Around the web

WikiLeaks Strikes Again: Leaked TISA Docs Expose Corporate Plan For Reshaping Global Economy…

 
c

Leaked Docs reveal that little-known corporate treaty poised to privatize and deregulate public services across globe…

“It’s a dark day for democracy when we are dependent on leaks like this for the general public to be informed of the radical restructuring of regulatory frameworks that our governments are proposing,” said Nick Dearden, director of Global Justice Now. (Image created by Common Dreams)

An enormous corporate-friendly treaty that many people haven’t heard of was thrust into the public limelight Wednesday when famed publisher of government and corporate secrets, WikiLeaks, released 17 documents from closed-door negotiations between countries that together comprise two-thirds of the word’s economy.

Analysts warn that preliminary review shows that the pact, known as the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA), is aimed at further privatizing and deregulating vital services, from transportation to healthcare, with a potentially devastating impact for people of the countries involved in the deal, and the world more broadly.

It’s Time to Let Edward Snowden Come Home…

 

s

From The New Yorker

The President and others have praised the U.S.A. Freedom Act, but haven’t mention the blindingly obvious fact that without Edward Snowden the law wouldn’t exist.

Now that Congress has passed, and President Obama has signed, the U.S.A. Freedom Act, which places some limits on the domestic-surveillance powers of the National Security Agency, there’s still unfinished business to deal with.

The new legislation, while it is commendable as far as it goes, contains some obvious shortcomings. Barring the N.S.A. from collecting and holding the phone records of hundreds of millions of Americans was a necessary step, but it won’t make much difference if the result is that the phone companies hold on to the data and secret courts enable the N.S.A. to access it virtually at will. The legislation leaves on the books a law from 1986 that allows the government to read any e-mail that is more than six months old, and it doesn’t change Section 702 of the 2008 FISA Amendments Act, which the N.S.A. has used to justify collecting not just metadata, such as phone records, but the actual contents of communications, such as e-mails and online chats.

Another matter still at hand is the fate of Edward Snowden, the former N.S.A. contractor who has been languishing in Vladimir Putin’s Russia for almost two years. In a statement that President Obama issued shortly before signing the new law, he said, “For the past eighteen months, I have called for reforms that better safeguard the privacy and civil liberties of the American people while ensuring our national security officials retain tools important to keeping Americans safe … enactment of this legislation will strengthen civil liberty safeguards and provide greater public confidence in these programs.” Nowhere did the President or the new law’s sponsors on Capitol Hill state the blindingly obvious: that if it hadn’t been for Snowden’s leaks, the intelligence agencies’ excesses would never have come to light, the U.S.A. Freedom Act wouldn’t exist, and the N.S.A. would still be merrily sweeping up phone records and analyzing them as it saw fit. (My colleague Mattathias Schwartz argued last week that Snowden shouldn’t have been necessary.)

Students! Resist the Corporate Cult Soul Suckers…

 z

Amputating Life Close to Its Base

How the universities allow a corporate cult to capture and destroy their best students

From Monbiot

To seek enlightenment, intellectual or spiritual; to do good; to love and be loved; to create and to teach: these are the highest purposes of humankind. If there is meaning in life, it lies here.

Those who graduate from the leading universities have more opportunity than most to find such purpose. So why do so many end up in pointless and destructive jobs? Finance, management consultancy, advertising, public relations, lobbying: these and other useless occupations consume thousands of the brightest students. To take such jobs at graduation, as many will in the next few weeks, is to amputate life close to its base.

I watched it happen to my peers. People who had spent the preceding years laying out exultant visions of a better world, of the grand creative projects they planned, of adventure and discovery, were suddenly sucked into the mouths of corporations dangling money like angler fish. At first they said they would do it for a year or two, “until I pay off my debts.” Soon afterwards they added: “ … and my mortgage.” Then it became, “I just want to make enough not to worry anymore”. A few years later, “I’m doing it for my family”. Now, in middle age, they reply, “What, that? That was just a student fantasy.”

Going for Broke in Ponzi Scheme America…

 

d

 From TomDispatch

[Note to TomDispatch Readers: I’ve long had a weakness for commencement addresses, or at least for what they might be rather than what they usually are, which is why, I suppose, I’ve written them relatively regularly myself.  Since no actual college or graduating class has ever asked me to give such a speech, I’ve addressed the graduates of 2014 and other years from what I’ve called “the campus of my mind.” This year, given the increasing strangeness of our American world and the rising debt under which college students labor, I couldn’t resist doing so again. Tom]

You’ve Been Scammed! 
Kept Politicians and Demobilized Americans in a System Without a Name 

It couldn’t be a sunnier, more beautiful day to exit your lives — or enter them — depending on how you care to look at it. After all, here you are four years later in your graduation togs with your parents looking on, waiting to celebrate. The question is: Celebrate what exactly?

In possibly the last graduation speech of 2015, I know I should begin by praising your grit, your essential character, your determination to get this far. But today, it’s money, not character, that’s on my mind. For so many of you, I suspect, your education has been a classic scam and you’re not even attending a “for profit” college — an institution of higher learning, that is, officially set up to take you for a ride.

Maybe this is the moment, then, to begin your actual education by looking back and asking yourself what you should really have learned on this campus and what you should expect in the scams — I mean, years — to come. Many of you — those whose parents didn’t have money — undoubtedly entered these stately grounds four years ago in relatively straitened circumstances.  In an America in which corporate profits have risen impressively, it’s been springtime for billionaires, but when it comes to ordinary Americans, wages have been relatively stagnant, jobs (the good ones, anyway) generally in flight, and times not exactly of the best.  Here was a figure that recently caught my eye, speaking of the world you’re about to step into: in 2014, the average CEO received 373 times the compensation of the average worker.  Three and a half decades ago, that number was a significant but not awe-inspiring 42 times.

Still, you probably arrived here eager and not yet in debt. Today, we know that the class that preceded you was the most indebted in the history of higher education, and you’ll surely break that “record.” And no wonder, with college tuitions still rising wildly (up 1,120% since 1978).  Judging by last year’s numbers, about 70% of you had to take out loans simply to make it through here, to educate yourself.  That figure was a more modest 45% two decades ago.  On average, you will have rung up least $33,000 in debt and for some of you the numbers will be much higher.  That, by the way, is more than double what it was those same two decades ago.

Bill Moyers: The Challenge of Journalism Is to Survive in the Pressure Cooker of Plutocracy…

 
m

From Bill Moyers

The following remarks were made by Bill Moyers at the presentation of the Helen Bernstein Book Awards for Excellence in Journalism. The ceremony took place at the New York Public Library on May 26, 2015.


Thank you for allowing me to share this evening with you. I’m delighted to meet these exceptional journalists whose achievements you honor with the Helen Bernstein Book Award.

But I gulped when [New York Public Library President] Tony Marx asked me to talk about the challenges facing journalism today and gave me 10 to 15 minutes to do so. I seriously thought of taking a powder. Those challenges to journalism are so well identified, so mournfully lamented, and so passionately debated that I wonder if the subject isn’t exhausted. Or if we aren’t exhausted from hearing about it. I wouldn’t presume to speak for journalism or for other journalists or for any journalist except myself. Ted Gup, who teaches journalism at Emerson and Boston College, once bemoaned the tendency to lump all of us under the term “media.” As if everyone with a pen, a microphone, a camera (today, a laptop or smartphone) – or just a loud voice – were all one and the same. I consider myself a journalist. But so does James O’Keefe. Matt Drudge is not E.J. Dionne. The National Review is not The Guardian, or Reuters TheHuffington Post. Ann Coulter doesn’t speak for Katrina vanden Heuvel, or Rush Limbaugh for Ira Glass. Yet we are all “media” and as Ted Gup says, “the media” speaks for us all.

What happens to a society fed a diet of rushed, re-purposed, thinly reported “content?” Or “branded content” that is really merchandising — propaganda — posing as journalism?

Saul Alinsky: I’m Still Irreverent…

 
r

From Reveille For Radicals (1969)

Disillusionment’s child is irreverence, and irreverence became one of my major heritages from an angry, irreverent generation. In this way I have not changed. I am still irreverent. I still feel the same contempt for and still reject so-called objective decisions made without passion and anger. Objectivity, like the claim that one is nonpartisan or reasonable, is usually a defensive posture used by those who fear involvement in the passions, partisanships, conflicts, and changes that make up life; they fear life. An “objective” decision is generally lifeless. It is academic and the word “academic” is a synonym for irrelevant. All radicals acting for change must attack the sacred cows of the past and many of the present. These sacred cows are accepted as germinal truths and serve as the supporting rationale for the ways of the past. A scared human being gives birth to a sacred cow. Since the genesis and survival of sacred cows is rooted in fear and reverence, it follows that those who want change must be against sacred cows and not only innately irreverent but outwardly, purposefully irreverent in their actions. They must be iconoclastic bulldozers willing to be regarded as profane spoilers of the sacred myths.

More punk, less hell!

 
p

An extraordinary political experiment took place in Iceland: anarchists governed the capital city of Reykjavik for four years – and the amateurs achieved some astonishing successes.

From Ausland

When the ballots had been counted, the Prime Minister of Iceland declared the result a «shock».

The same sense of shock was felt by almost everyone. The old guard, because it had lost. And the new party, because it had won.

There had never been such a result – not in Iceland or anywhere else. Reykjavik had long been a bastion of the conservatives. That was now history. With 34.7% of the vote, the city had voted a new party into power: the anarcho-surrealists.

The leading candidate, Jón Gnarr, a comedian by profession, entered the riotous hall full of drunken anarchists looking rather circumspect. Almost shyly, he raised his fist and said: «Welcome to the revolution!» And: «Hurray for all kinds of things!»

Christian Fundamentalist Terrorism…

 

d
From WILLIAM EDELEN
The Contrary Minister (2002)
[Repost]

A friend has worked for Planned Parenthood for a good many years. She lives in a major American city. She called recently and asked me to tell my readers about Christian terrorism right here in the United States.

She said: “Do your readers have any idea what it is like to go to work day after day wondering if there is some Christian nut waiting with a bomb or gun for you?”

Listen to Jerry Falwell: “The idea that church and state should be separated was invented by the devil to keep Christians from running this country. I really believe that the pagans… and the abortionists… and the feminists… and the gays and lesbians… as well as the ACLU and the People For The American Way… all of them… should take the blame for God allowing this to happen. I point my finger in their face and say that to them.” (talking about the Trade Center bombing.)

My subject is Christian terrorism in America. Are you aware of how convicted bomber Mahmud Abouhalima, a Muslim, and Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and Billy Graham’s son, Franklin, all sound exactly alike using the same kind of terrorist language?

Do you understand what my friend is talking about? What she fears daily, with Christian fanatics on the loose in our society? Forget about the Muslims for a day or two and become concerned and informed about the Christian terrorists in every state in America.

If an alarm is not going off in your head… you must be sound asleep or else living in a make believe world of fantasy.

Bernie Sanders’ Reddit Q&A show why he’s a progressive hero…

 sw

From VOX

The media isn’t taking Bernie Sanders seriously as a presidential candidate because he doesn’t seem to have a realistic path to winning the nomination. But he does have a large and highly engaged fan presence on the internet, and his Tuesday Q&A session on Reddit was full of moments that illustrate why his fans love him so much. He is an utterly self-confident, utterly fearless exponent of liberal and social democratic ideals in a country where such notions are rarely shouted from the rooftops.

He’s a politician who doesn’t care about hitting his next quarterly fundraising numbers or what he can round up 60 votes for in the Senate. He’s just here to speak the truth as he sees it. Here, excerpted from the Q&A, are 11 answers that exemplify why he’s such a hero to online progressives.

1) Delivering student debt relief

Afterburn by Richard Heinberg…


From Richard Heinberg

Introduction to AFTERBURN: Life Beyond Fossil Fuels

We live in a time of what might be called The Great Burning. However, we tend to ignore the tremendous inferno blazing around us. Most of the combustion occurs out of sight and out of mind, in hundreds of millions of automobile, truck, aircraft, and ship engines; in tens of thousands of coal or gas-fired power plants that provide the electricity that runs our computers, smart phones, refrigerators, air conditioners, and televisions; in furnaces that warm us in the winter; in factories that spew out products we are constantly urged to buy. Add all this burning together and it amounts to the energy equivalent of torching a quarter of the Amazon rainforest every year. In the United States, the energy from annual fossil fuel combustion roughly equates to the solar energy taken up by all biomass in the nation. It’s a conflagration unlike anything that has ever occurred before in Earth’s history, and it is the very basis of our modern existence.

The Era of Impact…

 


~
 
From John Michael Greer

Of all the wistful superstitions that cluster around the concept of the future in contemporary popular culture, the most enduring has to be the notion that somehow, sooner or later, something will happen to shake the majority out of its complacency and get it to take seriously the crisis of our age. Week after week, I field comments and emails that presuppose that belief. People want to know how soon I think the shock of awakening will finally hit, or wonder whether this or that event will do the trick, or simply insist that the moment has to come sooner or later.

To all such inquiries and expostulations I have no scrap of comfort to offer. Quite the contrary, what history shows is that a sudden awakening to the realities of a difficult situation is far and away the least likely result of what I’ve called the era of impact, the second of the five stages of collapse. (The first, for those who missed last week’s post, is the era of pretense; the remaining three, which will be covered in the coming weeks, are the eras of response, breakdown, and dissolution.)

The US Is Leading the World into a Whole New Kind of Disorder…

t

From Tariq Ali 

It’s a mixed and confused world. But its problems don’t change – they just take new forms. 

The twilight began in the early 1990s with the implosion of the former Soviet Union and the takeover of Russia, Central Asia and much of Eastern Europe by visionless former Communist Party bureaucrats, many of whom rapidly became billionaires. The oligarchs who bought up some of the most expensive property in the world, including in London, may once have been members of the Communist Party, but they were also opportunists with no commitment to anything other than power and lining their own pockets. The vacuum created by the collapse of the party system has been filled by different things in different parts of the world, among them religion – and not just Islam. The statistics on the growth of religion in the Western world are dramatic – just look at France. And we have also seen the rise of a global empire of unprecedented power. The United States is now unchallengeable militarily and it dominates global politics, even the politics of the countries it treats as its enemies.

Why Edward Abbey Still Matters…

 

aEd Abbey in Grand Gulch, Utah.

From EarthIsland

The author of Desert Solitaire and The Monkey Wrench Gang is branded a misanthrope and a hypocrite. The truth is more interesting.

There seems to be a good deal of interest in Edward Abbey these days. Two new books — All The Wild That Remains  by David Gessner and Finding Abbey by Sean Prentiss — explore the life and legacy of the writer and wilderness firebrand. Next month, they’ll be joined by Abbey in America, a multi-author collection of personal and scholarly reflections on Abbey’s continuing influence (full disclosure: I’m one of those doing the reflecting).

This little burst of attention to Abbey shouldn’t be that surprising. He’s been at the center of conversations (and more often than not, arguments) about wilderness preservation and environmental politics since the publication of his 1968 classic, Desert Solitaire, a captivating mix of nature writing, environmentalist polemics, and autobiographical musings. His raucous 1975 novel The Monkey Wrench Gang, about a group of environmental merry pranksters and saboteurs running wild in the American Southwest, would further cement Abbey’s reputation (for better or worse).

Given that Desert Solitaire is often mentioned in the same breath as Thoreau’s Walden and Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac, the renewed interest in the prickly avatar of the desert Southwest makes some sense. But, at the same time, the Abbey renaissance is fighting some newly powerful intellectual and political currents within American environmentalism.

B.B. …

 


~~

Reclaiming Populism: The Progressive Movement Is Alive and Well in the 21st Century…

p


A new generation of grassroots activists are rising up against the interests of the rich and powerful.
Eugene Lim was on his way to hitting rock bottom. After graduating from Chicago’s Shimer College in 2011, he’d spent two years trying to find a permanent job. And he was increasingly blaming himself for his plight.

“I thought I was poor through some fault of my own,” he said in a speech before the Populism2015 conference that I helped organize this April in Washington.

After a serious mauling from a stray dog landed him in an emergency room, Lim was left with an $11,000 hospital bill he couldn’t pay. That’s when he began to redirect his anger.

Fortunately, Lim was eligible for Illinois’ Medicaid program. But then he learned that Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner was pushing for deep cuts in the state’s Medicaid program — while also pushing tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy.

The Band: ‘Book Faded Brown’ and ‘Don’t Wait’…

 

From Something Else

A searcher’s song, “Don’t Wait” also speaks to the journey Levon Helm made with Rick Danko and Garth Hudson back toward their legacy in the Band. The track, co-written by Helm for the Band’s 1998 finale Jubilation, finds our protagonist desperately searching for something to grab on to — only to meet a wizened stranger who steers him back toward old music’s sense of home and hearth.

In this way, “Don’t Wait” echoes their stirring past even as it amplifies the larger issues surrounding the Band’s long-awaited comeback.

Moving on without Robbie Robertson and Richard Manuel couldn’t have been easy, and it likewise was wrought with doubters. Helm, Danko and Hudson showed time and time again, however, that they could rise to that challenge over a trio of ’90s-era albums, adding several moments that stand with anything in the Band’s larger canon. Then came health issues for Levon Helm, something made evident in the ragged edges of his vocal here.

As such, so much of the narrative inside “Don’t Wait” rings true: They’ve certainly known high times, and their share of low ones, too. All of it informs the performance, too. A lyric that combines rustic wisdom and a mystical bent is bolstered by a slapping Randy Ciarlante cadence and Levon Helm’s plucky mandolin, even as Rick Danko begins darting in behind Levon’s lead vocal like two old friends finishing one another’s sentences.

By the time it’s over, “Don’t Wait” has first revealed itself as one of their last era’s very best moments — and then as one of the Band’s very best, period.
~~

This is the winning drawing of Mad Muhammad at the Garland ‘Draw Muhammad’ exhibit…

 
m~~

David Harvey: “…jobs, jobs, jobs. Yeah, but meaningful jobs.”

 

Professor of anthropology and geography, David Harvey. Data released by the anti-poverty charity Oxfam suggests that the world’s wealthiest 80 people are on track to own more than the poorer half of the world’s population (some 3.5 billion) by 2016. That’s not a reflection of a glitch in our economic system, says David Harvey, professor at the City University of New York. That’s our economic system at work; indeed, that’s our economic system in “recovery.”

Distinguished professor of anthropology and geography at the CUNY Graduate Center, Harvey argues that poverty and inequality can’t be explained away or blamed on personal problems, or what President Obama in his State of the Union address called the “loopholes that lead to inequality.” Inequality is what our economic system produces, and the cost of it can be measured in the despair many feel, and in our bitter relationships to ourselves, each other and the planet.

“It’s almost impossible to be really human,” says Harvey, in a world that measures life in earnings and wealth and productivity only.

Snowden, Assange and Manning statues unveiled in Berlin…

 aTaking a stand in Berlin’s Alexanderplatz are whistleblowers Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange and Edward Snowden.

From http://www.euronews.com/embed/305239/

Activists and members of Germany’s Green party unveiled the life-size bronze statues on Friday.

All are considered heroes on the political left for leaking US intelligence documents.

The man behind the work Italian sculptor Davide Dormino explains that he wanted to “represent three contemporary heroes who have lost their freedom for the truth.” He says that they act as a reminder of “how important it is to know the truth and have the courage to know the truth.”

Entitled Anything to Say the sculpture encourages supporters to stand up for freedom of speech and information.

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange faces extradition to Sweden to face investigation into accusations of rape and sexual assault, but fears he will be extradited to the US to face questions over his role in leaking secret US documents. He has taken asylum in Ecuador’s London Embassy. US soldier Chelsea Manning (born Bradley Manning) was convicted in 2013 on charges relating to the Espionage Act for leaking US intelligence and military documents to Wikileaks. She is currently serving a 35 year prison sentence. Edward Snowden is currently evading extradition to the US by taking asylum in Russia. He released classified information from the National Security Agency (NSA) to journalists revealing the scale of the US government’s global surveillance capabilities.

Their statues will have fewer restrictions on their movements with a scheduled world tour.
~~

Dry Farming: Potatoes, Apples, and Tomatoes…

 L

[Repost from 2012]

David Little of Little Organic Farm has had to adapt to water scarcity in Marin and Sonoma Counties, where most farmers and ranchers rely on their own reservoirs, wells, and springs, making them particularly vulnerable in years with light rainfall. Through a technique known as dry farming, Little’s potatoes and squash receive no irrigation, getting all of their water from the soil.

Mediterranean grape and olive growers have dry-farmed for thousands of years. The practice was common on the California coast from the 1800s through the early 20th century, but it became a lost art during the mid-century. Today, it is experiencing a modest resurgence along the coast, where temperate, foggy summers offer ideal conditions for dry farming grapes, tomatoes, potatoes, cucumbers, melons, grains, and some tree fruit

“In the beginning, I searched out people who were known dry-farmers,” says Little, who started in farming in 1995. “It seemed like no one had done it for 30 years or so, and then it wasn’t done much.”

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,656 other followers