Monday, December 08, 2008

human livestock management practices



It is essential to understand the reality of the world.

When you look at a map of the world, you are not looking at countries, but farms.

You are allowed certain liberties - limited property ownership, movement rights, freedom of association and occupation - not because your government approves of these rights in principle - since it constantly violates them - but rather because "free range livestock" is so much cheaper to own and so more productive.

It is important to understand the reality of ideologies.

State capitalism, socialism, communism, fascism, democracy - these are all livestock management approaches.

Some work well for long periods - state capitalism - and some work very badly - communism.

They all fail eventually, because it is immoral and irrational to treat human beings as livestock.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Get Strapped.....,

STL Post Dispatch | Alderman Charles Quincy Troupe's neighborhood has seen nine homicides in 10 months this year, more than all but one other section of the city.

With gunplay wreaking havoc on his ward, Troupe thinks he has found an answer: citizens arming themselves.

The alderman is pleading with constituents to get guns of their own — and learn how to use them. Troupe, who represents a swatch of north St. Louis, is encouraging residents to apply for concealed weapons permits so they can start carrying a firearm.

The city's new police chief, among others, worries that introducing even more guns into high-crime areas is a recipe for greater turmoil, not less.

Troupe, however, says he has lost faith in the Police Department and is urging residents to take it upon themselves to protect their homes and property.

"These are God-fearing people. These are law-abiding citizens," Troupe, 72, says. "They have a right to own a gun, and they have a right to carry a gun."

Solutions to the Challenges We Face

President Obama, like FDR, is a pragmatist. He will do whatever he thinks is necessary to try and keep growth economics going while increasing employment. This strategy will eventually fail because the growth economy needs enormous foreign energy and material inputs. The consumer consumption of stuff is 70% of the growth economy. When this strategy fails, he will put the country on a war footing by expanding the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The US economy was going nowhere in the 1930s until FDR increased industrial war preparation in anticipation of WWII.

Unlike the 1930s, in 2009 the US lacks the energy and material resources to maintain a permanent global war footing. We have just enough "stuff" for one more really big war. Energy resources in the Middle East will be seized by military force as the costs of the Iraq invasion must be recouped. Chinese or Russian objection to our activities in either sphere will result in a nuclear exchange. I believe we'd much rather have this fight with China than with Russia.

The Japanese and Germans in the 1930s were reduced to similar tactics because they needed energy and material resources to maintain their military machinery.

1998 Jay Hanson Print Ad

Sen. Wayne Morse on the Vietnam War



In 1964, Morse, who had won re-election in 1962, was one of only two United States Senators to vote against the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution (Alaska's Ernest Gruening was the other), which authorized an expansion of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. His central contention was that the resolution violated Article One of the United States Constitution, granting the President the ability to take military action in the absence of a formal declaration of war.

During the following years Morse remained one of the country's most outspoken critics of the war. It was later revealed that the FBI investigated Morse based on his opposition to the war, allegedly at the request of President Johnson in an attempt to find information that could be used politically against Senator Morse.

As early as 1966, Morse told a student union that he would like to see "[war] protests such as these multiply by the hundreds" across the country.

Rep. Barbara Lee 9-14-2001

Barbara Lee explains her rationale for voting against the Authorization to Use Military Force in Afghanistan, citing the overly broad nature of the bill.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Afghanistan: Another Untold Story

Information Clearinghouse | Barack Obama is on record as advocating a military escalation in Afghanistan. Before sinking any deeper into that quagmire, we might do well to learn something about recent Afghan history and the role played by the United States.

Less than a month after the 11 September 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, US leaders began an all-out aerial assault upon Afghanistan, the country purportedly harboring Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda terrorist organization. More than twenty years earlier, in 1980, the United States intervened to stop a Soviet “invasion” of that country. Even some leading progressive writers, who normally take a more critical view of US policy abroad, treated the US intervention against the Soviet-supported government as “a good thing.” The actual story is not such a good thing.[...]

While claiming to be fighting terrorism, US leaders have found other compelling but less advertised reasons for plunging deeper into Afghanistan. The Central Asian region is rich in oil and gas reserves. A decade before 9/11, Time magazine (18 March 1991) reported that US policy elites were contemplating a military presence in Central Asia. The discovery of vast oil and gas reserves in Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan provided the lure, while the dissolution of the USSR removed the one major barrier against pursuing an aggressive interventionist policy in that part of the world.

US oil companies acquired the rights to some 75 percent of these new reserves. A major problem was how to transport the oil and gas from the landlocked region. US officials opposed using the Russian pipeline or the most direct route across Iran to the Persian Gulf. Instead, they and the corporate oil contractors explored a number of alternative pipeline routes, across Azerbaijan and Turkey to the Mediterranean or across China to the Pacific.

The route favored by Unocal, a US based oil company, crossed Afghanistan and Pakistan to the Indian Ocean. The intensive negotiations that Unocal entered into with the Taliban regime remained unresolved by 1998, as an Argentine company placed a competing bid for the pipeline. Bush’s war against the Taliban rekindled UNOCAL’s hopes for getting a major piece of the action.

Interestingly enough, neither the Clinton nor Bush administrations ever placed Afghanistan on the official State Department list of states charged with sponsoring terrorism, despite the acknowledged presence of Osama bin Laden as a guest of the Taliban government. Such a “rogue state” designation would have made it impossible for a US oil or construction company to enter an agreement with Kabul for a pipeline to the Central Asian oil and gas fields.

In sum, well in advance of the 9/11 attacks the US government had made preparations to move against the Taliban and create a compliant regime in Kabul and a direct US military presence in Central Asia. The 9/11 attacks provided the perfect impetus, stampeding US public opinion and reluctant allies into supporting military intervention.

Bill Moyers and Michael Pollan Talk Food Security



Bill Moyers sits down with Michael Pollan, Knight Professor of Journalism at UC Berkeley, to discuss what direction the U.S. should pursue in the often-overlooked question of food policy. Pollan is author of IN DEFENSE OF FOOD: AN EATER'S MANIFESTO. This is one of five videos available at the link.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Grand Theft Nautical

NYTimes | There was some semblance of law and order in 2006, when the Islamic Courts Union, loosely linked with Al Qaeda, took over much of the country and imposed Shariah law. Though there were cruel tradeoffs, the Islamists virtually eradicated piracy. (The crime was a capital offense punishable by beheading.)

When Ethiopian forces, supported by the United States, replaced the Islamists with an ineffective transitional government in 2006, piracy returned with an intensity not seen since the 17th century.

It is evident that no nation can impose its will on Somalia; the colonial British and Italians learned the hard way. And certainly no nation can force Somalis to stop the best business in town. But if the West really hopes to eliminate the scourge of piracy in these strategic shipping lanes, then it should consider involving the courts union, the only entity that has proved it could govern the country, and its militant wing, Al Shabaab, in a new government.

If there is movement to talk to the Taliban in Afghanistan, then there should be some effort to talk to the fundamentalists in Somalia. If the Islamists were permitted to form a viable, functioning and effective government, this shattered land might be able to return to the community of nations — and supertankers will be able to deliver oil to the United States without fear of getting hijacked.

Piracy Is Terrorism?

NYTimes | The solution to piracy lies in the very nature of piracy itself. The Roman lawmaker Cicero defined piracy as a crime against civilization itself, which English jurist Edward Coke famously rephrased as “hostis humani generis” — enemies of the human race. As such, they were enemies not of one state but of all states, and correspondingly all states shared in the burden of capturing them.

From this precept came the doctrine of universal jurisdiction, meaning that pirates — unlike any other criminals — could be captured wherever they were found, by anyone who found them. This recognition of piracy’s unique threat was the cornerstone of international law for more than 2,000 years.

Though you wouldn’t guess it from the current situation, the law is surprisingly clear. The definition of pirates as enemies of the human race is reaffirmed in British and American trial law and in numerous treaties.

As a customary international law (albeit one that has fallen out of use since the decline of traditional piracy) it cuts through the Gordian knot of individual states’ engagement rules. Pirates are not ordinary criminals. They are not enemy combatants. They are a hybrid, recognized as such for thousands of years, and can be seized at will by anyone, at any time, anywhere they are found.

And what of the Emden’s problem? Are pirates a species of terrorist? In short, yes. The same definition of pirates as hostis humani generis could also be applied to international organized terrorism. Both crimes involve bands of brigands that divorce themselves from their nation-states and form extraterritorial enclaves; both aim at civilians; both involve acts of homicide and destruction, as the United Nations Convention on the High Seas stipulates, “for private ends.”

For this reason, it seems sensible that the United States and the international community adopt a new, shared legal definition that would recognize the link between piracy and terrorism. This could take the form of an act of Congress or, more broadly, a new jurisdiction for piracy and terrorism cases at the International Criminal Court.
Given what we know about the origins and habits of the Somali pirates, I find this assertion starkly discomfiting.

Africa Is "UNDER-Polluted"

The Memo

DATE: December 12, 1991
TO: Distribution
FR: Lawrence H. Summers
Subject: GEP

'Dirty' Industries: Just between you and me, shouldn't the World Bank be encouraging MORE migration of the dirty industries to the LDCs [Less Developed Countries]? I can think of three reasons:

1) The measurements of the costs of health impairing pollution depends on the foregone earnings from increased morbidity and mortality. From this point of view a given amount of health impairing pollution should be done in the country with the lowest cost, which will be the country with the lowest wages. I think the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest wage country is impeccable and we should face up to that.

2) The costs of pollution are likely to be non-linear as the initial increments of pollution probably have very low cost. I've always though that under-populated countries in Africa are vastly UNDER-polluted, their air quality is probably vastly inefficiently low compared to Los Angeles or Mexico City. Only the lamentable facts that so much pollution is generated by non-tradable industries (transport, electrical generation) and that the unit transport costs of solid waste are so high prevent world welfare enhancing trade in air pollution and waste.

3) The demand for a clean environment for aesthetic and health reasons is likely to have very high income elasticity. The concern over an agent that causes a one in a million change in the odds of prostrate cancer is obviously going to be much higher in a country where people survive to get prostrate cancer than in a country where under 5 mortality is is 200 per thousand. Also, much of the concern over industrial atmosphere discharge is about visibility impairing particulates. These discharges may have very little direct health impact. Clearly trade in goods that embody aesthetic pollution concerns could be welfare enhancing. While production is mobile the consumption of pretty air is a non-tradable.

The problem with the arguments against all of these proposals for more pollution in LDCs (intrinsic rights to certain goods, moral reasons, social concerns, lack of adequate markets, etc.) could be turned around and used more or less effectively against every Bank proposal for liberalization.
Postscript

After the memo became public in February 1992, Brazil's then-Secretary of the Environment Jose Lutzenburger wrote back to Summers: "Your reasoning is perfectly logical but totally insane... Your thoughts [provide] a concrete example of the unbelievable alienation, reductionist thinking, social ruthlessness and the arrogant ignorance of many conventional 'economists' concerning the nature of the world we live in... If the World Bank keeps you as vice president it will lose all credibility. To me it would confirm what I often said... the best thing that could happen would be for the Bank to disappear." Sadly, Mr. Lutzenburger was fired shortly after writing this letter.

Mr. Summers, on the other hand, was appointed the U.S. Treasury Secretary on July 2nd, 1999, and served through the remainder of the Clinton Admistration. Afterwards, he was named president of Harvard University. President-elect Obama has nominated Lawrence H. Summers, Director of the National Economic Council - Lawrence Summers is currently the Charles W. Eliot University Professor at Harvard University. Summers served as 71st Secretary of the Treasury from 1999 to 2001 and as president of Harvard from 2001 to 2006. Before being appointed Secretary, Summers served as Deputy and Under Secretary of the Treasury and as the World Bank's top economist. Summers has taught economics at Harvard and MIT, and is a recipient of the John Bates Clark Medal, awarded to the American economist under 40 judged to have made the most significant contribution to economics. Summers played a key advisory role during the 2008 presidential campaign.

Living Among Somali Pirates

Kansas City Star | On the night of Sept. 17, a watchman aboard the Centauri noticed the stars shining off the wake of the pirates’ small vessel and sounded the alarm. But within five minutes of the first sighting, two boatloads of pirates armed with rifles and rocket-propelled grenades had swarmed aboard on makeshift ladders.

“They were shouting, ‘Captain, is not problem, just money,’ ” recalled Capt. Renato Tanada, his face twisting wryly.

“And when they found out we were Filipino, they said, ‘Filipino and Somali — friends!’ ” added crew member Alvin Genonangan with a laugh. “When they were shooting, we ducked down behind the walls. ... Then, when they came in, we just stood there with our hands in the air and the captain tried to talk calmly to them.”

The pirates did not let the crew telephone their families but treated them well, the sailors said, arranging deliveries of live goats to the ship for food, sharing their meals with the hostages, and encouraging them to work, fish and bake bread as a way of keeping busy. The pirates provided the flour, a luxury in impoverished Somalia, where nearly half the population is dependent on aid.

Most of the pirates were young, averaging around 25, Tanada said. They guarded the ship in shifts, with never fewer than 14 armed men on board, to be rotated every four or five days. The pirates slept on mats on the bridge and the deck, and the crew was not allowed above deck after dark.

But as the hostages got to know their guards, the crew discovered that the Somalis played a card game similar to a Filipino game. They established the rules with hand signals. Genonangan said he beat the pirates sometimes — but not too often.

In the meantime, the crew saw first one, then another captured vessel drop anchor in the blue waters alongside them.

Pirate Story Subtext.....,


"The Ethiopian invasion, which was sanctioned by the US government, has destroyed virtually all the life-sustaining economic systems which the population has built for the last fifteen years." Abdi Samatar, professor of Global Studies at the University of Minnesota, Democracy Now

There's an interesting subtext to the pirate story that hasn't appeared in the western media. According to Simon Assaf of the Socialist Worker:

"Many European, US and Asian shipping firms – notably Switzerland's Achair Partners and Italy's Progresso – signed dumping deals in the early 1990s with Somalia's politicians and militia leaders. This meant they could use the coast as a toxic dumping ground. This practice became widespread as the country descended into civil war.
Nick Nuttall of the UN Environment Programme said, "European companies found it was very cheap to get rid of the waste."

When the Asian tsunami of Christmas 2005 washed ashore on the east coast of Africa, it uncovered a great scandal. Tons of radioactive waste and toxic chemicals drifted onto the beaches after the giant wave dislodged them from the sea bed off Somalia. Tens of thousands of Somalis fell ill after coming into contact with this cocktail. They complained to the United Nations (UN), which began an investigation.

"There are reports from villagers of a wide range of medical problems such as mouth bleeds, abdominal hemorrhages, unusual skin disorders and breathing difficulties," the UN noted.

Some 300 people are believed to have died from the poisonous chemicals.

In 2006 Somali fishermen complained to the UN that foreign fishing fleets were using the breakdown of the state to plunder their fish stocks. These foreign fleets often recruited Somali militias to intimidate local fishermen. Despite repeated requests, the UN refused to act. Meanwhile the warships of global powers that patrol the strategically important Gulf of Aden did not sink or seize any vessels dumping toxic chemicals off the coast.

So angry Somalis, whose waters were being poisoned and whose livelihoods were threatened, took matters into their own hands. Fishermen began to arm themselves and attempted to act as unofficial coastguards." (Socialist Worker)

The origins of piracy in Somalia is considerably different than the narrative in the media which tends to perpetuate stereotypes of scary black men who are naturally inclined to criminal behavior. In reality, the pirates were the victims of a US-EU run system that still uses the developing world as a dumping ground for toxic waste regardless of the suffering it causes. (just ask Larry Summers) In fact, the dumping continues to this day, even though we have been assured that we're living in a "post racial era" following the election of Barak Obama. Unfortunately, that rule doesn't apply to the many black and brown people who still find themselves caught in the imperial crosshairs. Their lives are just as miserable as ever.

Mike Whitney at Information Clearinghouse Somalia: Another CIA-Backed Coup Blows Up

A Wartime Mobilization

In which Lester Brown advocates for a WW-II style mobilization to re-engineer the infrastructural underpinnings of civilization. IMOHO - conditions are too entirely different from then to now for his mobilization analogy to hold. However, in the course of the article, he did have some very interesting things to say about how the economy relates to ecology, quoted here for your consideration.
We know from our analysis of global warming, from the accelerating deterioration of the economy’s ecological supports, and from our projections of future resource use in China that the western economic model—the fossil-fuel-based, automobile-centered, throwaway economy—will not last much longer. We need to build a new economy, one that will be powered by renewable sources of energy, that will have a diversified transport system, and that will reuse and recycle everything.

We can describe this new economy in some detail. The question is how to get from here to there before time runs out. Can we reach the political tipping points that will enable us to cut carbon emissions before we reach the ecological tipping points where the melting of the Himalayan glaciers becomes irreversible? Will we be able to halt the deforestation of the Amazon before it dries out, becomes vulnerable to fire, and turns into wasteland?

What if three years from now scientists announced that we have waited too long to cut carbon emissions and that the melting of the Greenland ice sheet is irreversible? How would the realization that we are responsible for a coming 23-foot rise in sea level and hundreds of millions of refugees from rising seas affect us? How would it affect our sense of self, our sense of who we are? It could trigger a fracturing of society along generational lines like the more familiar fracturing of societies along racial, religious, and ethnic lines. How will we respond to our children when they ask, “How could you do this to us? How could you leave us facing such chaos?”

As we have seen, a corporate accounting system that left costs off the books drove Enron, one of the largest U.S. corporations, into bankruptcy. Unfortunately, our global economic accounting system that also leaves costs off the books has potentially far more serious consequences.

The key to building a global economy that can sustain economic progress is the creation of an honest market, one that tells the ecological truth. To create an honest market, we need to restructure the tax system by reducing taxes on work and raising them on various environmentally destructive activities to incorporate indirect costs into the market price. If we can get the market to tell the truth, then we can avoid being blindsided by a faulty accounting system that leads to bankruptcy. As Øystein Dahle, former Vice President of Exxon for Norway and the North Sea, has observed: “Socialism collapsed because it did not allow the market to tell the economic truth. Capitalism may collapse because it does not allow the market to tell the ecological truth.”
Worth considering on a variety of fronts, from the requested automotive industry bailout to the wars and rumours of wars swirling all over the world about now. The mobilization's NOT going to happen, but the off-the-books accounting for the ecological impacts of our unsustainable collective modus operandi is eminently worth considering and paying attention to going forward.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Mexico Drug Cartels Send A Message of Chaos, Death

Washington Post | The death squads of the drug cartels are killing in spectacularly gruesome ways, using the violence as a language to deliver a message to society.

Increasingly, bodies show unmistakable signs of torture. Videos of executions are posted on the Internet, as taunts, as warnings. Corpses are dumped on playgrounds, with neatly printed notes beside them. And very often, the heads have been removed.

When someone rolled five heads onto the dance floor in a cantina in Michoacan state two years ago, even the most hardened Mexicans were shocked. Now ritual mutilations are routine. In the border city of Tijuana, 37 people were slain over the weekend, including four children. Nine of the adults were decapitated, including three police officers whose badges were stuffed in their mouths.

"There is a new and different violence in this war," said Victor Clark Alfaro, the founder of the Binational Center for Human Rights, who moves around Tijuana accompanied by bodyguards. "Each method is now more brutal, more extreme than the last. To cut off the heads? That is now what they like. They are going to the edge of what is possible for a human being to do."

As competing drug cartels and their fragmented cells fight the police, the Mexican army and one another for control of billion-dollar smuggling corridors into the U.S. drug market, the violence unleashed by President Felipe Calderón's war against the traffickers grows more sensational.

U.S. to Raise 'Irregular War' Capabilities

Washington Post | The Pentagon this week approved a major policy directive that elevates the military's mission of "irregular warfare" -- the increasingly prevalent campaigns to battle insurgents and terrorists, often with foreign partners and sometimes clandestinely -- to an equal footing with traditional combat.

The directive, signed by Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England on Monday, requires the Pentagon to step up its capabilities across the board to fight unconventionally, such as by working with foreign security forces, surrogates and indigenous resistance movements to shore up fragile states, extend the reach of U.S. forces into denied areas or battle hostile regimes.

The policy, a result of more than a year of debate in the defense establishment, is part of a broader overhaul of the U.S. military's role as the threat of large-scale combat against other nations' armies has waned and new dangers have arisen from shadowy non-state actors, such as terrorists that target civilian populations.

"The U.S. has considerable overmatch in traditional capabilities . . . and more and more adversaries have realized it's better to take us on in an asymmetric fashion," said Michael G. Vickers, assistant secretary of defense for special operations/low-intensity conflict and interdependent capabilities, and a chief architect of the policy.

Designed to institutionalize lessons the U.S. military has learned -- often painfully -- in Afghanistan and Iraq since 2001, the policy aims to prepare the military for the most likely future conflicts and to prevent the type of mistakes made in the post-Vietnam War era, when hard-won skills in counterinsurgency atrophied.

The Terrorist Within...,

Truthdig | Robert Pape in “Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism,” found that most suicide bombers are members of communities that feel humiliated by genuine or perceived occupation. Almost every major suicide-terrorist campaign—over 95 percent—carried out attacks to drive out an occupying power. This was true in Lebanon, Sri Lanka, Chechnya and Kashmir, as well as Israel and the Palestinian territories. The large number of Saudis among the 9/11 hijackers appears to support this finding.

Collective humiliation is also the driving force behind al-Qaida and most terrorist groups. Osama bin Laden cites the Sykes-Picot Agreement, which led to the carving up of the Ottoman Empire, as the beginning of Arab humiliation. He attacks the agreement for dividing the Muslim world into “fragments.” He rails against the presence of American troops on the soil of his native Saudi Arabia. The dark motivations of Islamic extremists mirror our own.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Roosevelt's Brain Trust vs. Obama's Brainiacs

truthout | Even if everyone is now using the Great Depression and the New Deal as benchmarks for what we're living through, Act I of the new script has already veered away from the original.

A suffocating political and intellectual provincialism has captured the new administration in embryo. Instead of embracing a sense of adventurousness, a readiness to break with the past so enthusiastically promoted during the campaign, Obama seems overcome with inhibitions and fears.

Practically without exception he has chosen to staff his government at its highest levels with refugees from the Clinton years. This is emphatically true in the realms of foreign and economic policy. It would, in fact, be hard to find an original idea among the new appointees being called to power in those realms - some way of looking at the American empire abroad or the structure of power and wealth at home that departs radically from views in circulation a decade or more ago. A team photo of Obama's key cabinet and other appointments at Treasury, Health and Human Services, Commerce, the President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board, the State Department, the Pentagon, the National Security Council, and in the U.S. Intelligence Community, not to speak of senior advisory posts around the President himself, could practically have been teleported from perhaps the year 1995.

Recycled Clintonism is recycled neo-liberalism. This is change only the brainiacs from Hyde Park and Harvard Square could believe in. Only the experts could get hot under the collar about the slight differences between "behavioral economics" (the latest academic fad that fascinates some high level Obama-ites) and straight-up neo-liberal deference to the market. And here's the sobering thing: despite the grotesque extremism of the Bush years, neo-liberalism also served as its ideological magnetic north.

Is this parochialism, this timorousness and lack of imagination, inevitable in a period like our own, when the unknown looms menacingly and one natural reaction is certainly to draw back, to find refuge in the familiar? Here, the New Deal years can be instructive.

Mumbai mayhem conspiracy

Pakistan Times | Former Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) ISI Chief General (Retd.) Hameed Gul has said that Mumbai incident is an international based conspiracy to deprive Pakistan of its atomic power. Taking to a private TV channel on Friday, he said that to involve Pakistan in the incident reflected that some forces wanted to declare Pakistan a failure state as somehow it had become necessary to make Pakistan knee down in order to snatch its atomic power away.

He said that the way militants entered into the hotels and executed their plan in extremist Hindus like Bal Thakrey and Narender Modi’s area it seemed impossible without internal support adding these people had grudge with Muslims and wanted to defame them all over the world.

He said that the militants were named as Dakan Mujahedeen and it was particularly ridicules when neither their demands were brought to surface nor their target was clear. He said that India is habitual to accuse Pakistan whenever any mishap takes place as in the case of Samjhota Express but it could not prove the allegations and in Maligaon incident Indian Col. Srikanth Proat was later found guilty.

He feared that India would deploy its army on the boarders, like 2002 when a bloody incident took place on December 13, 2001 out side Indian parliament, to curb Kashmiris’ freedom movement and deprive Pakistan of its atomic assets saying it would be in-competency of the government if India gets success in its plane.

To a question, he said that US wanted to see Indian army in Afghanistan to disintegrate the country as new maps used to publish form US showing divided Pakistan in different four parts. When asked, the blockage of water and make the country knee down before IMF was a part of pre-planned trick.-SANA

The Budgetary Implications of Drug Prohibition

(Full Report) December, 2008 Jeffrey A. Miron Department of Economics Harvard University

Executive Summary

• Government prohibition of drugs is the subject of ongoing debate.

• One issue in this debate is the effect of prohibition on government budgets. Prohibition entails direct enforcement costs and prevents taxation of drug production and sale.

• This report examines the budgetary implications of legalizing drugs.

• The report estimates that legalizing drugs would save roughly $44.1 billion per year in government expenditure on enforcement of prohibition. $30.3 billion of this savings would accrue to state and local governments, while $13.8 billion would accrue to the federal government. Approximately $12.9 billion of the savings would results from legalization of marijuana, $19.3 billion from legalization of cocaine and heroin, and $11.6 from legalization of other drugs.

• The report also estimates that drug legalization would yield tax revenue of $32.7 billion annually, assuming legal drugs are taxed at rates comparable to those on alcohol and tobacco. Approximately $6.7 of this revenue would result from legalization of marijuana, $22.5 billion from legalization of cocaine and heroin, and $3.5 from legalization of other drugs.

• Whether drug legalization is a desirable policy depends on many factors other than the budgetary impacts discussed here. Rational debate about drug policy should nevertheless consider these budgetary effects.

• The estimates provided here are not definitive estimates of the budgetary implications of a legalized regime for currently illegal drugs. The analysis employs assumptions that plausibly err on the conservative side, but substantial uncertainty remains about the magnitude of the budgetary impacts.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Does Mr. O Know?

Kunstler | This raises the issue of what Mr. Obama and his team really know about our energy predicament. The president-elect has made some noises -- recently on the 60 Minutes show -- that he understands something about the current price dislocations in the oil markets resulting from the larger financial turmoil. He alluded to the public's erroneous notion that current low-ish oil prices mean the oil problem is over. But does the incoming president know some of the following details?

For instance, does Mr. O know that global oil production appears to have peaked at around 85 million barrels a day, with poor prospects of ever getting beyond that? This single naked fact has broad ramifications, above all whether we can continue to think in terms of industrial "growth" as the benchmark for economic health. There are many interpretations of the current financial fiasco. Some of them are based on long-term technical wave theories. A more down-to-earth view suggests the shock of peak oil -- though it doesn't exclude wave theories.

Does Mr. O know that world oil discovery has fallen to insignificant levels after peaking long ago in the 1960s. Does he know we are finding no more super-giant oil fields on the scale of Arabia's Ghawar or Mexico's Cantarell, which have supplied most of the world's oil for the past forty years and are now running down? Does he know that you can't produce oil that hasn't been discovered? Does Mr. O know that virtually all the oil-producing nations have entered production decline. Surely someone has whispered in his ear about the IEA's projection that global oil production would fall 9.1 percent in the coming year.

Does Mr. O know that oil exports have been trending to decline at a steeper rate than oil depletion? That is, the exporting nations are losing their ability to send oil to the importers (like us) at a rate mathematically greater than the run-down in their production.They are using more of their own oil even while their production is going down. For example, Mexico is depleting overall at more than 9 percent a year (with the Cantarell field alone running down at more than 15 percent annually). Does he know Mexico's net exports are crashing? Mexico has been our number three leading source of imports. In a very few years they will not be able to send us any oil. A deluded American public has no idea that this is happening. Will Mr. O explain it to them?

The Famine Of 2009?

Daily Kos | Last week I received a very concerned call from South Dakota farmer and agronomist Bryan Lutter. "Neal, we're out of propane!" I figured this was personal distress – he and his family farm over three square miles of land and I know this has been a tough year for many people. He promptly corrected my misconception when I tried to console him. "No, everybody is out, all three grain elevators, we can't get fuel for the bins, and we're coming in real wet this year."

There are equally dramatic issues due to the bankruptcy of Verasun and the apparent insolvency of the nation's largest private crop insurance program. Payments that would have come in June or July of a normal year are still not dispersed at the end of November and this has grim implications for next year's crop.

I started digging into the details and unless I'm badly mistaken people are going to be starving in 2009 over causes and conditions being set down right now. It's a complex, interlocking issue, and I hope I've done a good job explaining it below the fold ...

Propane Shortage Hampers Drying...,

Grand Forks Herald | Farmers in eastern North Dakota and beyond are desperately trying to bring in the high-moisture corn crop in the region, but are running into a liquid propane fuel shortage. Mike Rud, executive director of the North Dakota Propane Gas Association, said the recent sudden resumption in the corn drying activity after freeze-up is causing demand to exceed supplies.

His association has reactivated requests to Gov. John Hoeven’s office, asking for a waiver that would allow truckers to work more than 11 hours in a day — as many as 15 hours or more — to deliver propane. But the problem is bigger than that.

“For the guy that’s trying to get corn dried and can’t get propane when he wants it, it’s a huge deal,” Astrup said. He said he’s been taking care of his own propane customers. Most farmers he has talked to have been reasonable, but some — those who might purchase fertilizer, chemical and refined fuels, but get their propane elsewhere — have not understood that they can’t get propane from him on the spur-of-the-moment.

Astrup said suppliers sometimes simply can’t keep up with demands for trucking, as they might use the same tractors to haul different trailers with petroleum products, anhydrous ammonia and liquid propane. “It could be their growers are using more than they thought they would.”

Monday, December 01, 2008

"Inflation" deflated

Automatic Earth | Thanks to a credit boom that dates back to at least the early 1980s, and which accelerated rapidly after the millennium, the vast majority of the effective money supply is credit. A credit boom can mimic currency inflation in important ways, as credit acts as a money equivalent during the expansion phase. There are, however, important differences. Whereas currency inflation divides the real wealth pie into smaller and smaller pieces, devaluing each one in a form of forced loss sharing, credit expansion creates multiple and mutually exclusive claims to the same pieces of pie. This generates the appearance of a substantial increase in real wealth through leverage, but is an illusion. The apparent wealth is virtual, and once expansion morphs into contraction, the excess claims are rapidly extinguished in a chaotic real wealth grab. It is this prospect that we are currently facing today, as credit destruction is already well underway, and the destruction of credit is hugely deflationary. As money is the lubricant in the economic engine, a shortage will cause that engine to seize up, as happened in the 1930s. An important point to remember is that demand is not what people want, it is what they are ready, willing and able to pay for. The fall in aggregate demand that characterizes a depression reflects a lack of purchasing power, not a lack of want. With very little money and no access to credit, people can starve amid plenty.

Attempts by governments and central bankers to reinflate the money supply are doomed to fail as debt monetization cannot keep pace with credit destruction, and liquidity injected into the system is being hoarded by nervous banks rather than being used to initiate new lending, as was the stated intent of the various bailout schemes. Bailouts only ever benefit a few insiders. Available credit is already being squeezed across the board, although we are still far closer to the beginning of the contraction than the end of it. Further attempts at reinflation may eventually cause a crisis of confidence among international lenders, which could lead to a serious dislocation in the treasury bond market at some point.

Credit Crunch's Impact on the Energy Industries

Oil Drum | I recently looked through news articles to see which energy sectors were being affected by the credit crisis. I was amazed at how widespread and how devastating the impact is.

There are really two closely related problems. One is reduced access to credit, making new borrowing difficult for nearly every business that requires debt. Prices for all commodities have been dropping as well. At least part of the reason for this price decline is the lack of availability of credit—many of the less credit-worth buyers drop out of the market. This leaves fewer buyers and almost the same number of sellers, so the price drops.

In this post, I examine how reduced access to credit and the concomitant decline in commodity prices is affecting energy companies. The impact I am seeing across a wide range of energy companies is a decline in new investment and a stretched-out timeframe for new projects. In addition, many of the weaker companies in the energy supply chain are likely to be forced out of business by the credit crisis.

When energy production is viewed for all companies combined, the below analysis suggests the credit crisis will cause the production of virtually all fuels to be in decline, relative to what they otherwise would have been. I expect production of oil will decline (in absolute terms, not just relative terms) in the years ahead. Since oil production was already on a plateau, this decline is expected to bring about "peak oil". Because of long lead times, uranium production seems likely to fall short of what is needed by nuclear power plants, within the next few years.

The long-term implications of declines in energy production are very serious. Research shows that standards of living are closely tied to energy consumption. With less energy available, standards of living are likely to decline.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Making sure your home is not an energy sink - III

Science Alert | This time, we’ll look at space heating. In Melbourne you need it, if you don’t want to be the bad guy who goes around telling everybody to put on jumpers instead of heating the house. Our house is heated by gas, and occasionally by a wood fire. Space heating, as you can imagine, is one of the big energy users and also a big CO2 producer.

In the pre-green ‘business as usual’ scenario, the central heating accounted for about one-quarter of our home’s CO2 production. We were using around 55 000 MJ (megajoules) per year.

Gas is sold in MJ, electricity in kWh (kilowatthours). Both MJ and kWh are units of energy. You can convert MJ to tonnes of CO2 produced by dividing MJ by 16 000. Our central heating unit was producing (55 000/16 000) 3.4 tonnes of CO2 a year. It was an older type with a pilot light which, I discovered, was using more gas than the cooktop! We replaced the unit with a 5-star model with electronic ignition. At the same time we added insulation to the ceiling. The combined effect is that we are now using about 39 000 MJ per year – a saving of 1 tonne of CO2 per year.

After the various energy modifications we made (Figure 1), we are producing about one-quarter of the CO2 that we produced under the ‘business as usual’ scenario. Overall, the result is quite satisfying.

Our journey
In the first part of this series, I talked about how much energy various domestic appliances use and how we could reduce it. Some surprises included:

* A normal hot shower uses the energy equivalent of 240 light bulbs.
* Leaving a light on every night for a year uses as much energy as driving from Melbourne to Sydney.
* Electrically boosted solar water heating can be worse than gas.
* Fluorescent lights are not necessarily low energy.
* Leaving fluorescent lights on does not save energy.
* Low-voltage downlights use a lot of energy.

After giving you the bad news on the energy consumed by domestic fittings and appliances, we saw how we could do a lot better, by making the right choices and spending a bit of money. By using a combination of tactics, our household managed to get its CO2 emissions down to one-quarter of its ‘business as usual’ scenario.

Making sure your home is not an energy sink - II

Science Alert | In the first part, I mentioned how some appliances use a considerable amount of energy when not in use. For example, my son recently installed a 5-star split-system air-conditioner. It draws 10 watts on standby.

If we do the calculations, 10 W (watts) for 24 hours a day, 365 days a year comes to 88 kWh (kilowatt hours) per year.

Now let’s work out its likely usage when operating. Say we have 20 hot days a year when the system is running flat out for 8 hours. Let’s conservatively assume that running flat out, it draws 550 watts. The sum of 550 watts for 8 hours for 20 days comes to 88 kWh per year.

This 5-star-rated appliance uses as much energy on standby as doing its job. Systems like this should be installed with a switch so they can be turned off completely for most of the year.

One last point. I have only considered domestic hot water, lighting, cooking and domestic appliances. I have not mentioned space heating, transport, holidays, the workplace and the energy in all the goods and services we buy.

That comes in the next exciting episode!

Making sure your home is not an energy sink - I

Science Alert | It makes no sense to turn off a light when you leave a room in which an electric heater has been left on. The power used by the light is 100 watts (W), while a heater typically draws 2000 W.

How big a yardstick is 100 W? Let’s assume that we leave a 100 W light globe on every night for six hours, which adds up to 2200 hours a year.

To calculate the energy used – measured in watthours – over the year, we simply multiply the hours by watts, which in this case is 220 000 watt-hours (Wh). As we know, ‘kilo’ means ‘thousand’, so a more manageable way of expressing this figure is 220 kilowatt-hours (kWh).

To most people, including me, a number like 220 kWh doesn’t mean much, so let’s convert it into something familiar – say litres of petrol – as an energy equivalent.

The best efficiency that can be achieved by burning brown coal to generate electricity is 25 per cent. This means four times the energy that comes through your electricity meter or power point is required to produce the energy you use in your home.

Taking the above example: 4 x 220 kWh, or 880 kWh, is required to produce that amount of electricity. If we go a step further, a litre of petrol contains about 10 kWh of energy. Thus, the 880 kWh equates to 88 litres – enough for the average car to drive 880 km, or from Melbourne to Sydney. That’s just to run one light globe each night for a year!

new mortgage crisis looms

Associated Press | Black Friday's retail shoppers hunting for holiday bargains won't be enough to stave off what's likely to become the next economic crisis. Malls from Michigan to Georgia are entering foreclosure, commercial victims of the same events poisoning the housing market.

Hotels in Tucson, Ariz., and Hilton Head, S.C., also are about to default on their mortgages.

That pace is expected to quicken. The number of late payments and defaults will double, if not triple, by the end of next year, according to analysts from Fitch Ratings Ltd., which evaluates companies' credit.

"We're probably in the first inning of the commercial mortgage problem," said Scott Tross, a real estate lawyer with Herrick Feinstein in New Jersey.

That's bad news for more than just property owners. When businesses go dark, employees lose jobs. Towns lose tax revenue. School budgets and social services feel the pinch.

Companies have survived plenty of downturns, but economists see this one playing out like never before. In the past, when businesses hit rough patches, owners negotiated with banks or refinanced their loans.

But many banks no longer hold the loans they made. Over the past decade, banks have increasingly bundled mortgages and sold them to investors. Pension funds, insurance companies, and hedge funds bought the seemingly safe securities and are now bracing for losses that could ripple through the financial system.

"It's a toxic drug and nobody knows how bad it's going to be," said Paul Miller, an analyst with Friedman, Billings, Ramsey, who was among the first to sound alarm bells in the residential market.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Peak Oil Crisis: Electrical Efficiency

FCNP | Last week the Virginia Commission on Energy and the Environment held a day long meeting to hear testimony on the future role of electricity in the commonwealth.

Representatives of the various power companies serving the state testified as to their plans and their commitment to reaching the state's goal of reducing electricity consumption by 10 percent by 2022. As it turns out, this goal turns out to be murky as nobody ever said what the 10 percent should be based on - 10 percent of current consumption so that the state is actually using 10 percent less 14 years from now, or 10 percent less than what 2022 consumption would be if no efforts to conserve electricity were undertaken. In the latter case the state could actually be burning considerably more electricity in 2022 as the state's population is expected to grow and it is likely that a lot of electric or plug-in hybrid cars will be refueling off the electric grid by then.

The most interesting presentation of the day, however, was made by a non-profit group called the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE). This group believes that making the most efficient use of the electricity we already generate is the best and cheapest way to gain more electricity. While converting over to more efficient electricity consuming devices (such as compact fluorescent bulbs) is not free, the Council cites studies that replacing end user equipment, adding insulation, etc. can cost anywhere from one half to one quarter the cost of installing and fueling new electricity generating capacity. This includes wind generated electricity which gets its energy for free.

The Problem with Powerdown Planning

Archdruid Report |There are two widely held beliefs these days about how we can deal with the end of the age of petroleum. The first claims that we simply need to find another energy source as cheap, abundant, and concentrated as petroleum, and run our society on that instead. The second claims that we simply need to replace those parts of our society that depend on cheap, abundant, concentrated energy with others that lack that dependence, and run our society with them instead. Most people in the peak oil scene, I think, have caught onto the problem with the first belief: there is no other energy source available to us that is as cheap, abundant, and concentrated as petroleum; the fact that we want one does not oblige the universe to provide us with one, and so we might as well plan to power our society by harnessing unicorns to treadmills.

The problem with the second belief is of the same order, but it’s much less widely recognized. Toss aside the parts of our society that depend on cheap, abundant, concentrated energy, and there’s nothing left. Nor are the components needed for a new low-energy society sitting on a shelf somewhere, waiting to be used; we’ve got some things that worked tolerably well in simpler agrarian societies, and some promising new developments that have been tested on a very small scale and seem to work so far, but we have nothing like a complete kit. Thus we can’t simply swap out a few parts and keep going; everything has to change, and we have no way of knowing in advance what changes will be required.


This last point is often missed. One of the people who commented on last week’s post, a software designer by trade, pointed out that he starts work on a project by envisioning what the new software is going to do, and then figures out a way to do it; he argued that it makes just as much sense to do the same thing with human society. A software designer, though, knows the capabilities of the computers, operating systems, and computer languages his programs will use; he also knows how similar tasks have been done by other designers in the past. We don’t have any of those advantages in trying to envision a sustainable future society.

Rather, we’re in the position of a hapless engineer tasked in 1947 with drafting a plan to develop word processing software. At that time, nobody knew whether digital or analog computers were the wave of the future; the handful of experimental computer prototypes that existed then used relays, mechanical linkages, vacuum tubes, and other soon-to-be-outmoded technologies, while the devices that would actually make it possible to build computers that could handle word processing had not yet been invented, or even imagined. Under those conditions, the only plan that would have yielded any results would consist of a single sentence: “Invest heavily in basic research, and see what you can do with the results.” Any other plan would have been wasted breath, and the more detailed the plan, the more useless it would have been.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Enough of 'Barbiturate' Left Cynicism

AlterNet | What the 60s freedom struggle took for granted, but which the cynical barbiturate left refuses to concede, is the basic goodness of the people of this nation, and the ability of the nation, for all of its faults (and they are legion) to change. Look at pictures of the freedom riders in 1961, or the volunteers during Freedom Summer of 1964 and notice the dramatic difference between them and some of the seething radicals of today -- whose radicalism is almost entirely about style and image more than actual analysis and movement building. In the case of the former, even as they stared down mobs intent on injuring or killing them, and even as they knew they might be murdered, they smiled, they laughed, they sang, they found joy. In the case of the latter, one most often notices an almost permanent scowl, a dour and depressing affect devoid of happiness, unable to appreciate life until the state is smashed altogether and everyone is subsisting on a diet of wheatgrass, bean curd and tempeh.

Hell, maybe I'm just missing the strategic value of calling people "useful idiots," or likening them to members of a cult, the way some leftists have done recently with regard to Obama supporters. Or maybe it's just that being a father, I have to temper my contempt for this system and its managers with hope. After all, as a dad (for me at least), it's hard to look at my children every day and think, "Gee, it sucks that the world is so screwed up, and will probably end in a few years from resource exploitation...Oh well, I sure hope my daughters have a great day at school!"

Fatherhood hasn't made me any less radical in my analysis or desire to see change. In fact, if anything, it has made me more so. I am as angry now as I've ever been about injustice, because I can see how it affects these children I helped to create, and for whom I am now responsible. But anger and cynicism do not make good dance partners. Anger without hope, without a certain faith in the capacity of we the people to change our world is a sickness unto death. It is consuming, like a flesh-eating disease, and whose first victim is human compassion. While I would never counsel too much confidence in far-right types to join the struggle for justice -- and there, I think skepticism is well-warranted -- if we can't conjure at least a little optimism for the ability of liberals and Democrats to come along for the ride and to do the work, then what is the point? Under such a weighty and pessimistic load as this, life simply becomes unbearable. And if there is one thing we cannot afford to do now -- especially now -- it is to give up the will to live and to fight, another day.

Seven self-sabotaging 'growth' scenarios

Market Watch | What is next? If the "Great Depression 2" scenario plays out, what's after 2011? Recovery? A new bull? How can you protect your money? Or are we all helpless victims of the raging winds of fate and Wall Street's self-serving brand of capitalism.

Let's review several scenarios in the bright lens of Akira Kurosawa's classic 1950 film, "Rashomon," at once an ancient Kabuki morality play, a tense modern courtroom drama, and a revealing documentary on human psychology. In "Rashomon" we witness the murder of a Samurai warrior and a rape through the eyes of several witnesses, each swearing they saw what "really happened."

We "see" these tragedies in a forest through the eyes of a Woodcutter, Priest, Samurai's Wife, the accused Bandit, and the Samurai, speaking through a Medium. But as "the facts" unfold, the lies and contractions of biased minds are exposed and the truth becomes increasingly blurred. In the end, we are still wondering: What really happened?

Similarly, today we're asking; "What really happened to America, so fast?" With Bush, Paulson, Bernanke and their Reaganomics ideology? To my 401(k), my CDs, my kid's college fund, my retirement nest egg. To the great American dream? What happened?

The Neo-Yeltsin Administration?

CounterPunch | Reality had to raise its ugly head. Barack Obama was elected with overwhelming approval to inaugurate an era of change. And at his November 25 press conference, he said that his decisive victory gave him a mandate to change the direction in which America is moving. But his recent economic and foreign policy appointments make it clear that when he chose “change” as his campaign slogan, he was NOT referring to the financial, insurance and real estate (FIRE) sectors, nor to foreign policy. These are where the vested interests concentrate their wealth and power. And change already has been accelerating here. Unfortunately, its direction has been for the top 1% of America’s population to raise their share of in the returns to wealth from 37% ten years ago to 57% five years ago and an estimated nearly 70% today.

The change that Mr. Obama is talking about is largely marginal to this wealth, not touching its economic substance – or its direction. No doubt he will bring about a welcome change in race relations, environmental regulations, and a more civil rule of law. And he probably will give wage earners an income-tax break (thereby enabling them to keep on paying their bank debts, incidentally). As for the rich, they prefer not to earn income in the first place. Taxes need to be paid on income, so they take their returns in the form of capital gains. And simply avoiding losses is the order of the day in the present meltdown.

Where losses cannot be avoided, the government will bail out the rich on their financial investments, but not wage earners on their debts. On that Friday night last October when Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain held their final debate, Mr. Obama was fully on board with the bailouts. And this week’s appointment of the “Yeltsin” team who sponsored Russia’s privatization giveaways in the mid-1990s – Larry Summers and his protégés from the Clinton’s notorious Robert Rubin regime – shows that he knows his place when it comes to the proper relationship between a political candidate and his major backers. It is to protect the vested interests first of all, while focusing voters’ attention on policies whose main appeal is their ability to distract attention from the fact that no real change is being made at the economic core and its power relationships.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

a frenzy over free food

Denver Post | Want one more palpable sign of a desperate economy?

An estimated 40,000 people came to a Weld County farm Saturday to collect free potatoes, carrots and leeks.

Cars snaked around cornfields and parallel parked along Colorado 66 and 119 early in the morning to get free food from the Miller family, who farm 600 acres outside of Platteville, about 37 miles north of Denver.

As this prolonged Indian summer continued, the Millers had decided to give away produce because so much was left over at the end of their annual fall festival. Any day now, a few deep freezes would kill it off.

They expected between 5,000 and 10,000 people spread out over a couple of days. Instead, they found themselves on Saturday morning inundated with cars and people with sacks and wagons and barrels ready to harvest whatever was available.

The Millers canceled the second day of the giveaway originally planned for today because, as Chris Miller put it, "the pickins' are very slim now."

At one point, 30 acres of family farmland had become a parking lot. Their crowd estimate of 40,000 plus was based on the number of cars. Sheriff's officials said they "wouldn't be surprised" if that count was accurate.

Traffic was backed up almost to Interstate 25, and police ticketed people who had illegally abandoned their cars in the frenzy.

"Overwhelmed is putting it mildly," Miller said. "People obviously need food."

China and the Congo Wars

Global Research | The Democratic Republic of the Congo contains more than half the world’s cobalt. It holds one-third of its diamonds, and, extremely significantly, fully three-quarters of the world resources of columbite-tantalite or "coltan" -- a primary component of computer microchips and printed circuit boards, essential for mobile telephones, laptops and other modern electronic devices.

America Minerals Fields, Inc., a company heavily involved in promoting the 1996 accession to power of Laurent Kabila, was, at the time of its involvement in the Congo’s civil war, headquartered in Hope, Arkansas. Major stockholders included long-time associates of former President Clinton going back to his days as Governor of Arkansas. Several months before the downfall of Zaire’s French-backed dictator, Mobutu, Laurent Desire Kabila based in Goma, Eastern Zaire had renegotiated the mining contracts with several US and British mining companies including American Mineral Fields. Mobutu’s corrupt rule was brought to a bloody end with the help of the US-directed International Monetary Fund.

Just weeks after President George W. Bush signed the Order creating a new US military command dedicated to Africa, AFRICOM, events on the mineral-rich continent have erupted which suggest a major agenda of the incoming Obama Presidency will be for the son of a black Kenyan to focus US resources, military and other, on dealing with the Republic of Congo, the oil-rich Gulf of Guinea, the oil-rich Darfur region of southern Sudan and increasingly the Somali ‘pirate threat’ to sea lanes in the Red Sea and Indian Ocean. The legitimate question is whether it is mere coincidence that Africa appears just at this time to become a new geopolitical ‘hot spot’ or whether it has a direct link to the formal creation of AFRICOM.

What is striking is the timing. No sooner had AFRICOM become operational than major new crises broke out in both the Indian Ocean-Gulf of Aden regarding spectacular incidents of alleged Somali piracy, as well as eruption of bloody new wars in Kivu Province in the Republic of Congo. The common thread connecting both is their importance, as with Darfur in southern Sudan, for China’s future strategic raw materials flow.

Africa: A war on terror's hidden front

Chicago Tribune | U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Cynthia Ramirez roared through it in an unmarked Land Cruiser, projecting the awesome might of the U.S. military into a wasteland little seen, much less penetrated, by outsiders. The landscape was like a slap—an eye-stinging waste of salt pans and glass-blue mountains that was still inhabited by Muslim warrior-nomads, the Afar, tough customers who long ago had swapped their traditional spears for Kalashnikovs.

Behind Ramirez, in an expanding cone of dust, bucked three more Toyotas, an Army truck loaded with corrugated metal sheeting, and 14 armed, sweating American soldiers and sailors. Their improbable objective: reroof a school at a fly-speck nomad camp called Lahossa.

The bad guys were potential Islamic extremists. But anywhere, at this jaded stage in the global war on terror, was literally and metaphorically off the map: a remote African laboratory for the long anti-terror struggles of the future.

As the Bush administration draws to a close and prepares to hand the job of ending the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan to President-elect Barack Obama, few Americans may realize that another major U.S. military campaign is taking shape elsewhere on the globe—this time in the most obscure, lawless reaches of Africa.

The Pentagon recently unveiled AFRICOM, its historic new military command devoted exclusively to Africa—a sprawling continent of 1 billion people, roughly half of whom are Muslim, that has long been overlooked by Washington's strategic planners.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Disposable Youth in a Suspect Society

Truthout | President-elect Obama raised the issue of what kind of country young people would inherit if they lived to see the next century. The question provides an opening for taking the Obama administration seriously with regard to its commitment to young people. Young people need access to decent schools with more teachers; they need universal health care; they need food, decent housing, job training programs, and guaranteed employment. In other words, we need social movements that take seriously the challenge of dismantling the punishing state and reviving the social state so as to be able to provide young people not with incarceration and contempt, but with dignity and those economic, political, and social conditions that ensure they have a decent future. Surely, this is an issue that the Obama administration should be pushed to recognize and address. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the great Protestant theologian, believed that the ultimate test of morality resided in what a society did for its children. If we take this standard seriously, American society has deeply failed its children and its commitment to democracy. The politics and culture of neoliberalism rest on the denial both of youth as a marker of the future and of the social responsibility entailed by an acceptance of this principle. In other words, the current crisis of American democracy can be measured in part by the fact that too many young people are poor, lack decent housing and health care, and attend decrepit schools filled with overworked and underpaid teachers. These youth, by all standards, deserve more in a country that historically prided itself on its level of democracy, liberty, and alleged equality for all citizens. We live in a historic moment of both crisis and possibility, one that presents educators, parents, artists, and others with the opportunity to take up the challenge of re-imagining civic engagement and social transformation, but these activities only have a chance of succeeding if we also defend and create those social, economic, and cultural conditions that enable the current generation of young people to nurture thoughtfulness, critical agency, compassion, and democracy itself.