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December 10, 2018
A Few Thoughts on Politics and Personal Identity
by Gary Olson

Photo Source David Shankbone | CC BY 2.0

For 30+ years I taught a senior seminar course that I’d designed and titled The Politics of Personal Identity (or POPI). Limited to 12 students during their final college semester, it was a capstone course that endeavored to make sense of their liberal arts experience. Over the term we examined identity from every possible angle and their final assignment, announced the first day of class, was a 40-minute oral presentation titled “Who Am I? What Do I Believe? Why Do I Believe it?” This was followed by an extensive  Q & A from the other members. The ground rules were that nothing revealed in the presentations would be disclosed beyond the classroom.

In part, we relied upon McGill University professor Charles Taylor’s work to set our frame of reference of what it means to be a self, a human agent, a person. For Taylor, one’s identity is defined by knowing where one stands. That is, what are the commitments which provide the horizons upon which I base my actions in life, upon which I’m willing take a stand. In Taylor’s words and put counterfactually, “… if they were to lose this commitment or orientation they would be at sea, as it were; they wouldn’t know anymore, for an important range of questions, what the significance of things was for them.” If such a situation were to arise we would call it “an identity crisis,” a disorienting, radical uncertainly of where they stand. Put another way, to know who are is to know where you stand with regard to certain basic moral questions.

Taylor reminds us that people we judge as shallow also have a sense of what’s most important but for whatever reasons it’s not well thought out or simply given by the prevailing culture. People considered to have depth or character have moved beyond this or are struggling to know what they believe is the “good” or what issues truly have meaning for them. Taylor again: we are authentic selves not because we possess livers and hearts but because we can answer the question “Who Am I?” How are my most critical defining relations lived out? What kind of life is worth living? Does my life amount to something?  Where is my allegiance? How did I get where I am today and where is this quest heading?

Each year I invited professors and administrators as guest speakers and asked them to address these questions. All of them were highly educated, amiable, decent liberals with fixed ideas about the bounds of political action. I was both surprised and perplexed that most of them declined my offer. Those who enthusiastically agreed, included a radical political science professor, our academic dean who’d been a member of the Union for Radical Political Economics (URPE) and the college’s president. The latter had been deeply influenced by the anti-Vietnam war protests, the civil rights movement and his deep religious convictions. An ordained minister, his studies had included exposure to liberation theology.

What about those who demurred? I could be wrong but at best, my sense was some of them did not feel confident their answers would survive a robust Q & A session. At worst, they had indefinitely deferred looking too deeply into this matter. Why? Taking liberties with and updating the Bible (John 8:32, KJV) we might say that the truth about how the world works will set you free. But first, it can be forbiddingly unsettling.

Over my career I learned that college teaching permits one to hide behind a role without necessarily disclosing much about oneself.  And the longer one avoids this confrontation while investing time and resources into other notions of identity, the more uncomfortable and risky it becomes to do so. This is one reason some radicals now elect to dialogue almost exclusively with younger folks, a choice I understand but can’t emulate.

Further, I would argue that the closer one’s identity approximates how the world works and ought to work, the less this particular threat is a problem. How to move people to undertake this quest remains an exceedingly vexing question but one that requires answers. In my view, giving up is not an option. As Howard Zinn once noted, almost everyone who’s now a radical began as a liberal. Certain early experiences, patient mentors, the luxury of time, access to resources and frankly, just plain luck, all played a part. In short, some of us might exhibit a bit more humility.

Finally, I would argue that science, if done properly, can help provide the basis for morality. The supposed split between facts and values is a myth perpetuated by philosophers and anthropologists pushing cultural relativism. That is, there are better and worse ways of structuring the global economy to maximize the opportunities for human enrichment and fulfillment. Some moral values are better than others. We shouldn’t shy away from that debate because we would prevail by carefully explaining — with evidence — how global capitalism is the primary cause of general human misery, everything from material conditions to massive alienation.

Gary Olson is Professor Emeritus of Political Science, Moravian College, Bethlehem, PA. His most recent book is EMPATHY IMPERILED: Capitalism, Culture and the Brain (NY: Springer Publishing, 2013). Contact:

The Diner Pantry / The Meat🥩-o-saurus Survey
« on: December 09, 2018, 03:11:27 PM »

You can find the new Survey at

I'm not paying for the Premium Package anymore, so you have to answer in the next week.

Have fun Cow Killers!  ;D


Economics / 🎅 The Economic Myths of Santa Claus (Sorry, Kids!)
« on: December 08, 2018, 12:40:43 AM »

The Economic Myths of Santa Claus (Sorry, Kids!)
December 7, 2018 Patrice de Bergeracpas

The real Santa was a lot nobler and more serious than the kiddie version.
And he was not about Xmas either.

by K.J. Noh

It’s on full blast now, Christmas jingles, holiday “cheer”, and the endless exhortations to consume.  And here comes Santa.

Why is this myth so powerful?  Why does it capture imagination so deeply?  Why do generations perpetuate this massive fraud to their children?

Santa wasn’t always so. St. Nicholas of Myra,was originally known for rescuing women from prostitution.  Legend says he dropped gold into the stockings of three women who, having no dowries, were about to be sold. It’s also said that he brought back to life men butchered, or kidnapped. From this, he became a Patron saint of women, children, prostitutes, protector of the oppressed and in extremis. Later, he became the patron saint of the poor, and St. Nicholas’ feast became a day for alms and redistribution.

Over the years, however, Santa acquired other significant functions. During the Dutch slave trade, he became Sinterklaas, taking on trappings of a slave trader, kidnapping young children, with a black henchman (Zwarte Piet), and sleigh drawn by ten black slaves. In the 19th Century, he took on now recognizable traits as a shill for corporate consumption, eventually co-opted by Coca-Cola (immortalizing his trademark colors) as a winter pitchman for cocaine-laced drinks, and before becoming the Patron Saint and canonical myth of capitalism.

One way of understanding this myth is through critical theory.

When the contradictions in our lives, our reality are so intolerable that we cannot humanly justify them and remain sane, we resort to a set of stories in order to obscure, absolve, and make bearable this state of affairs.

Think of this as similar to a dream, which expresses the contradictions and tensions in our lives, even as it covers them up symbolically through displacement, compression, and distortion.

Or as a disease symptom: a way of expressing a deep distress or imbalance. The symptom expresses the condition, palliating it, while signaling a deeper pathology at stake.

This collective defense mechanism is referred to as ideology, and it manifests as a series of narratives and myths that maintain our worldview—with our sense of self at the center– while keeping us asleep as to what’s really happening, from seeing what is unacceptable.

For example, the myth of Thanksgiving obscures the origins of a violent, colonial settler state, based on war, dispossession, and genocide. It papers this over with a reassuringly saccharine tale of generosity, cooperation, and sharing, lest the festivities stick violently in our craw and render us ill with rage, horror, grief.

So too, Santa Claus.  If we gave thought, we would realize for the majority of the world, Christmas means little more than punishing work in service, retail, or production. A moment’s thought to the conditions in sweatshops, where the majority of workers are now entering into 16, 20, 24 hr work schedules—essentially slave labor–to meet the demand for “gifts” in the west, would seriously dampen holiday cheer.

Santa thus attempts to make tolerable the intolerable with the following myths

The Myth of Satisfied Labor:

Little happy elves build toys in Santa’s workshop, delighted to bring joy.


Almost all goods for Christmas are created by workers—often underage–in sweatshops/factories for a pittance, under inhuman conditions, without choice.

The Myth of Spontaneous Generation of Wealth:

All a child has to do is go to sleep and they will find presents appearing out of nowhere. Like “the miracle of compound interest”, value generates itself effortlessly out of leisure.


No Free Lunch. Someone—usually the dispossessed poor– is paying wholesale for “wealth creation”, with blood, sweat, tears; any value you gain has been skimmed off their labor.

The Myth of Commodities:

Commodities have no history, past or social relationships. They appear out of the night, delivered magically.

Reality: Every commodity has a history, and is implicated in a web of social practices and relations. A commodity is “congealed labor”, a tangible, packaged record of human suffering.

The Myth of Abundance & Benevolence

Children–good ones–wake up rich with gifts delivered by a benevolent paterfamilias.

Reality: Privation and Exploitation:

Every night, millions of people— many children– go to bed hungry without barest necessities. For them, Christmas means a boot in the face and punishingly intensive work.
Dickens used Xmas as a setting for a redemption story about a mercantile capitalist blind to the miseries caused by his favorite social system.  But Scrooge’s transformation made him a more admirable Santa than today’s crassly commercial versions.

The Myth of Justice/Equity

Everybody gets what they want; if they don’t, they have been bad.


The majority of people suffer for no other reason than the economic conditions and social class they were born into.

The Myth of Independence/Triple:

Associated with George W. Bush (of whom it was said that he was born on third base, but believed he had hit a triple), it’s the belief that gifts received did not come from parents. It’s the oedipal theme in Capitalism that denies ancestry, the better to claim the virtues of self-accomplishment.

Reality: Accrued Wealth:

Picketty has pointed out, most of the growth of historical wealth is from inheritance. It is inherited, or from the appropriation of the material or intellectual commons, or labor.

The Myth of the Efficient Market: Frictionless Distribution, Barrierless Entry, Vanished Externalities, Perfect Knowledge, Perfect Equilibrium/Satisfaction:

Santa distributes in a single night (frictionless distribution), in your own home (barrierless entry) without any damage (no externalities), exactly what you want (perfect knowledge), to your satisfaction (perfect equilibrium/satisfaction). Under monopoly conditions.

Reality: This is economic pornography. The market does not, will not, cannot work this way.

The Message of Mystification, Ignorance, and Collusion:

This is the last, most seductive narcotic in Santa’s pharmacopoeia, that explains why this gateway myth is fed: close our eyes to suffering, sleep; and we will get all we want or deserve. Oblivion (masquerading as innocence), is the price to pay for privilege; the collusion of our ignorance is the precondition for reward. This above all, is the most pernicious bargain, the one that maintains the status quo.

So once again, the sleigh of mystification flies triumphally in the dusk of reason, against the harsh, dark night of capitalism.  It’s incumbent on those of us with thinking minds and caring hearts, to eschew this palliative narcotic and to aspire for ourselves and others, the true flight that a critical, liberated mind can attain, to struggle for the heights of justice, equality, solidarity.  Thinking critically can start the journey that lightens all our hearts and souls, the better to serve one another in the dialectical expression of justice called Love. This is the best gift you can give yourself and your children for Christmas.

K.J. Noh is a long time activist, writer and teacher.  He can be reached at

There's a few more Student Loans gone south.


National for-profit college chain abruptly closes, stunning thousands of students
Joel Shannon, USA TODAY Published 10:16 p.m. ET Dec. 5, 2018

Alexis Gurrola, a dental assisting student at Brightwood College, said she was told Wednesday, December 5, 2018 that the college was closing. She said students and staff were told they would finish out the week, but that classes would not resume next week.
(Photo: Rachel Denny Clow/Caller-Times)

Dozens of for-profit college campuses across the country abruptly closed this week after their parent company lost its accreditation and funding.

The schools are owned by Birmingham, Alabama-based Education Corp. of America (ECA), which runs more than 75 campuses across the U.S. Its campuses operate under a variety of names, several of which offer "career-focused" diploma and associate's degree programs.

A statement on ECA's student information page announced the December 2018 closure of its campuses, including those operating as Brightwood College, Brightwood Career Institute, Ecotech Institute, Golf Academy of America and Virginia College .

The move comes after the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools suspended ECA'S accreditation on Dec. 4.

The company is one of the nation's largest for-profit colleges, serving at least 20,000 students, Inside Higher Ed reports.

Nov. 30: College's opposition to a student worker union could hinder organizing efforts nationwide

Nov. 6: Saddled with huge student loan debt, homebuyers sacrifice more to purchase a house

At the Corpus Christi, Texas, branch of Brightwood College on Wednesday, stunned students walked around the campus crying.

Alexis Gurrola, a student in the dental assistant program, said she does not know what her next steps will be. She was "top of the class" and received straight As in the four months she attended Brightwood.

"They don't really have many answers for us," Gurrola said. "We can take our final (test) and get credit for this last course."

The loss of accreditation was a fatal blow for struggling ECA. In October, the company reported nearly $50 million in debt to unsecured creditors, prompting ECA to seek legal remedies before landlords evicted it from its locations.

The company previously announced that some locations would close after students completed classes.

A letter addressed students by Stu Reed, ECA's president and CEO, cites changing Department of Education requirements during the company's restructuring as a challenge that the company faced.

The letter in full reads:

    Dear Students,

    In early fall, we undertook a path to dramatically restructure Education Corporation of America* (parent company of the campus in which you applied) to best posture it for the future.  This plan entailed the commitment of additional funds from investors.

    However, recently, the Department of Education added requirements that made operating our schools more challenging. In addition, last night ACICS suspended our schools' accreditation with intent to withdraw. The uncertainty of these requirements resulted in an inability to acquire additional capital to operate our schools.

    It is with extreme regret that this series of recent circumstances has forced us to discontinue the operations of our schools. Unfortunately, this means that your enrollment will be cancelled and there will not be future classes at the campus in which you enrolled or any Education Corporation of America campuses.

    We encourage you to pursue your career training with another school in your area that offers the same or similar program.

    This is clearly not the outcome we envisioned for you or our schools, and it with the utmost regret that I inform you of this direction.

    Stu Reed,

    President & CEO

If a school closes, students with loans can ask the U.S. Department of Education to cancel those loans, according to Project on Predatory Student Lending Director Toby Merrill.

ECA did not immediately return a USA TODAY request for comment.

Contributing: Christopher Salvemini, Knoxville News Sentinel; Julie Garcia, Corpus Christi Caller Times; The Associated Press.


Just How Corrupt Is The American Soul?
December 3, 2018 Patrice de Bergeracpas


By Lawrence Davidson

There was the remarkable effort to spread international law following the debacle that was World War II. And, one might hope against hope, that these humanitarian moments represent the accumulation of precedents that may underpin a better future. As long as things like civil rights and international law are possibilities we can’t give up on them.


From To The Point Analyses

Part I — Debunking the “Noble American Soul”
In an oped piece published in Al Jazeeera on 15 November 2018, the Columbia University professor Hamid Dabashi challenges the widespread assumption that “the American soul is something quintessentially good and even noble.” He goes on to point out that most of those who hold this view also believe that President Donald Trump and his policies and practices cannot possibly be representative of real American values.Dabashi’s position is that both of these idealistic beliefs are nothing but ahistorical delusions. “We may, in fact, be hard pressed to find a single moment in American history when hateful racism, sexism, militarism, and xenophobia have not been entirely definitive to this American soul.” In addition, “those who view President Donald Trump as unrepresentative of American values are wrong.” In Dabashi’s view this president’s policies and practices are indeed who we are.

It is the liberals who Dabashi is particularly upset with for it is they who, in his view, have reinforced the facade of national goodness and held at bay, or perhaps simply ignored, any critical examination of this self-glorifying image. For instance, Dabashi notes that, while campaigning against Trump in the lead-up to the recent mid-term elections, Barack Obama asserted that “we [the U.S.] helped spread a commitment to certain values and principles like the rule of law and human rights and democracy and the notion of the inherent dignity and worth of every individual.”

Dabashi is having none of this. More often than not both Republicans and Democrats have “identically” supported dictators and the brutalization of entire populations. He notes that Obama is the president who “who gave billions of dollars to Israel to slaughter Palestinians with ease.” In terms of foreign policy, almost every president proceeding Obama has acted in the same culpable way, or worse.

Dabashi goes on to point out that the Democratic Party, the political party now opposing President Trump, is a “structurally corrupt” organization that is adverse to really basic change and so “it is crucial for us not to fall into the trap of thinking the enemies of the Trumpian loonies are the friends of any progressive politics.” In fact, it is Dabashi’s opinion that the United States is not, as the liberals say, “a divided country.” It is rather an “unmistakably racist, sexist, xenophobic and violent country obsessed with domestic gun violence and foreign conquest with a few pockets of wishy-washy liberal resistance here or there.”

Part II — Qualifications
Is Professor Dabashi correct? Well, in terms of foreign policy there can be no doubt that he is. Such claims that the U.S. has made a project of spreading democracy, the rule of law, and the “dignity of the individual” are historically untrue, and I agree with his reaction of disgust when he hears such unfounded claims coming out of the mouth of someone like Barack Obama.Domestically, despite a history of “corporate corruption” in politics, the picture is more complicated. Dabashi himself suggests that this is so. He tells us that “there is nothing in the DNA or “blood” of any people, Americans included, that makes them constitutionally susceptible to latent and blatant fascism. Millions upon millions of Americans gathered around the most progressive figure in recent US politics, Bernie Sanders, in the hope of liberating themselves from the shackles of this gridlock of corrupt corporate politics.”

Such efforts at “liberation” through significant progressive efforts is not confined to the Sanders movement. There was, of course, the seminal civil rights movement of the 1960s — supported at that time by many Democrats and Republicans alike.

So it is not literally true that, domestically, there is not “a single moment in history” when America has not acted from the corrupt motives of racism, sexism, etc. However, I will go along with Dabashi as far as saying that America’s progressive moments are historically the exception. That is, they are reactions to an otherwise regressive norm.

There are some additional contextualizing observations that can be made about this imbalance between the uncivilized and the civilized.

— The uncivilized attitudes and practices we find dominating United States history are certainly not uniquely American. In one form or another, they are probably universal and, in the era of the nation state, magnified by just how much power a nation possesses, how prevalent are minorities within its population, and how strong are its political and/or religious ideologies. There is always a wide range of denials and/or rationalizations that are used to turn the inexcusable into the excused.

— In every case populations are held captive by remarkably effective, long-term brainwashing convincing them of the acceptability of their culturally inbred sins. This is how the nonsense of exceptionalism and noble national souls can be so convincing.

— In most instances, it is probably the case that the leaders are as delusional true believers as the populace.

These observations only reinforce Dabashi’s bleak picture. In fact, it looks like we are all stuck in an age-old self-destructive rut. The classic conservative explanation for this is that it is due to the unchanging “evil” quality of human nature. But then how does one account for the humanitarian moments — are they somehow in defiance of human nature? That does not sound right.

Part III — Hope?
It is hard for those Americans, particularly those of color, who understand the “dark side” of the “American soul,” to lend much credence to the moments of humanitarian idealism that arrive periodically on the historical scene.

But these moments do come around, and not just in the case of the U.S. For instance, there was the remarkable effort to spread international law following the debacle that was World War II. And, one might hope against hope, that these humanitarian moments represent the accumulation of precedents that may underpin a better future.

However, as Professor Dabashi’s lament implies, history is not on our side (even now international law is being eroded away) and thus the prospect of a better future entails never-ending struggle. Nonetheless, as long as things like civil rights and international law are possibilities we can’t give up on them.

I certainly don’t think that giving up is Dabashi’s intent. He just doesn’t want a bad situation denied based on delusional propaganda. Shaking loose from that propaganda is an essential first step — and perhaps, the hardest.

Submitters Website:

Lawrence Davidson is a history professor at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. He is the author of Foreign • Policy Inc.: Privatizing America’s National Interest; America’s Palestine: Popular and Offical Perceptions from Balfour to Israeli Statehood; and Islamic Fundamentalism. His academic work is focused on the history of American foreign relations with the Middle East. He also teaches courses in the history of science and modern European intellectual history. • His blog To The Point Analyses now has its own Facebook page. Along with the analyses, the Facebook page will also have reviews, pictures, and other analogous material.

Economics / 🌍 Russian Economic Resilience
« on: December 03, 2018, 01:57:17 AM »
More vids at the link.


Russian Economic Resilience
December 2, 2018 Patrice de Bergeracpas


by Gary Littlejohn for The Saker Blog

A view of Belgorod. Many Russian cities are surprisingly beautiful and modern.


Western political commentaries about the condition of the Russian economy are becoming increasingly illusory, as additional economic sanctions are imposed for a series of increasingly implausible reasons, the most recent ones including those being for alleged Russian complicity in chemical weapons attacks in Syria, those supposedly for the alleged attack on Sergei and Yulia Skripal, and some more regarding Crimea. It might seem self-evident that such measures are pretty futile, given the obvious effect that earlier sanctions have had in galvanising the Russian government into action to mitigate the effects of almost any conceivable future sanctions, but that very failure might be precisely the motive for the West’s renewed sanctions. Existing sanctions have been of limited effectiveness, and Russia is now self-evidently capable of defending itself against virtually any conventional military attack. Even the US recognizes that it would face considerable difficulty in a war against Russia.

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For that reason, other sanctions apparently need to be employed to probe the economy for possible other weaknesses, or at least to slow down the development of serious Russian competition in new sectors, such as civil aviation. An additional motive is probably to weaken Russia militarily prior to starting a conflict, despite the assessments above. What Professor Stephen Cohen describes as the ‘war party’ seems to harbour an insatiable hatred for Russia, and despite the problems encountered in the recent exercises such as Trident Juncture 2018, preparations seem to be taking place for a conventional conflict with Russia.

The sanctions currently in place are summarised here:

In any case, despite the evidence coming from international financial institutions and credit rating agencies that the Russian economy is growing in 2018, there are still claims from inside and outside Russia that this will not last and that Russia should somehow change course to avoid future or incipient difficulties. The most notable recent internal claim that Russia must concede defeat from Western sanctions comes from the economist Kudrin, while a well-known French economist Picketty has published a report misleadingly indicating that Russia continues to suffer from much greater wealth inequality than other industrial countries.

I remain of the view that Russia will remain resilient in the face of sanctions, but that it may well have difficulty in reaching its goal of 5 per cent growth per annum by 2024, partly for internal reasons, and partly because the world economy is facing a major near-term crisis that would have a serious impact on Russia, through no fault of its own. As an indication of the causes of what I believe is the coming global financial crisis, it is worth recalling that global debt is now 60 per cent higher than it was at the time of the last financial crisis of 2008, and that no major reforms of the Western-dominated global financial institutional structure have taken place. Moreover, the same kind of banking behaviour is becoming increasingly evident, with complex financial packages known as derivatives being based once again on dubious loans that are likely to be unpaid, or at least not repaid in full. These are so-called ‘non-performing’ loans. These clouds on the economic horizon have become darker owing to President Trump’s policy of trade wars with countries that he considers to be engaging in unfair competition with the USA. In addition, while Western economists have for some years predicted the slowing down of Chinese economic growth, and have been wrong, there is now reason to believe that the Chinese economy really is slowing down, while still growing.

If this apparent slow-down continues, it will have a negative effect on the rest of the world economy, as the second link above shows already. In addition, there is increasing evidence of poor economic performance in the EU:

Since a great deal of Russian trade is with China and the Eurozone currency area, such developments beyond Russian control could have a greater impact on Russian economic performance than sanctions. In addition, the boost to the Russian economy in 2018 from high oil prices looks vulnerable or at least unlikely to continue at the present level:

It is true that the oil price has recovered a little in the hours following the above report, but the need to cut production shows that continuing high oil prices cannot be taken for granted, and Russia has not yet decided to cut its own oil production. This has resulted in a further decline in the oil price.

Yet there is no denying that in 2018 the Russian economy has continued to grow, and this is now widely recognised by various Western credit rating agencies and international financial institutions.

The Emerging Consensus on Russian Economic Performance

The IMF has unequivocally reported that the Russian economy has grown in 2018, although it claims that some institutional factors will impede future growth. Its growth estimate for 2018 is 1.7 per cent and for 2019 it is 1.8 per cent. This implies that Russia will have difficulty in reaching its aim of 5 per cent growth per annum by 2024, as laid down in President Putin’s Address to the Nation on March 1st 2018. Nevertheless, the idea that Western sanctions are crushing the Russian economy, as some US Senators have implied, seems fanciful. This is the case even if one does not criticise the IMF for ignoring the possible changes that have already taken place in various sectors, such as agriculture, finance, civil aviation, car manufacture and big data. And indeed the official Russian figure on growth for the second quarter [Q2] of 2018 indicates that the economy is 1.8 per cent larger than it was in Q2 for 2017, so we may end up with an overall growth figure for 2018 that is slightly higher than the IMF estimate.

The main credit agencies have also publicly signed up to the narrative of continuing growth. For example, Moodys has also forecast growth along lines similar to those of the IMF. My own view is that such forecasts are unduly pessimistic, but only if one assumes that the world economy remains stable over the next few years. Thus it has been argued that the Russian financial sector has been somewhat underdeveloped, and yet the official figures from the Russian government statistical agency Rosstat show that in 2018 finance has been the fastest growing sector. In sharp contrast to the UK, where the financialisation of the economy has grown like a monster and now greatly influences economic priorities at the expense of productive investment and sound long-term growth, in Russia the finance sector until recently has been lacking in capacity to cope properly with the needs of the economic restructuring that has been taking place. One of the main reasons for this recent positive change has been the closure of around 100 banks with too high a proportion of non-performing loans, which has probably reduced the room for corruption and for capital flight, instead facilitating the focus of capital on the more productive sectors of the economy.

Nevertheless, sanctions did initially produce a recession in 2014, and it took two years to recover from that and restart growth. The loss of income over those two years has been estimated at about 6 per cent of GDP compared to the result of a steady growth rate during those two years.

It seems pretty clear that the outflow of capital from Russia which has been going on for over 25 years has been facilitated by the City of London, which has enabled the creation of anonymous companies (the names of whose directors are not publicly disclosed) that can readily be used to move funds to offshore tax havens. For example the recently discovered scandal whereby a branch of Danske Bank located in Estonia evaded oversight and acted as a conduit for the outflow of about $180 billion from CIS countries over a ten-year period has brought to light the fact that London-based anonymous companies were the main vehicle for hiding this outflow of funds. Closing such gaps by greater supervision of the activities of Russian banks should help stop this drain on the Russian economy. Yet there is still ongoing outflow of capital from Russia, which remains a potential cause for concern, and the Russian Central Bank expects sanctions to continue until at least 2021.

Unfortunately, the reduction in the outflow of funds from 2014 to 2017 has not yet led to a reverse flow of funds back into Russia to any great extent, because the Russian policy of “de-offshoreization” has had a limited impact so far, according to a recent report by Bloomberg. In addition, Russian millionaires continue to keep about 70 per cent of their assets abroad.

The ongoing (if now more limited) damage from sanctions would be more readily recuperated if so much capital was not still leaving Russia.

Yet it is important to stress that not all capital leaving Russia constitutes capital flight. As the link above says:

“According to the Central Bank, there are two main factors that make the outflow of capital grow. First off, Russian banks pay their foreign debts. Secondly, other sectors of economy invest in foreign assets. Earlier, the Central Bank reported the net outflow of $31.9 billion in January-September of 2018. Thus, as much as $10.3 billion were withdrawn from Russia in October.

It is worthy of note that Russia managed to improve its trade balance: its surplus amounted to $154.6 billion vs. $90.5 billion a year earlier. In addition, foreign exchange reserves (gold reserves) of the Central Bank of the Russian Federation have grown by $35.7 billion. The National Welfare Fund played a significant role in the trend: the reserves of the fund were growing owing to oil and gas super-profits (with the price of oil over $40 per barrel). According to the Central Bank, the outflow of capital from Russia for 2018 may reach $66 billion. This will be the largest indicator since 2014 ($152 billion), when the West imposed its first sanctions on Russia.”

In contrast to the outflow of capital, which as the Central Bank indicates can be beneficial, Russia has become more successful at attracting foreign direct investment [FDI] especially in the energy sector, despite sanctions. The most notable example of this is the flagship Yamal Liquefied Natural Gas [LNG] project in the Arctic. This was built with Russian, Chinese and French funding. In recent days, Saudi Arabia has expressed an interest in the follow-up project at Yamal, known as Arctic 2, as it tries to diversify its economy ahead of the decline in its own oil resources.

Arctic 2 will be even larger than the original project. One unexpected result of Yamal has been that Russian LNG has even occasionally found American customers.

In addition, Russia is using the present demand for oil to try to pressure some customers to use Euros rather than US dollars to buy their oil.

And whatever the fluctuations in the price of oil and gas, Russia is still using pipelines to secure greater stability in energy sales. The Nord Stream 2 pipeline has now reached the German shore and the Pride of Siberia pipeline in the Far East is also close to completion, but less publicity has been given to the fact that the Turk Stream pipeline has also now reached Turkish landfall.

Overall, the strong performance in the energy sector in generating available investment funds for other sectors, and the strengthening of the financial sector coupled with a growth of FDI should enable Russia to invest more effectively in future.

Other indicators of Russian economic performance

One Western economic appraisal recording some aspects of Russian economic performance is that of the World Economic Forum [WEF]. This indicates that Russia has improved on its competiveness index ranking, going up two places to 43rd out of 140 countries that are listed.

“…Russia’s standing was buoyed in the WEF rating this year by stable macroeconomics, a large market size, information and communications technology adoption and human capital…”

The factors that were thought to count against it were:

“Meanwhile, low transparency, innovation, limited interaction and diversity were listed as factors that hurt the Russian economy, along with weak institutions, workforce skills, lower social capital and a vulnerable financial system.”

These latter claims suggest that, to some extent at least, old prejudices are still in play. Contrary to these claims, Russia has a very low debt-to-GDP ratio, two sovereign wealth funds that have benefitted this year from the high price of oil, and a restructured and growing financial sector. Workforce skills are probably increasing with the inward migration of ethnic Russians from Ukraine, and it is clear that the reform of local government is ongoing. The IMF ‘ease of doing business’ index shows that transparency is increasing, contrary to the impression given by the WEF. Furthermore, both innovation and the diversification of the economy are clearly growing in agriculture, civil aviation, civilian space activity, car manufacture, and possibly in the future in the use of big data, as indicated in Putin’s speech of 1st March. The effects of measures to deal with many of these issues can be found on the Rosstat website:

Concentrating on innovation, and taking agriculture first, the Q2 figures self-evidently do not include the very recent results of the Russian harvest this year. This has once again (for the third year) exceeded earlier estimates, and the diversification within agriculture is clear, as well as the adoption of modern machinery where possible.

This video is less than 5 minutes long. The figures shown from 1 minute to 1 minute 30 seconds are worth noting. They show how much four agricultural sectors produced in relation to total Russian demand for these products. Even in meat production, Russia has produced 93 per cent of its own needs. For grain, it produced 170 per cent of its own needs. In sugar, the estimate was that 80 per cent of needs would be produced within Russia, whereas the actual output was 105 per cent, and in vegetable oil, the expected 80 per cent of demand being met internally turned out to be 153 per cent. The result is that Russia supplied more than half of the world’s wheat exports this year.

Russia is rapidly turning into an exporter in areas other than grain, and this growing export potential (with its geopolitical implications) has meant that a series of foreign ministers, as well as the World Health Organization, attended this exhibition. This rapidly changing agricultural performance is bound to increase overall economic growth in the coming years. One surprising new export crop is soya:

This might only be 3.9 million tonnes in a Chinese soya market of 95 million tonnes, but it will doubtless grow in future.

Note that the YouTube video above includes a statement that a possible reduction in VAT from 20 per cent to 10 per cent is envisaged for next year, which would reduce any upward pressure on prices, and there may be more funding for the existing policy of promoting certain agricultural regions. This raises the issue of how the performance of such special regions will be evaluated. For example, will the Ministry of Economic Development be involved and will there be specific measures such as the use of social accounting matrices to ‘capture’ the specific economic development in such regions? The ongoing growth in food production not only tends to reduce inflation and help the balance of payments, but also stimulates demand for agricultural machinery and relevant services. The planned increase in rural road construction should also foster growth in this sector.

Turning to another sector, the new American sanctions being imposed on Russian civil aviation are rightly seen as simply an attempt to contain Russian competition in this area, but as Ruslan Ostashko has argued, it will be technically easy to develop Russian alternatives to U.S. civil aviation electronics, given the capabilities shown in military avionics. Although the performance in flight tests of the MC-21 (a future competitor to the Boeing 737Max) is probably the precipitating cause of such sanctions, these sanctions cannot affect the use of composite materials in this civil aircraft, because no other plane has such technology and the components and materials were developed exclusively in Russia. So there is no way to prevent such a development programme by using sanctions. Similarly, on the wide body passenger jet being developed the new engines can readily be developed in Russia without relying on foreign expertise.

In car and bus production, the new Kamaz autonomous [driverless] bus was on display at the recent motor show in Moscow. No Western manufacturer has yet brought a similar vehicle to market. Doubtless the lessons learned in developing the Aurum luxury range of automobiles will soon cascade on to other car production.

With regard to big data, the use of distributed ledger recording of transactions is already well advanced in Russia, and not only in the area of cryptocurrencies. Apart from the fact that three of the largest five such companies are located in Russia, Russia has other potentially helpful ‘factor endowments’ in the area of big data. Firstly, there is the expertise in electronics that permitted Russia to develop its own microchip extremely rapidly. Doubtless the performance in this area will continue to improve. Secondly, there is the expertise in all aspects of computing which was evident to me 25 years ago when I visited the Computer Centre of the Russian Academy of Sciences [RAS], and the formerly secret nuclear city of Obninsk. For example, at the RAS I was shown a fully functional graphical user interface as good as MS Windows, but capable of running on an Intel 286 chip, whereas MS Windows (which had only just appeared in the West) required a 386 chip as a minimum. At the time, Russia lacked the financial capacity to market such a graphical user interface. In addition, a private company engaged in trade with China was using the programming language APL to construct its own database, without needing a proprietary commercial package. This would have enabled it to exceed the capacity limits of Western commercial database programmes available in those days, and the same would have been true of spreadsheets. In Obninsk, APL was also being used in nuclear safety, neural networking and statistical analysis quite separately from the macroeconomic modelling that was being done at the RAS. Thirdly, Russia could easily locate data warehouses near natural gas sources, thereby avoiding the transmission costs of the energy to run them, and (given the average cold temperatures in Russia) would incur lower costs in cooling such buildings. Electrical resistance of semiconductors generates heat, and this makes cooling of server buildings an issue for big data in some countries. Cryptocurrencies and other distributed ledger applications are pretty energy-intensive.

No need to surrender

In the light of such economic potential, it should be surprising that the well-known economist Kudrin is suggesting that Russia needs to make concessions to the West to ease the impact of sanctions.

    Kudrin offers to surrender to the West for the lifting of sanctions, by Ruslan Ostashko

Alexei Kudrin is Head of the Accounts Chamber and a former finance minister, so prima facie one would expect him to talk sense. Yet he considers that sanctions are the main threat to the President’s goals, as expressed in the Address to the Nation of 1st March. It should by now be clear that it would take far greater changes in the world economy, such as another financial crash, to throw the objectives for 2024 into serious jeopardy. There are positive elements in the balance of payments (oil, agriculture and arms, with civil aviation likely to be a growing sector) that will enable the Russian government to fund most of the objectives now set for 2014, in my view. The sovereign funds are increasing at the moment, and while this form of saving is a precautionary counter-measure to probable further sanctions, the fact that Russia is pretty much self-sufficient in raw materials, and has a growing skills base (with ethnic Russians coming from both Ukraine and Kazakhstan) should mean that additional sanctions will have a limited effect. There is also the likely prospect of military innovations cascading into the civilian economy, as used to happen in the USA, and this is particularly relevant for civil aviation and big data.

There is the additional problem that the West is stagnating economically and technologically, and has evident difficulty in developing new technologies, including in space. Where the West (and Far East) has had a technological lead with smart phones, the global market is showing clear signs of saturation. The same is true of social media, where stocks are declining quite steeply at the moment, and where Russia or China have rival products already in place. It is likely that the West has little to offer Russia if sanctions are lifted, given the changes that have already taken place in Russia. Sanctions are mainly about financial power and that is already ebbing away in the West. Russia on the other hand will continue to strengthen gradually owing to the growing strength and sophistication of Russian financial institutions, the policies of currency swaps to facilitate non-dollar trade, alternatives to SWIFT developed in both Russia and China, and perhaps in future more “de-offshoreization”.

The ‘failure of nerve’ shown by Kudrin indicates the pernicious effect of Western neoliberal ideology, and raises once again the issue of its influence on aspects of Russian economic policy-making. This can be seen in the case of the pension reform earlier this year, for which Kudrin had lobbied over a period of some years. Having looked again at the research report that was published in Russia just before the law was changed on the age at which people become eligible for a state pension, I am even more convinced that it was premature to introduce this legislation. The report looked at the interaction between demographic and economic changes in present-day Russia covering five aspects, and argued that to raise the age of pension eligibility would adversely affect the economy, and slow down economic growth. While this would not be the case in many industrial societies most of which have a very different demographic profile, Russia is unusual and it would have been preferable to delay the introduction of such a measure, in order to avoid the negative impact just at a time when economic growth was picking up.

There was an analogous case with South Africa at the end of Apartheid in 1994, where the political settlement that was reached included enormous pension payments to South African civil servants. An econometric and demographic analysis there showed that it would have been possible to have a ‘pension holiday’ for a few years in order to devote those funds to kick-starting the economy – a high priority at the time. It was shown that this would not really have adversely affected those pension payments, but strong vested interests prevented this temporary diversion of pension payments from taking place.

The Saker has commented on Putin’s adroit response to the political backlash that took place in mid-2018 when the new pension law was introduced during the football World Cup. The subsequent changes to the legislation may have mitigated some of the adverse effects, but the outcome will not be as good as if the legislation had been postponed for a few years to facilitate the desired acceleration of the economic growth rate.

Why Russian growth may not be constrained by the factors highlighted by the Washington Consensus.
Russia is simply running a mixed economy, with most of it privately owned and parts of it in public ownership. This was considered perfectly normal in Western Europe from 1945 until the late 1970s, and even now forms quite a large segment of economic activity in countries such as France. The advantages of such public sector activity include reaping the benefits of ‘natural monopolies’ such as railways or utilities where competition is likely to be restricted under normal market conditions. These benefits then potentially include additional state revenues, long-term time horizons for investment planning and at times greater democratic control. In the UK the fact that foreign state-owned companies now own companies that were originally privatised is an indicator of how the ‘logic’ of natural monopolies can sometimes prevail even in competitive market conditions. It is much easier to develop a realistic long-term national economic strategy if those natural monopolies are under government control.

In general, more equal societies grow more quickly, contrary to the mythology of the neoliberal Washington Consensus. It is increasingly clear that the increased inequality of income and wealth generated by the neoliberal policies of that last 38 years has acted as a drag on growth and has contributed to the economic instability that resulted in the financial crash of 2008. Russia is widely considered to be a very unequal society, but this view ignores the impact of measures to reduce such inequalities of income and wealth, especially poverty reduction measures that have had a significant impact. This now includes minimum wage legislation that appears to have been influenced by the research of Professor James K. Galbraith at the University of Austin, Texas.

The view that wealth inequality in Russia is huge has recently been given a boost from a book by the well-known French economist Thomas Piketty. However, that book has been subject to very serious critique by the Swedish economist Jon Hellevig:

Hellevig argues that under its present leadership, Russia has been moving towards a more equal society, a trend that seems to be continuing despite the glaring inequality of income and wealth. Hellevig’s point is that these glaring inequalities are not dire in terms of international comparisons.

“After identifying the deficiencies, we have adjusted the main findings announced by the Piketty scholars to reflect the actual data. Corrected data shows that instead of earning 45-50% of national income as claimed by the our Piketty scholars, the top 10% of Russians earned less than 30% of the income. Correspondingly, our corrected data shows that instead of owning more than 70% of the national wealth, the wealth of the top 10 percent of the population was 39% of private wealth and 32% of total national wealth.”

This refutation by Hellevig, which shows that the glaring inequalities are not dire in terms of international comparisons, indicates how Russian society has changed since the 1990s. The so-called ‘oligarchs’ have less weight in the economy and almost certainly less political power. It seems that the member of the Duma who stated that there are no oligarchs any more may well have been correctly pointing to the changed political landscape, even if that was probably an overstatement. The wealthy no longer seem to dominate the political agenda completely, in contrast to the 1990s. Insofar as they do have an impact on policy, it seems to be through the ongoing influence of neoliberal ideologists such as Kudrin and others in certain parts of the government.

Returning to the potentially strategic importance of the state in economic performance, the historical evidence indicates that since the 18th century state-sponsored growth has been vital for stimulating economic growth, especially for industrialisation. The famous five Asian tigers are clear examples of this during the last 40 years or so, but in fact all economies have relied initially on state-sponsored growth in the early phases of industrialisation. Even the UK relied on the dominance of the Royal Navy to support its dominant trade position and ensure that the colonies, especially India, supplied the economic surplus necessary to finance the industrial revolution. Historically, it is only the leading global economy (the UK, then the USA, then China) that advocates free trade, after it has achieved its dominance.

Russia fulfils both criteria for long-term growth, namely, it is not too unequal and has a state-sponsored growth strategy. It also has the most fundamental feature for long-term growth, namely population growth, and is now the only technologically advanced society to have this positive demographic profile. That is a result both of growing optimism about the future and of more stable families. Among ethnic Russians and some minorities this is almost certainly a result of the restored influence of Christianity.

While Russia may well struggle against growing global economic ‘headwinds’ to achieve its aim of 5 per cent growth per annum by 2024, it quite clearly has the resilience to cope with the current sanctions in place and to help shield other economies from sanctions by using currency swaps, occasional barter agreements, the use of an alternative international payments system to SWIFT and other measures. By contrast, the EU seems unable to help shield Iran against US sanctions because it does not possess an alternative to SWIFT and SWIFT itself has already caved in to US financial threats and refused to process payments going to Iran. In addition, the EU can find no member state willing to host any financial institution designed to facilitate trade between the EU and Iran in fulfilment of the nuclear deal that the US has recently withdrawn from. Apart from Russia, only China has the financial muscle and its own alternative to SWIFT to help Iran to withstand the US sanctions.

The fact that Russia is innovating in agriculture, energy production, civilian space activity, civil aviation, automobiles and intends to do so in big data (partly for greater transparency and responsiveness in government administration) shows that its prospects for economic growth remain good.

Geopolitics / Fireside Rant: Mexican Standoff
« on: December 02, 2018, 03:31:34 AM »

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on December 2, 2018

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Image result for fire in fireplace   Prior Rants:  Wildfires; Politics 2018; Potpourri

For many more, go to the archives of the Diner SoundCloud Channel


It was another big week in Collapse storiez, and I originally started scripting this rant intending on covering 6 of them:

1- Mexico Border Conflict

2- Ukraine-Russia Conflict

3- Oil Price Crash

4- French Fuel Riots

5- GM cuts 14,700 Jobs

6- Asteroid 2018LF16


Image result for mexico border tear gas However, any one of these topics is worthy of a rant of it's own, and beginning with the Mexican Standoff, the script got so long that if I tried to do them all I would end up with a rant an hour or more in length.  Nobody listens to rants that long, the audience trickles off after about 6-7 minutes.  Attention spans for Audio are not very long.  Well, attention spans for text are not that long anymore either, 240 words in a Tweet is about what the average millenial will read.

So, this rant will just look at the immigration and refugee crisis as it is manifesting itself down on the Mexican border currently.  I may get to the escalating Ukraine-Russia war next week, assuming we haven't been incinerated in a nuclear fireworks contest by then, although I might rant instead on the Earthquake we recently had up here a couple of days ago that brought collapse to my doorstep.  You can read about the 1st day experiences in my Earthquake Diary.

Here's a Snippet from today's Mexican Standoff Rant.

Unable after winning the election to secure funding for his White Elephant Wall, Der Wannabee Fuhrer has resorted to sending in the Marines, deploying 1000s of military personnel to supplement the border guards and Customs & Immigration apparatchiks.  So when a few hundred of these frustrated refugees tryed to storm the bastille, the response of the trained guard dogs was to fire tear gas at them, ACROSS THE BORDER.  Now, since when can you lob weapons across the border of another country without it being an act of war?  Besides that, Tear Gas is banned on the battlefield as a chemical weapon.  It's OK to use against civilians though, including women and children.

For the rest, LISTEN TO THE RANT!

Geopolitics / ☭ The Principles of Socialism
« on: November 30, 2018, 12:04:16 AM »

November 29, 2018
The Principles of Socialism
by Charles McKelvey

Photo Source Corey Torpie | CC BY 2.0

With the emergence on the U.S. political scene of self-proclaimed socialists like Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib, and with membership in the Democratic Socialists of America skyrocketing, socialism appears to be making a comeback in the United States.  Inasmuch as I was active in the Democratic Socialists of America in the 1980s, and I have lived in Cuba since 2011, I find this to be very good news.  However, I am concerned that the word socialism perhaps is being bantered about without a very thorough understanding of its meaning or its history.

Socialism has been forged in theory and practice by intellectuals and leaders of great historic importance: Marx, Lenin, Mao, Ho, and Fidel, among others. Moreover, socialism has experienced a politically significant revival in Latin America: the Chavist Revolution in Venezuela; the Sandinista Revolution in Nicaragua; the Movement for Socialism led by Evo Morales in Bolivia; and the Citizen Revolution led by Rafael Correa in Ecuador.  In U.S. history, the analyses of James P. Cannon, one of the founders of the Socialist Workers Party; and the African-American movement, especially the speeches and writings of Dr. Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, are important for our understanding.  I would submit that all who proclaim themselves socialist ought to have at least a basic understanding of these historical and contemporary movements and exceptional leaders.  They nourish our reflections concerning the components of a just society and the political dynamics of leading the people toward the construction of a socialist society.

Nearly all of us who proclaim ourselves socialists today want to avoid the historic errors of socialism.  Accordingly, we are in agreement that it is not a matter of developing and implementing a blueprint, nor is it a question of developing a model that would be followed everywhere.  We have learned to take more seriously the notion of Marx that the meaning of socialism emerges in practice, and that its theoretical understanding will be different in each particular social, historical, and national context.

However, there are fundamental principles and basic concepts in socialism, to which we must be committed.  This implies that we cannot be socialists if we are in a condition of ignorance with respect to the principles and concepts formulated in practice by the great historic and contemporary leaders of the socialist movements.

What are the fundamental principles and concepts of socialism?  Taking into account the theoretical reflections and political practices of the socialist revolutions mentioned above, I would suggest eight as a basis for discussion.

(1) The taking of political power.  Our goal as socialists in the USA must be the capturing of control of the executive and legislative branches of the federal government, as a necessary first step to structural transformations.  In all the socialist movements cited above, although their specific strategies differed, they formed an alternative political party or social movement, outside the political establishment, which sought to take political power.  In the USA, the process could include the strategy of taking popular control of the Democratic Party, but not necessarily; the key factor is that there must be a politically intelligent plan for the taking of political power.  In addition, there must be constant critical reflection with respect to the norms and regulations of the political process itself, so that alternative institutions for the consolidation of popular political power can be developed in the long run.

(2) In the name of the people.  All of the diverse sectors of the people have been present as leaders and participants in the historic socialist revolutions, and therefore, the most politically effective strategy would be to call all the diverse sectors of the people to popular democratic socialist revolution.  Here the concept of the 99% that emerged from the Occupy Movement is a good start.  One of the historic errors of third parties and social movements of the United States is that they have been overly identified with one sector of the people, be it workers, blacks, women, or ecologists. In the historic socialist revolutions of the world, a vanguard emerged among the people, and its members came from all popular sectors, including male professionals and middle class students from the ethnic majority, who in some cases played a critically important leading role.  In calling the people to socialist revolution, the politically intelligent strategy it to call all of the people, without any prejudgment, based on gender, color, or class, concerning one’s individual capacity and commitment to contribute to the struggle.

(3) In defense of the nation.  The successful socialist revolutions in other lands presented themselves as defenders of the dignity of the nation, as representing the best tendencies of the national political culture.  They painted the established ruling class as unpatriotic traitors of the nation.  A socialist movement cannot permit right-wing currents to define patriotism.  It must draw upon historic popular movements in the United States to formulate an alternative narrative on the meaning and destiny of America. The nation is itself a unifying concept, enabling the movement to develop an integral understanding in calling the diverse sectors of the people.

(4) In defense of the national economy.  A national plan for economic and social development must be formulated, in which the necessary role of the state as regulator of and major actor in the economy is articulated and explained.  The essential, defining characteristic of socialism is not state ownership of the means of production, even though nationalizations in strategic industries occurred in socialist revolutions.  In fact, the nations constructing socialism all have evolved to sanction multiple forms of property, including cooperatives, joint ventures, and private property, both domestic and foreign.  Observing this process of evolution, we are able to discern that the defining characteristic of socialist economies is that the state formulates a plan for the economic and social development of the nation, and the state itself is a key actor in the economy.  Accordingly, a socialist platform must be presented to the people, explaining the logic of a state-directed plan for national economic and social development, standing in contrast to the capitalist logic of giving priority to the profits of corporations.

(5) In defense of the social and economic rights of the people, including employment, health care, education, housing, transportation, and physical safety as fundamental human rights and needs; regardless of income, gender, race, ethnicity, religion, political affiliation, or sexual orientation and identity.  Socialist projects have an integral vision of human rights, in which not only political and civil rights are affirmed, but also social and economic rights, which constitute the foundation for a decent standard of living.  These rights are universal and unconditioned, that is, not conditioned on ability to pay.  In socialism, the state has the obligation to mobilize resources to ensure that the social and economic rights of the people are protected.

(6) In defense of humanity, standing against imperialist policies that sanction intervention in the political affairs and economies of other nations.  A central socialist message must be that imperialist policies are shortsighted, for they seek economic gain without consideration of the consequences for other nations or for the world-system as a whole.  Such an approach to international affairs by the more powerful nations is not sustainable for humanity in the long run.  Here a historical and global understanding is indispensable.  Socialists must understand and effectively teach to the people that the neocolonial world-system has been constructed on a colonial foundation, and it is no longer sustainable; and that our own nation’s spectacular ascent was attained through strategic imperialist insertion into the evolving colonial/neocolonial world-system, an approach to world affairs that is no longer politically, ecologically, or economically viable.  Socialists must raise the banner of anti-imperialism and opposition to neocolonialism, calling the people to a genuine and true form of patriotism that is internationalist and that cooperates with other nations, seeking to develop a just and sustainable world-system.

(7) In defense of nature, in cooperation with other nations, in order to guarantee the sustainability of the human species and preservation of natural diversity.  With respect to this issue, the failure of the capitalist logic of giving priority to profits is demonstrable, and it should be effectively explained to the people.

( 8 ) In defense of knowledge, seeking to expand alternative and public media, and to transform norms for the dissemination of news and knowledge.  The forms in which capitalist logic distorts the media of information and the dissemination of scientific knowledge must be well understood by socialists and effectively explained to the people.

Those of us who consider ourselves socialists do so because of a concern for a nation and a world in profound and sustained crisis.  Our experiences and study have led us to the conclusion that none of the currents of thought and action that take as their starting points the assumptions, concepts, and structures of capitalism can resolve the problems that the nation and humanity confront.

We are not the first to arrive to this conclusion, in our nation or in other nations, so our commitment to socialism must include study and reflection on the historic and world legacy of which we are a part.  And it must include creative political implementation of the insights attained through such study and reflection.  Given the many demands on all of us, this cannot be done easily, and it would require sacrifice. However, it is our duty: to ourselves, to our nation, and to humanity.

We do not have the right to say that a historically and scientifically informed and politically effective socialist movement in the USA is impossible.  We have the duty to find the road to overcoming the confusions and divisions that presently overwhelm us.

Charles McKelvey is Professor Emeritus, Presbyterian College, Clinton, South Carolina.  He has published three books: Beyond Ethnocentrism:  A Reconstruction of Marx’s Concept of Science (Greenwood Press, 1991); The African-American Movement:  From Pan-Africanism to the Rainbow Coalition (General Hall, 1994); and The Evolution and Significance of the Cuban Revolution: The Light in the Darkness (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018).  He blog, “The View from the South: Commentaries on world events from the Third World perspective,” can be found at (

Economics / 🚗 The Latest: GM to slash 14,700 jobs in North America
« on: November 26, 2018, 08:50:03 AM »
File under the Death of Carz.


The Latest: GM to slash 14,700 jobs in North America
Associated Press
•November 26, 2018

FILE - In this June 10, 2011, file photo, a worker checks the paint on a Camaro at the GM factory in Oshawa, Ontario. General Motors is closing a Canadian plant at the cost of about 2,500 jobs, but that is apparently just a piece of a much broader, company-wide restructuring that will be announced as early as Monday, Nov. 26, 2018. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP, File)

DETROIT (AP) — The Latest on General Motors' restructuring plans (all times local):

10:30 a.m.

General Motors will lay off 14,700 factory and white-collar workers in North America and put five plants up for possible closure as it restructures to cut costs and focus more on autonomous and electric vehicles.

The reduction includes 8,100 white-collar workers, some of whom will take buyouts and others who will be laid off. Most of the affected factories build cars that won't be sold in the U.S. after next year. They could close or they could get different vehicles to build. They will be part of contract talks with the United Auto Workers union next year.

Plants without products include assembly plants in Detroit; Lordstown, Ohio; and Oshawa, Ontario. Also affected are transmission factories in Warren, Michigan, as well as Baltimore.

About 6,000 factory workers could lose jobs in the U.S. and Canada, although some could transfer to truck plants.


8:25 a.m.

General Motors is closing a Canadian plant at the cost of about 2,500 jobs, but that is apparently just a piece of a much broader, company-wide restructuring that will be announced as early as Monday.

A person briefed on the matter told The Associated Press that the plant being shuttered in Canada is just the beginning as GM prepares for the next economic downturn, shifting trade agreements under the Trump administration, and potential tariffs on imported automobiles.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the announcement hasn't been made public.

In the fall, the Detroit automaker offered buyouts to 18,000 white collar workers, but it has yet to say how many accepted, or if its's close to meeting the staff reduction goals it set to better withstand leaner times.

Frostbite Falls Newz / Collapse Fireside 🔥 Rant: Potpourri
« on: November 25, 2018, 02:48:12 AM »

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Published on the Doomstead Diner on November 25, 2018

Discuss this Rant at the Frostbite Falls Table inside the Diner

Previous Fireside Rants: Compounding Conflagrations of Collapse; Politics 2018

Sunday Brunch has rolled around again, so it's time for another rant. 🙂 This one is a Potpourri of a variety of collapse topics which hit the newz in the last week. Covered in this week's edition of the Fireside Rant:

  • Conspicuous Consumption

Thanksgiving brings us both conspicuous food consumption and the buying frenzy of Black Friday, now stretched out over a week in the internet era to include "Cyber Monday". The blowoff top of the Collapse of Industrial Civilization.

  • Wildfires

The big fires are now mostly contained, but the last week saw some interesting new developments worth updating on.

  • Road system limits
  • Prison inmates as firefigthers

  • Alcohol related death increases

Apparently people are drinking more and dieing more often from various alcoholism related causes. Big surprise there in the era of collapse. Roll Eyes Most notable cause to cover: Sucide. I do.

  • Suicide during collapse

Are you surprised more people commit suicide in a collapsing civilization? You shouldn't be.

  • Less Sex for millenials

In related newz, apparently millenials are having less sex than their counterparts of 20-30 years ago, despite greater acceptance of a variety of sexual practices and orientations and more "hookup" opportunities on the internet. Why?

  • Demographic problems of collapse

Less sex, less coupling up, later marriages (if they happen at all) means a decresing population. Good from the POV of lowering the global Homo Sap population size, not so good from the economic end in a growth based capitalist society. What are the consequences of this?

  • Who will be the Dem POTUS candidate?

Hats are starting to get thrown into the ring, with some early front runners and media darlings. Can the Demodopes field a candidate who can beat Trumpovetsky?

  • Black Friday week long buying frenzy

It's not just a day long frenzy anymore in the internet era. Roll Eyes

  • donations to the SUN Foundation

Amazon now makes a Donation to your favorite Charity if you purchase some consumer item from the subweb. Designate the Sustaining Universal Needs Foundation of Boiling Springs, SC as your favorite charity and Amazon will make a donation to help Build a Better Tomorrow. SUN☼ is a 501c3 Non-Profit corporation and any contributions you make are Tax Deductible. Visit the SUN☼ website and click the donate button to make your contribution. The Amazon donation is made by Amazon and not you, so it's not Tax Deductible. It costs you nothing though if you were buying something anyhow.

Note: As usual, I'm not providing a Transcript of this rant unless it's requested by a Deaf Person or someone else with a real good reason they can't spend 10 minutes to listen to it. You can request a transcript by CONTACTING me on the Diner.

Environment / 🏭 The Future of the Planet Looks Like 'WALL-E'
« on: November 25, 2018, 12:01:36 AM »

Nov 23, 2018

The Future of the Planet Looks Like 'WALL-E'

A scene still from the 2008 film "WALL-E." (Pixar)

The story has been lost in the miasma of Donald Trump’s scandal-ridden presidency, but its implications for the U.S. and much of the West cannot be overstated. In April, after ending imports of 24 kinds of scrap last year, Beijing announced that it would be extending its ban to dozens of other materials. And while environmentalists have hailed the move as a “big win for global green efforts,” a rash of countries are suddenly scrambling to dispose of their recyclables.

Dianna Cohen of the Plastics Pollution Coalition believes that a plastics crisis has arrived.

“We suddenly have to deal with our own waste, basically, now,” she tells Robert Scheer. “And then, also, the costs of recycling are increasing, and you have to think about how many trucks are needed to create it, how widely it’s dispersed, et cetera. And that’s a big expense. And then plastic production—internationally, but [also] internally in the United States—is really ramping up right now, and it’s going to continue to explode. So we have a very big problem on our hands. It reminds me of that movie ‘Wall-E,’ or ‘Idiocracy,’ where people live in a world that’s just full of waste, it’s just a wasteland, like a garbage dump.”

In the latest installment of “Scheer Intelligence,” Cohen explains how plastics and the burning of fossil fuels are interrelated, and why recycling alone can’t save us. “Recycling is a really cool idea—I put things in my recycling containers, where I live in Hollywood,” she says. “And I wouldn’t dissuade anyone from doing that, if there is some kind of infrastructure set up in your town where you live. But just because something could potentially be recycled—does it actually get recycled? I think that’s an important question to ask.”

Later in their discussion, she addresses some of our largest corporate polluters—all of them American and European companies—and just how thoroughly inadequate their sustainability efforts have proved. “I think in the time since we founded Plastic Pollution Coalition in 2009, there have been three different sustainability directors for Coca-Cola that I’ve met. These companies often, when I’ve spoken with their sustainability directors, say, ‘Oh, we’re working on a bunch of great stuff, it’s going to be fantastic.’ And I say, ‘I can’t wait to see.’ … [We really need to] hold these corporations responsible for all of the packaging that they use for their products.”

Ultimately, Cohen urges consumers and manufacturers alike to re-evaluate their use of plastics. If we refuse to evolve, to change the way we interact with these materials, she warns, we’re likely threatening the health of our children and future generations.

“If you look at the whole chain, it impacts us negatively—our health, human health, animal health, the planet, the entire chain,” she observes. “So really, I think while plastic is a useful and valuable material, when we use it and design things with it with intended obsolescence, to be used for a short amount of time, we are using a valuable material in an irresponsible way.”

Listen to Cohen’s interview with Scheer or read a transcript of their conversation below:

Robert Scheer: Hi, this is Robert Scheer with another edition of Scheer Intelligence, where I hasten to add the intelligence comes from my guests. In this case, Dianna Cohen, who is the leader, or cofounder, of the Plastic Pollution Coalition. And a really worthy operation, really important to saving the planet. But I have to start with a sort of sick joke: when I think about plastics I think about Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate, right, and this uncle or somebody comes up to him as he’s graduated and gives him the key word for life: plastics. And you know, at that time, back in the sixties, I guess as late as the sixties, the whole assumption was that plastics would liberate us; they were great, they were cheap, you could be everywhere, you could make cars out of them, you could–you know, everything. And throw ‘em away, and life was going to be great. So plastics really were identified with the good life and modernization and so forth. And you are one of those people who have spoiled the party. And there are some headlines about that that you can give us; just, you can’t, I mean you can’t get a straw unless you ask for it, right? You’re the one that’s been doing all this, and you’ve been doing it for a long time. And again, I don’t want to make light of it, because you head a great group, and it saves fish and birds and you know, everybody else, and you’ll tell us that. And it’s a great menace to the world. So give us the headlines on this evolving story.

Dianna Cohen: Well, I mean, I think it’s important just to state that plastic pollution is a global crisis. And it’s not a crisis that–in a sense it’s in your face, in a sense it’s not. When we hear about something, like when we had the BP oil disaster, that was a physical thing that you could see oil spilling out. And plastic is a little more nefarious than that, because we are using it all over the world every day–

RS: Well, plastic is oil, right?

DC: Plastic is oil. It’s made from processing oil products–oil products, and then you add plasticizing chemicals to it. And what we’ve been learning over the last 30, 40 years is that these chemicals, which are added to the plastic, create polymer chains that don’t break down in the environment. And they also leach bits of those chemicals into our food and beverages that have been linked to human health issues for us, and impact the marine life, are ingested by sea life and wildlife. It comes back to us in so many ways. Plastic is the gift that keeps giving.

RS: And it’s worse than oil.

DC: I don’t know that it’s worse than oil, but it’s part of the petrochemical world that we live in.

RS: And so let’s cut to the serious part, really, the damage part. This is the major polluter of oceans, most of the waste, and–

DC: It is one of the major polluters of oceans; it is not the sole polluter of the ocean. But because of particular qualities that plastic has, it either floats or it sinks to the bottom, or it begins to get algae and things growing on it, which attract sea life and wildlife to it–they smell it, and they believe it’s edible, and so they eat it or they’re attracted to the colors of it. Pelagic seabirds, like Laysan albatross and other seabirds, also collect plastic bits and pieces thinking that it’s food or krill, or things that they normally would collect and feed to their babies. And then they bring it back to the nest and they regurgitate it, they feed it to the babies, and these babies die with their stomachs full of plastic. Or they live severely impacted, shortened lives because their stomachs are full of plastic. And it’s interesting, because when I first saw these photographic images that had been taken by Susan Middleton and Chris Jordan of dead adolescent Laysan albatross, from Midway Atoll in the middle of the Pacific Ocean–when I first saw those photographs, you know, it hit me really hard. And not just cerebrally, it’s not a thought that you have; it really hits you, you know, in your heart, in your stomach; it hits you in your gut. And you look at that image, and you think: my God, are my daily choices, and the choices that corporations and companies around us use for packaging for our food and beverages, killing–unwittingly killing animals all over the world? And how am I, how am I playing a part in this? And so when I saw that, for me, those birds in particular, and those images which are very powerful, became a metaphor for what we’re doing to ourselves. We’re stuffing ourselves full of plastic, and the chemicals that leach from plastic, and we’re doing it to our children, and most people are still not yet aware that this is even happening.

RS: Well, let’s spell that out. How does that work?

DC: Well, so, the chemicals that are used to make plastic–you take a carbon source when you make plastic; 98% of plastics are made from petroleum, but you can also use plant-based carbon sources to make plastic, like sugar cane or corn or potato or hemp or bulrush, different fibrous carbon sources. And–

RS: Are they marketed as good plastic, or–?

DC: Um, they’re marketed as bioplastics. So, yeah, there are people who would consider that better; that’s an incremental thing. You know, if you’re trying to move away from and divest from being dependent on fossil fuels and petroleum, then yes, incrementally, perhaps, some of these are better. But the problem really comes to the chemicals that are added, that are the plasticizing chemicals, that give those carbon sources–that give them the qualities that we identify as plastic; make it supple, malleable, transparent, translucent, rigid, et cetera. And those groups of chemicals are called bisphenols. So you might have heard, oh, this is made with bisphenol A, or this is OK because it’s BPA-free. And it may be made with BPB or BPC or BPS or BPZ–another bisphenol. And then phthalates–phthalates are added to a lot of things, from what I understand, to make the plastic mushy–kind of soft and rubbery, like a rubber ducky or something like that, that’s not actually made from rubber from a rubber tree, but made from heavily phthalated plastic. So these two groups of chemicals have now been studied for some time, and BPA has probably been studied the most so far. And BPA leaches micro amounts into the food and beverage that are packaged in containers or bottles or packaging that are made with these materials. And bisphenol A, in studies, has been linked to lower sexual function, sterility and infertility. GQ just did a piece called “Sperm Count Zero,” about new research that’s come out about the impact to human sperm. It’s also been linked to obesity and diabetes, as well as breast cancer, prostate cancer, and brain cancer. And then babies exposed to these chemicals in utero, BPA, it’s been linked to shortened anogenital distance, smaller penis size, feminization of boys–so boys getting breasts, early menses in girls–girls getting their period much younger than they normally would, among other things.

RS: OK, so plastic is bad stuff, we don’t have to debate that, right.

DC: Well, I mean, I think plastic is an incredibly useful material, but when we use it to package all of our food and beverage and beauty products in it, we’re probably not using it in the wisest way for our health.

RS: So, OK, people get the message. And you’ve had some victories lately, right? Give me the headlines on the victories here in California, the governor signed legislation?

DC: Yeah, well, I mean, so we’ve had victories. So when you say we’ve had victories–I mean, I’m a cofounder of and I’m the CEO of the Plastic Pollution Coalition; we’re a global coalition, but we work with other coalitions as well. And we work with a global movement as well, a hashtag global movement called #BreakFreeFromPlastic, the Clean Seas Coalition, and other coalitions. So really, united together, we have had some great wins internationally and nationally and state-wise. And in California just in the last month or so, we had some legislation that passed the assembly, and then Governor Jerry Brown signed into law two bills that are related to reducing microfibers and microplastics, and a bill which has to do with reducing plastic food packaging. And then, I think one of the most interesting ones that we all worked hard to help get the word out about, is a bill that would make straws only available upon request. So this is not taking straws away from anybody; this is straws only upon request. Which immediately does two things: one, it creates less waste; and prior to that, it saves eateries and restaurants and cafes and bars money. Because they don’t need to order as many, because they’re not giving out as many; they’re not automatically putting them in your drink. And I think California was really the natural place to have a piece of legislation like that, that was brought by Ian Calderon. I think California is a natural place to do that, because for many years now, we’ve had water upon request, because we live in a drought-riddled state. And so in the same way, you know, you can have straws upon request. What that also allows businesses to do is make the switch to paper straws, which actually will break down in the environment, or can go in a compost and break down, unlike plastic straws. And unlike bioplastic, or compostable straws, which only will be composted if they go into a system that can heat them up and break them down.

RS: So let me just get this straight. We can go a long way to helping this if we use a paper straw, which, ah–

DC: Well, I mean, if you like straws, you can do what I do, which is I carry reusable straws with me.

RS: But I really want to get the scope of this. And you said there are a few other headlines that–I don’t know, for me, this became vivid in your movie that you helped get out there, where I saw a straw in the eye of a green sea turtle.

DC: It was in its nostril.

RS: Nostril, right, sorry. That did it. That image has stuck with me, and I really, I don’t think I’ve used a plastic straw since. I’ve obviously encountered plastic before. But I really want to get some of the numbers. And it seems to me the big issue here, and a big concern around the world, is people say to us, hey, you Americans started all this. You’re the great wasters, you’re the great–you know, you gave us all this junk, you told us it was a great revolution, it represented freedom. And now you suddenly decided that all of us have got to cut back. And I want to take the example of China, because that has been in the news a little bit. I mean, OK, people describe China as a great polluter–well, China’s got a great population, right? And are we now saying to China, to India, we had our ride with waste and with plastic and other things that pollute the environment, and now we’re going to try to cut back, but you guys have really got to cut back. And I want to ask you about a specific item of news, that for a while there–and I’ve learned it from you–we were shipping our recyclable plastic back to China, on empty cargo ships that were bringing us all our iPhones and everything else. And now, China doesn’t want those recyclable–

DC: They’re producing enough of their own.

RS: They’re producing enough of their own. And so, the price paid for this is being cut in half, I gather, something like that. And therefore, the recyclers are not as interested in grabbing plastic to recycle, is that the case?

DC: Well, I mean, look. Recycling is a really cool idea, and I don’t–I put things in my recycling containers, where I live in Hollywood. And I wouldn’t dissuade anyone from doing that, if there is some kind of infrastructure set up in your town where you live. But just because something could potentially be recycled–does it actually get recycled? I think that’s an important question to ask.

RS: So we want abstinence.

DC: Well, it’s not good for your health, so if you reduce or–if you refuse it in the beginning, then you reduce the amount that you’re using, and you have less that you need to try to recycle or reuse.

RS: And that’s the idea behind a metal straw, for instance, you can–

DC: A metal straw, a glass straw. I mean, there are also wonderful companies doing bamboo straws, growing straw out of rye wheat and hay. There’s a straw company called LOLIWARE that is making straws out of seaweed, and they’re nontoxic and they are, you know, 100% compostable, break down, because it’s part of nature.

RS: OK, so give me the numbers. What percentage of this stuff ends up killing the planet and killing animals?

DC: Well, so, just this last week, Plastic Pollution Coalition released a new projection by chemical engineer Jan Dell, and in that she was looking at what’s going on with recycling rates, and has predicted that recycling rates for plastic in the United States will be only 4.4% by the end of 2018. And that they potentially could sink as low as 2.9% in 2019. And that the four main reasons for this drop is that plastic waste generation is increasing exponentially in the United States; that exports counted as recycling; when China banned foreign waste, we suddenly have to deal with our own waste, basically, now. And then also, the costs of recycling are increasing, and you have to think about how many trucks are needed to create it, how widely it’s dispersed, et cetera. And that’s a big expense. And then plastic production–internationally, but internally in the United States–is really ramping up right now, and it’s going to continue to explode. So we have a very big problem on our hands. It reminds me of that movie Wall-E, or Idiocracy, where people live in a world that’s just full of waste, it’s just a wasteland, like a garbage dump.

RS: Well, we’re going to try to get some optimism in this, but first the break. [omission for station break] We’re back with Dianna Cohen, the cofounder of the Plastic Pollution Coalition. And you know, I have a kind of schizzy feeling about this, because I keep making light of it. After all, it is plastic; plastic was designed to be light and beautiful and efficient and everything else–

DC: It is!

RS: –and everything else. But I watched this documentary [Living in the Future’s Past], which I’m promoting here–Jeff Bridges, as you pointed out, that your group had a lot to do with–

DC: Well, and also the STRAWS documentary.

RS: I suddenly realized, this is not kidding around. This is really serious stuff. And now I’ve even been sobered up to the point where recycling doesn’t cut it. And I know you don’t want to be pushed quite that far, but you know, as a reformed alcoholic here, I believe in abstinence. And if something’s a poison for you, as I feel alcohol is for me–I’m not proselytizing for anybody else–then I have to abstain, which I’ve done most of my adult life, OK. And I feel the same way about plastic. You know, I’m hooked on plastic; it’s been there, as I say, it’s been this wonderful, shiny, supple, easy, cheaper thing that has informed my entire life. And yet, recycling it doesn’t really cut it; nobody wants our junk, the price drops, the money’s not in it. And abstinence, finding alternatives to plastic, is really your message here. Because we’re kidding ourselves, in a way, with the recycling. And the alternative, really, is to understand that this shiny object is the death of us.

DC: Well, I don’t want to talk about death. It’s inevitable. But–but, let’s talk about another cool thing that just came out in the last week: an announcement from all of this data from a new brand audit that was created by #BreakFreeFromPlastic. And what did they find? Three main companies were identified in 239 cleanups and brand audits, which were actually created across 42 different countries on six different continents, and what did they find? They found that Coca-Cola, Pepsi-Co, and Nestle are the worst corporate polluters.

RS: So, ah, let me understand what this means, though. What is the quick fix for these three companies? Let’s say a lot of pressure is brought on them, and so forth; what do they do? Do they go back to glass and recycle? What do they do?

DC: Ah, well–

RS: Tin cans? I don’t know.

DC: I mean, if they wanted a person like me to buy any of their products, I only would buy their products if they were packaged in glass. But you know, it’s interesting, because when I look at photographs of the supermarket here in California in the seventies, all of the beverages were in glass. And there was really a switchover that was made in the eighties.

RS: OK, let’s say in the interest of equal free time, we have a representative here from Pepsi-Co. And what they said was they were Pepsi, being free, you know, the Pepsi generation. They were selling a lifestyle. So were Coca-Cola, also; a little stuffier, Coca-Cola. And that lifestyle was really expanded dramatically by the use of plastic. Plastic and soft drinks, that’s really a critical connection. So you’ve got one of those enlightened capitalists at Pepsi-Co right now in front of you.

DC: Well, I mean, all of these companies have sustainability directors. I think in the time since we founded Plastic Pollution Coalition in 2009, there have been three different sustainability directors for Coca-Cola that I’ve met. These companies often, when I’ve spoken with their sustainability directors, say–oh, we’re working on a bunch of great stuff, it’s going to be fantastic. And I say, I can’t wait to see–I had a dream the other night that you just connected the cap on your plastic bottle, you know, and then took 100% of them back. So we really need to see extended producer responsibility that holds these corporations responsible for all of the packaging that they use for their products.

RS: OK. Well, let me cut to the chase here, because I learned something just in the course of this podcast, that recycling is not the answer. And I had hints of it before, but I deluded myself that if I–you know, when I leave here, I’ll probably go get a soft drink somewhere. And I would grab that plastic bottle, and then I would console myself that I’m doing it at a place that has a recycling bin, you know, bins, and I would throw it in there–OK! I did my good deed for the day. But you’re basically telling me that’s not cutting it.

DC: Well, I’m not–like I said, I’m not dissuading people from putting things into the recycling, but I’m talking about the real–what is the reality of recycling? So recycling is a really nice idea, but it’s somewhat of a myth. Because if you live in a town or a place that has no infrastructure to take back the materials and downcycle them or do something with them, a lot of places in the world, many countries, say that they’re turning it from waste into energy, but those are different forms of burning and incineration, or pyrolysis, and much of that creates particulate pollution, which is toxic in the air for all of us. So, is that really the solution? No, I think the solution is source reduction. So if you work for one of these big companies, and you’re listening to this show right now, you need to turn around and think about how you’re going to shift the whole system within your company. It has to happen.

RS: All right, but I want to push this, because I think it’s an important point. First of all, the problem with recycling is a lot of people are not going to do it, OK. And so therefore, it doesn’t get–

DC: Well, not that a lot of people aren’t going to do it; people can do it, but if there’s no structure in place to support it, it doesn’t matter.

RS: But I’ve actually run into a few people who are in this industry of recycling. And the question there is, who wants this stuff? There’s a limit to landfill for different kinds of recycling. And you came up with an interesting point before, that China doesn’t want our recyclable plastic, right?

DC: Right.

RS: They’ve got a superabundance of recyclable plastic of their own, right?

DC: Mm-hmm.

RS: This myth of recycling–yes, in the short run it’s a good thing to do; yes, it’s better than not doing anything else. But we’ve invested very heavily in recycling as the answer. The answer.

DC: We haven’t invested heavily in it; corporate–

RS: Emotionally.

DC: No. Corporations, that is their messaging, that is their ad, that’s their marketing, is that this is recycled. That is the messaging, that’s their go-to. And it’s false. Our first campaign, from the moment that we created Plastic Pollution Coalition, was to ask people to refuse single-use plastic. Whenever possible, refuse it. Don’t buy your food packaged in it, because it’s not good for your health. It’s not good for the planet, it’s not good for your health, it’s not good for animals, it’s not good for the ocean, waterways, lakes, the environment in general.

RS: I want to be clear, because you know, I’ve tried to make this accessible, and maybe I’ve made it a little lighter than it should be. But we’re talking about the major, or one of the major, environmental problems in terms of the planet, right?

DC: Yes.

RS: So let’s now get true religion, here.


RS: What are we talking about, if we don’t act on this in a better way than we’ve been doing up to now? We’re not winning this battle.

DC: If we don’t continue to evolve in the way that we act upon it, and actually change and shift the system and the way that we interact with this material, it will continue to ill-impact our health, the health of our children, and future generations who are not born yet. And we will be living in a giant garbage dump.

RS: OK. Now, to play devil’s advocate here, finally, I saw something where there’s a cleanup campaign involving booms on the ocean, and–

DC: Mm-hmm. It’s called The Ocean Cleanup.

RS: Yeah. And–

DC: They’re part of our coalition.

RS: OK. And it made me feel suddenly good about everything.

DC: Why?

RS: I don’t know, maybe I’m a sucker for good news, but it looked like you’re able to put–what are they, describe the whole process of–

DC: They’re giant booms of plastic that have been carried out to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and they–

RS: Which is where?

DC: That is somewhere in the Pacific Ocean, spread out over approximately 2,000 square miles, but it shifts depending on whether we’re having an El Niño or La Niña year; somewhere between Hawaii and California, that is where the Northeastern Pacific Gyre is located. And they have pulled them out there, and they are going to be passively cleaning up, I believe, the top three feet or something of the ocean. But the plastic that’s in the ocean is spread out over that 2,000-square-mile area; it’s in the water column, and the entire water strata, and it’s on the ocean floor. It will not be cleaning those parts up.

RS: So it’s a good thing to do, but again, it just really tells you how big the problem is.

DC: It may contribute to some of gathering a little bit of it. But I mean, in my personal opinion, that’s really, that’s the end of the whole chain. I think we need to look back and think, plastic appears to be an inexpensive material; but what is the true impact in our dependence on plastic? From war and extraction, through manufacturing and production, through delivery packaging, et cetera–and then instantly a waste issue, waste management, incineration, particulate pollution. If you look at the whole chain, it impacts us negatively–our health, human health, animal health, the planet, the entire chain. So really, I think while plastic is a useful and valuable material, when we use it and design things with it with intended obsolescence, to be used for a short amount of time, we are using a valuable material in an irresponsible way.

RS: And the “we,” this is something we, we–we Americans have led the world appetite in the use of plastic. We pioneered–

DC: I think we’ve definitely contributed to it; it appears that though there seem to be points where there’s a lot of plastic pollution being generated in Asia and Southeast Asia, when you look at the brand audit data, which is coming out of cleanups in Manila and different places in Southeast Asia, what you find is that the top corporate polluters are European and American corporations.

RS: Right. And my point is, this is what the multinational economy is about. It was like, you know, selling sugar water to the natives; that’s what Pepsi and Coca-Cola claimed they were doing. They had a clean water supply, we put it in a bottle, we sell it–oh, we can put it in a plastic bottle, it makes it easier to ship, and so forth. And environment be damned, in the long run. But I just want to be very clear about this. It’s a serious problem, and if we think in terms of where we get our consciousness from, that scene in The Graduate with Dustin Hoffman, he should have, when that uncle or whatever came up and said “plastic,” he should have–in the manner of the Berkeley sixties, right, that he was supposed to be evoking and so forth–he should have said, go to hell with your plastic, you’re destroying life on the planet.

DC: But I don’t think that people knew that at the time that that film was made.

RS: Exactly, exactly, so–

DC: Yeah, that’s what makes that scene even more deeply ironic now.

RS: Right, right. The revolution was betrayed, the revolution was supposed to be facilitated by plastic, and plastic ends up, right, poking out–what did you say, not the eye but the–

DC: The nostril. Got stuck in the nostril.

RS: –the nostril of turtles–

DC: Well, and that turtle really became a poster child in a wonderful way. You know, and there are tremendous other successes that are going on right now, like big corporations, big companies, have made a commitment and announced that they’re going to stop serving plastic straws. And that includes Starbucks, IKEA, Marriott, Walt Disney World, and some cruise line ships as well, which is pretty exciting, I think. And–well, and plastic straws are also just the tip of the iceberg. It’s an entryway into understanding.

RS: And it starts the discussion. And I’ve been having a discussion with Dianna Cohen, who is the cofounder of the Plastic Pollution Coalition, which is doing great work in educating us. How do people learn more about this? What’s your website?

DC: Well, you can go to, or you can follow us on Facebook; we’re PlasticPollutionCoalition. On Instagram we’re @PlasticPollutes; and we’re also on Twitter, @PlasticPollutes.

RS: And you’re a worldwide coalition, with lots–

DC: We’re a global coalition, yeah. We’re over 750 different organizations and businesses around the world. We’re from 60 different countries. Small groups and large groups, all working to stop plastic pollution, and towards a world that is plastic-free.

RS: And that’s it for this edition of Scheer Intelligence. Our producers are Joshua Scheer and Isabel Carreon. Our engineers here at KCRW are Kat Yore and Mario Diaz. And we’ll see you next week with another edition of Scheer Intelligence.


Published 1 hour ago
French police use tear gas, water cannon against Paris protesters
Associated Press

In a cloud of tear gas demonstrators, called the yellow jackets, try to set up makeshift barricades on the famed Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris, France, as they protest against the rising of the fuel taxes, Saturday, Nov. 24, 2018.  (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)

Tear gas, water cannons used in France fuel protests

Police deployed tear gas and water cannons against yellow vested protesters in Paris as they continue to protest rising fuel taxes and Emmanuel Macron's presidency.

PARIS – French police fired tear gas and water cannons to disperse demonstrators in Paris Saturday, as thousands gathered in the capital and staged road blockades across the nation to vent anger against rising fuel taxes and Emmanuel Macron's presidency.

Thousands of police were deployed nationwide to contain the demonstrations, including a tense protest at the foot of the Champs-Elysees where protesters wielded placards reading "Death to Taxes" and upturned a large vehicle.

No one was injured in the clashes, but six were arrested for "throwing projectiles," Paris Police told The Associated Press.


"It's going to trigger a civil war and me, like most other citizens, we're all ready," said Benjamin Vrignaud, a 21-year-old protester from Chartres.

The famed avenue was speckled from the early morning in neon — owing to the color of the vests the myriad self-styled "yellow jacket" protesters don. French drivers are required to keep neon security vests in their vehicles.

Five thousand protesters flooded the Champs-Elysees alone, with 23,000 protesters in total nationwide, according to Interior Minister Christophe Castaner.

Demonstrators, called the yellow jackets, face riot police officers on the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris, France, as they protest against the rising of the fuel taxes, Saturday.

Demonstrators, called the yellow jackets, face riot police officers on the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris, France, as they protest against the rising of the fuel taxes, Saturday.  (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)

In a week of demonstrations that has dominated national news coverage, hundreds have been injured and two people died in accidents stemming from the protests.

The unrest is proving a major challenge for embattled Macron, who is suffering in the polls and the focus of rage for the demonstrators, who accuse the pro-business centrist of indifference to the struggles of ordinary French.

Macron has insisted that the fuel tax rises are a necessary pain to reduce France's dependence on fossil fuels and fund renewable energy investments, which is a cornerstone of his reforms of the nation. He will defend fresh plans to make the "energy transition" easier on Tuesday.

France is deploying thousands of police to try to contain nationwide protests and road blockades by drivers angry over rising fuel taxes and Emmanuel Macron's presidency.

France is deploying thousands of police to try to contain nationwide protests and road blockades by drivers angry over rising fuel taxes and Emmanuel Macron's presidency. (AP Photo/Kamil Zihnioglu)

On Saturday, Paris deployed some 3,000 security forces, notably around tourist-frequented areas, after an unauthorized attempt last week to march on the presidential Elysee Palace.

Authorities said protesters have so far not breached a no-go zone set up by authorities around key areas including the presidential palace and the National Assembly on the Left Bank of the Seine River.

But authorities are struggling because the movement has no clear leader and has attracted a motley group of people with broadly varying demands.

A man caused a dramatic standoff with police Friday when he donned a neon vest and brandished an apparent grenade at a supermarket in the western city of Angers. He was later arrested.

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Geopolitics / 🥀 The War for Survival
« on: November 23, 2018, 12:25:32 AM »

November 22, 2018
The War for Survival
by Leonard Peltier

Photo Source Gary Stevens | CC BY 2.0

Well here it is, sorry to say, another year, and I’m still writing to you from a prison cell. I am still in pain from my illnesses with no knowledge of whether I will ever get treatments for them. But I’m alive and still breathing hoping, wishing, praying for not just my pains, but for all Native Nations and the People of the World who care and have positive feelings about what is happening to Mother Earth and against the evils committed by Wasi’chu in their greed for HER natural resources .

It doesn’t seem as if any changes for the good or safety of Mother Earth will happen soon. But the good-hearted People are fighting back, and some good People are winning in the struggles to beat back some of this evil and to make THE Changes, the safety networks, we need for our grandchildren and great grandchildren so that they will be able to live happy successful lives, at least decent lives, that most of the poor underprivileged in my generation never got to experience or enjoy in our short lives.

So, I sit back and look at the world, and I wonder if I will ever get to see the outside world again, free from this prison cell? At 74 it is not looking too good for that to happen. But I keep my hopes alive and pray as hard as I can that it will happen. If not, when they bury me I want to be laid to rest face down and with a note pinned to my ass with the words in large bold letters, ‘KISS MY ASS!!’… just in case someone wants to study my bones years from now :)!!

On a more pleasant issue one of my grandaughters Ashley is in college at University of Arizona, Flagstaff, and she wants to be a Medicine Woman! How awesome is that? My baby, a doctor! Wow! How proud am I! You would not believe just how much I am! I could use a little help now and then for her; don’t send it to me, but send it to ILPDC earmarked for her use ONLY!! She is going on a long hard journey, so she will need help now and then. One day, if she continues her studies to be a Medicine Woman, I know things can change as time goes by, but if she makes it, she will be an enormous help to Native Nations’ hospitals.

My friend Harvey Arden passed yesterday on Saturday, November 17, 2018 5:20 P:M. He was a very good and kind man who loved Native People and the poor and sick. We are all going to miss him. I hope he has a good safe journey to the Spirit World, and I hope our Relatives will all be there to greet him with open arms; that would be very pleasing to him. See you soon, my Kola.

Politically we are finally making gains in Congress; two great Native ladies made it in the House of Representatives! They are Shanice Davids, Ho Chunk of Wisconsin, for Kansas and Deb Haaland, Laguna Pueblo, for New Mexico. On Pine Ridge my nephew Julian Bear Runner made it as President of the great Lakota Nation! I’m hearing more states are doing away with Columbus Day! Hell, we may just win the War for Survival yet!)

My last thoughts on this day, that we Native People call a Day of Mourning, are for my Sisters’ and Brothers’ family by blood and by AIM that are now in the Spirit World, and to them I say Lila Pilamaya, thank you for your love and work for The People.

My thoughts are also with the youth such as the Water Protectors and all people young and old who are working to protect Mother Earth. I hope someday in the near future to be with you and part of this march and join you in the feast prepared by Native People and wonderful supporters who have joined together today to honor our Ancestors.

In The Spirit of Crazy Horse.

History / 🤥 Propaganda during World War I: An Illustrated Account
« on: November 22, 2018, 04:29:48 AM »

Propaganda during World War I: An Illustrated Account

Propaganda during World War I: An Illustrated Account

These stories are not unique cases from a remote war. The same methods are constantly rinsed and repeated, the mentality in our ruling elites is the same, and the risk of a major conflict is as great today as in 1914.

These examples concentrate mostly on British/American perception management and propaganda. First of all, because they are masters of the art, and secondly, as victors they still dominate the narrative.

Arthur Ponsonby and Falsehood in Wartime

After the Great War came a huge backlash of disillusion and revulsion. Calmly analysed, most of what had been told in the war turned out to be lies and half-truths. «Falsehood in War-time, Containing an Assortment of Lies Circulated Throughout the Nations During the Great War» was the title of a book published in 1928. Written by Arthur, Ponsonby, it discussed 20 instances of lies in wartime.

The contents of the book can be summed up in the Ten Commandments of War Propaganda:

  1. We do not want war.
  2. The opposite party alone is guilty of war.
  3. The enemy is the face of the devil.
  4. We defend a noble cause, not our own interest.
  5. The enemy systematically commits cruelties; our mishaps are involuntary.
  6. The enemy uses forbidden weapons.
  7. We suffer small losses, those of the enemy are enormous.
  8. Artists and intellectuals back our cause.
  9. Our cause is sacred.
  10. All who doubt our propaganda, are traitors.

The Enemy Is the Face of the Devil

The perception of German atrocities in World War 1 has had is up and downs during the decades.  They ‘Huns’ were indeed quite ruthless, and freely executed several thousand suspected franc-tireurs and hostages when they invaded Belgium and Northern France in 1914.

However, the theme of barbaric, nun-raping, baby-bayonetting Huns was so carried to excess by the Entente propaganda machine that there came a backlash in public opinion after the war. By the 1920s, the disillusionment with the war and its aftermath was so great that all of these stories were dismissed as atrocity propaganda, which again would backfire in 1939, when there was reluctance to believe stories of – this time real – massive German atrocities.

The same theme was used more recently, with the infamous tale of «Iraqis ripping babies from incubators in Kuwaiti hospitals», in the warm-up to the Gulf War in 1990. Before the US Congress, a young woman in tears testified how she as a nurse in Kuwait witnessed Iraqi soldiers ripping prematurely born babies out of their incubators, leaving them to die on the floor. The story was later repeated by an equally moved President George HW Bush.

The public later found out that the woman was in fact not a nurse, but the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to Washington, and the story was concocted as part of the propaganda effort by the PR-Agency Hill & Knowlton.

Mussolini Changes His Mind — Italy Should Join the War

Italy at first stayed neutral, then chose to join the Entente. This turned out to be a really bad decision, killing a generation of young men, and with not many gains to show for it in the peace treaties.

The decision was partially helped by subsidies from English and French intelligence to the Italian press. The Italian journalist Benito Mussolini (picture: in white coat, arrested during a scuffle with police in 1914) had a change of heart, and went from a leading socialist and war opponent to a fierce advocate of Italy joining the war.

According to a note written in November 1922 by the French secret services in Rome, Mussolini (who was described in another note from the same service as «an agent of the French Embassy in Rome») had in 1914 collected ten million francs «to support Italy’s war alongside the allied powers». In 1915, he was one of the founders the Fascist movement, which later took power in 1922.

The Difference Between Declared War Aims and Real Ones

In August 1914, when an almost unanimous German parliament voted yes to war, it was presented to the German public as a defensive Schutzkrieg against conniving enemies. With the exception of one member, Karl Liebknecht, the entire 110-member delegation from the Social Democratic Party bowed to the war euphoria and voted yes to war loans.

The perception presented to the public during the first few years of fighting, was of a Germany fighting a defensive war for survival, not a scheme for imperial aggrandizement. But in reality, already in September 1914, in the first few weeks of the war, a secret plan for an extensive redrawing of Europe’s borders was prepared for Chancellor Bethmann-Hollweg, the Septemberprogramm (see map).

After the Brest-Litovsk separate peace with the Bolsheviks in 1917, the eastern part of these war aims were achieved, where Germany occupied or created puppet governments in Poland, Ukraine, the Caucasus and Baltic areas, and created a dependent state in Finland.

Although a victory, this led to great disillusionment in the German liberal-left, which so far had supported a war to preserve the country. Now he myth of a defensive war was exposed as a lie, and the treaty showed it to be a war for imperial expansion.

The Sinking of the Lusitania

In May 1915 the British Government was in trouble. The European war was not going well. Instead of reacting to aggressive British blockades by begging for mercy, Germany was sinking more and more British ships with her U-boats.

The Lusitania was sunk by a German submarine on Friday May 7 1915, 12 miles off the coast of Ireland, killing 1198 people. The ship was running at two-thirds speed and in a straight line, rather than the recommended zigzag used to avoid torpedoes. The passengers were mostly US citizens (including millionaire Alfred Vanderbilt).

Her cargo consisted mostly of undeclared weapons and explosives, a fact finally confirmed in 1960, and which explained why she sank so fast. She was bound for the UK, sailing all alone, inexplicably without escort from the Royal Navy and right into a known U-boat hunting ground.

No members of the press even considered asking why Lusitania had been steaming so slowly and in a straight line, or why the British Admiralty had chosen to withhold the usual naval escort.

The numerous travel warnings posted by the German government in US newspapers, warning people they traveled on British shipping into British waters at their peril, was left out of the narrative. The German explanation, that the Lusitania was a legitimate target because she carried armaments, was dismissed out of hand.

And totally forgotten was the aggressive policy of starving Germany to its knees that had prompted the U-boat campaign in the first place. After the war began in 1914, Britain immediately began a naval blockade of Germany. Since even food was classified as “contraband,” the Germans had to ration food. By all estimates, several hundred thousand people ultimately died of starvation due to the blockade.

The sinking of the Lusitania was one of the main causes that brought the United States into the war, saving the war for the British.

An Inconvenient Peace Offer: “What Does He Want to Butt In for?”

In July 1915, Pope Benedict XV published the apostolic exhortation «To the Peoples Now at War and to Their Rulers.» Two years later, in 1917, this became The seven-point plan, a peace note presented to the warring parties. It was based on a peace linked to justice rather than military conquest, cessation of hostilities, a reduction of armaments, a guaranteed freedom of the seas, international arbitration, and Belgium restored to independence and guaranteed «against any power whatsoever.» (But it tacitly implied that Germany would gain some territory in the east).

The initiative failed: Although the Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary) were positive to the mediation after three years of exhausting war, no one on the Entente side showed any interest. (The collapse of the Russian imperial government a few months later reduced the German willingness to negotiate.) Britain did not even show the Holy See the common courtesy of a proper reply. The French and Italian replies were hostile, and the rejection on behalf of the alliance was made by president Woodrow Wilson of the United States, who had initially remarked of the pope’s proposal: “What does he want to butt in for?»

The decision to reject any proposal from the Vatican was already decided in 1915. The threat was that a peace mediation from someone like the Pope might create so much pressure from a war-weary populace that it might just gather enough momentum to force the powers to accept.

The secret Treaty of London (1915), committing Italy to the Entente (Britain, France and Russia) contained a clause, article 15, where Italy is given carte blanche to do whatever is deemed necessary to silence the Church: «France, Great Britain and Russia shall support such opposition as Italy may make to any proposal in the direction of introducing a representative of the Holy See in any peace negotiations or negotiations for the settlement of questions raised by the present war» .

From Women’s Liberation to a Tool for the State

Emmeline Pankhurst addressing a pro-war rally in 1914


There is nothing new about liberal social reformers falling into lockstep when the country goes to war.

British Emmeline Pankhurst was the most prominent member in the Women’s Suffrage movement. She founded the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) in 1902. After a remarkable and highly radical campaign for women’s rights, including hunger strikes, arson and window smashings, the group changed from a reformist program to a hard right reactionary nationalism as soon as the war broke out.

In 1914-15, bands of women roamed the cities of England handing out white feathers of cowardice to men wearing civilian clothes. The ‘White Feather Brigade’ was established by admiral Charles Fitzgerald, a war hawk who wished to see Britain institute mandatory military service. The campaign spread through the country with astonishing rapidity.

The highly successful White Feather campaign, shaming British men to enlist.


Not unconnected, the WSPU successfully carried out secret negotiations with the government, and on the 10th August 1914, the government announced it was releasing all suffragettes from prison. After receiving a £2,000 grant from the government, the WSPU organised a pro-war demonstration in London. Members carried banners with slogans such as «We Demand the Right to Serve» and «Let None Be Kaiser’s Cat’s Paws».

Pankhurst founded the Women’s Party in 1917. Excerpts from the program:

(1) A fight to the finish with Germany.

(2) More vigorous war measures to include drastic food rationing, more communal kitchens to reduce waste, and the closing down of nonessential industries to release labour for work on the land and in the factories.

(3) A clean sweep of all officials of enemy blood or connections from Government departments. Peace terms to include the dismemberment of the Hapsburg Empire.

(8) Irish Home Rule to be denied.

In the Suffrage Movement’s defense, many members chose a different and more honorable stance, like her daughter Sylvia Pankhurst. In 1915, Sylvia gave her enthusiastic support to the International Women’s Peace Congress, and she later became a leading international voice in the resistance to Mussolini’s attack on Ethiopia.

Edith Cavell – Nurse (And a Hundred Years Later, a Spy After All)

Few incidents created bigger outrage in the First World War than when the British nurse Edith Cavell was executed by firing squad for helping Allied soldiers escape occupied Belgium. In the trial, she admitted to leading a people smuggling network.

But the German charges also claimed that Cavell was a spy, sending sensitive intelligence through the same network, a claim which was strongly denied by both Cavell and the British government.

The government’s insistence on her innocence was taken as implicitly true in Britain, and she became a symbol for victims of Hunnic habitual cruelty. This perception also had great impact on public opinion in the still neutral United States. The implicit presumption of innocence lingered for a many years, and was a useful propaganda tool for many decades.

In a BBC-program in 2015, a hundred years after Cavell’s death, Stella Rimington, former head of the MI5, revealed that she had discovered documents in Belgian archives indicating that Cavell was in fact a spy.

This is of course a limited hangout. MI5 would have known this all along, being Cavell’s boss, but naturally chose to keep quiet about it, since the idea of her innocence was so convenient.

Rimington said her evidence showed «that the Cavell organisation was a two-pronged affair» and that espionage was the other part of its clandestine mission.

The documents included an account by Herman Capiau, a young Belgian mining engineer who had brought the first British soldiers to Cavell in 1914 and was an important member of her network.

He wrote: «Whenever it was possible to send interesting intelligence on military operations, this information was forwarded to the English intelligence service punctually and rapidly.»

Capiau referred to information about a German trench system, the location of munitions dumps and the whereabouts of aircraft.

Since she was in fact guilty, it would make her case similar to the famous spy Mata Hari, who was unceremoniously executed by the French in 1917, without any international outcry. Of course, Cavell’s case is worse, since she used a humanitarian cover for her activities, putting all medical personnel under suspicion.

Most of Our Opinions Are Formed by Men We Have Never Heard of

Edward Bernays

After the United States joined the war in 1917, president Wilson founded a government agency, The Committee on Public Information, to drum up support in public opinion for the US Crusade for Freedom©.

A young man, Edward Bernays,  started working for it, and quickly learned his trade there. He later became known as «the father of public relations», and a pioneer in the modern PR-industry, where he, among other things, arranged the media part of the CIA-regime change operation in Guatemala in 1954. The full quote from him is as follows:

«The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of.»

The Invasion of 1910 — A Book Commissioned to Tell the Public Who the Next Enemy Is

Ad in The London Times for the book (1906)

Describing an imagined German invasion of England, the book The Invasion of 1910 was written by William le Queux on commission from the press magnate Lord Northcliffe and serialized in his newspaper the Daily Mail in 1906. After the detente with France and friendlier relations with Russia, British elites circles agreed on who the next likely enemy would be. But the British public still wasn’t ‘with the program’, and a large campaign was started to prepare them mentally. In the years 1906-1914, a torrent of books and articles on the terrible Hun menace poured out from a number of authors, including Arthur Conan Doyle.

Bits by Bits a War Memorial Day Gets a New Meaning

Cadets march in the 2014 ANZAC day parade (Picture: Flickr/Chris Phutully)

World War 1 was a bloody affair for the Commonwealth countries. Most Australian country towns or even small villages have a cenotaph or monument with a shockingly long list of local men lost in WW1. ANZAC-day  (on 25th of April, the anniversary of the Anglo-French campaign to conquer Gallipoli and the Dardanelles, where Australia played a part) was decided as a holiday in 1921 to commemorate these war dead, in a rather sombre spirit. The holiday and ceremony was a quiet affair for most of last century, apart from the usual right-wing forces trying to capitalize on it. It reached it’s nadir in the late 1970s, after the Vietnam war.

A marked change started in the 1990s, with a concerted and very well funded campaign from the government to militarize Australian history. Now the ceremonies are huge, military-political events, full of pathos, cant and sentimentality.  By spending huge sums to connect the public idea of Australianness to a glorification of its military glory, it seems Australian participation, like in 1914 by choice, in the next bloody world war is inevitable – nothing learned Down Under.

Neutral Countries Are the Winners

This Swiss cartoon by Karl Czerpien, is captioned «The wooing of the Neutrals», where orators from the warring countries are trying to entice neutrals to join them. The different alliances spent large efforts to tangle neutral countries into their imperialistic intrigues (see the case of Italy above). For smaller neutral countries, war between the great powers is always a dangerous time, but by trying to stay neutral, they are rather better off than by joining an alliance. A lesson for our time, when small countries in Europe seem very eager to get the honor of being the battlefield in the next war.

1924 — The Pacifist Ernst Friedrich Shows the Real Faces of War

In 1924, in the book War against War, the German anti-war activist Ernst Friedrich breaks a taboo in war reporting, by showing real war injuries. Such horrific pictures were – and still are – generally very rarely shown in war reporting, both in the corporate media and in anti-war literature.

This unwillingness contributes, intentionally or just because the pictures are too shocking to handle, to an almost idealized image of war, where our dead are always beautifully serene and the wounded well wrapped in bandages.


Note to readers: please click the share buttons above. Forward this article to your email lists. Crosspost on your blog site, internet forums. etc.

This article was also published on the author’s blog site: Midt i fleisen.

Terje Maloy is a Norwegian/Australian blogger and translator.

All images in this article are from Creative Commons unless otherwise stated.

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