that could help to transform the basic goals of the economy.
Many other proponents see the sharing economy as a path towards achieving widespread prosperity within the earth’s natural limits, and an essential first step on the road to more localised economies and egalitarian societies. But far from everyone perceives that participating in the sharing economy, at least in its existing form and praxis, is a ‘political act’ that can realistically challenge consumption-driven economics and the culture of individualism – a question that is raised (although not yet comprehensively answered) in a valuable think piece from Friends of the Earth, as discussed further below. Various commentators argue that the proliferation of new business ventures under the umbrella of sharing are nothing more than “supply and demand continuing its perpetual adjustment to new technologies and fresh opportunities”, and that the concept of the sharing economy is being co-opted by purely commercial interests – a debate that was given impetus when the car sharing pioneers, Zipcar, were bought up by the established rental firm Avis.
Recently, Slate magazine’s business and economics correspondent controversially reiterated the observation that making money from new modes of consumption is not really ‘sharing’ per se, asserting that the sharing economy is therefore a “dumb term” that “deserves to die”. Other journalists have criticised the superficial treatment that the sharing economy typically receives from financial pundits and tech reporters, especially the claims that small business start-ups based on monetised forms of sharing are a solution to the jobs crisis – regardless of drastic cutbacks in welfare and public services, unprecedented rates of income inequality, and the dangerous rise of the precariat. The author Evgeny Morozov, writing an op-ed in the Financial Times, has gone as far as saying that the sharing economy is having a pernicious effect on equality and basic working conditions, in that it is fully compliant with market logic, is far from valuing human relationships over profit, and is even amplifying the worst excesses of the dominant economic model. In the context of the erosion of full-time employment, the assault on trade unions and the disappearance of healthcare and insurance benefits, he argues that the sharing economy is accelerating the transformation of workers into “always-on self-employed entrepreneurs who must think like brands”, leading him to dub it “neoliberalism on steroids”.
Problems of definition
Although it is impossible to reconcile these polarised views, part of the problem in assessing the true potential of economic sharing is one of vagueness in definition and wide differences in understanding. The conventional interpretation of the sharing economy is at present focused on its financial and commercial aspects, with continuous news reports proclaiming its rapidly growing market size and potential as a “co-commerce revolution”. Rachel Botsman, a leading entrepreneurial thinker on the potential of collaboration and sharing through digital technologies to change our lives, has attempted to clarify what the sharing economy actually is in order to prevent further confusion over the different terms in general use. In her latest typology, she notes how the term ‘sharing economy’ is often muddled with other new ideas and is in fact a subset of ‘collaborative consumption’ within the entire ‘collaborative economy’ movement, and has a rather restricted meaning in terms of “sharing underutilized assets from spaces to skills to stuff for monetary or non-monetary benefits” [see slide 9 of the presentation]. This interpretation of changing consumer behaviours and lifestyles revolves around the “maximum utilization of assets through efficient models of redistribution and shared access”, which isn’t necessarily predicated on an ethic of ‘sharing’ by any strict definition.
Other interpretations of the sharing economy are far broader and less constrained by capitalistic assumptions, as demonstrated in the Friends of the Earth briefing paper on Sharing Cities written by Professor Julian Agyeman et al. In their estimation, what’s missing from most of these current definitions and categorisations of economic sharing is a consideration of “the communal, collective production that characterises the collective commons”. A broadened ‘sharing spectrum’ that they propose therefore not only focuses on goods and services within the mainstream economy (which is almost always considered in relation to affluent, middle-class lifestyles), but also includes the non-material or intangible aspects of sharing such as well-being and capability [see page 6 of the brief]. From this wider perspective, they assert that the cutting edge of the sharing economy is often not commercial and includes informal behaviours like the unpaid care, support and nurturing that we provide for one another, as well as the shared use of infrastructure and shared public services.
This sheds a new light on governments as the “ultimate level of sharing”, and suggests that the history of the welfare state in Europe and other forms of social protection is, in fact, also integral to the evolution of shared resources in cities and within different countries. Yet an understanding of sharing from this more holistic viewpoint doesn’t have to be limited to the state provision of healthcare, education, and other public services. As Agyeman et al elucidate, cooperatives of all kinds (from worker to housing to retailer and consumer co-ops) also offer alternative models for shared service provision and a different perspective on economic sharing, one in which equity and collective ownership is prioritised. Access to natural common resources such as air and water can also be understood in terms of sharing, which may then prioritise the common good of all people over commercial or private interests and market mechanisms. This would include controversial issues of land ownership and land use, raising questions over how best to share land and urban space more equitably – such as through community land trusts, or through new policies and incentives such as land value taxation.
The politics of sharing
Furthermore, Agyeman et al argue that an understanding of sharing in relation to the collective commons gives rise to explicitly political questions concerning the shared public realm and participatory democracy. This is central to the many countercultural movements of recent years (such as the Occupy movement and Middle East protests since 2011, and the Taksim Gezi Park protests in 2013) that have reclaimed public space to symbolically challenge unjust power dynamics and the increasing trend toward privatisation that is central to neoliberal hegemony. Sharing is also directly related to the functioning of a healthy democracy, the authors reason, in that a vibrant sharing economy (when interpreted in this light) can counter the political apathy that characterises modern consumer society. By reinforcing values of community and collaboration over the individualism and consumerism that defines our present-day cultures and identities, they argue that participation in sharing could ultimately be reflected in the political domain. They also argue that a shared public realm is essential for the expression of participatory democracy and the development of a good society, not least as this provides a necessary venue for popular debate and public reasoning that can influence political decisions. Indeed the “emerging shareability paradigm”, as they describe it, is said to reflect the basic tenets of the Right to the City (RTTC) – an international urban movement that fights for democracy, justice and sustainability in cities and mobilises against the privatisation of common goods and public spaces.
The intention in briefly outlining some of these differing interpretations of sharing is to demonstrate how considerations of politics, justice, ethics and sustainability are slowly being allied with the sharing economy concept. A paramount example is the Friends of the Earth briefing paper outlined above, which was written as part of FOEI’s Big Ideas to Change the World series on cities that promoted sharing as “a political force to be reckoned with” and a “call to action for environmentalists”. Yet many further examples could also be mentioned, such as the New Economics Foundation’s ‘Manifesto for the New Materialism’ which promotes the old-fashioned ethic of sharing as part of a new way of living to replace the collapsed model of debt-fuelled overconsumption. There are also signs that many influential proponents of the sharing economy – as generally understood today in terms of new economic models driven by peer-to-peer technology that enable access to rather than ownership of resources – are beginning to query the commercial direction that the movement is taking, and are instead promoting more politicised forms of social change that are not merely based on micro-enterprise or the monetisation/branding of high-tech innovations.
Janelle Orsi, a California-based ‘sharing lawyer’ and author of The Sharing Solution, is particularly inspirational in this regard; for her, the sharing economy encompasses such a broad range of activities that it is hard to define, although she suggests that all its activities are tied together in how they harness the existing resources of a community and grow its wealth. This is in contradistinction to the mainstream economy that mostly generates wealth for people outside of people’s communities, and inherently generates extreme inequalities and ecological destruction – which Orsi contends that the sharing economy can help reverse. The problem she recognises is that the so-called sharing economy we usually hear about in the media is built upon a business-as-usual foundation, which is privately owned and often funded by venture capital (as is the case with Airbnb, Lyft, Zipcar, Taskrabbit et cetera). As a result, the same business structures that created the economic problems of today are buying up new sharing economy companies and turning them into ever larger, more centralised enterprises that are not concerned about people’s well-being, community cohesion, local economic diversity, sustainable job creation and so on (not to mention the risk of re-creating stock valuation bubbles that overshadowed the earlier generation of dot.com enterprises). The only way to ensure that new sharing economy companies fulfil their potential to create economic empowerment for users and their communities, Orsi argues, is through cooperative conversion – and she makes a compelling case for the democratic, non-exploitative, redistributive and truly ‘sharing’ potential of worker and consumer cooperatives in all their guises.
Sharing as a path to systemic change
There are important reasons to query which direction this emerging movement for sharing will take in the years ahead. As prominent supporters of the sharing economy recognise, like Janelle Orsi and Juliet Schor, it offers both opportunities and reasons for optimism as well as pitfalls and some serious concerns. On the one hand, it reflects a growing shift in our values and social identities as ‘citizens vs consumers’, and is helping us to rethink notions of ownership and prosperity in a world of finite resources, scandalous waste and massive wealth disparities. Perhaps its many proponents are right, and the sharing economy represents the first step towards transitioning away from the over-consumptive, materially-intense and hoarding lifestyles of North American, Western European and other rich societies. Perhaps sharing really is fast becoming a counter-cultural movement that can help us to value relationships more than things, and offer us the possibility of re-imagining politics and constructing a more participative democracy, which could ultimately pose a challenge to the global capitalist/consumerist model of development that is built on private interests and debt at the cost of shared interests and true wealth.
On the other hand, critics are right to point out that the sharing economy in its present form is hardly a threat to existing power structures or a movement that represents the kind of radical changes we need to make the world a better place. Far from reorienting the economy towards greater equity and a better quality of life, as proposed by writers such as Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, Tim Jackson, Herman Daly and John Cobb, it is arguable that most forms of sharing via peer-to-peer networks are at risk of being subverted by conventional business practices. There is a perverse irony in trying to imagine the logical conclusion of these trends: new models of collaborative consumption and co-production that are co-opted by private interests and venture capitalists, and increasingly geared towards affluent middle-class types or so-called bourgeois bohemians (the ‘bobos’), to the exclusion of those on low incomes and therefore to the detriment of a more equal society. Or new sharing technology platforms that enable governments and corporations to collaborate in pursuing more intrusive controls over and greater surveillance of citizens. Or new social relationships based on sharing in the context of increasingly privatised and enclosed public spaces, such as gated communities within which private facilities and resources are shared.
This is by no means an inevitable outcome, but what is clear from this brief analysis is that the commercialisation and depoliticisation of economic sharing poses risks and contradictions that call into question its potential to transform society for the benefit of everyone. Unless the sharing of resources is promoted in relation to human rights and concerns for equity, democracy, social justice and sound environmental stewardship, then the various claims that sharing is a new paradigm that can address the world’s interrelated crises is indeed empty rhetoric or utopian thinking without any substantiation. Sharing our skills through Hackerspaces, our unused stuff through GoodShuffle or a community potluck through mealshare is, in and of itself, a generally positive phenomenon that deserves to be enjoyed and fully participated in, but let’s not pretend that car shares, clothes swaps, co-housing, shared vacation homes and so on are going to seriously address economic and climate chaos, unjust power dynamics or inequitable wealth distribution.
Sharing from the local to the global
If we look at sharing through the lens of just sustainability, however, as civil society organisations and others are now beginning to do, then the true possibilities of sharing resources within and among the world’s nations are vast and all-encompassing: to enhance equity, rebuild community, improve well-being, democratise national and global governance, defend and promote the global commons, even to point the way towards a more cooperative international framework to replace the present stage of competitive neoliberal globalisation. We are not there yet, of course, and the popular understanding of economic sharing today is clearly focused on the more personal forms of giving and exchange among individuals or through online business ventures, which is mainly for the benefit of high-income groups in the world’s most economically advanced nations. But the fact that this conversation is now being broadened to include the role of governments in sharing public infrastructure, political power and economic resources within countries is a hopeful indication that the emerging sharing movement is slowly moving in the right direction.
Already, questions are being raised as to what sharing resources means for the poorest people in the developing world, and how a revival of economic sharing in the richest countries can be spread globally as a solution to converging crises. It may not be long until the idea of economic sharing on a planetary scale – driven by an awareness of impending ecological catastrophe, life-threatening extremes of inequality, and escalating conflict over natural resources – is the subject of every dinner party and kitchen table conversation.
Agyeman, Julian, Duncan McLaren and Adrianne Schaefer-Borrego, Sharing Cities, Friends of the Earth briefing paper, September 2013.
Bollier, David, Bauwens Joins Ecuador in Planning a Commons-based, Peer Production Economy, 20th September 2013, bollier.org
Botsman, Rachel, The Sharing Economy Lacks a Shared Definition: Giving Meaning to the Terms, Collaborative Lab on Slideshare.net, 19th November 2013.
Childs, Mike, The Power of Sharing: A Call to Action for Environmentalists, Shareable.net, 5th November 2013.
Daly, Herman and John Cobb, For the Common Good: Redirecting the Economy toward Community, the Environment, and a Sustainable Future, Beacon Press, 1991.
Eberlein, Sven, Sharing for Profit – I’m Not Buying it Anymore, Shareable.net, 20th February 2013.
Enright, Michael in interview with Benita Matofska and Aidan Enns, Sharing, Not Buying at Christmas (Hr. 1), CBC Radio, 16th December 2012.
Friends of the Earth, Big Idea 2: Sharing – a political force to be reckoned with?, 26th September 2013.
Gaskins, Kim, The New Sharing Economy, Latitude, 1st June 2010.
Gorenflo, Neal, What’s Next for the Sharing Movement?, Shareable.net, 31st July 2013.
Grahl, Jodi (trans.), World Charter for the Right to the City, International Alliance of Inhabitants et al, May 2005.
Griffiths, Rachel, The Great Sharing Economy, Co-operatives UK, London UK, 2011.
Grigg, Kat, Sharing As Part of the New Economy: An Interview with Lauren Anderson, The Solutions Journal, 20th September 2013.
Heinberg, Richard, Who knew that Seoul was a leader in the sharing economy?, Post Carbon Institute, 12th November 2013.
Herbst, Moira, Let’s get real: the ‘sharing economy’ won’t solve our jobs crisis, The Guardian, 7th January 2014.
Jackson, Tim, Prosperity without Growth: Economics for a Finite Planet, Routeledge, 2011.
Johnson, Cat, From Consumers to Citizens: Welcome to the Sharing Cities Network, Shareable.net, 9th January 2014.
Kasser, Tim, The High Price of Materialism, MIT Press, 2003.
Kisner, Corinne, Integrating Bike Share Programs into a Sustainable Transportation System, National League of Cities, City Practice Brief, Washington D.C., 2011.
Martin, Elliot and Susan Shaheen, The Impact of Carsharing on Household Vehicle Ownership, Access (UCTC magazine), No. 38 Spring 2011.
Matofska, Benita, Facing the future: share to survive, Friends of the Earth blog, 4th January 2013.
Morozov, Evgeny, The ‘sharing economy’ undermines workers’ rights, Financial Times, 14th October 2013.
Olson. Michael J. and Andrew D. Connor, The Disruption of Sharing: An Overview of the New Peer-to-Peer ‘Sharing Economy’ and The Impact on Established Internet Companies, Piper Jaffray, November 2013.
Opinium Research and Marke2ing, The Sharing Economy An overview with special focus on Peer-to-Peer Lending, 14th November 2012.
Orsi, Janelle and Doskow, Emily, The Sharing Solution: How to Save Money, Simplify Your Life and Build Community, Nolo, May 2009.
Orsi, Janelle et al, Policies for Shareable Cities: A Sharing Economy Policy Primer for Urban Leaders, Shareable / The sustainable Economics Law Centre, September 2013.
Orsi, Janelle, The Sharing Economy Just Got Real, Shareable.net, 16th September 2013.
Quilligan, James B., People Sharing Resources: Toward a New Multilateralism of the Global Commons, Kosmos Journal, Fall/Winter 2009.
Schor, Juliet, Plenitude: The New Economics of True Wealth, Tantor Media, 2010.
Simms, Andrew and Ruth Potts, The New Materialism: How our relationship with the material world can change for the better, New Economics Foundation, November 2012.
Standing, Guy, The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class, Bloomsbury Academic, 2011.
Tennant, Ian, What’s in it for me? Do you dare to share?, Friends of the Earth blog, 8th January 2014.
Wiesmann, Thorsten, Living by the Principle of Sharing – an interview with Raphael Fellmer, Oiushare.net, February 2013.
Wilkinson, Richard and Kate Pickett, The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone, Penguin, 2010.
Yglesias, Matthew, There Is No “Sharing Economy”, Slate.com, 26th December 2013.
Just sit right back
And you’ll hear a tale,
A tale of a fateful trip…
(Theme song from the TV show “Gilligan’s Island”)
You’re probably familiar with the “scientific” expedition from Australia which got stuck in the ice in Antarctica last Christmas Eve, but you may not be aware what a rollicking good tale it is. “You’re sure to get a smile,” as the show’s theme song promises, but I promise you more than just a chuckle. There’s a moral to the story as well.
The first comic relief – other than the fact it’s summer down under, mate – comes with the introduction of the organizer of the “Australasian Antarctic Expedition (AAE)”, Chris Turney, self-described “scientist, explorer, writer” and ardent global warmist. Christened “The Spirit of Mawson” after an Australian scientist who led an expedition to Antarctica in 1911, the expedition’s purpose was to “meld science and adventure, repeating century old measurements to discover and communicate the changes taking place in this remote and pristine environment”. Despite the scientific veneer, the make-up of the 50-odd person crew resembled more the complement of the good ship Minnow (“The millionaire and his wife; The movie star; The professor and Mary Ann”) than that of Mawson’s S. Y. Aurora. The pseudo-scientific antics of this menage a trois of scientists, journalists, and tourists made the voyage look more like Winter Carnival at Dartmouth than Darwin aboard the Beagle.
Comments on Turney’s website (“marked shift in westerly winds… melting large sections of the Antarctic ice sheet” ) suggest he expected to find more open water than had Mawson a century earlier. Why Turney hoped to find open water when it was well known sea ice in the Antarctic was setting records is a mystery. I suspect he’d been led astray by fellow warmists like Al Gore, who predicted in 2008 “the entire North Polar ice cap may well be completely gone in five years” . Gore almost achieved prophet status in 2012 when Arctic ice shrank to its smallest extent since modern recordkeeping began, but last year the ice made a huge comeback and is now almost back to normal.
Whatever the case, the expedition’s Russian ship, the Akademik Shokalskiy, got stuck in the ice. The Australian government sent out its ice breaker, the Aurora Australis, to rescue the ship, but they could come no closer than 10 miles from their fellow countrymen. A larger icebreaker, the Chinese Xue Long, got within six miles but could get no further. The decision was made to helicopter the stranded Aussies to the Chinese ship, leaving the Russians to their fate. But for days bad weather forced postponement of the airlift.
Meanwhile, aboard the Shokalskiy it wasn’t exactly “No phone, no lights, no motor car; Not a single luxury; Like Robinson Crusoe; It’s primitive as can be”, but then our castaways weren’t exactly basking in the tropics, either. The first mate and his Skipper too, will do their very best to make the others comf’terble in their tropic island nest (make that “antipodal mess”). Courageously ignoring their life-threatening predicament (or too drunk to remember they were in one), the boozy explorers partied as if there were no tomorrow (which might be true if the weather didn’t break and the heat ran out). On New Year’s Eve the ice-olated penguin-huggers celebrated with a concerned world through
YouTube (a bit nerdy, almost makes them look like scientists).
Unable to get a good weather forecast, the expedition contacted a San Diego TV station and asked if they could help. The station’s weatherman, John Coleman, contacted some colleagues knowledgeable on the Antarctic, who came up with a
forecast which held out the hope the wind might shift to offshore, causing the ice to break up and free the vessel. But before that could happen, the expedition opted for evacuation by helicopter when the weather improved sufficiently a day or two later.
From the Xue Long, the now world-infamous Australasian Antarctic Expedition was transferred to the Aurora Australis, which then continued on its original mission to re-supply an Australian Antarctic base. Meanwhile, the Xue Long now became stuck in the ice. Fortunately, the wind shift postulated by the weathermen came to pass, and both stuck ships, the Xue Long and the Akademik Shokalskiy, were able to free themselves. As it turns out, our intrepid explorers would have gotten home sooner had they not abandoned ship as the Shokalskiyarrived back in Australia while our parka-clad party animals were still stuck in Antarctica waiting for a ride home.
If all this hasn’t given you a chuckle, you’re a diehard warmist with no sense of humor. One last attempt to tickle your funny bone. The meteorologists who predicted the weather might improve sufficiently for the Akademik Shokalskiy to free itself are global warming skeptics, or, as the still unbowed leader of the AAE might say, deniers.
Not so funny (even by my warped standards) is the hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of dollars someone, maybe the Australian taxpayer, is going to have to ante up to cover the cost of the rescue. The AAE vowed prior to departure to plant trees in New Zealand to offset the carbon emissions resulting from their expedition. Adding in the emissions spewed out by the fossil fuel-guzzling icebreakers, this should result in a forest of taigan proportions, which, like its Siberian counterpart, will be a tribute to the awesome, fear-inspiring forces of nature.
On the bright side, the expedition fared better than Mawson’s in one respect: they all came back alive. Mawson and two companions were forced to make a 300-mile trek across the ice back to their base camp. Losing his companions to the harsh conditions along the way, Mawson stumbled into the camp after a months-long trek only to see the S. Y. Aurora steaming away in the distance. Living off the provisions left behind, Mawson spent the winter alone on Terra Australis, dreaming of that other “Land of the South” from whence he came and to which he would belatedly return the next summer.
The moral of the story? Global warming is real. Just kidding. The true moral is not to defy settled science, the science that is settled being that there is a lot about the climate we don’t understand. To see everything through the prism of a still young, still baffling warming trend is to risk, to put it ironically, snow blindness. The attribution of the recent Polar Vortex-induced cold wave in the United States to
global warming is a case in point. An obsessively global warming-centric view of the world can lead to errors of the fatal variety, as almost befell our Gilliganesque lot, but perhaps even more dangerous in the long run, to errors of science.
A poll last year showed that trust in the mainstream media is increasing, which should worry all of us who value truth, integrity and press freedom. Why? Here are 10 disturbing things everyone needs to know about the global media giants who control our supply of information, wielding immense power over the people- and even over the government.
1. Mainstream media exists solely to make profit
What´s the purpose of the mainstream media? Saying that the press exists to inform, educate or entertain is like saying Apple corporation´s primary function is to make technology which will enrich our lives. Actually, the mass media industry is the same as any other in a capitalist society: it exists to make profit. Medialens, a British campaigning site which critiques mainstream (or corporate) journalism, quotedbusiness journalist Marjorie Kelly as saying that all corporations, including those dealing with media, exist only to maximize returns to their shareholders. This is, she said, ´the law of the land…universally accepted as a kind of divine, unchallengeable truth´. Without pleasing shareholders and a board of directors, mass media enterprises simply would not exist. And once you understand this, you´ll never watch the news in the same way again.
2. Advertisers dictate content
So how does the pursuit of profit affect the news we consume? Media corporations make the vast majority (typically around 75%) of their profit from advertising, meaning it´s advertisers themselves that dictate content- not journalists, and certainly not consumers. Imagine you are editor of a successful newspaper or TV channel with high circulation or viewing figures. You attract revenue from big brands and multinational corporations such as BP, Monsanto and UAE airlines. How could you then tackle important topics such as climate change, GM food or disastrous oil spills in a way that is both honest to your audience and favorable to your clients? The simple answer is you can´t. This might explain why Andrew Ross Sorkin of the New York Times- sponsored by Goldman Sachs- is so keen todefend the crooked corporation. Andrew Marr, a political correspondent for the BBC, sums up the dilemma in his autobiography: ´The biggest question is whether advertising limits and reshapes the news agenda. It does, of course. It’s hard to make the sums add up when you are kicking the people who write the cheques.´ Enough said…
3. Billionaire tycoons & media monopolies threaten real journalism
The monopolization of the press (fewer individuals or organizations controlling increasing shares of the mass media) is growingyear by year, and this is a grave danger to press ethics and diversity. Media mogul RupertMurdoch´s neo-liberal personal politics are reflected in his 175 newspapers and endorsed by pundits (see Fox news) on the 123 TV channels he owns in the USA alone. Anyone who isn´t worried by this one man´s view of the world being consumed by millions of people across the globe- from the USA to the UK, New Zealand to Asia, Europe to Australia- isn´t thinking hard enough about the consequences. It´s a grotesquely all-encompassing monopoly, leaving no doubt that Murdoch is one of the most powerful men in the world. But as the News International phone hacking scandal showed, he´s certainly not the most honorable or ethical. Neither is AlexanderLebedev, a former KGB spy and politician who bought British newspaper The Independent in 2010. With Lebedev´s fingers in so many pies (the billionaire oligarch is into everything from investment banking to airlines), can we really expect news coverage from this once well-respected publication to continue in the same vein? Obviously not: the paper had always carried a banner on its front page declaring itself ´free from party political bias, free from proprietorial influence´, but interestingly this was dropped in September 2011.
4. Corporate press is in bed with the government
Aside from the obvious, one of the most disturbing facts to emerge from Murdoch´s News International phone hacking scandal (background information here ) was the exposure of shady connections between top government officials and press tycoons. During the scandal, and throughout the subsequent Leveson inquiry into British press ethics (or lack of them), we learned of secret meetings, threatsby Murdoch to politicians who didn´t do as he wanted, and that Prime Minister David Cameron has a very close friendship with The Sun´s then editor-in-chief (and CEO of News International) Rebekah Brooks. How can journalists do their job of holding politicians to account when they are vacationing together or rubbing shoulders at private dinner parties? Clearly, they don´t intend to. But the support works both ways- Cameron´s government tried to help Murdoch´s son win a bid for BSkyB, while bizarrely, warmongering ex Prime Minister Tony Blair is godfather to Murdoch´s daughter Grace. As well as ensuring an overwhelming bias in news coverage and election campaigns, flooding newspapers with cheap and easy articles from unquestioned government sources, and gagging writers from criticizing those in power, these secret connections also account for much of the corporate media´s incessant peddling of the patriotism lie- especially in the lead-up to attacks on other countries. Here´s an interestinganalysis of The New York Times´s coverage of the current Syria situation for example, demonstrating how corporate journalists are failing to reflect public feeling on the issue of a full-scale attack on Assad by the US and its allies.
5. Important stories are overshadowed by trivia
You could be forgiven for assuming that the most interesting part of Edward Snowden´s status as a whistleblower was his plane ride from Hong Kong to Russia, or his lengthy stint waiting in Moscow airport for someone- anyone- to offer him asylum. Because with the exception of The Guardian who published the leaks (read them in fullhere), the media has generally preferred not to focus on Snowden´s damning revelations about freedom and tyranny, but rather on banaltrivia – his personality and background, whether his girlfriend misses him, whether he is actually a Chinese spy, and ahhh, didn´t he remind us all of Where´s Waldo as he flitted across the globe as a wanted fugitive? The same could be said of Bradley Manning´s gender re-assignment, which conveniently overshadowed the enormous injustice of his sentence. And what of Julian Assange? His profile on the globally-respected BBC is dedicated almost entirely to a subtle smearing of character, rather than detailing Wikileaks´s profound impact on our view of the world. In every case, the principal stories are forgotten as our attention, lost in a sea of trivia, is expertly diverted from the real issues at hand: those which invariably, the government wants us to forget.
6. Mainstream media doesn´t ask questions
´Check your sources, check your facts´ are golden rules in journalism 101, but you wouldn´t guess that from reading the mainstream press or watching corporate TV channels. At the time of writing, Obama is beating the war drums over Syria. Following accusations by the US and Britain that Assad was responsible for a nerve gas attack on his own civilians last month, most mainstream newspapers- like the afore-mentioned New York Times- have failed to demand evidence or call for restraint on a full-scale attack. But there are several good reasons why journalists should question the official story. Firstly, British right-wing newspaper The Daily Mail actually ran a news piece back in January this year, publishing leaked emails from a British arms company showing the US was planning a false flag chemical attack on Syria´s civilians. They would then blame it on Assad to gain public support for a subsequent full-scale invasion. The article was hastily deleted but a cached version still exists. Other recent evidence lends support to the unthinkable. It has emerged that the chemicals used to make the nerve gas were indeed shipped from Britain, and German intelligenceinsists Assad was not responsible for the chemical attack. Meanwhile, a hacktivist has come forward with alleged evidence of US intelligence agencies´ involvement in the massacre (download it for yourself here ), with a growing body of evidence suggesting this vile plot was hatched by Western powers. Never overlook the corporate media´s ties to big business and big government before accepting what you are told- because if journalism is dead, you have a right and a duty to ask your own questions.
7. Corporate journalists hate real journalists
Sirota rightly points out the irony of this: ´Here we have a reporter expressing excitement at the prospect of the government executing the publisher of information that became the basis for some of the most important journalism in the last decade.´ Sirota goes on to note various examples of what he calls the ´Journalists against Journalism club´, and gives severalexamples of how The Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald has been attacked by the corporate press for publishing Snowden´s leaks. The New York Times’ Andrew Ross Sorkin called for Greenwald’s arrest, while NBC’s David Gregory´s declared that Greenwald has ´aided and abetted Snowden´. As for the question of whether journalists can indeed be outspoken, Sirota accurately notes that it all depends on whether their opinions serve or challenge the status quo, and goes on to list the hypocrisy of Greenwald´s critics in depth: ´Grunwald has saber-rattling opinions that proudly support the government’s drone strikes and surveillance. Sorkin’s opinions promote Wall Street’s interests. (The Washington Post´s David) Broder had opinions that supported, among other things, the government’s corporate-serving “free” trade agenda. (The Washington Post´s Bob) Woodward has opinions backing an ever-bigger Pentagon budget that enriches defense contractors. (The Atlantic´s Jeffrey) Goldberg promotes the Military-Industrial Complex’s generally pro-war opinions. (The New York Times´s Thomas) Friedman is all of them combined, promoting both “free” trade and “suck on this” militarism. Because these voices loyally promote the unstated assumptions that serve the power structure and that dominate American politics, all of their particular opinions aren’t even typically portrayed as opinions; they are usually portrayed as noncontroversial objectivity.´
8. Bad news sells, good news is censored, and celebrity gossip trumps important issues
It´s sad but true: bad news really does sell more newspapers. But why? Are we really so pessimistic? Do we relish the suffering of others? Are we secretly glad that something terrible happened to someone else, not us? Reading the corporate press as an alien visiting Earth you might assume so. Generally, news coverage is sensationalist and depressing as hell, with so many pages dedicated to murder, rape and pedophilia and yet none to the billions of good deeds and amazingly inspirational movements taking place every minute of every day all over the planet. But the reasons we consume bad news are perfectly logical. In times of harmony and peace, people simply don´t feel the need to educate themselves as much as they do in times of crises. That´s good news for anyone beginning to despair that humans are apathetic, hateful and dumb, and it could even be argued that this sobering and simple fact is a great incentive for the mass media industry to do something worthwhile. They could start offering the positive and hopeful angle for a change. They could use dark periods of increased public interest to convey a message of peace and justice. They could reflect humanity´s desire for solutions and our urgent concerns for the environment. They could act as the voice of a global population who has had enough of violence and lies to campaign for transparency, equality, freedom, truth, and real democracy. Would that sell newspapers? I think so. They could even hold a few politicians to account on behalf of the people, wouldn´t that be something? But for the foreseeable future, it´s likely the corporate press will just distract our attention with another picture of Rhianna´s butt, another rumor about Justin Bieber´s coke habit, or another article about Kim Kardashian (who is she again?) wearing perspex heels with swollen ankles while pregnant. Who cares about the missing$21 trillion, what was she thinking?
9. Whoever controls language controls the population
Have you read George Orwell´s classic novel1984 yet? It´s become a clichéd reference in today´s dystopia, that´s true, but with good reason. There are many- too many- parallels between Orwell´s dark imaginary future and our current reality, but one important part of his vision concerned language. Orwell coined the word ´Newspeak´ to describe a simplistic version of the English language with the aim of limiting free thought on issues that would challenge the status quo (creativity, peace, and individualism for example). The concept of Newspeak includes what Orwell called ´DoubleThink´- how language is made ambiguous or even inverted to convey the opposite of what is true. In his book, the Ministry of War is known as the Ministry of Love, for example, while the Ministry of Truth deals with propaganda and entertainment. Sound familiar yet? Another book that delves into this topic deeper is Unspeak, a must-read for anyone interested in language and power and specifically how words are distorted for political ends. Terms such as ´peace keeping missiles´, ´extremists´ and ´no-fly zones´, weapons being referred to as ´assets´, or misleading business euphemisms such as ´downsizing´ for redundancy and ´sunset´ for termination- these, and hundreds of other examples, demonstrate how powerful language can be. In a world of growing corporate media monopolization, those who wield this power can manipulate words and therefore public reaction, to encourage compliance, uphold the status quo, or provoke fear.
10. Freedom of the press no longer exists
The only press that is currently free (at least for now) is the independent publication with no corporate advertisers, board of directors, shareholders or CEOs. Details of how the state has redefined journalism are noted here and are mentioned in #7, but the best recent example would be the government´s treatment of The Guardian over its publication of the Snowden leaks. As a side note, it´s possible this paper plays us as well as any other- The Guardian Media Group isn´t small fry, after all. But on the other hand- bearing in mind points 1 to 9- why should we find it hard to believe that after the NSA files were published, editor Alan Rusbridge wastold by the powers that be ´you´ve had your fun, now return the files´, that government officials stormed his newsroom and smashed up hard drives, or that Greenwald´s partner David Miranda wasdetained for 9 hours in a London airport under the Terrorism Act as he delivered documents related to the columnist´s story? Journalism, Alan Rusbridge lamented, ´may be facing a kind of existential threat.´ As CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather wrote: ‘We have few princes and earls today, but we surely have their modern-day equivalents in the very wealthy who seek to manage the news, make unsavory facts disappear and elect representatives who are in service to their own economic and social agenda… The “free press” is no longer a check on power. It has instead become part of the power apparatus itself.’
Sophie is a staff writer for True Activist and a freelance feature writer for various publications on society, activism and other topics. You can read more of her stuff here.
Source: True Activist
Obama’s war on Syria rages. It’s taken a horrific toll nationwide. Tens of thousands died. Dozens more do daily.
Millions were displaced. Numbers internally and abroad range up to one-third of Syria’s population. Humanitarian crisis conditions exist. Human suffering is extreme.
Peace talks reflect more illusion than reality. On January 22, they’re scheduled to begin.
On Sunday and Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met with so-called Friends of Syria countries in Paris.
They include America, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Qatar and UAE.
They’re imperial collaborators. They no friends of the great majority of Syrians. On Sunday, they issued a joint statement, saying:
“Assad and his close associates with blood on their hands will have no role in Syria.”
Throughout nearly three years of conflict, they’ve wrongfully blamed him for Western-backed insurgent crimes.
They’re imperial collaborators. They’re responsible for horrific bloodshed. They want regime change. They want mass slaughter and destruction to achieve it.
They want sole right to choose who’ll rule. They want Syrians having no say. They want pro-Western stooges in charge. They’re ravaging and destroying a once peaceful country.
They’re responsible for high crimes against peace. No end of conflict looms. It’s unclear if talks will take place as scheduled. It’s unclear if it matters.
It’s unclear who’s attending. Divided opposition groups may not come. They’re preoccupied with slaughtering each other instead.
On January 12, AFP headlined “700 killed in Syria rebel-jihadist battle: monitor.”
Hundreds more are missing. Fighting rages. It’s been ongoing for days. Civilians are caught in the middle. Perhaps well over 1,000 died. Expect many more to perish.
Northern provinces are affected. Aleppo, Idlib and Raqa are hard hit. So are Hama and Homs. At least 16 suicide attacks occurred. Dozens were killed. More die daily. Syria remains a cauldron of violence.
On Sunday, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius lied, saying:
“It’s the regime of Bashar al-Assad that is feeding terrorism. We must bring that regime to an end.”
“There is no solution to the Syrian tragedy apart from a political solution. And there is no possibility to achieve (it) if Geneva two does not take place.”
Geneva I ended in failure. Washington and other opponents demanded he must go. They demand he go now. They do so illegitimately.
On Sunday, John Kerry discussed prospects for Middle East peace. He addressed Syria. He blamed Assad for Obama’s war.
“There is an urgent need for the Syrian regime to implement its obligations under the UN Security Council Presidential Statement,” he said.
“We believe it is possible for the regime to (cease fighting) before Geneva – local ceasefires if necessary – a ceasefire with respect to Aleppo, and send the signal that they are prepared to set a different mood, a different climate, a different stage for the possibility of success in Geneva.”
“They have the power to do that. And the opposition has pledged that if they will do that. The opposition will live by it.”
False! Kerry knows it. Extremist elements continue fighting. They reject peace talks. Washington bears full responsibility for ongoing conflict. Assad defends Syria responsibly.
He’s battling US-backed foreign invaders. Don’t expect Kerry to explain. Continued aggression is planned.
Washington is directly involved in supplying lethal aid. It’s been doing it all along. It’s coming cross border from Turkey and Jordan. Israel is supplying weapons. CIA and US special forces are directly involved.
Kerry lied saying Assad “disregard(s) the most basic human rights.” Extremist opposition forces are barbaric. They’ve committed numerous atrocities. Assad is wrongfully blamed.
Washington wants war on Syria continued. Geneva II won’t end it. Demanding Assad must go is illegal.
Syrians alone have sole right to decide who’ll lead them. Foreign interference violates international law.
Kerry is an unindicted war criminal. He has no legitimacy whatever. He’s less than optimistic about Syria.
“None of us have an expectation,” he said. “(F)ull agreement” is unlikely.
“What we do expect is to begin to get the parties at the table convened and negotiating and beginning a process of waging an even stronger effort to provide for this political solution.”
“It’ll take a little bit of time, but I’m confident that it needs that forum. It needs all the players at the table.”
“It needs the umbrella of the United Nations.” It needs Assad gone, according to Kerry.
On Sunday, Friends of Syria countries issued a statement saying Geneva Two’s objective is replacing Assad with transitional governance.
They want one fully empowered. They want pro-Western stooges in charge. They want what Syrians won’t tolerate.
Ahmad Jarba heads the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces. He replaced Moaz al-Khatib. He’s no friend of Syrians. He’s one-sidedly pro-Western.
He issued a statement saying:
“The most important aspect of today’s meeting is that we all agree to say that the Assad family has no future in Syria.”
“Removing Assad from Syria for the future has now been clearly established in a unanimous decision adopted by (Friends of Syria countries) without the possibility for ambiguity.”
Lavrov responded saying:
“Our partners are blinded by an ideological mission for regime change.”
“I am convinced that the West is doing this to demonstrate that they call the shots in the Middle East. This is a totally politicized approach.”
Russia is fundamentally opposed. It respects Syrian sovereignty. International laws matter. Putin calls force against sovereign nations unacceptable. He said waging it is aggression.
Removing Assad assures endless conflict. Doing so frees jihadists to run wild. Syria will resemble Iraq and Libya.
Daily conflict kills dozens in both countries. Violence shows no signs of ending. Pro-Western puppet governance can’t stop it.
Institute of World Economy and International Relations senior fellow Stanislav Ivanov believes peace in Syria remains elusive.
He doubts Geneva II will work. Given what remains ongoing, it’s destined to fail, he said.
He believes a UN-sponsored conference should precede Geneva. All relevant international parties should be involved.
Iran should be invited unconditionally. It won’t attend Geneva any other way.
Center for Contemporary Iranian Studies Rajab Safarov calls Geneva talks this month futile.
“The conference will not take place because of the US,” he said. “Washington cannot get rid of the heavy pressure from Saudi Arabia and Qatar. They are not interested in finding a solution to the Syrian issue,” he added.
“There are almost no chances this conference and even holding it can succeed,” he said.
“Assad needs 4-6 months (more fighting) maximum. After that there will be no opposition in Syria. And no need” for peace talks, he believes.
At the same time, he thinks Geneva II can achieve something positive. Geneva I failed by demanding Assad must go.
Friends of Syria countries demand it now. Doing so runs counter to what most Syrians wish. Peace remains a convenient illusion.
Expect conflict without end to continue. It’s virtually certain without Iran’s involvement to end it.
Regional violence shows no signs of ending. Greater war looms possible. Post-9/11, millions died. Washington bears full responsibility.
It’s waging war on humanity. Expect other countries to be ravaged and destroyed before it ends.
The entire region may become embroiled in conflict. Global war is possible. Imagine the potential consequences. Imagine what no responsible leaders should risk.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at email@example.com.
His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
Ever since Ariel Sharon began rising up through the ranks of Israeli neo-con politics by hook or by crook, I’ve always viewed him as a Bad Guy. But maybe he wasn’t all that bad after all — at least not within the time-frame right before his sudden stroke. According to former IGF officer Roi Tov, Sharon might have finally seen the light and started actually implementing some of the few hopeful features of GWB’s ill-conceived “Road Map,” now a document as long-forgotten as Mr. Bush himself.
Tov is an Israeli journalist who I always love to read because he always seems to have juicy insider knowledge of all the latest hot gossip about what is going on in the highest Israeli neo-con circles. And according to Tov, Sharon had been taking the Peace Process a little bit too seriously right before his sudden stroke and, like Rabin, needed to be stopped. http://www.roitov.com/
Sharon himself must have constantly been aware, like all good neo-cons everywhere have known since way back in JFK’s day, that when you play in neo-con Big Leagues, you gotta toe the current party line or else. But at least Sharon, there toward the end, might possibly have tried at long last to do the Right Thing toward establishing peace with Palestine — perhaps knowing full well that doing so would cause him to tangle with the Shin Beth. Perhaps I should give Sharon snaps for that. Taking on the Shin Beth is not for the timid of heart.
Perhaps Sharon finally wanted to atone for being the Butcher of Sabra and Shatila. Hey, it could happen.
But, if so, Sharon must have also forgotten the Number One neo-con rule: “Cross us and you are a dead man. We eat our young.” Sucks to be you, Ariel Sharon!
Anyway. We may never know the whole story. Neither Sharon nor Rabin are talking. And neither is the Shin Beth.
Israeli politics are so much fun to watch — almost as much fun as watching American politics. Which brings me to the subject of Chris Christie. “What did he know and when did he know it?” seems to be the big question on everyone’s lips. But, for me, the real question here should be, “Why the freak do Americans continue to passively put up with all of America’s constant and soul-killing traffic jams in the first place?”
If Christie and/or his loyal staff hadn’t caused the Fort Lee traffic jam, then something else would have caused it.
There are traffic jams all over America right now, night and day. 24/7. And nobody seems to even notice or care. We all just passively endure wasting hours and hours of our life each day that we will never get back.
For instance, the new San Francisco bay bridge is awesome to look at, but as a vehicle-mover, it sadly fails. The old bridge handled up to one-third more cars-per-hour than this new, spectacular one.
But all these new bridges and old bridges and freeways and rush-hour traffic jams all beg the huge major question, which is: “What kind of harsh air-pollution hazards are all these idling, gridlocked vehicles creating? And when are we going to finally take climate change seriously and start eliminating the use of pollution-causing motor vehicles entirely?”
This new scandal regarding Governor Christie and Fort Lee might be offering us a really good opportunity to start a national dialogue with regard to, first, the development of more public transportation options in order to alleviate traffic jams and save the air, and, second, finally doing something about the limited safety and diminishing returns of using cars themselves in this disastrous day and age of life-threatening climate change.
Canada’s Conservative government is trying to convince Canadian Jews to support its right-wing imperialistic worldview.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently spoke to the annual Toronto gala of the Jewish National Fund, which has a long history of dispossessing Palestinians and discriminating against non-Jews.
Echoing the words of Theodor Herzl, a founder of political Zionism, Harper told the 4,000 attendees that Israel is a “light of freedom and democracy in what is otherwise a region of darkness.”
Shortly before this event the Minister for Employment and Social Development Jason Kenney spoke at the launch of the Canadian chapter of the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI). Established by a former colonel in the Israeli military, MEMRI selectively (mis)translates stories from Arab and Iranian media in a bid to advance expansionist Israeli interests.
Kenney told the audience assembled at Montreal’s Shaar Hashomayim Synagogue that MEMRI is “a peaceful weapon of truth-telling in a civilizational conflict in which we are all engaged.”
The comments from Harper and Kenney certainly play well with those in the Jewish community committed to Israeli and Western imperialism, but they also spur that sentiment. Most people respect power and when leading politicians say a country is involved in a “civilizational conflict” against “a region of darkness” it tends to shape opinion.
Few Canadian Jews — or others among the target audience for that matter — realize that Harper and Kenney don’t take this “clash of civilizations” talk literally (if they did they wouldn’t be deepening political ties with a number of Middle Eastern monarchies and selling billions of dollars in weaponry to the region’s “darkest” regime, Saudi Arabia.)
While the Harper government’s pro-Israel comments are particularly extreme, they are far from unique in Canadian history. For more than a century non-Jewish Canadians have promoted a Jewish homeland in Palestine.
Similar to Europe, Zionism’s roots in Canada are Christian, not Jewish. Early Canadian support for Zionism was based on the more literal readings of the Bible that flowed out of the Protestant Reformation.
They were also tied to this country’s status as a dominion of the British Empire, which in the latter half of the nineteenth century began to see Zionism as a potential vehicle to strengthen its geostrategic position in the region.
At the time of confederation, Canada’s preeminent Christian Zionist was Henry Wentworth Monk. To buy Palestine from the Ottoman Empire in 1875, Monk began the Palestine Restoration Fund.
Unsuccessful, seven years later he took out an ad in the Jewish World proposing a “Bank of Israel” to finance Jewish resettlement. Irving Abella’s book A Coat of Many Colours: Two Centuries of Jewish Life in Canada describes Monk as “an eccentric but respected businessman” who took up a campaign in Canada and England to raise funds for buying land in Palestine during the 1870s and 1880s.
“In 1881 Monk even proposed setting up a Jewish National Fund,” Abella writes. “He issued manifestoes, wrote long articles, spoke to assorted meetings and lobbied extensively in England and Canada to realize his dream.”
Monk called for the British Empire to establish a “dominion of Israel” similar to the dominion of Canada. In the 1978 book Canada and Palestine, Zachariah Kay notes: “Monk believed that Palestine was the logical center of the British Empire, and could help form a confederation of the English-speaking world.”
Monk was not alone in Canada. Citing a mix of Christian and pro-British rationale, leading Canadian politicians repeatedly expressed support for Zionism. In 1907, two cabinet ministers attended the Federation of Zionist Societies of Canada convention, telling delegates that Zionism had the support of the government, according to Kay’s book.
Kay’s book also states that Arthur Meighen, then solicitor-general and later prime minister, proclaimed in November 1915: “I think I can speak for those of the Christian faith when I express the wish that God speed the day when the land of your forefathers shall be yours again. This task I hope will be performed by that champion of liberty the world over — the British Empire.”
The 1917 Balfour Declaration, which declared British support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine, boosted support for Zionism in this country. In the years thereafter, Canadian politicians of various stripes repeatedly urged Jews (and others) to support Zionism.
During a July 1922 speech to the Zionist Federation of Canada, the anti-Semitic Prime Minister Mackenzie King “was effusive with praise for Zionism,” explains David Bercuson in Canada and the Birth of Israel. King told participants their aspirations were “in consonance” with the greatest ideals of the “Englishman.”
A dozen years later, Prime Minister R.B. Bennett told a coast to-coast radio broadcast for the launch of the United Palestine Appeal fund drive that the Balfour Declaration and the British conquest of Palestine represented the beginning of the fulfillment of biblical prophecies.
According to a 1962 book by Canadian Zionist Bernard Figler, Bennett said, “When the promises of God, speaking through his prophets, are that the home will be restored in the homeland of their forefathers…Scriptural prophecy is being fulfilled. The restoration of Zion has begun.”
Jewish Zionism must be understood from within the political climate in which it operated. And Canada’s political culture clearly fostered Zionist ideals.
British imperialism, Christian Zionism and nationalist ideology were all part of this country’s political fabric. Additionally, in the early 1900s most Canadians did not find it odd that Europeans would take a “backward” people’s land, which is what settlers did to the indigenous population here.
A number of books about Canada’s Jewish community discuss how elite Canadian Jews, especially after the 1917 Balfour Declaration, were more active Zionists than their US counterparts. In Canada’s Jews: A People’s Journey, Gerald Tulchinsky explains: “The First World War accentuated differences between Canadian and American Jewry. For example, loyalty to Britain’s cause provided Zionists with opportunities to identify their purposes with Britain’s imperial mission.”
When British General Edmund Allenby led a campaign in late 1917 to take Palestine from the Ottomans as many as 400 Canadians (about half recruited specifically for the task) fought in Allenby’s Jewish Legion. Sometimes beleaguered Jewish communities were praised by the media for taking up England’s cause to conquer Palestine.
Since Israel’s creation in 1948 different Canadian governments have expressed varying degrees of support. But overall, the laudatory public declarations have continued.
After a long career of support for Zionism as external minister and prime minister, Lester Pearson referred to that country as “an outpost, if you will, of the West in the Middle East.”
External Affairs Minister Don Jamieson echoed this sentiment in an October 1977 speech. “Israel is an increasingly valuable ally of the West and Jews and non-Jews alike should see to it that Israel remains … an ally of the Western world,” Jamieson said. “We in Canada must see to it that when Israel is making such tremendous sacrifices, we should stand ready to help Israel with oil and material assistance.”
Yes, the current government is more aggressive in its public declarations than any before it and this has helped drive the establishment Jewish community to an even more hardline position.
To the Conservatives’ delight, two years ago the ninety-year old Canadian Jewish Congress was disbanded by its wealthy donors in favor of an even more Israel-focused Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs. Similarly, the Conservatives’ strong ties to Christian Zionism has prodded the Zionist lobby group B’nai Brith to deepen its ties with Canada Christian College and the prominent right-wing evangelist Charles McVety.
At the same time, the anti-racist sectors of Canada’s Jewish community have made major strides in recent years. Groups such as Independent Jewish Voices, Not In Our Name, Jewish Voice for Peace, the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, Women in Solidarity with Palestine and Jews for a Just Peace, have undercut the notion that all Canadian Jews support Israeli policy or Zionism. But these groups are unlikely to become dominant voices within the Jewish community until there is a shift in Canada’s political culture.
Canadian Zionism has long been part of the religious and political establishment. In every community there are those who take the side of the rich and powerful.
Source: Global Research
Going offline or off the grid is not easy for everyone. Modern society has come to repudiate the very elements that make civilization possible. Living in cyber space is existence on life support at best. Until now, people had idiosyncratic relations, with intimate experiences and personal memories. Thoughts were internal and private conduct was confidential. Under a hi-tech environment, the system moves closer to an all knowing eye. But what happens, when the public becomes enlightened to the bondage of the tech prison, thanks to all the whistleblowers?
The irony befits the hypocrite techie class of privacy violators. Lamenting that their fiefdom of intrusive surveillance and data mining might be compromised, the high priests of SPY, Inc. are flustered. With the disclosure of a synergistic relationship of an intertwined nature, the high-tech prophets lay exposed. NSA Spying Risks $35 Billion in U.S. Technology Sales has the flagship government front companies in full damage control.
“News about U.S. surveillance disclosed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden has “the great potential for doing serious damage to the competitiveness” of U.S. companies such as Cupertino, California-based Apple, Facebook Inc., and Microsoft Corp., Richard Salgado, Google’s director for law enforcement and information security, told a U.S. Senate panel Nov. 13. “The trust that’s threatened is essential to these businesses.”
With the announcement that Facebook faces lawsuit for allegedly scanning private messages, the diminutive privacy on this social network just got smaller. “Facebook was one of the Web Services that was caught scanning URLs despite such activity remaining undisclosed to the user,” according to the complaint.Can your personal persona remain your own business? What exactly can be attempted to protect your identity and privacy?
Woodrow Hartzog and Evan Selinger propose in Obscurity: A Better Way to Think About Your Data Than ‘Privacy’, adding layers of complexity guards against most of the ordinary risks of scrutinized personal data. However, this argument is trite since the cyber world of digital transmission uses the technological routing and coding systems, engineered as part of the total government retrieval society.
“Obscurity is the idea that when information is hard to obtain or understand, it is, to some degree, safe. Safety, here, doesn’t mean inaccessible. Competent and determined data hunters armed with the right tools can always find a way to get it. Less committed folks, however, experience great effort as a deterrent.
Online, obscurity is created through a combination of factors. Being invisible to search engines increases obscurity. So does using privacy settings and pseudonyms. Disclosing information in coded ways that only a limited audience will grasp enhances obscurity, too. Since few online disclosures are truly confidential or highly publicized, the lion’s share of communication on the social web falls along the expansive continuum of obscurity: a range that runs from completely hidden to totally obvious.”
Privacy is a hindrance to corporate marketing, while secrecy is a threat to the national security establishment that observes the basic rule of all technology. Use the optimum scientific hi-tech enhancement to maintain and further the interests of the ruling elites. Any technological development is viewed as a useful advancement if it works to expand control over the economy or social structure.
Supporting this conclusion is an article from the master of facture awareness. Michael Snyder provides an impactful list of 32 Privacy Destroying Technologies That Are Systematically Transforming America Into A Giant Prison.
“Many people speak of this as being the “Information Age”, but most Americans don’t really stop and think about what that really means. Most of the information that is considered to be so “valuable” is actually about all of us. Businesses want to know as much about all of us as possible so that they can sell us stuff. Government officials want to know as much about all of us as possible so that they can make sure that we are not doing anything that they don’t like.”
If you need more convincing, examine the 10 Privacy-Destroying Technologies That Are Turning America Into A Police State, by Daniel Jennings. How many of these devices or practices are monitoring your every move and thought?
- Electric meters
- Telematic devices on cars
- RFID chips in drivers’ licenses, credit cards and other cards that allow the tracking of individuals
- Data mining by local and federal government
- Voice recognition. Russian scientists have invented software called Voice Grid Nation that can identify the voices of millions of different people
- Fingerprint recognition
- Chips that monitor your body functions
- Behavior monitoring software
- Next Generation surveillance systems such as Trapwire and Intellistreet
Popular consensus would have you believe that this infringement into your most personal behavior is inevitable and it is futile to resist. From an institutional perspective that viewpoint seems correct. Nonetheless, the preservation of your human dignity demands a vigorous reassessment of the numerous ways you have the ability to influence, if not, protect against this tech assault.
Before assuming that tech is great, reflect upon the culture of expected progress. Proponents of applied science automatically assume that advancement comes from such evolution. Conversely, the actual function of various innovations often brings the loss of personal solitude. Tech is not neutral. By definition new or different technology changes the landscape.
What does not change is human nature. Supercharging the velocity and speed of functions and the distribution of information, without guarding the integrity of personal consent is intrinsically immoral. While that statement may seem obsolete as the NSA constructs the largest digital computer memory center in the history of the world in Utah with the capability of storing 5 zettabytes of data, the principle of inherent autonomy still remains.Amitai Etzioni presents an academic postulation, attempting to answer the question, Are New Technologies the Enemy of Privacy?
“Privacy is one good among other goods and should be weighed as such. The relationship between technology and privacy is best viewed as an arms race between advancements that diminish privacy and those that better protect it, rather than the semi-Luddite view which sees technology as one-sided development enabling those who seek to invade privacy to overrun those who seek to protect it. The merits or defects of particular technologies are not inherent to the technologies, but rather, depend on how they are used and above all, on how closely their use is monitored and accounted for by the parties involved. In order to reassure the public and to ensure accountability and oversight, a civilian review board should be created to monitor the government’s use of surveillance and related technologies. Proper accountability requires multiple layers of oversight, and should not be left solely in the hands of the government.”
The problem with this arms race is that it is waged among equally corrupt globalist factions. When Mr. Etzioni asserts “How they are used” he interjects the moral imperative. The record of Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon, etc. respect and protection of personal confidentially is not exactly reassuring. Their government parent partner agencies in data mining use the telecommunication corporations like Verizon, AT&T and ISP providers as giant sucking machines that feed the secretive intelligence community.Understanding the drill is simple, secrecy resides within the ruling class, while all personal privacy is relegated to the museum of family archives. Just how can such a relationship be monitored by some kind of nebulous civil board to ensure non consensual privacy?
With the overwhelming wherewithal, increasing technological capacities allow, even greater levels of abuse and evil applications. If no other lesson is internalized from the Edward Snowden disclosures, society better admit that trust in the secure use of communication technology is near zero.
When privacy is surrendered so willingly, especially with no consequences for the offending government agencies or complicit corporatist associates, the future of civilized life comes into question. Yet, people are so easily induced to acclimate into using the next wizard device.
Life is a beach no longer. Now Disney Can Track Your Every Move with NSA-Style Wristbands, is using the “Magic Bands” — which are currently optional — are part of a new MyMagic+ “vacation management system” that can track guests as they move throughout the park..Efficient? Perhaps. But post-Snowden, some worry that Magic Bands are nothing more than NSA-esque tracking devices.”
Oh, that voluntary choice lasts only as long as it is offered. This culture of “personal space” invasion is meant to indoctrinate the friendly likes into a sleeping death from poison apples. Being buried alive, in a snow job of tech that promises you will be the fairest in the land, will not make you a queen.That prince charming kiss only comes with resisting any snooping gear that diminishes the innate right for privacy. Taking protective measure against technological enslavement is the real national security mandate. The enemy is not some fairy tale monster; just look no further than to your own government. You have the right to your secrets. Dump the smart devices and go as low-tech as possible.
As the global financial crisis now enters its seventh year, it is time to start asking difficult questions about the right priorities for popular protest if we want to realise a truly united voice of the world’s people. There can be no revolution in a truly moral or global sense until the critical needs of the extreme poor are prioritised and upheld, which will require mass mobilisations in the streets like we have never seen before.
At the onset of 2014, many people are now anticipating the prospect of a ‘global revolution’. The intense revolutionary fervour of 2011 may have dissipated in North America and much of Western Europe in the past couple of years, but a new geography of protest continues to shift and transmute in different countries and world regions – the million people on the streets of Brazil in June last year; the earlier defence of the commons in Istanbul’s Taksim Gezi Park; the indigenous uprising and student protests across Canada; the Ukraine demonstrations that are still under way.
There is no way of predicting where a mass protest movement will kick off next or what form it will take, but analysts expect that an even larger-scale version of an Occupy Wall Street-type movement will emerge in 2014. The conditions for a truly global political awakening are firmly in place, and few can believe in the politician’s rhetoric about the world economy sorting out its problems during the year ahead. Wealth and income inequalities continue to spiral out of control, increasingly to the benefit of the 1% (or indeed the 0.001%). Austerity policies pushed by governments on both sides of the Atlantic continue to threaten the social gains made since the Second World War, which is deepening social divisions and creating a new situation of desperately poor and hungry people in Britain, America and many so-called wealthy countries.
And there is no shortage of analysis about the structural crisis of our political and economic systems, from chronic unemployment and falling real incomes to corporate-captured representative democracies and Orwellian state controls. At the same time, governments remain committed to the paradigm of endless growth for its own sake, and are nearly all beholden to the interests of giant energy corporations that are determined to burn more fossil fuels than the planet can absorb without becoming unliveable. Not to mention the escalation of climate and ecological disasters, dwindling oil reserves, the risk of food shortages and further food price volatility, or even the prospect of global terrorism. Hence the growing understanding among everyday people that we are in the midst of a crisis of civilization, and we cannot rely on our existing government administrations to affect a necessary transformation of the international political and economic order.
The revised meaning of ‘revolution’
As we continue along this chaotic and uncertain road, the very idea of social or political ‘revolution’ is taking on new and different meanings. A common understanding of the term is no longer limited to the revolutionary wave of actions of the 20th century, which were typically led by charismatic leaders and a strong ideology, and often involved the violent overthrow of state power (notwithstanding such heroic examples of non-violent political struggle as Gandhi, Luther King and Vaclav Havel). But now we have the examples of Occupy, the Arab Spring, the Taksim Square demonstrations and other mass protest movements that defy conventional explanation in their spontaneous and largely peaceful mobilisations, their leaderless structures and practice of horizontal democracy, as well as their disavowal of traditional left/right politics and ideologies or ‘isms’, such as socialism and communism.
Since 2011 there is also much serious talk of a revolution of love and a collective awakening to our spiritual potential as human beings, as captured in the now-famous words of Russell Brand who advocates a “total revolution of consciousness and our entire social, political and economic systems”. Others speak of a revolution in our sense of self as ‘global citizens’, in which we equate our own interests with those of people anywhere in the world, and we no longer conform to a financialised vision of society in which we are forced to compete with everyone else as ‘others’. In short, a renewed sense of idealism and hope is everywhere being felt for a new society to be built from within the existing one, and for a revolution in every sense of the word – in our values, our imaginations, our lifestyles and our social relations, as well as in our political and economic structures.
What still isn’t clear is how the growing call for revolutionary change and new economic models can be realised on a truly international basis, and for the common good of all people in all countries – not only for the citizens of individual nations (in particular within the most advanced economies). The new protest movements may draw on a concept of human rights that is necessarily international, and they may be driven by social networks and communications technology that is shared beyond national borders, but their various concerns and demands are still generally of a domestic and country-specific nature.
Following the artful state repression of Occupy Wall Street, the vision of a collectively organised alternative to neoliberal politics is too often lost in a fight for or against individual reforms, while the Occupy movement as a whole has become increasingly atomised and fragmented. The Arab Spring is fast fading in memory, as exemplified by the political chaos and recent crackdown on popular dissent in Egypt. And there is little evidence of a shared agenda for change that can unify citizens of the richest and poorest nations on a common platform, one that recognises the need for global as well as national forms of redistribution as a pathway towards sharing the world rather than keeping it divided.
Blueprints for a new world
This is not to say that realistic proposals for planetary change do not exist, as individuals and groups everywhere are discussing the necessary reforms and objectives for how the economy should be run democratically at all levels, from the local to global. An abundance of enlightened thinking outlines the need for a ‘revolution’ in every aspect of our economic and political systems – a commons revolution, a food sovereignty revolution, a renewable energy revolution, the next American revolution – which altogether articulate an effective blueprint for a new and better world. But great uncertainty remains around how this crucial transformation of our lives can be affected when such immensely powerful forces of economic and political self-interest control the current world direction, combined with political apathy and disengagement among a vast swathe of the population.
With the global financial and economic crisis now entering its seventh year, it is time to start asking some difficult questions about the right priorities for popular protest if we want to realise a truly united voice of the world’s people. It is inevitable that the gap between rich and poor will continue to increase in most countries, and the reality of poverty and hunger will worsen across the world – regardless of the distorted arguments by the World Bank and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) coterie at the UN. And as living standards decline for many middle-class families in developed countries, there is a risk that people will remain preoccupied with their own situations and solely national concerns, which is already where all the militant strength is being directed in European and U.S. protest movements.
But there is no escaping the enormous disparities in wealth and income between rich OECD countries and the less developed nations, where millions of people face such extreme deprivation and food insecurity that at least 40,000 people needlessly die each day from poverty-related causes. There can be no genuine revolution in a moral or global sense until the critical needs of these voiceless poor are prioritised and upheld, which will require mass mobilisations in the streets like we have never seen before – not only predicated on redistributing resources from the 1% to the 99% within our own countries, but also centred on a shared demand for a fairer distribution of wealth, power and resources across the entire world. Perhaps that is where the true meaning of ‘global revolution’ begins, and it could be our greatest hope for a sustainable and just future in the coming year and beyond.
It is the responsibility of intellectuals to speak the Truth and expose lies. — Noam Chomsky.
My book, The Wizards of Ozymandias, was dedicated “To the memory and spirit of Sophie and Hans Scholl and the White Rose, who reminded us what it means to be civilized.” These wonderful young people — most in their teens or twenties — lived in Germany during the Hitler regime, and spent much of their time writing and distributing leaflets exposing and criticizing the policies and practices of the Nazi state. They were found out; brought to trial; found guilty of treason, the demoralization of the troops, and abetting the enemy, and summarily beheaded. Sophie’s Gestapo interrogator raises the same arguments one hears directed against such modern speakers of truth as Chelsea Manning, Ed Snowden, Julian Assange, Glenn Greenwald, and others. Those whose moral and intellectual standards can rise no higher than to whine “the law is the law,” would do well to consider the exchange between Sophie and her prosecutor. The Nazi functionary declares: “Without law, there is no order. What can we rely on if not the law?” Sophie responds: “Your conscience. Laws change. Conscience doesn’t.”
Our Western culture is in a state of total collapse. Our institutionalized world is increasingly hostile to any utterances of truth that would be upsetting to the status quo. The mainstream media and most of academia long ago gave themselves over to propagandizing on behalf of defending and/or enhancing the coercive power structure of the state. When war policies are under discussion, retired Army generals or officials from “think-tanks” funded by the national defense industry, are trotted out to “debate” such non-issues as how many troops to send in, who to attack, etc., etc., all to maintain the pretense of having a “fully-informed” public. But when was the last time you saw a Robert Higgs, Noam Chomsky, Lew Rockwell, Amy Goodman, Justin Raimondo, Angela Keaton, Karen Kwiatkowski, Chris Hedges, or other critic of the war system allowed to raise the kinds of questions that are not supposed to be asked in this best of all possible worlds? Do you recall the insult to human intelligence perpetrated by the GOP (Grand Old Pettifoggers) in its efforts to prevent Ron Paul from expressing his contrary views?
Noam Chomsky’s above quote doesn’t go far enough: it is the responsibility of all thinking people — not just so-called “intellectuals” — to speak the truth and to expose lies! To this end, increasing numbers of people understand that the sources to whom they have been conditioned to look for truth, analysis, and understanding, have largely failed in their roles. To put the proposition more frankly: more and more people have grasped the fact that the free flow of information is disruptive of the interests of the institutional order, whose established position depends upon suppressing or destroying all evidence of the lies, conflicts, contradictions, and destructive nature upon which its primacy depends. This is why so much of the media and academia are peopled with those unable or unwilling to shed light on the dysfunctional nature of the well-ordered madness of the world; men and women who remain content to tread water at the shallow end of the human gene pool!
The political establishment has implicitly embraced the mindset of Hitler’s Propaganda Minister, Dr. Joseph Goebbels:
The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension the truth becomes the greatest enemy of the State.
This is why the state is so threatened by such modern technologies as the Internet, as well as by the “whistleblowers” who insist on exposing the state’s embarrassing truths to the general public. It is also why the classic The Emperor’s New Clothes needs to be read to every child — as well, perhaps, to adults.
Cable news channels continue providing platforms for those who remind us that the whistleblowers “broke the law,” and need to be punished. They recite their bromides with the kind of self-assurance that comes from the delusion that they are actually saying something profound. I find it particularly amusing to hear such babbling coming from lawyers who ought to know that all laws are meant to be broken. Imagine what would happen if every legal dictate were to be obeyed by everyone: no speeding or reckless driving; no illegal drug use; no murders, rapes, or robberies; no discriminatory hiring practices; no zoning violations; etc. What would be the likely consequences? Men and women might then begin to ask the kinds of questions the state could not afford to have asked: why do we need the police, or courts, or prisons? In the world of realpolitik, those who are driven not by a need for social order, but by the ambition for coercive power over their neighbors, would have to dream up new “wrongs” to be policed. The mania that underlies political programs based on “climate change” is just one example of how those who want power over others must invent more and more “conflicts” with which to rationalize their coercive ambitions. It is this sense that Edmund Burke had in mind when he characterized lawyers as “the fomenters and conductors of the petty wars of village vexation.” The habit is not confined to lawyers!
This also explains Randolph Bourne’s observation that “war is the health of the state.” The war system — whose schemes and chicanery the whistleblowers have been exposing — depends upon the kinds of endless conflicts with the rest of the world that will cause Boobus Americanus to part with his liberty, wealth, and life.
Sophie and Hans Scholl and their White Rose friends had minds capable of distinguishing what was legal and what was right, a skill that depends upon separating what is popular from what is true. Sophie’s insights were reflected, years later, in Hannah Arendt’s observation: “The aim of totalitarian education has never been to instill convictions, but to destroy the capacity to form any.”
Butler Shaffer teaches at the Southwestern University School of Law. He is the author of the newly-released In Restraint of Trade: The Business Campaign Against Competition, 1918–1938, Calculated Chaos: Institutional Threats to Peace and Human Survival, andBoundaries of Order. His latest book is The Wizards of Ozymandias.
Source: Butler Shaffer | LewRockwell.com
For a long time now holocaust revisionists, aka “deniers”, have occupied a spot in the public’s esteem somewhere below pedophiles and just above serial killers. Now, a new contender for the penultimate position in the scale of public opprobrium has emerged: global warming “deniers”. The debate-squelching term has been applied to the likes of Richard Lindtzen, professor emeritus of meteorology at MIT; Roger Pielke Sr., professor emeritus of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State; and Patrick Michaels, past president of the American Association of State Climatologists. A while back, Scott Pelley of CBS News directly linked the two sets of heretics.
As with holocaust deniers, who enjoyed a brief exposure in the national media in the early 1990s but have since been banned from the airwaves, attempts are being made to deny global warming skeptics access to the podium. The Los Angeles Times recently banned “factually inaccurate” letters to the editor skeptical of human-caused climate change. In November, Mark Hertsgaard, environment correspondent for The Nation, accused Piers Morgan of being “journalistically irresponsible” for allowing a denier, Roy Spencer of the University of Alabama-Huntsville, on his program (Hertsgaard, who I suspect has a degree in Art History or the like, admonished Dr. Spencer, a former senior climate scientist at NASA, telling him he “needs to read more scientific papers”, to which Dr. Spencer graciously responded “I’ve got a feeling I’ve read more than you have, Mark”.)
Like holocaust denial, global warming denial can be hazardous to your career. In her inaugural address to Department of the Interior staff, the newly-appointed Secretary, Sally Jewell, warned ““I hope there are no climate-change deniers in the Department of Interior” (She’s probably checking the closets right now). Heidi Cullen, host of The Weather Channel’s “The Climate Code”, has called for the American Meteorologist Society to decertify weathermen who express skepticism about human activity causing climate change. And in Oregon, Governor Ted Kulongoski, sought to strip Professor George Taylor of the honorary title “State Climatologist”, bestowed on him by Oregon State, because of his anti-warmist views.
Fortunately, global warming denial has not been criminalized as has holocaust denial in Europe… yet. But RFK Jr. once accused supposed financial backers of global warming denial, like Exxon-Mobil, of treason, and David Suzuki, a well-known Canadian environmentalist, urged his fans to find a way to throw global warming denying politicians in jail because “what they’re doing is a criminal act”. David Roberts of Grist went ballistic in an op-ed in that online mag, labeling climate change denial a “war crime” worthy of a Nuremberg-type prosecution. Thankfully, we don’t prosecute holocaust deniers in this country, and I think it unlikely their global warming co-defendants will suffer that fate either.
There’s one final similarity between holocaust and global warming deniers: they’re both beginning to win the debate. Success for the global warming skeptics derives from the fact the earth hasn’t warmed in over a decade, something the models didn’t predict. In groping for an explanation, warmists have resorted to arguments very similar to those employed by holocaust believers. For instance, in testimony before Congress recently, David Titley, Deputy Under Secretary for Operations at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), in trying to explain the lack of evidence for climate change-induced severe weather, argued “The Absence of Evidence is not the Evidence of Absence”, echoing the holocaust believers’ argument that the absence of any evidence of gas chambers is not evidence that gas chambers never existed. Dedicated and courageous scholars – often writing under pseudonyms for obvious reasons – have debunked the major holocaust myths to my satisfaction. If the Russian archives are ever opened fully, I’m sure the revelations they contain will be sufficient to convince the rest of you.
So, if over the next few years, the mean global temperature fails to rise, arctic sea ice recovers its former extent, severe weather events don’t increase in intensity or frequency, the polar bears continue to thrive (while you’re shedding a tear for the forlorn polar bears drifting towards extinction on their ever-shrinking ice floes, remember the poor penguins, who now have to walk 22 miles further to reach the sea because of the record ice extent in the Antarctic), and you find yourself listening with increased respect to what the global warming deniers have to say, please consider whether those other more venerable, even more denigrated deniers might, too, have something to say worth listening to. In fact, why wait? (a good place to start is The Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust)