In December, the 21st “Council of Parties” to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change took place in Paris. Almost everybody seemed to understand that we are in “no more fooling around” territory, with some notable exceptions, like, f’rinstance, India and Saudi Arabia. Ironically, these are two of the countries with the most to lose from further climate change–like, their inhabitability. Even so, it has become common knowledge that climate change denialism has largely been, um, fuelled by oil companies who did the research in the 70’s and 80’s and, like the tobacco companies before them, realized that their product was lethal, and who nonetheless chose to elevate their short-term bottom line over the long-term survival of not just their customers, as with the tobacco companies, but of the human race, along with most other species on the planet. I could be snide and sneer about the oxymoronic quality of the phrase “corporate ethics,” but it’s not just corporations that prioritize reaping short-term benefits over preventing long-term threats. It’s a fairly common human trait, it turns out, and one that is plaguing our efforts to stop doing things that release more carbon and accelerate climate change, and to start doing things that will capture carbon and reverse our ever more tightly spiralling spin into planetary oblivion. In order to reverse climate change, we must reverse our own conditioned responses. The outer depends on the inner, as always.
Comments : Leave a Comment »
Tags: China, Clarksville Highway, coal, Columbia Pipeline Group, COP 21, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, fracking, Godot, India, Joelton, John Kerry, Karl Dean, Megan Barry, methane, Metro Council, Metro Planning Commission, Middle East, NAFTA, Nashville Next, natural gas, No New Fossil Fuel Infrastructure, Paris, President Obama, Saudi Arabia, Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership, Transcanada Corporation, United Nations, White's Creek, World Bank, World Trade Organization, Yemen
Categories : climate change, environmental issues, financial, international relations, local politics, local self-sufficiency, peak oil, the war for oil, transition
If one example epitomizes creeping fascism in America, it is the recent Florida incident in which John Kerry did nothing while police tasered and arrested a student who asked him a rambling question about why Kerry had not contested the 2004 election and why nobody had moved to impeach Bush. Did Kafka write the script for this? Andrew Meyer had a non-soundbite question. He was trying to lay out enough background so that his question made sense, and had in fact gotten to his point, when University of Florida police moved in, manhandled him to the back of the room, put him on the floor and tasered him, while Kerry droned on, making jokes about the incident( “I’m afraid he’s not able to come up here and swear me in as President.”) and everybody in the room just sat and watched. Later, Kerry claimed he was not aware that Meyer was being tasered. Hey, the guy was screaming “Don’t taser me!” I guess this kind of answered his question about why Kerry didn’t contest the election. All that’s necessary for evil to triumph, they say, is for good people to do nothing.
When I was in college, an incident like that would have sparked a riot, tasers or no tasers. The fact that nothing happened is a sad commentary on the state of America today, and what’s sadder is that it’s not the only symptom of repression, or of passive acceptance of repression. We’ve all heard of no-fly lists, and the increased airport security that goes with them. Flying these days is like going to a voluntary prison,where they treat you OK as long as you do what they tell you. Step out of line like Carol Gotbaum or Doris Watson, and police who are trained to confront big, burly, healthy male criminal types will manhandle you to death. What happened to treating women, no matter how agitated, like ladies?
While these womens’ deaths are, so far, isolated incidents, there are plenty of people who have found that the friendly skies aren’t friendly to them any more. While the exact number is a state secret, there are an estimated 700,000 people either forbidden to fly in this country or subject to intense search and questioning every time they board an airplane. What have they done? In many cases, they are individuals who have spoken out against US government policy. This is political harassment, pure and simple. In spite of widespread protest, the government is planning to make travel even more difficult—by next year you will, if they have their way, need a passport to visit Canada and a federally-approved “real ID” to enter federal courthouses, national parks, and other locations. Gotta protect them national parks from freedom-hating terrorists, yessir. Oh, by the way, you won’t be able to get social security or open a bank account without it—and you may not be able to get one, and it may cost more than you can afford.
Plus, you can only cross the US-Canada border if you’ve been a very good little boy or girl. In June, I recounted the plight of a psychologist who has been refused entry into the US because of articles he published in praise of psychedelics, thirty years ago, although he has no arrest record and has been visiting his family in the US without incident for decades; now comes news that two anti-war activists, Medea Benjamin and Ann Wright, of Code Pink, were recently refused entry into Canada because of the arrests they have undergone to protest the war. Both had entered Canada with no problem as recently as August. It seems the US FBI gave Canadian customs the National Crime Information Center list so the Canadians would know who to keep out, and it makes no difference to the Canadians whether you were arrested for attempted murder or for trying to stop a war they themselves had the good sense to avoid. According to this standard, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, and Desmond Tutu would all be denied entry into Canada. And speaking of Desmond Tutu, the Nobel Peace Prize winner was briefly blackballed from speaking in Minneapolis because Jews in Minnesota interpreted his criticism of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians as “anti-Semitic.” Hey, Arabs are Semites too, y’know? And what the Israelis are doing to them IS a lot like apartheid! Anyway, THAT particular piece of American censorship was turned back by popular outcry.
American censorship. It’s what’s happening, baby. We got Pearl Jam’s anti-Bush lyrics to “The Wall” cut out, we got Bono’s speech accepting the Liberty Medal edited for him. (The company did present his full remarks in another, longer video clip that fewer people would see.) We got Verizon trying to keep NARAL from using its flash messaging service, we got Yahoo and MSN deciding that Truthout’s emails are junk no matter what the recipients think. And, speaking of keeping people from finding things out for themselves, we got marijuana arrests at another all-time high. In 2005 it was one every forty seconds, in 2006 it was one every thirty-eight seconds. That may sound like a pretty trivial increase, but those two seconds mean that 47,000 more people—another 130 people every day– were arrested for marijuana last year, mostly for simple possession. More people were arrested for marijuana than for all violent crimes put together. Hey, is this a free country or what? It will only be a free country if lots and lots of us, too many of us to haul away or throw a wall around, start exercising our rights. John Kerry and his vacuous Democratic buddies—Hillary, Obama, whoever– are not gonna do the job for us.
Comments : Leave a Comment »
Tags: democrats, John Kerry, no-fly list, real id act, U of Fla.
Categories : censorship, politics, the Bush junta, US infrastructure
I’ve been reading an extraordinary book lately, renewing and expanding my knowledge of recent history, oftentimes in ways that leave me shocked and angry—not just at the tragedy of the events themselves, but at the shallow and slanted way in which they were reported to me and the rest of the American public, if they were reported at all—for this book is not just a history, it is a history of how history is reported, and it lays to rest the myth of “the liberal media.” Even though it is nearly twenty years old, it is still fully relevant to current events, because some things—like the fundamentally conservative, not liberal, bias of the mainstream media—don’t change.
The book is Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman’s Manufacturing Consent, subtitled “The Political Economy of the Mass Media.” It examines several major news stories of the sixties, seventies and eighties in deep and well-footnoted detail: terrorism and electoral politics in Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala, the so-called plot to kill Pope John-Paul II, and the three wars in Indo-China—Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. In all of these cases, I was astounded to discover the difference between reality on the ground and what I had been able to learn about these events from the mass media (even my cynical reading of the mass media) and even from such alternative news sources as were available at the time—about which I have to say, thank goddess for the internet—it has made the news much more democratic and diverse.
Chomsky and Herman point out that the so-called “liberal media”–the television networks, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Time and Newsweek—consistently ignored obvious connections between governments and terrorist activities in El Salvador and Guatemala, while straining to create them in Nicaragua; pumped up the idea of a KGB-Bulgarian plot to assassinate Pope John Paul II when there was no credible evidence to back up the claim (and a great deal of evidence pointing to the fascist-leaning Italian secret police’s manufacture of the plot).
I had long been aware of how widespread state terrorism has been in Central America, and the “plot to kill the pope” seems like the stuff of comic opera, but somehow I had missed just how completely and intentionally devastating America’s assault on Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam had been. The United States’ objective was to destroy the fabric of civil society in those countries, and through our superior weaponry we all but succeeded—in disrupting the lives of millions of people who were not actively hostile to this country and certainly represented no threat to America. If tht’s not terrorism, I don’t know what is. Chomsky and Herman posit that the military’s aim was to demonstrate to the third world that it was not worthwhile to engage in guerilla warfare, because US airpower would more than make up for any success against our ground troops—and the overwhelming sympathy that the people of Vietnam had for the Viet Minh (“Viet Cong,” the authors point out, was in fact a derogatory term) made U.S. success on the ground an impossibility.
And so, the atrocities at My Lai were the rule, not an exception. John Kerry’s “war hero” status devolves into war criminal status—do we know how many innocent civilians he killed?
The war on Vietnam was an attempt by the Western economic system to destroy the working, communal peasant network that was in place in southeast Asia, and force the people there to adopt a consumerist way of life that would benefit the Western economic system. The same kind of eminent domain that the Supreme Court just approved, on a transnational scale.
This is not, however merely a book of history—it is a history of how the history has been told, and it is easy to connect the dots—the same cover-over is going on today. Just as there were no hard questions in the popular media about the Gulf of Tonkin incident, there are no hard questions about why there was no wreckage scattered around from the airliner that allegedly hit the Pentagon, nor a call for a good explanation of why the World Trade Center collapsed from below when it was struck from above, nor an explanation of why World Trade Center Building 7 imploded several hours later when it had not been hit by an airplane or damaged by the collapse of the main towers, let alone a good explanation for why the “Bin Laden likely to use planes to attack U.S.” briefing was ignored, why Colin Powell lied to the U.N., why the Bin Laden family was allowed to leave the country unquestioned, why no interceptor planes were scrambled when the hijacking started…the list goes on and on
I am marking this fourth anniversary of the destruction of the World Trade Center by asserting that it wasn’t a terrorist attack—it was a sucker punch, My fellow Americans, we have been had. That pain you feel is George Bush’s fist in your gut.
Just as the media unquestioningly accepted that the rebels in El Salvador and Guatemala were communists, and that the death squads had nothing to do with the government and were not trained, equipped, and encouraged by the United States, so today the media accept that the struggle in Columbia is narcotraffickers versus government, with some uncontrollable right-wing death squads floating around, and that the trouble in Iraq is with a small minority of the population there.
And just as there were no questions about whether the United States had a right to be in Vietnam, only questions about whether the war was winnable, so there is no discussion in the mainstream media about whether the U.S. has any right to be in Iraq, only arguments about whether we can prevail against the “insurgents.” The question is too embarassing to ask, because the answer is that the United States had as much right to interfere in Vietnam—and in Iraq—as the Germans had to send their troops into Poland in 1939.
Let me say that again, more clearly: the United States has as much right to invade Iraq as the Germans had to invade Poland. Again: the United States has as much right to invade Iraq as the Germans had to invade Poland. Please tell all your friends to tell this to all their friends. It’s the thousand pound gorilla in America’s living room: the United States has as much right to invade Iraq as the Germans had to invade Poland. Do I make myself perfectly clear?
All those who support America’s current war of aggression in the middle east—including recent Democratic candidate Kerry and current front-runners Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden—are complicit in war crimes just as surely as any member of the 1939 German government. There is no good reason for the United States to have military forces in Iraq. None. Zip. Nada. The World Trade Center bombing was allowed to happen by the Bush junta, if it was not actively planned by them. And you’ll never read about it in Newsweek.
The book, again, is Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent.” Read it and weep. Read it and get motivated. Happy anniversary.
Comments : Leave a Comment »
Tags: 9-11, Central America, John Kerry, liberal media, Nazi Germany, Noam Chomsky, SE Asia
Categories : archives, literature, local self-sufficiency, the Bush junta, the war for oil