You are currently browsing the monthly archive for November 2009.
The efforts of these pirates to gain desperately-needed resources to escape the extreme poverty of Somalia by capturing vulnerable international shipping seem to be virtually unstoppable. As the article says, Somali pirates now hold about 12 different ships hostage, and this oil tanker (whose cargo is worth about $20 million) was captured some 800 miles off the coast of Somalia.
This constitutes yet another significant “social limit to growth” as I explain in my synopsis – people across the world are less and less willing, or able, to “play by the rules” of global capitalism, when they know the system isn’t working for them. The actions of the Somali pirates are just one dramatic and violent example of a much more generalized pattern of resistance, which is placing significant barriers to profit, and thereby opening up possibilities for new systems to emerge and replace capitalism. [alex]
Somali pirates hijack oil tanker headed to New Orleans
By The Associated Press, Published by Nola.com
November 30, 2009, 11:06AM
The Greece-flagged Maran Centaurus was hijacked Sunday about 800 miles (1,300 kilometers) off the coast of Somalia, said Cmdr. John Harbour, a spokesman for the EU Naval Force. Harbour said it originated from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and was destined for New Orleans, according to a report the New York Times.
The ship has 28 crew members on board, he said.
The shipping intelligence company Lloyd’s List said the Maran Centaurus is a “very large crude carrier, with a capacity of over 300,000 tons.”
Stavros Hadzigrigoris from the ship’s owners, Maran Tankers Management, said the tanker was carrying around 275,000 metric tons of crude. At an average price of around $75 a barrel, the cargo is worth more than $20 million. Hadzigrigoris declined to say who owned the oil.
Pirates have increased attacks on vessels off East Africa for the millions in ransom that can be had. Though pirates have successfully hijacked dozens of vessels the last several years, Sunday’s attack appears to be only the second ever on an oil tanker. Read the rest of this entry »
Review by Dana Barnett
Originally published by Toward Freedom.
Nov. 25, 2009.
Reviewed: Arm the Spirit: A Woman’s Journey Underground and Back, by Diana Block. Published by AK Press, 2009.
“We had gone underground in the early eighties, not a high-tide period for revolutionary activity in the US. Unlike the people who had formed the Weather Underground Organization in the sixties, we were not swept into clandestinity as a response to the Vietnam War or the militancy of the Black Panthers…As we saw it, armed struggle was still a necessary component of every revolutionary movement, and the movement within the US was no exception.” – Diana Block
How do we decide where to put our political energy? For many of us on the left our politicization began with critiques of the dominant ideology. Our critiques may have been a result of formal education, though for many our critiques were lifeboats we clung to keep from drowning in the chasm between what we were told and what we experienced. Upon confronting contradictions we look for explanations. We attempt to deconstruct the world and then reconstruct it to make sense of it and find our place in it. We make our underlying ideologies conscious. We develop our analysis and principles and then attempt to act in a way that is aligned with their logical conclusions.
As leftist revolutionaries we ask ourselves the same questions at different times in our history. What is to be done? What does revolutionary work look like in our time and what is my role within it?
Diana Block’s memoir, Arm the Spirit: A Woman’s Journey Underground and Back, is an example of a leftist making sense of the world around her, attempting to act with integrity, and searching for political strategy and home. The memoir moves easily back and forth between two aspects of her story. The book begins with Block’s partner, Claude Marks, finding a bug in their car in 1985 after several years of organizing and living clandestinely, and only two months after she gave birth to their first child. This main narrative details her life underground and her re-emergence and re-engagement with organizing from 1995 to the present. It is interspersed with the back story of Block’s experiences, politics, and the context that led to her decision to form a clandestine revolutionary collective to support Third World anti-colonialist armed struggles. Block’s book is her answer to the question of what it means to be a revolutionary in one’s own time. In particular, Block analyzes her role as a white person in the US with feminist, lesbian/queer, anti-imperialist, and anti-racist politics.
I do not feel compelled to use this book, or this review, as a site to evaluate the usefulness of clandestine work, or the question of armed struggle. Read the rest of this entry »
Also published by The Rag Blog and OpEdNews.
“We stand at a critical moment in Earth’s history, a time when humanity must choose its future. As the world becomes increasingly interdependent and fragile, the future at once holds great peril and great promise. To move forward we must recognize that in the midst of a magnificent diversity of cultures and life forms we are one human family and one Earth community with a common destiny. We must join together to bring forth a sustainable global society founded on respect for nature, universal human rights, economic justice, and a culture of peace. Towards this end, it is imperative that we, the peoples of Earth, declare our responsibility to one another, to the greater community of life, and to future generations. – The Earth Charter” (pg. 1).
David Korten, long-time global justice activist, co-founder of Yes! Magazine, and author of such books as When Corporations Rule the World, lays out the fundamental crossroads facing the world in his 2006 book The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community. In response to global climate change, war, oil scarcity, persistent racism and sexism and many other mounting crises, Korten argues we must recognize these as symptoms of a larger system of Empire, so that we might move in a radically different direction of equality, ecological sustainability, and cooperation, which he terms Earth Community. This is a powerful and important book, which excels in overviewing the big picture of threats facing our ecosphere and our communities at the hands of global capitalism1, and translating this into the simplest and most accessible language so we might all do something about it. It’s pretty much anti-capitalism for the masses. And it has the power to inspire many of us to transform our lives and work towards the transformation of society.
Capitalism and Empire
Of course, Korten has made the strategic decision to avoid pointing the finger at “capitalism” as such in order to speak to an American public which largely still confuses the term as equivalent to “freedom” or “democracy.” In fact the “C” word is rarely mentioned in the book, almost never without some sort of modifier as in “corporate capitalism” or “predatory capitalism”, as if those weren’t already features of the system as a whole. Instead, Korten names “Empire” as the culprit responsible for our global economic and ecological predicament, which is defined as a value-system that promotes the views that “Humans are flawed and dangerous”, “Order by dominator hierarchy”, “Compete or die”, “Masculine dominant”, etc. (32).
Korten explains that Empire, “has been a defining feature of the most powerful and influential human societies for some five thousand years, [and] appropriates much of the productive surplus of society to maintain a system of dominator power and elite competition. Racism, sexism, and classism are endemic features” (25). In this way the anarchist concept of the State is repackaged as a transcendent human tendency, which has more to do with conscious decision-making and maturity level than it does with political power. While this compromise does limit the book’s effectiveness in offering solutions later on, it does speak in a language more familiar to the vast non-politicized majority of Americans, and may have the potential to unify a larger movement for change.
Whatever you want to call the system, the danger it presents to the planet is now clear. Korten spells out the grim statistics: “Fossil fuel use is five times what it was [in 1950], and global use of freshwater has tripled… the [Arctic] polar ice cap has thinned by 46 percent over twenty years… [while we’ve seen] a steady increase over the past five decades in severe weather events such as major hurricanes, floods, and droughts. Globally there were only thirteen severe events in the 1950s. By comparison, seventy-two such events occurred during the first nine years of the 1990s” (59-60). If this destruction continues, it’s uncertain if the Earth will survive.
This ecological damage is considered alongside the social damage of billions living without clean water or adequate food, as well as the immense costs of war and genocide. But Korten understands that the danger is relative to where you stand in the social hierarchy – the system creates extreme poverty for many, and an extreme wealth for a few others. He explains how the system is based on a deep inequality that is growing ever worse, “In the 1990s, per capita income fell in fifty-four of the world’s poorest countries… At the other end of the scale, the number of billionaires worldwide swelled from 274 in 1991 to 691 in 2005″ (67). The critical point that these few wealthy elites wield excessive power and influence within the system to stop or slow necessary reform could be made more clearly, but at least the book exposes the existence of this upper class, who are usually quite effective at hiding from public scrutiny and outrage over the suffering they are causing.2
Earth Community – Growing a Revolution
Standing at odds with the bastions of Empire is what David Korten calls “Earth Community,” a “higher-order” value-system promoting the views of, “Cooperate and live,” “Love life”, “Defend the rights of all”, “Gender balanced”, etc. (32). Read the rest of this entry »
This shocking article in the UK Independent shows the deadly effects of asbestos in England, where just as in my home town of Ambler, people continue to die from an industry that stopped producing decades ago.
Among the revelations here are that UK officials knew about the “evil effects” of asbestos in 1898, yet it took a century to outlaw. Another startling statistic is that asbestos kills 90,000 people a year worldwide, and the death rate in England will continue to increase until 2016.
More evidence of the social and ecological harm inherent in a capitalist system that values profit above all else.
The authorities knew it was deadly more than 100 years ago, but it was only banned entirely in 1999. The annual death rate will peak at more than 5,000 in 2016 – now MPs have a chance to do the decent thing.
By Emily Dugan
Sunday, 22 November 2009
The story of Barking’s “industrial killing machine” is a story repeated up and down the country where thousands of Britons continue to be blighted by their industrial past. Exposure to asbestos is now the biggest killer in the British workforce, killing about 4,000 people every year – more than who die in traffic accidents. The shocking figures are the grim legacy of the millions of tons of the dust shipped to Britain to make homes, schools, factories and offices fire resistant. It was used in products from household fabrics to hairdryers.
Those most at risk are ordinary workers and their families. Whether it was dockyard workers who unloaded the lethal cargoes, or those in the factories exposed to the fibres, or the carpenters, laggers, plumbers, electricians and shipyard workers who routinely used asbestos for insulation – all suffered. So did the wives who washed the work overalls and the children who hugged their parents or played in the dust-coated streets.
The exposure to asbestos in Britain is largely historical but the death toll is alarmingly etched on our future. Asbestos fibres can lie dormant on victims’ lungs for up to half a century; deaths from asbestos in Britain will continue to rise until 2016.
Nor is it confined to Britain. The World Health Organisation says asbestos currently kills at least 90,000 workers every year. One report estimated the asbestos cancer epidemic could claim anywhere between five and 10 million lives before it is banned worldwide and exposure ceases.
Asbestos was hailed as the “magic mineral” when its tough, flexible but fire-resistant qualities were realised, but for more than a century doctors and others have been warning of its dangers. Asbestos dust was being inhaled into the lungs where it could lie unnoticed before causing crippling illnesses such lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma which one medical professor has described as “perhaps the most terrible cancer known, in which the decline is the most cruel”. Read the rest of this entry »
HEALING SEX is…
- Honest, mutually consensual and based on clear communication
- Essential, meets physical, emotional, psychological needs and doesn’t feed addiction
- Arousing, mutually orgasmic and/or pleasureful
- Liberatory, builds sexual confidence and agency in fulfilling desires
- Intimate, explores depths of human openness and connection
- Nurturing, an expression of love and care within a sustainable relationship
- Gorgeous, celebrates human body and all 5 senses
- Spiritual, supports whole people and their growth, does not reduce to sex-objects
- Equal, does not reinforce structures of oppression or unequal power dynamics
- Xciting, engages imagination and challenges boundaries
This definition of healthy sexuality is meant to be used to evaluate possible and actual sexual interactions. I’ve created it as an acronym so that it can be memorized and recalled as different kinds of sexual situations develop. Specifically, this was created for the Men’s Support Group of which I am a part, so that we can be mindful of how we express our sexualities and how they affect ourselves and our partners.
Since we live in a patriarchal society, sex is far too often destructive and self-destructive, reinforcing male dominance and the objectification of female bodies. At the same time, so many of us have been and are victims of sexual violence and trauma, which has scarred us deeply and made sex a difficult and often triggering activity. But if we are intentional and sensitive about overcoming these obstacles, sex can become a sustaining, healing, and even revolutionary act.
I hope this 10-point rubric can help in some way to navigate the sexual landscape as we work to create positive and healthy sexualities.
Today, Democracy Now! reported that two major records have been broken in 2009 – Wall St. profits ($35.7 billion in the first half of the year), and the number of Americans going hungry (50 million). These two seemingly unrelated tragedies immediately suggest a common solution – carve up the bloated hulks of Wall St. swine and serve them up to the American people!
On Tuesday, the NY Comptroller’s Office released a report showing that “broker-dealer operations of New York Stock Exchange member firms earned a record $35.7 billion in the first half of 2009.” Through September, $22.5 billion in profits were reported from the four largest firms alone —Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase. These are the same banks who got bailed out by the Federal Government last year – which means that taxpayers like you and I paid for these creeps’ bonuses.
Not coincidentally, these obscene profits were recorded at the same moment that the Department of Agriculture released a report showing that “nearly 50 million people — including almost one child in four — struggled last year to get enough to eat” (as written in the Washington Post on Monday). While the economy has been in the tank and unemployment has surpassed 10% officially, food prices have been skyrocketing, and so millions more Americans are being forced to go without needed nutrition.
Why isn’t it a coincidence? Because the crooks who sent global markets into a freefall last September, causing millions to lose their homes and jobs, have been rewarded for their bad behavior with preferential treatment from Uncle Sam. These Wall St. piggies have been gorging themselves on trillions of U.S. Federally approved dough, while regular folks struggle to pay the rent or put food on the table – without so much as a measly health care reform bill to give hope to their deteriorating condition. Now 1 out of every 4 of our kids are going hungry while the government subsidizes the very stock market slimeballs responsible for creating the trouble to begin with.
“Where’s OUR bailout?” struggling folks are wondering, as they see food prices climb and jobs shipped overseas by the day. 50 million folks are wondering where their next meal is gonna come from… and it’s time to entertain innovative, cost-effective proposals, even if they may seem exotic.
Well it turns out there’s one way to solve this problem without tapping the Treasury for so much as a penny!
It would bring down the cost of high-protein, high-quality food, providing much-needed nutrition to the hungry.
It could create high-paid and unionized manufacturing jobs, right here in the U.S. of A!
It would be environmentally friendly, dolphin-safe, and carbon-neutral (although there may be some associated methane emissions after the plan is implemented).
Best of all, this solution would remove the parasitic, bonus-hungry, pyramid-scheming, derivative-trading, regulation-gutting, President-advising, economy-wrecking, bailout mongers from the picture, allowing the American people to determine our economic future democratically!
And it’s so straightforward even Timothy Geithner could understand it:
Eat the Rich!
[alex, Nov. 19]
Not particularly surprising for those who’ve been paying attention to oil reserve estimates, but it’s now official that the International Energy Agency (IEA) has been deliberately distorting their estimates to make it appear that peak oil is much further away than in reality. Also interesting that the US govt has been pressuring the agency to lie about it.
As I state in my Synopsis, peak oil is one of the most important ecological limits, which will prevent global capitalism from continuing to expand – if it hasn’t already. [alex]
Guardian / UK Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Key Oil Figures Were Distorted by US Pressure, Says Whistleblower
Watchdog’s estimates of reserves inflated says top official
by Terry Macalister
The world is much closer to running out of oil than official estimates admit, according to a whistleblower at the International Energy Agency who claims it has been deliberately underplaying a looming shortage for fear of triggering panic buying.
The senior official claims the US has played an influential role in encouraging the watchdog to underplay the rate of decline from existing oil fields while overplaying the chances of finding new reserves.
The allegations raise serious questions about the accuracy of the organisation’s latest World Energy Outlook on oil demand and supply to be published tomorrow – which is used by the British and many other governments to help guide their wider energy and climate change policies.
In particular they question the prediction in the last World Economic Outlook, believed to be repeated again this year, that oil production can be raised from its current level of 83m barrels a day to 105m barrels. External critics have frequently argued that this cannot be substantiated by firm evidence and say the world has already passed its peak in oil production.
Now the “peak oil” theory is gaining support at the heart of the global energy establishment. “The IEA in 2005 was predicting oil supplies could rise as high as 120m barrels a day by 2030 although it was forced to reduce this gradually to 116m and then 105m last year,” said the IEA source, who was unwilling to be identified for fear of reprisals inside the industry. “The 120m figure always was nonsense but even today’s number is much higher than can be justified and the IEA knows this.
“Many inside the organisation believe that maintaining oil supplies at even 90m to 95m barrels a day would be impossible but there are fears that panic could spread on the financial markets if the figures were brought down further. And the Americans fear the end of oil supremacy because it would threaten their power over access to oil resources,” he added.
A second senior IEA source, who has now left but was also unwilling to give his name, said a key rule at the organisation was that it was “imperative not to anger the Americans” but the fact was that there was not as much oil in the world as had been admitted. “We have [already] entered the ‘peak oil’ zone. I think that the situation is really bad,” he added. Read the rest of this entry »
This essay, written following a listening tour across the US, asks some of the most important questions facing social movements today, including “How Do We Build Intergenerational Movements?”, “What About Multiracial Movement Building?” and “How Do We Develop Strategy?”
I read this when it first came out in the summer of 2006 and it pretty much rocked my socks off and made me excited to get involved in the new SDS, so I figured I’d repost it for folks who never got to read it. [alex]
Ten Questions for Movement Building
by Dan Berger and Andy Cornell
Originally published by Monthly Review Zine.
For five weeks in the late spring of 2006, we toured the eastern half of the United States to promote two books — Letters From Young Activists: Today’s Rebels Speak Out (Nation Books, 2005) and Outlaws of America: The Weather Underground and the Politics of Solidarity (AK Press, 2006) — and to get at least a cursory impression of sectors of the movement in this country. We viewed the twenty-eight events not only as book readings but as conscious political conversations about the state of the country, the world, and the movement.
Of course, such quick visits to different parts of the country can only yield so much information. Because this was May and June, we did not speak on any school campuses and were unable to gather a strong sense of the state of campus-based activism. Further, much of the tour came together through personal connections we’ve developed in anarchist, queer, punk, and white anti-racist communities, and, as with any organizing, the audience generally reflected who organized the event and how they went about it rather than the full array of organizing projects transpiring in each town. Yet several crucial questions were raised routinely in big cities and small towns alike (or, alternately, were elided but lay just beneath the surface of the sometimes tense conversations we were party to). Such commonality of concerns and difficulties demonstrates the need for ongoing discussion of these issues within and between local activist communities. Thus, while we don’t pretend to have an authoritative analysis of the movement, we offer this report as part of a broader dialogue about building and strengthening modern revolutionary movements — an attempt to index some common debates and to offer challenges in the interests of pushing the struggle forward.
Challenges and Debates:
The audiences we spoke with tended to be predominantly white and comprised of people self-identified as being on the left, many of whom are active in one or more organizations locally or nationally. We traveled through the Northeast (including a brief visit to Montreal), the rust belt, the Midwest, parts of the South, and the Mid-Atlantic. Some events tended to draw mostly 60s-generation activists, others primarily people in their 20s, and more than a few were genuinely intergenerational. Not surprisingly, events at community centers and libraries afforded more room for conversation than those at bookstores. Crowds ranged anywhere from 10 to 100 people, although the average event had about 25 people. Even where events were small gatherings of friends, they proved to be useful dialogues about pragmatic work. Our goals for the tour were: establishing a sense of different organizing projects; pushing white people in an anti-racist and anti-imperialist direction while highlighting the interrelationship of issues; and grappling with the difficult issues of organizing, leadership, and intergenerational movement building. The following ten questions emerge from our analysis of the political situation based on our travels and meetings with activists of a variety of ages and range of experiences.
1. What Is Organizing?
Every event we did focused on the need for organizing. This call often fell upon sympathetic ears, but was frequently met with questions about how to actually organize and build lasting radical organizations, particularly in terms of maintaining radical politics while reaching beyond insular communities. There are too few institutions training young or new activists in the praxis of organizing and anti-authoritarian leadership development. Read the rest of this entry »