Archive for the ‘Global Problem’ Category

On the Edge

May 15, 2014

Prof. Noam Chomsky, linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist and activist. (photo: Va Shiva)
Prof. Noam Chomsky, linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist and activist. (photo: Va Shiva)

By Noam Chomsky, Pen America

14 May 14

 

hen I hear the phrase “on the edge,” the irresistible image is the proverbial lemmings marching resolutely to the cliff.

For the first time in history, humans are now poised to destroy the prospects for decent existence, and much of life. The rate of species destruction today is at about the level of 65 million years ago, when a major catastrophe, probably a huge asteroid, ended the age of the dinosaurs, opening the way for mammals to proliferate. The difference is that today we are the asteroid, and the way will very likely be opened to beetles and bacteria when we have done our work.

Geologists break up the history of the planet into eras of relative stability. The Pleistocene, lasting several million years, was following by the Holocene about 10,000 years ago, coinciding with the human invention of agriculture. Today, many geologists add a new epoch, the Anthropocene, beginning with the industrial revolution, which has radically changed the natural world. In the light of the pace of change, one hates to think when the next epoch will begin, and what it will be.

One effect of the Anthropocene is the extraordinary rate of species extinction. Another is the threat to ourselves. No literate person can fail to be aware that we are facing a prospect of severe environmental disaster, with effects that are already detectable and that might become dire within a few generations if current tendencies are not reversed.

That is not all. For the past 70 years we have been living under the threat of instant and virtually total destruction, at our own hands. Those familiar with the shocking record, which continues until this day, will find it hard to contest the conclusions of General Lee Butler, the last commander of the Strategic Air Command, which has responsibility for nuclear weapons. He writes that we have so far survived the nuclear age “by some combination of skill, luck, and divine intervention, and I suspect the latter in greatest proportion.” It is a near miracle that we have escaped destruction so far, and the longer we tempt fate, the less likely it is that we can hope for divine intervention to perpetuate the miracle.

We might wish to consider a remarkable paradox of the current era. There are some who are devoting serious efforts to avert impending disaster. In the lead are the most oppressed segments of the global population, those considered to be the most backward and primitive: the indigenous societies of the world, from First Nations in Canada, to aboriginals in Australia, to tribal people in India, and many others. In countries with influential indigenous populations, like Bolivia and Ecuador, there is by now legislative recognition of rights of nature. The government of Ecuador actually proposed to leave their supplies of oil in the ground, where they should be, if the rich countries would provide them development aid amounting to a small fraction of what they would sacrifice by not exploiting their oil resources. The rich countries refused.

While indigenous people are trying to avert the disaster, in sharp contrast, the race toward the cliff is led by the most advanced, educated, wealthy, and privileged societies of the world, primarily North America.

There is now much exuberance in the United States about “100 years of energy independence” as we become “the Saudi Arabia of the next century.” One might take a speech of President Obama’s two years ago to be an eloquent death-knell for the species. He proclaimed with pride, to ample applause, that “Now, under my administration, America is producing more oil today than at any time in the last eight years. That’s important to know. Over the last three years, I’ve directed my administration to open up millions of acres for gas and oil exploration across 23 different states. We’re opening up more than 75 percent of our potential oil resources offshore. We’ve quadrupled the number of operating rigs to a record high. We’ve added enough new oil and gas pipeline to encircle the Earth and then some.”

The applause tells us something important about our social and moral malaise. The President was speaking in Cushing Oklahoma, an “oil town” as he announced in greeting his appreciative audience—in fact the oil town, described as “the most significant trading hub for crude oil in North America.” And industry profits are sure to be secured as “producing more oil and gas here at home” will continue to be “a critical part” of energy strategy, as the President promised.

A few days ago the New York Times had an energy supplement, 8 pages of mostly euphoria about the bright future for the US, poised to be the world’s greatest producer of fossil fuels. Missing is any reflection of what kind of world we are exuberantly creating. One might recall Orwell’s observations in his (unpublished) introduction to Animal Farm on how in free England, unpopular ideas can be suppressed without the use of force, not least because immersion in the elite culture instills the understanding that there are certain things “it wouldn’t do to say”—or even to think.

In the moral calculus of currently prevailing state capitalism, profits and bonuses in the next quarter greatly outweigh concern for the welfare of one’s grandchildren, and since these are institutional maladies, they will not be easy to overcome. While much remains uncertain, we can assure ourselves, with fair confidence, that future generations will not forgive us our silence and apathy.

 

Coming Soon: This Planet Will No Longer Support Civilization

April 27, 2014
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Originally posted atPopularResistance.org

Dr. Jill Stein on Capitalism, the most important question of the climate struggle, and just how long we have before the planet will no longer support civilization.

Days before the Earth Day to May Day Global Climate Convergence kicked off, Dr. Jill Stein talked with Dennis Trainor, Jr. of Acronym TV in a wide-ranging conversation about her hopes for the Convergence, a first response to ShowTime’s new series Years of Living Dangerously, and why the Climate Justice movement is all about jobs.

Check out these short clips below, or watch the full episode here.

Are Capitalism and Climate Justice Compatible? 

The Most Important Climate Issue We Face 

Coming Soon: This Planet Will No Longer Support Civilization 

According the Global Climate Convergence website:

“The Global Climate Convergence is an education and direct action campaign that begins this spring, with “10 days to change course,” running from Earth Day to May Day. It builds collaboration across national borders and fronts of struggle to harness the transformative power we already possess as a thousand separate movements springing up across the planet. Earth Day-to-May Day 2014 (April 22 – May 1) will be the first in a series of expanding annual actions.

As you know, the movement for democracy and justice is sweeping the globe — from democracy revolutions to occupy protests, movements for the rights of workers, students, immigrants, women and Indigenous peoples; resistance to NSA spying, endless war, prison pipelines, tar sands, fracking, nuclear power, GMOs and more. The accelerating climate disaster — now predicted to dismantle civilization as we know it as soon as 2050 – intensifies all these struggles, and provides new urgency for collaboration and unified action. Clearly there is no time to lose.

The Convergence calls for a solution as big as the crisis barreling down on us — an emergency green economic transformation, including full employment and living wages; 100 percent clean renewable energy by 2030; universal free health care and education; food and housing security; an end to deportations and mass incarceration; economic and political democracy; demilitarization; ecosystem restoration and support for the rights of Mother Earth; and more.

These goals will only be achieved by masses of people coming together in a unified movement, which is exactly what the Convergence is working towards!”


Dead Earth
(image by Asher Platts, PunkPatriot.com)

Tags Climate Crisis, Global Warming, Climate Catastrophe, Capitalism, Sea levels, Years of Living Dangerously, Global Climate Convergence, Jill Stein, Green Shadow Cabinet, Dennis Trainor Jr, Acronym TV

http://www.AcronymTV.com

Dennis Trainor, Jr. is the creator and host of Acronym TV and the writer, director and producer of the documentary American Autumn: an Occudoc.
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On Earth Day, 20 Gorgeous Photos Of Natural Wonders Under Threat

April 23, 2014
Posted: 04/22/2014 9:00 am EDT Updated: 04/22/2014 3:59 pm EDT

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April 22 marks Earth Day, the annual U.N.-sponsored event to celebrate the planet and raise awareness of the impact that humanity has on the natural world. As people and governments across the globe honor the date, The WorldPost looks into some of Earth’s wonders that face destruction at the hands of men. Take a look at the images below and expand your knowledge of these natural treasures in peril.

1. Virunga National Park

Africa’s most diverse park is home to rare mountain gorillas and a series of active volcanoes. Oil exploration and the ongoing brutal conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo currently pose dire threats to the park’s survival.

virunga
(Brent Stirton via Getty Images)

virunga

(Steve Terill/AFP/Getty Images)

2. Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System

The idyllic stretch of waters is home to an ecosystem that includes threatened species such as manatees and crocodiles. Excessive development and illegal hunting currently imperil the natural balance of the reef.

belize barrier reef
(AP Photo/Pat Wellenbach)

belize reef
(AP Photo/Pat Wellenbach)

3. The Marshall Islands

The tiny, stunning atolls that make up the Marshall Islands are very close to sea level, which makes them particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. The photo below was made during recent flooding that drove thousands from their homes.

kiribati
(Giff Johnson/AFP/Getty Images)

marshall islands
(Yuri Cortez//AFP/Getty Images)

4. Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra

This 2.5 million hectare rainforest in Indonesia is home to a wealth of biodiversity, including endangered Sumatran orangutans. Logging and illegal poaching are a few of the dangers the park is faced with.

sumatra rainforest
(Romea Gacad/AFP/Getty Images)

sumatra rainforest
(Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images)

5. Mount Kilimanjaro

Immortalized by Hemingway, the crown of Africa’s highest mountain could fade into memory within a few short decades.Studies indicate that the iconic snows of Mount Kilimanjaro are falling victim to rising temperatures brought on by climate change. The second photo shows some of the peak’s melting ice caps.

kilimanjaro snow
(Mladen Antonov/AFP/Getty Images

kilimanjaro snow
(Sisse Brimberg and Cotton Coulson/Getty Images)

6. Bamiyan Valley

Afghanistan’s Bamiyan Valley is a majestic UNESCO World Heritage Site that has sadly been ravaged by the nation’s lengthy war, leaving areas of it inaccessible due to antipersonnel mines.

bamiyan valley
(Mladen Antonov/AFP/Getty Images

bamiyan valley
(Massoud Hossaini//AFP/Getty Images)

7. The Florida Everglades

The degradation of the Everglades as a result of development and reduced water flows has resulted in a reduction of the animal life in the sprawling park and put it under threat of further decline.

everglades
(Joe Raedle/Getty Images>

everglades
(AP Photo/Julie Fletcher)

8. The Dead Sea

With its salted waters and extremely low elevation, the Dead Sea is another natural wonder that sadly seems to be slowly receding into nothingness. Lack of water flow is causing the waters to dry up and the sea to shrink at threatening rates. A proposed water pipeline to replenish the sea has been agreed upon, but there are worries that it might further upset the natural balance of the region.

dead sea israel
(Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images)

dead sea israel
(Pavel Kassin/Kommersant Photo via Getty Images)

9. Madagascar’s Rainforest

The unique flora and fauna of Madagascar’s rainforest have made the island a naturalists’ dream for centuries, but as deforestation increases, the threat of destruction of habitat looms larger than ever.

madagascar rainforest
(Nick Garbutt/Barcroft Media / Getty Images)

madagascar rainforest
(Nick Garbutt/Barcroft Media / Getty Images)

10. Air and Tenere National Park

Niger’s Air and Tenere National park is Africa’s largest protected area and home to a diverse ecosystem. Military conflict and unrest have long been threats to the gorgeous desert landscape of the park.

tenere reserve
(DEA / S. Amantini/De Agostini/Getty Images)

tenere reserve
(DEA / S. Amantini/De Agostini/Getty Images)

We All Need a Place to Stand.

April 23, 2014

The climate crisis has such bad timing, confronting it not only requires a new economy but a new way of thinking. (photo: The Nation)
The climate crisis has such bad timing, confronting it not only requires a new economy but a new way of thinking. (photo: The Nation)

By Naomi Klein, The Nation

22 April 14

 

The climate crisis has such bad timing, confronting it not only requires a new economy but a new way of thinking.

his is a story about bad timing.

One of the most disturbing ways that climate change is already playing out is through what ecologists call “mismatch” or “mistiming.” This is the process whereby warming causes animals to fall out of step with a critical food source, particularly at breeding times, when a failure to find enough food can lead to rapid population losses.

The migration patterns of many songbird species, for instance, have evolved over millennia so that eggs hatch precisely when food sources such as caterpillars are at their most abundant, providing parents with ample nourishment for their hungry young. But because spring now often arrives early, the caterpillars are hatching earlier too, which means that in some areas they are less plentiful when the chicks hatch, threatening a number of health and fertility impacts. Similarly, in West Greenland, caribou are arriving at their calving grounds only to find themselves out of sync with the forage plants they have relied on for thousands of years, now growing earlier thanks to rising temperatures. That is leaving female caribou with less energy for lactation, reproduction and feeding their young, a mismatch that has been linked to sharp decreases in calf births and survival rates.

Scientists are studying cases of climate-related mistiming among dozens of species, from Arctic terns to pied flycatchers. But there is one important species they are missing—us. Homo sapiens. We too are suffering from a terrible case of climate-related mistiming, albeit in a cultural-historical, rather than a biological, sense. Our problem is that the climate crisis hatched in our laps at a moment in history when political and social conditions were uniquely hostile to a problem of this nature and magnitude—that moment being the tail end of the go-go ’80s, the blastoff point for the crusade to spread deregulated capitalism around the world. Climate change is a collective problem demanding collective action the likes of which humanity has never actually accomplished. Yet it entered mainstream consciousness in the midst of an ideological war being waged on the very idea of the collective sphere.

This deeply unfortunate mistiming has created all sorts of barriers to our ability to respond effectively to this crisis. It has meant that corporate power was ascendant at the very moment when we needed to exert unprecedented controls over corporate behavior in order to protect life on earth. It has meant that regulation was a dirty word just when we needed those powers most. It has meant that we are ruled by a class of politicians who know only how to dismantle and starve public institutions, just when they most need to be fortified and reimagined. And it has meant that we are saddled with an apparatus of “free trade” deals that tie the hands of policy-makers just when they need maximum flexibility to achieve a massive energy transition.

Confronting these various structural barriers to the next economy is the critical work of any serious climate movement. But it’s not the only task at hand. We also have to confront how the mismatch between climate change and market domination has created barriers within our very selves, making it harder to look at this most pressing of humanitarian crises with anything more than furtive, terrified glances. Because of the way our daily lives have been altered by both market and technological triumphalism, we lack many of the observational tools necessary to convince ourselves that climate change is real—let alone the confidence to believe that a different way of living is possible.

And little wonder: just when we needed to gather, our public sphere was disintegrating; just when we needed to consume less, consumerism took over virtually every aspect of our lives; just when we needed to slow down and notice, we sped up; and just when we needed longer time horizons, we were able to see only the immediate present.

This is our climate change mismatch, and it affects not just our species, but potentially every other species on the planet as well.

The good news is that, unlike reindeer and songbirds, we humans are blessed with the capacity for advanced reasoning and therefore the ability to adapt more deliberately—to change old patterns of behavior with remarkable speed. If the ideas that rule our culture are stopping us from saving ourselves, then it is within our power to change those ideas. But before that can happen, we first need to understand the nature of our personal climate mismatch.

Climate change demands that we consume less, but being consumers is all we know. Climate change is not a problem that can be solved simply by changing what we buy—a hybrid instead of an SUV, some carbon offsets when we get on a plane. At its core, it is a crisis born of overconsumption by the comparatively wealthy, which means the world’s most manic consumers are going to have to consume less.

The problem is not “human nature,” as we are so often told. We weren’t born having to shop this much, and we have, in our recent past, been just as happy (in many cases happier) consuming far less. The problem is the inflated role that consumption has come to play in our particular era.

Late capitalism teaches us to create ourselves through our consumer choices: shopping is how we form our identities, find community and express ourselves. Thus, telling people that they can’t shop as much as they want to because the planet’s support systems are overburdened can be understood as a kind of attack, akin to telling them that they cannot truly be themselves. This is likely why, of the original “Three Rs”—reduce, reuse, recycle—only the third has ever gotten any traction, since it allows us to keep on shopping as long as we put the refuse in the right box. The other two, which require that we consume less, were pretty much dead on arrival.

Climate change is slow, and we are fast. When you are racing through a rural landscape on a bullet train, it looks as if everything you are passing is standing still: people, tractors, cars on country roads. They aren’t, of course. They are moving, but at a speed so slow compared with the train that they appear static.

So it is with climate change. Our culture, powered by fossil fuels, is that bullet train, hurtling forward toward the next quarterly report, the next election cycle, the next bit of diversion or piece of personal validation via our smartphones and tablets. Our changing climate is like the landscape out the window: from our racy vantage point, it can appear static, but it is moving, its slow progress measured in receding ice sheets, swelling waters and incremental temperature rises. If left unchecked, climate change will most certainly speed up enough to capture our fractured attention—island nations wiped off the map, and city-drowning superstorms, tend to do that. But by then, it may be too late for our actions to make a difference, because the era of tipping points will likely have begun.

Climate change is place-based, and we are everywhere at once. The problem is not just that we are moving too quickly. It is also that the terrain on which the changes are taking place is intensely local: an early blooming of a particular flower, an unusually thin layer of ice on a lake, the late arrival of a migratory bird. Noticing those kinds of subtle changes requires an intimate connection to a specific ecosystem. That kind of communion happens only when we know a place deeply, not just as scenery but also as sustenance, and when local knowledge is passed on with a sense of sacred trust from one generation to the next.

But that is increasingly rare in the urbanized, industrialized world. We tend to abandon our homes lightly—for a new job, a new school, a new love. And as we do so, we are severed from whatever knowledge of place we managed to accumulate at the previous stop, as well as from the knowledge amassed by our ancestors (who, at least in my case, migrated repeatedly themselves).

Even for those of us who manage to stay put, our daily existence can be disconnected from the physical places where we live. Shielded from the elements as we are in our climate-controlled homes, workplaces and cars, the changes unfolding in the natural world easily pass us by. We might have no idea that a historic drought is destroying the crops on the farms that surround our urban homes, since the supermarkets still display miniature mountains of imported produce, with more coming in by truck all day. It takes something huge—like a hurricane that passes all previous high-water marks, or a flood destroying thousands of homes—for us to notice that something is truly amiss. And even then we have trouble holding on to that knowledge for long, since we are quickly ushered along to the next crisis before these truths have a chance to sink in.

Climate change, meanwhile, is busily adding to the ranks of the rootless every day, as natural disasters, failed crops, starving livestock and climate-fueled ethnic conflicts force yet more people to leave their ancestral homes. And with every human migration, more crucial connections to specific places are lost, leaving yet fewer people to listen closely to the land.

Climate pollutants are invisible, and we have stopped believing in what we cannot see. When BP’s Macondo well ruptured in 2010, releasing torrents of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, one of the things we heard from company CEO Tony Hayward was that “the Gulf of Mexico is a very big ocean. The amount of volume of oil and dispersant we are putting into it is tiny in relation to the total water volume.” The statement was widely ridiculed at the time, and rightly so, but Hayward was merely voicing one of our culture’s most cherished beliefs: that what we can’t see won’t hurt us and, indeed, barely exists.

So much of our economy relies on the assumption that there is always an “away” into which we can throw our waste. There’s the away where our garbage goes when it is taken from the curb, and the away where our waste goes when it is flushed down the drain. There’s the away where the minerals and metals that make up our goods are extracted, and the away where those raw materials are turned into finished products. But the lesson of the BP spill, in the words of ecological theorist Timothy Morton, is that ours is “a world in which there is no ‘away.’”

When I published No Logo a decade and a half ago, readers were shocked to learn of the abusive conditions under which their clothing and gadgets were manufactured. But we have since learned to live with it—not to condone it, exactly, but to be in a state of constant forgetfulness. Ours is an economy of ghosts, of deliberate blindness.

Air is the ultimate unseen, and the greenhouse gases that warm it are our most elusive ghosts. Philosopher David Abram points out that for most of human history, it was precisely this unseen quality that gave the air its power and commanded our respect. “Called Sila, the wind-mind of the world, by the Inuit; Nilch’i, or Holy Wind, by the Navajo; Ruach, or rushing-spirit, by the ancient Hebrews,” the atmosphere was “the most mysterious and sacred dimension of life.” But in our time, “we rarely acknowledge the atmosphere as it swirls between two persons.” Having forgotten the air, Abram writes, we have made it our sewer, “the perfect dump site for the unwanted by-products of our industries…. Even the most opaque, acrid smoke billowing out of the pipes will dissipate and disperse, always and ultimately dissolving into the invisible. It’s gone. Out of sight, out of mind.”

Another part of what makes climate change so very difficult for us to grasp is that ours is a culture of the perpetual present, one that deliberately severs itself from the past that created us as well as the future we are shaping with our actions. Climate change is about how what we did generations in the past will inescapably affect not just the present, but generations in the future. These time frames are a language that has become foreign to most of us.

This is not about passing individual judgment, nor about berating ourselves for our shallowness or rootlessness. Rather, it is about recognizing that we are products of an industrial project, one intimately, historically linked to fossil fuels.

And just as we have changed before, we can change again. After listening to the great farmer-poet Wendell Berry deliver a lecture on how we each have a duty to love our “homeplace” more than any other, I asked him if he had any advice for rootless people like me and my friends, who live in our computers and always seem to be shopping for home. “Stop somewhere,” he replied. “And begin the thousand-year-long process of knowing that place.”

That’s good advice on lots of levels. Because in order to win this fight of our lives, we all need a place to stand.

 

Climate Change and Inequality Brewing Global Social Upheaval

April 4, 2014

World Bank chief admits institution’s past mistakes, but has it changed its destructive ways?

- Jon Queally, staff writer

President of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim, is warning that the combined crises of planetary climate change and rising global inequality in a highly interconnected world will lead to the rise of widespread upheaval as the world’s poor rise up and clashes over access to clean water and affordable food result in increased violence and political conflict.

As Jim Yong Kim warned of the risks of climate change, the UN said food prices had risen to their highest in almost a year. (Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)In an interview ahead of a bank summit next week, Kim predicts that battles over food and water will break out in the next five to ten years as a direct result of a warming planet that world leaders have done too little to address, despite warnings from the environmental community and scientists.

“The water issue is critically related to climate change,” Kim told the Guardian. “People say that carbon is the currency of climate change. Water is the teeth. Fights over water and food are going to be the most significant direct impacts of climate change in the next five to 10 years. There’s just no question about it.”

Despite the acknowledgement of the problem, however, and even as he made mea culpa for past errors by the powerful financial institution he now runs (including a global push to privatize drinking water resources and utilities), Kim laid the blame on inaction on the very people who have done the most to alert humanity to the crisis, saying that both climate change activists and informed scientists have not done enough to offer a plan to address global warming in a way he deems “serious.”

He said: “They [the climate change community] kept saying, ‘What do you mean a plan?’ I said a plan that’s equal to the challenge. A plan that will convince anyone who asks us that we’re really serious about climate change, and that we have a plan that can actually keep us at less than 2C warming. We still don’t have one.”

Kim also acknowledged the threat of unaddressed inequality, saying that access to the internet (mostly through smartphones) in the developing world has created conditions where everyone on the planet knows how other people live, which means that the “next huge social movement” could erupt anywhere at anytime.

“It’s going to erupt to a great extent because of these inequalities,” he continued and said heads of state from around the world have called for “a much, much deeper understanding of the political dangers of very high levels of inequality.”

The question remains: Do these acknowledgements of the dual crisis of a warming, less equal planet from the leader of the World Bank really translate into a transformation of the institution that is well known as one of the key proponents of the policies and projects that have led us to this point.?

According to a new report the World Resources Institute, the answer remains: No.

The new analysis from WRI says that despite Kim’s recent rhetoric and focus on “sustainability” for the bank, the reality “shows that while the World Bank has successfully addressed a number of important economic and social risks in its projects, it is falling short in recognizing climate risks.”

Out of 60 recent World Bank projects assessed, according to researchers, “only 25 percent included features that took climate change risks into account. This shortfall could leave communities vulnerable to extreme weather, sea level rise, and other climate impacts—impacts that threaten to undermine the World Bank’s efforts to eliminate poverty.”

_____________________________________

Noam Chomsky: We Are Moving Towards A Precipice Which Is Of Extreme Danger

March 1, 2014

Posted on February 4, 2014 by dandelionsalad

Dandelion Salad

with Noam Chomsky

EnergyImage by SPIngram via Flickr

VOR Americaon Jan 31, 2014

By Sean Nevins
WASHINGTON (VR)

“Wherever there are structures of domination and control, hierarchy and oppression, they are not self-justifying, [and] should be challenged, and if they can’t demonstrate their legitimacy, overthrown”, said Professor Noam Chomsky in a discussion with Radio VR in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Radio VR recently sat down with the renowned political theorist to discuss a number of topics, including global issues facing humanity. In the video above, Professor Chomsky is asked how the human race should approach collective global problems, such as nuclear proliferation, restructuring of the education system, environmental degradation, and the huge gap between rich and poor.

Professor Chomsky’s answer is below:

“I think the basic thrust of anarcho-syndicalism, anarchism generally, applies everywhere. Wherever there are structures of domination and control, hierarchy and oppression, they are not self-justifying, should be challenged, and if they can’t demonstrate their legitimacy, overthrown. I think that applies to every case you’ve mentioned.”

“It [anarcho-syndicalism] is not a formula for how to deal with, let’s say, environmental destruction, but it lies in the background. Each of the cases you’ve mentioned requires its own type of action.”

“With regard to nuclear proliferation actually we have an answer, the problem is to implement it. The Non-Proliferation Treaty [NPT] that obligates the nuclear powers to carry out good faith measures to eliminate nuclear weapons. That is actually a legal obligation as was determined by the International Court of Justice back in the mid-90s and it also requires other countries not to develop nuclear weapons. There are, at the moment, several that have outside the NPT — Israel, India, Pakistan, and now North Korea — but there are ways to overcome this.”

“For example, in the case of the Middle East, one way, serious way, to approach it would be to try to establish a nuclear weapon free zone in the Middle East. It’s been formally accepted by the West but only formally. Just last December, there was to be a conference in Helsinki to move forward on this proposal. Israel announced it wouldn’t attend. Iran announced that they would attend with no preconditions and a couple of days later president Obama cancelled the conference. So it didn’t take place. There is pressure to renew it from the European Union, from Russia and mainly the Arab states but unless the United States is willing to significantly participate it’s not going to go anywhere. But there are mechanisms, we can think of ways of overcoming this problem.”

“When you turn to environmental degradation it is a little bit different. It is a horrible problem, we are moving towards a precipice which is of extreme danger, racing towards it and the longer we wait to eliminate reliance on fossil fuels, the worse it’s going to be. But it is not so clear how to do that. It is different from the nuclear threat which in fact at least in principal we know how to get rid of.”

youtube

see

Chomsky on Anarchy and Anarcho-Syndicalism + Transcript + Chomsky: Current Economic System Is ‘Pure Savagery’

If There’s Global Warming … Why Is It So Cold?

Banning Nuclear Weapons – Another Way to a Safer World by Lesley Docksey

The Last Hours of Humanity: Warming the World to Extinction

Noam Chomsky and the Leveretts: Iran and American Foreign Policy: Where Did the U.S. Go Wrong?

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Noam Chomsky: Truth to power

February 27, 2014

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Political theorist Noam Chomsky is one of the world’s most controversial thinkers. Ahead of his trip to Tokyo next month, we catch up with the U.S. activist to get his views on recent geopolitical moves in the region

BY DAVID MCNEILL

SPECIAL TO THE JAPAN TIMES

Often dubbed one of the world’s most important intellectuals and its leading public dissident, Noam Chomsky was for years among the top 10 most quoted academics on the planet, edged out only by William Shakespeare, Karl Marx, Aristotle.

An unrelenting critic of U.S. foreign policy since the 1960s, much of his intellectual life has been spent stripping away what he calls America’s “flattering self-image” and the layers of self-justification and propaganda he says it uses to mask its naked pursuit of power and profit around the world.

Now aged 85, Chomsky is still in demand across the world as a public speaker. He maintains a punishing work schedule that requires him to write, lecture and personally answer thousands of emails that flood into his account every week. He is professor emeritus of linguistics and philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, where he has been based for nearly 60 years.

Chomsky will make a rare trip to Tokyo in March, where he is scheduled to give two lectures at Sophia University. Among the themes he will discuss are conceptions of the common good, one deriving from classical liberalism, the other from neoliberal globalization that he predicts will lead to disaster very soon if not radically modified.

“That gives the answer to the question posed in the title of the talk: ‘Capitalist Democracy and the Prospects for Survival,’ ” he says. “The quick answer is ‘dim.’ ”

Tell us about your connections to Japan.

I’ve been interested in Japan since the 1930s, when I read about Japan’s vicious crimes in Manchuria and China. In the early 1940s, as a young teenager, I was utterly appalled by the racist and jingoist hysteria of the anti-Japanese propaganda. The Germans were evil, but treated with some respect: They were, after all, blond Aryan types, just like our imaginary self-image. Japanese were mere vermin, to be crushed like ants. Enough was reported about the firebombing of cities in Japan to recognize that major war crimes were underway, worse in many ways than the atom bombs.

I heard a story once that you were so appalled by the bombing of Hiroshima and the reaction of Americans that you had to go off and mourn alone . . .

Yes. On Aug. 6, 1945, I was at a summer camp for children when the atomic bombing of Hiroshima was announced over the public address system. Everyone listened, and then at once went on to their next activity: baseball, swimming, et cetera. Not a comment. I was practically speechless with shock, both at the horrifying events and at the null reaction. So what? More Japs incinerated. And since we have the bomb and no one else does, great; we can rule the world and everyone will be happy.

I followed the postwar settlement with considerable disgust as well. I didn’t know then what I do now, of course, but enough information was available to undermine the patriotic fairy tale.

My first trip to Japan was with my wife and children 50 years ago. It was linguistics, purely, though on my own I met with people from Beheiren (Citizen’s League for Peace in Vietnam). I’ve returned a number of times since, always to study linguistics. I was quite struck by the fact that Japan is the only country I visited — and there were many — where talks and interviews focused solely on linguistics and related matters, even while the world was burning.

You arrive in Japan at a possibly defining moment: the government is preparing to launch a major challenge to the nation’s six-decade pacifist stance, arguing that it must be “more flexible” in responding to external threats; relations with China and Korea have turned toxic; and there is even talk of war. Should we be concerned?

We should most definitely be concerned. Instead of abandoning its pacifist stance, Japan should take pride in it as an inspiring model for the world, and should take the lead in upholding the goals of the United Nations “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.” The challenges in the region are real, but what is needed is steps toward political accommodation and establishing peaceful relations, not a return to policies that proved disastrous not so long ago.

How in concrete terms, though, can political accommodation be achieved? The historical precedents for the kind of situation we face in Asia — competing nationalisms; a rising undemocratic power with opaque military spending and something to prove in tandem with a declining power, increasingly fearful about what this means — are not good.

There is a real issue, but I think the question should be formulated a bit differently. Chinese military spending is carefully monitored by the United States. It is indeed growing, but it is a small fraction of U.S. expenditures, which are amplified by U.S. allies (China has none). China is indeed seeking to break out of the arc of containment in the Pacific that limits its control over the waters essential to its commerce and open access to the Pacific. That does set up possible conflicts, partly with regional powers that have their own interests, but mainly with the U.S., which of course would never even consider anything remotely comparable for itself and, furthermore, insists upon global control.

Although the U.S. is a “declining power,” and has been since the late 1940s, it still has no remote competitor as a hegemonic power. Its military spending virtually matches the rest of the world combined, and it is far more technologically advanced. No other country could dream of having a network of hundreds of military bases all over the world, nor of carrying out the world’s most expansive campaign of terror — and that is exactly what (President Barack) Obama’s drone assassination campaign is. And the U.S., of course, has a brutal record of aggression and subversion.

These are the essential conditions within which political accommodation should be sought. In concrete terms, China’s interests should be recognized along with those of others in the region. But there is no justification for accepting the domination of a global hegemon.

One of the perceived problems with Japan’s “pacifist” Constitution is that it is so at odds with the facts. Japan operates under the U.S. nuclear umbrella and is host to dozens of bases and thousands of American soldiers. Is that an embodiment of the pacifist ideals of Article 9?

Insofar as Japan’s behavior is inconsistent with the legitimate constitutional ideals, the behavior should be changed — not the ideals.

Are you following the political return of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe? His critics call him an ultranationalist. Supporters say he is merely trying to update Japan’s three outdated charters — education, the 1947 pacifist Constitution and the security treaty with Washington — all products of the U.S. postwar occupation. What’s your view?

It makes sense for Japan to pursue a more independent role in the world, following Latin America and others in freeing itself from U.S. domination. But it should do so in a manner that is virtually the opposite of Abe’s ultranationalism, a term that seems to me accurate. The pacifist Constitution, in particular, is one legacy of the occupation that should be vigorously defended.

What do you make of comparisons between the rise of Nazi Germany and China? We hear such comparisons frequently from nationalists in Japan, and also recently from Benigno Aquino, the Philippine president. China’s rise is often cited as a reason for Japan to stop pulling in its horns.

China is a rising power, casting off its “century of humiliation” in a bid to become a force in regional and world affairs. As always, there are negative and sometimes threatening aspects to such a development. But a comparison to Nazi Germany is absurd. We might note that in an international poll released at the end of 2013 on the question which country is “the greatest threat to world peace,” the U.S. was ranked far higher than any other, receiving four times the votes of China. There are quite solid reasons for this judgment, some mentioned earlier. Nevertheless, to compare the U.S. to Nazi Germany would be completely absurd, and a fortiori that holds for China’s far lesser resort to violence, subversion and other forms of intervention.

The comparison between China and Nazi Germany really is hysteria. I wonder whether Japanese readers have even the slightest idea of what the U.S. is doing throughout the world, and has been since it took over Britain’s role of global dominance — and greatly expanded it — after World War II.

Some see the possible emergence of an Asian regionalism building on the dynamic of intertwined trade centered on China, Japan and South Korea but extending throughout Asia. Under what conditions could such an approach trump both U.S. hegemony and nationalism?

It is not just possible, it already exists. China’s recent growth spurt is based very heavily on advanced parts, components, design and other high-tech contributions from the surrounding industrial powers. And the rest of Asia is becoming linked to this system, too. The U.S. is a crucial part of the system — Western Europe, too. The U.S. exports production, including high technology, to China, and imports finished goods, all on an enormous scale. The value added in China remains small, although it will increase as China moves up the technology ladder. These developments, if handled properly, can contribute to the general political accommodation that is imperative if serious conflict is to be avoided.

The recent tension over the Senkaku Islands has raised the threat of military conflict between China and Japan. Most commenters still think war is unlikely, given the enormous consequences and the deep finance and trade links that bind the two economies together. What’s your view?

The confrontations taking place are extremely hazardous. The same is true of China’s declaration of an air defense identification zone in a contested region, and Washington’s immediate violation of it. History has certainly taught us that playing with fire is not a wise course, particularly for states with an awesome capacity to destroy. Small incidents can rapidly escalate, overwhelming economic links.

What’s the U.S. role in all this? It seems clear that Washington does not want to be pulled into a conflict with Beijing. We also understand that the Obama administration is upset at Abe’s views on history, and his visits to Yasukuni Shrine, the linchpin of historical revisionism in Japan. However we can hardly call the U.S. an honest broker . . .

Hardly. The U.S. is surrounding China with military bases, not conversely. U.S. strategic analysts describe a “classic security dilemma” in the region, as the U.S. and China each perceive the other’s stance as a threat to their basic interests. The issue is control of the seas off China’s coasts, not the Caribbean or the waters off California. For the U.S., global control is a “vital interest.”

We might also recall the fate of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama when he followed the will of the large majority of Okinawans, defying Washington. As The New York Times reported, “Apologizing for failing to fulfill a prominent campaign promise, Hatoyama told outraged residents of Okinawa on Sunday that he has decided to relocate an American air base to the north side of the island as originally agreed upon with the United States.” His “capitulation,” as it was correctly described, resulted from strong U.S. pressure.

China is now embroiled in territorial conflicts with Japan and the Philippines and Vietnam in the South China Sea as well as the air defense identification zone on its contested borders. In all of these cases, the U.S. is directly or indirectly involved. Should these be understood as cases of Chinese expansionism?

China is seeking to expand its regional influence, which conflicts with the traditional U.S. demand to be recognized as the global hegemon, and conflicts as well with local interests of regional powers. The phrase “Chinese expansionism” is accurate, but rather misleading, in the light of overwhelming U.S. global dominance.

It is useful to think back to the early post-World War II period. U.S. global planning took for granted that Asia would be under U.S. control. China’s independence was a serious blow to these intentions. In U.S. discourse, it is called “the loss of China,” and the issue of who was responsible for “the loss of China” became a major domestic issue, including the rise of McCarthyism. The terminology itself is revealing. I can lose my wallet, but I cannot lose yours. The tacit assumption of U.S. discourse is that China was ours by right. One should be cautious about using the phrase “expansionism” without due attention to this hegemonic conception and its ugly history.

On Okinawa, the scene seems set for a major confrontation between the mainland and prefectural governments, which support the construction of a new U.S. military base in Henoko, and the local population, which last month overwhelmingly re-elected an anti-base mayor. Do you have any thoughts on how this will play out?

One can only admire the courage of the people of Nago city and Mayor Inamine Susumu in rejecting the deplorable efforts of the Abe government to coerce them into accepting a military base to which the population was overwhelmingly opposed. And it was no less disgraceful that the central government instantly overrode their democratic decision. What the outcome will be, I cannot predict. It will, however, have considerable import for the fate of democracy and the prospects for peace.

The Abe government is trying to rekindle nuclear power and restart Japan’s idling reactors. Supporters say the cost of keeping those reactors offline is a massive increase in energy costs and use of fossil fuels. Opponents say it is too dangerous . . .

The general question of nuclear power is not a simple one. It is hardly necessary to stress how dangerous it is after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, which has far from ended. Continued use of fossil fuels threatens global disaster, and not in the distant future. The sensible course would be to move as quickly as possible to sustainable energy sources, as Germany is now doing. The alternatives are too disastrous to contemplate.

You’ll have followed the work of committed environmentalists such as James Lovelock and George Monbiot, who say nuclear power is the only way to save the planet from cooking. In the short term, that analysis seems to have some merit: One of the immediate consequences of Japan’s nuclear disaster has been a massive expansion in imports of coal, gas and oil. They say there is no way for us to produce enough renewables in time to stop runaway climate change.

As I said, there is some merit in these views. More accurately, there would be if limited and short-term reliance on nuclear energy, with all of its extreme hazards and unsolved problems — like waste disposal — was taken as an opportunity for rapid and extensive development of sustainable energy. That should be the highest priority, and very quickly, because severe threats of environmental catastrophe are not remote.

Chomsky at Sophia University (Tokyo)

  •  “The Architecture of Language Reconsidered,” 3:30 p.m., Weds., March 5
  •  “Capitalist Democracy and the Prospects for Survival,” 3:30 p.m., Thurs., March 6 (fully booked)

Global Capitalism Has Written Off The Human Race

February 19, 2014
February 18, 2014

 

By Paul Craig Roberts

The English, French, and communists never had to print $1,000 billion dollars annually to save a handful of corrupt and incompetent financial enterprises. This only happens in “free market capitalism” where the capitalists, with the approval of the corrupt US Supreme Court can purchase the government, which represents them and not the electorate.

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Source: Paul Craig Roberts


Economic theory teaches that free price and profit movements ensure that capitalism produces the greatest welfare for the greatest number. Losses indicate economic activities where costs exceed the value of production, thus investment in these activities is curtailed. Profits indicate economic activities where the value of output exceeds its cost, thus investment increases. Prices indicate the relative scarcity and value of inputs and outputs, thus serving to organize production most efficiently.

This theory doesn’t work when the US government socializes cost and privatizes profits as it has been doing with the Federal Reserve’s support of “banks too big to fail” and when a handful of financial institutions have concentrated much economic activity. Subsidized “private” banks are no different from the former publicly subsidized socialized industries of Great Britain, France, Italy, and the former communist countries. The banks have imposed the costs of their incompetence, greed, and corruption on taxpayers. Indeed, the socialized firms in England and France were more efficiently run and never threatened the national economies, much less the entire world, with ruin as do the private US “banks too big to fail.” The English, French, and communists never had to print $1,000 billion dollars annually to save a handful of corrupt and incompetent financial enterprises.

This only happens in “free market capitalism” where the capitalists, with the approval of the corrupt US Supreme Court can purchase the government, which represents them and not the electorate. Thus, the taxation and money creation powers of government are used to support a few financial institutions at the expense of the rest of the country. This is what is meant by “markets are self-regulating.”

Several years ago Ralph Gomery warned me that the damage done to US labor by jobs offshoring was about to be superseded by robotics. Gomery told me that the ownership of the technology patents is highly concentrated and that breakthroughs have made robots increasingly human in their capabilities. Consequently, the prospect for employment of humans is dismal.

Gomory’s words reverberated with me when I read RT’s February 15, 2014, report that computer and robotic experts at Harvard have constructed mobile machines programmed with the logic of termites to be self-organizing and able to complete complex tasks without central direction or oversight.

RT doesn’t understand the implications. Instead of raising a red flag, RT gushes:

“The possibilities are vast. The machines can be made to build any three-dimensional structure on their own and with minimal instruction. But what is truly staggering is their ability to adapt to their work environment and to each other; to calculate losses, reorganize efforts and make adjustments. It is already clear that the development will do wonders for humanity in space, hard-to-reach places and other difficult situations.”

The way the world is organized under a few powerful and immensely greedy private interests, the technology will do nothing for humanity. The technology means that humans will no longer be needed in the work force and that emotionless robotic armies will take the place of human armies and have no compunction about destroying the humans on whom they are unleashed. The picture that emerges is more threatening than Alex Jones’ predictions. Faced with little demand for human labor, little wonder thinkers predict that the rich intend to annihilate the human race and live in an uncrowded environment served by their robots. If this story has not been written as science fiction, someone should get on the job before it becomes ordinary reality.

The Harvard scientists are proud of their achievement, as no doubt most of the Manhattan Project participants were about their achievement in producing a nuclear weapon. But the success of the Manhattan Project scientists was not very nice for the residents of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the prospect of nuclear war continues to cast a dark shadow over the world.

The Harvard technology will prove to be an enemy of the human race.

This outcome does not have to be, but free market ideologues think that any planning or foresight is an interference with the market, which always knows best (thus, the current financial and economic crisis). Free market ideology stands in the way of societal control and serves the short-term interests of powerful and greedy private groups. Instead of being used for humanity, the technology will be used for the profits of a handful.

That is the intention but what is the reality? How can there be a consumer economy if there is no employment? There cannot be, which is what we are gradually learning from the offshoring of American jobs by global corporations. For a limited period an economy can continue to function on the basis of part-time jobs, drawing down savings, food stamps, and extended unemployment benefits.

However, when savings are drawn down, when the heartless politicians who demonize the poor cut food stamps and unemployment benefits, the economy ceases to provide a market for the offshored goods that the corporations bring home to sell.

Here we see the total failure of Adam Smith’s invisible hand. Each corporation in pursuit of greater managerial “performance bonuses” as determined by profits did its part in producing the destruction of the US consumer market and greater misery for all.

Adam Smithian economics applies to economies in which capitalists have some sense of commonality with other citizens of the country like Henry Ford did, some sense of belonging to a country or to a community. Globalism destroys this sense. Capitalism has evolved to the point where the most powerful economic interests, interests that control the government itself, have no sense of obligation to the country in which their business entities are registered. Except for nuclear weapons, international capitalism is the greatest threat humanity has ever faced.

International capitalism has raised greed to a determinant force in world history. Unregulated greed-driven capitalism is destroying the jobs prospects of First World labor and the ability of Third World countries, whose agricultures have been turned into export monocultures serving the global capitalists, to feed themselves. When the crunch comes, the capitalists will let the “other” humanity starve.

As the capitalists declare in their high level meetings, “there are too many people in the world.”

Submitters Website: http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/

Submitters Bio:

Dr. Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury for Economic Policy in the Reagan Administration. He was associate editor and columnist with the Wall Street Journal, columnist for Business Week and the Scripps Howard News Service. He is a contributing editor to Gerald Celente’s Trends Journal. He has had numerous university appointments. His latest book, The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism and Economic Dissolution of the West is available here:  http://www.amazon.com/Failure-Capitalism-Economic-Dissolution-ebook/dp/B00BLPJNWE/ref=sr_1_17?ie=UTF8&qid=1362095594&sr=8-17&keywords=paul+craig+roberts

 

How Can We Escape the Curse of Economic Exploitation?

January 10, 2014

Author, historian and political commentator Noam Chomsky. (photo: Ben Rusk/flickr)
Author, historian and political commentator Noam Chomsky. (photo: Ben Rusk/flickr)

go to original article

By Noam Chomsky, AlterNet

09 January 14

 

‘All for ourselves, and nothing for other people,’ can’t be the motto of a functioning society

e are therefore led to inquire into the social arrangements that are conducive to people’s rights and welfare, and to fulfilling their just aspirations – in brief, the common good.

For perspective I’d like to invoke what seem to me virtual truisms. They relate to an interesting category of ethical principles: those that are not only universal, in that they are virtually always professed, but also doubly universal, in that at the same time they are almost universally rejected in practice.

These range from very general principles, such as the truism that we should apply to ourselves the same standards we do to others (if not harsher ones), to more specific doctrines, such as a dedication to promoting democracy and human rights, which is proclaimed almost universally, even by the worst monsters – though the actual record is grim, across the spectrum.

A good place to start is with John Stuart Mill’s classic “On Liberty.” Its epigraph formulates “The grand, leading principle, towards which every argument unfolded in these pages directly converges: the absolute and essential importance of human development in its richest diversity.”

The words are quoted from Wilhelm von Humboldt, a founder of classical liberalism. It follows that institutions that constrain such development are illegitimate, unless they can somehow justify themselves.

Concern for the common good should impel us to find ways to cultivate human development in its richest diversity.

Adam Smith, another Enlightenment thinker with similar views, felt that it shouldn’t be too difficult to institute humane policies. In his “Theory of Moral Sentiments” he observed that “How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortune of others, and render their happiness necessary to him, though he derives nothing from it except the pleasure of seeing it.”

Smith acknowledges the power of what he calls the “vile maxim of the masters of mankind”: “All for ourselves, and nothing for other people.” But the more benign “original passions of human nature” might compensate for that pathology.

Classical liberalism shipwrecked on the shoals of capitalism, but its humanistic commitments and aspirations didn’t die. Rudolf Rocker, a 20th-century anarchist thinker and activist, reiterated similar ideas.

Rocker described what he calls “a definite trend in the historic development of mankind” that strives for “the free unhindered unfolding of all the individual and social forces in life.”

Rocker was outlining an anarchist tradition culminating in anarcho-syndicalism – in European terms, a variety of “libertarian socialism.”

This brand of socialism, he held, doesn’t depict “a fixed, self-enclosed social system” with a definite answer to all the multifarious questions and problems of human life, but rather a trend in human development that strives to attain Enlightenment ideals.

So understood, anarchism is part of a broader range of libertarian socialist thought and action that includes the practical achievements of revolutionary Spain in 1936; reaches further to worker-owned enterprises spreading today in the American rust belt, in northern Mexico, in Egypt, and many other countries, most extensively in the Basque country in Spain; and encompasses the many cooperative movements around the world and a good part of feminist and civil and human rights initiatives.

This broad tendency in human development seeks to identify structures of hierarchy, authority and domination that constrain human development, and then subject them to a very reasonable challenge: Justify yourself.

If these structures can’t meet that challenge, they should be dismantled – and, anarchists believe, “refashioned from below,” as commentator Nathan Schneider observes.

In part this sounds like truism: Why should anyone defend illegitimate structures and institutions? But truisms at least have the merit of being true, which distinguishes them from a good deal of political discourse. And I think they provide useful stepping stones to finding the common good.

For Rocker, “the problem that is set for our time is that of freeing man from the curse of economic exploitation and political and social enslavement.”

It should be noted that the American brand of libertarianism differs sharply from the libertarian tradition, accepting and indeed advocating the subordination of working people to the masters of the economy, and the subjection of everyone to the restrictive discipline and destructive features of markets.

Anarchism is, famously, opposed to the state, while advocating “planned administration of things in the interest of the community,” in Rocker’s words; and beyond that, wide-ranging federations of self-governing communities and workplaces.

Today, anarchists dedicated to these goals often support state power to protect people, society and the earth itself from the ravages of concentrated private capital. That’s no contradiction. People live and suffer and endure in the existing society. Available means should be used to safeguard and benefit them, even if a long-term goal is to construct preferable alternatives.

In the Brazilian rural workers movement, they speak of “widening the floors of the cage” – the cage of existing coercive institutions that can be widened by popular struggle – as has happened effectively over many years.

We can extend the image to think of the cage of state institutions as a protection from the savage beasts roaming outside: the predatory, state-supported capitalist institutions dedicated in principle to private gain, power and domination, with community and people’s interest at most a footnote, revered in rhetoric but dismissed in practice as a matter of principle and even law.

Much of the most respected work in academic political science compares public attitudes and government policy. In “Affluence and Influence: Economic Inequality and Political Power in America,” the Princeton scholar Martin Gilens reveals that the majority of the U.S. population is effectively disenfranchised.

About 70 percent of the population, at the lower end of the wealth/income scale, has no influence on policy, Gilens concludes. Moving up the scale, influence slowly increases. At the very top are those who pretty much determine policy, by means that aren’t obscure. The resulting system is not democracy but plutocracy.

Or perhaps, a little more kindly, it’s what legal scholar Conor Gearty calls “neo-democracy,” a partner to neoliberalism – a system in which liberty is enjoyed by the few, and security in its fullest sense is available only to the elite, but within a system of more general formal rights.

In contrast, as Rocker writes, a truly democratic system would achieve the character of “an alliance of free groups of men and women based on cooperative labor and a planned administration of things in the interest of the community.”

No one took the American philosopher John Dewey to be an anarchist. But consider his ideas. He recognized that “Power today resides in control of the means of production, exchange, publicity, transportation and communication. Whoever owns them rules the life of the country,” even if democratic forms remain. Until those institutions are in the hands of the public, politics will remain “the shadow cast on society by big business,” much as is seen today.

These ideas lead very naturally to a vision of society based on workers’ control of productive institutions, as envisioned by 19th century thinkers, notably Karl Marx but also – less familiar – John Stuart Mill.

Mill wrote, “The form of association, however, which if mankind continue to improve, must be expected to predominate, is . the association of the labourers themselves on terms of equality, collectively owning the capital with which they carry on their operations, and working under managers electable and removable by themselves.”

The Founding Fathers of the United States were well aware of the hazards of democracy. In the Constitutional Convention debates, the main framer, James Madison, warned of these hazards.

Naturally taking England as his model, Madison observed that “In England, at this day, if elections were open to all classes of people, the property of landed proprietors would be insecure. An agrarian law would soon take place,” undermining the right to property.

The basic problem that Madison foresaw in “framing a system which we wish to last for ages” was to ensure that the actual rulers will be the wealthy minority so as “to secure the rights of property agst. the danger from an equality & universality of suffrage, vesting compleat power over property in hands without a share in it.”

Scholarship generally agrees with the Brown University scholar Gordon S. Wood’s assessment that “The Constitution was intrinsically an aristocratic document designed to check the democratic tendencies of the period.”

Long before Madison, Artistotle, in his “Politics,” recognized the same problem with democracy.

Reviewing a variety of political systems, Aristotle concluded that this system was the best – or perhaps the least bad – form of government. But he recognized a flaw: The great mass of the poor could use their voting power to take the property of the rich, which would be unfair.

Madison and Aristotle arrived at opposite solutions: Aristotle advised reducing inequality, by what we would regard as welfare state measures. Madison felt that the answer was to reduce democracy.

In his last years, Thomas Jefferson, the man who drafted the United States’ Declaration of Independence, captured the essential nature of the conflict, which has far from ended. Jefferson had serious concerns about the quality and fate of the democratic experiment. He distinguished between “aristocrats and democrats.”

The aristocrats are “those who fear and distrust the people, and wish to draw all powers from them into the hands of the higher classes.”

The democrats, in contrast, “identify with the people, have confidence in them, cherish and consider them as the most honest and safe, although not the most wise depository of the public interest.”

Today the successors to Jefferson’s “aristocrats” might argue about who should play the guiding role: technocratic and policy-oriented intellectuals, or bankers and corporate executives.

It is this political guardianship that the genuine libertarian tradition seeks to dismantle and reconstruct from below, while also changing industry, as Dewey put it, “from a feudalistic to a democratic social order” based on workers’ control, respecting the dignity of the producer as a genuine person, not a tool in the hands of others.

Like Karl Marx’s Old Mole – “our old friend, our old mole, who knows so well how to work underground, then suddenly to emerge” – the libertarian tradition is always burrowing close to the surface, always ready to peek through, sometimes in surprising and unexpected ways, seeking to bring about what seems to me to be a reasonable approximation to the common good.

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Comment: Ego in Economy or Ecology is the problem in the Systemic World (interdependent, impermanent, egoless). Ego is the source of greed and anger (these three are called the triple poisons poisoning the system). Ego (delusion/karma) creates discrimination, inequality, exploitation, extermination (five calamities). Sitting and stopping karma (machine) is to see the truth (of the triple poisons) and serve the truth (of Systemic World, Truth World, limitless life system).

The Confidential Memo at the Heart of the Global Financial Crisis

August 23, 2013
August 22, 2013

 

By Greg Palast

Blowing the lid off of the conspiracy to impoverish the world.

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Reprinted from vice.com

Editor’s note: Make sure you also check out Rob Kall’s Podcast interview with Greg Palast– about the news discussed here and more background on the biggest economic conspiracy theory in the world:

Podcast: Greg Palast; Summers, Obama, Rubin– The Bankster Monsters From Hell

 

When a little birdie dropped the End Game memo through my window, its content was so explosive, so sick and plain evil, I just couldn’t believe it.

The Memo confirmed every conspiracy freak’s fantasy: that in the late 1990s, the top US Treasury officials secretly conspired with a small cabal of banker big-shots to rip apart financial regulation across the planet. When you see 26.3 percent unemployment in Spain, desperation and hunger inGreece, riots in Indonesia and Detroit in bankruptcy, go back to this End Game memo, the genesis of the blood and tears.

The Treasury official playing the bankers’ secret End Game was Larry Summers. Today, Summers is Barack Obama’s leading choice for Chairman of the US Federal Reserve, the world’s central bank. If the confidential memo is authentic, then Summers shouldn’t be serving on the Fed, he should be serving hard time in some dungeon reserved for the criminally insane of the finance world.

The memo is authentic.

I had to fly to Geneva to get confirmation and wangle a meeting with the Secretary General of the World Trade Organisation, Pascal Lamy. Lamy, the Generalissimo of Globalisation, told me,

“The WTO was not created as some dark cabal of multinationals secretly cooking plots against the people… We don’t have cigar-smoking, rich, crazy bankers negotiating.”

Then I showed him the memo.

It begins with Larry Summers’ flunky, Timothy Geithner, reminding his boss to call the Bank bigshots to order their lobbyist armies to march:

“As we enter the end-game of the WTO financial services negotiations, I believe it would be a good idea for you to touch base with the CEOs””

To avoid Summers having to call his office to get the phone numbers (which, under US law, would have to appear on public logs), Geithner listed the private lines of what were then the five most powerful CEOs on the planet. And here they are:

Goldman Sachs: John Corzine (212)902-8281

Merrill Lynch: David Kamanski (212)449-6868

Bank of America: David Coulter (415)622-2255

Citibank: John Reed (212)559-2732

Chase Manhattan: Walter Shipley (212)270-1380

Lamy was right: They don’t smoke cigars. Go ahead and dial them. I did, and sure enough, got a cheery personal hello from Reed — cheery until I revealed I wasn’t Larry Summers. (Note: The other numbers were swiftly disconnected. And Corzine can’t be reached while he faces criminal charges.)

It’s not the little cabal of confabs held by Summers and the banksters that’s so troubling. The horror is in the purpose of the “end game” itself.

Let me explain:

The year was 1997. US Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin was pushing hard to de-regulate banks. That required, first, repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act to dismantle the barrier between commercial banks and investment banks. It was like replacing bank vaults with roulette wheels.

Second, the banks wanted the right to play a new high-risk game: “derivatives trading”. JP Morgan alone would soon carry $88 trillion of these pseudo-securities on its books as “assets”.

Deputy Treasury Secretary Summers (soon to replace Rubin as Secretary) body-blocked any attempt to control derivatives.

But what was the use of turning US banks into derivatives casinos if money would flee to nations with safer banking laws?

The answer conceived by the Big Bank Five: eliminate controls on banks in every nation on the planet — in one single move. It was as brilliant as it was insanely dangerous.

How could they pull off this mad caper? The bankers’ and Summers’ game was to use the Financial Services Agreement (or FSA), an abstruse and benign addendum to the international trade agreements policed by the World Trade Organisation.

Until the bankers began their play, the WTO agreements dealt simply with trade in goods — that is, my cars for your bananas. The new rules devised by Summers and the banks would force all nations to accept trade in “bads” — toxic assets like financial derivatives.

Until the bankers’ re-draft of the FSA, each nation controlled and chartered the banks within their own borders. The new rules of the game would force every nation to open their markets to Citibank, JP Morgan and their derivatives “products”.

And all 156 nations in the WTO would have to smash down their own Glass-Steagall divisions between commercial savings banks and the investment banks that gamble with derivatives.

The job of turning the FSA into the bankers’ battering ram was given to Geithner, who was named Ambassador to the World Trade Organisation.
Bankers Go Bananas

Why in the world would any nation agree to let its banking system be boarded and seized by financial pirates like JP Morgan?

The answer, in the case of Ecuador, was bananas. Ecuador was truly a banana republic. The yellow fruit was that nation’s life-and-death source of hard currency. If it refused to sign the new FSA, Ecuador could feed its bananas to the monkeys and go back into bankruptcy. Ecuador signed.

And so on — with every single nation bullied into signing.

Every nation but one, I should say. Brazil’s new President, Inacio Lula da Silva, refused. In retaliation, Brazil was threatened with a virtual embargo of its products by the European Union’s Trade Commissioner, one Peter Mandelson, according to another confidential memo I got my hands on. But Lula’s refusenik stance paid off for Brazil which, alone among Western nations, survived and thrived during the 2007-9 bank crisis.

China signed — but got its pound of flesh in return. It opened its banking sector a crack in return for access and control of the US auto parts and other markets. (Swiftly, two million US jobs shifted to China.)

The new FSA pulled the lid off the Pandora’s box of worldwide derivatives trade. Among the notorious transactions legalised: Goldman Sachs (where Treasury Secretary Rubin had been co-chairman) worked a secret euro-derivatives swap with Greece which, ultimately, destroyed that nation. Ecuador, its own banking sector de-regulated and demolished, exploded into riots. Argentina had to sell off its oil companies (to the Spanish) and water systems (to Enron) while its teachers hunted for food in garbage cans. Then, Bankers Gone Wild in the Eurozone dove head-first into derivatives pools without knowing how to swim — and the continent is now being sold off in tiny, cheap pieces to Germany.

Of course, it was not just threats that sold the FSA, but temptation as well. After all, every evil starts with one bite of an apple offered by a snake. The apple: the gleaming piles of lucre hidden in the FSA for local elites. The snake was named Larry.

Does all this evil and pain flow from a single memo? Of course not: the evil was The Game itself, as played by the banker clique. The memo only revealed their game-plan for checkmate.

And the memo reveals a lot about Summers and Obama.

While billions of sorry souls are still hurting from worldwide banker-made disaster, Rubin and Summers didn’t do too badly. Rubin’s deregulation of banks had permitted the creation of a financial monstrosity called “Citigroup”. Within weeks of leaving office, Rubin was named director, then Chairman of Citigroup — which went bankrupt while managing to pay Rubin a total of $126 million.

Then Rubin took on another post: as key campaign benefactor to a young State Senator, Barack Obama. Only days after his election as President, Obama, at Rubin’s insistence, gave Summers the odd post of US “Economics Tsar” and made Geithner his Tsarina (that is, Secretary of Treasury). In 2010, Summers gave up his royalist robes to return to “consulting” for Citibank and other creatures of bank deregulation whose payments have raised Summers’ net worth by $31 million since the “end-game” memo.

That Obama would, at Robert Rubin’s demand, now choose Summers to run the Federal Reserve Board means that, unfortunately, we are far from the end of the game.

Special thanks to expert Mary Bottari of Bankster USA http://www.BanksterUSA.org without whom our investigation could not have begun.

The film of my meeting with WTO chief Lamy was originally created for Ring of Fire, hosted by Mike Papantonio and Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

Further discussion of the documents I laid before Lamy can be found in “The Generalissimo of Globalization,” Chapter 12 of Vultures’ Picnic by Greg Palast (Constable Robinson 2012).

Follow Greg on Twitter: @Greg_Palast

Submitters Website: http://www.gregpalast.com

Submitters Bio:

Author of the New York Times and international bestsellers, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy and Armed Madhouse, Palast is Patron of the Trinity College Philosophical Society, an honor previously held by Jonathan Swift and Oscar Wilde. Palast turned his skills to journalism after two decades as a top investigator of corporate fraud and racketeering. Palast’s reports appear on BBC’s Newsnight and in Britain’s Guardian, Rolling Stone and Harper’s. Palast is best known as the investigative reported who uncovered how Katherine Harris purged thousands of African-Americans from Florida’s voter rolls in the 2000 Presidential Election. Palast directed the US government’s largest racketeering case in history–winning a $4.3 billion jury award. He also conducted the investigation of the Exxon Valdez on behalf of the Alaskan Natives. Palast is recipient of the George Orwell Courage in Journalism Prize for his BBC television documentary, Bush Family Fortunes. Greg Palast’s newest book, Vultures’ Picnic will be released by Penguin Books in November of 2011. Find out more info at VulturesPicnic.org


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