You are currently browsing the monthly archive for December 2009.


This is an incredibly simple, but useful way to gauge how systematically our pop culture is dominated by men. Women are often only represented as either objects or auxiliaries whose lives revolve around men. Take a look at this short video from Anita Sarkeesian. [alex]

Reposted from Feminist Frequency, Dec. 7, 2009

The Bechdel Test is a simple way to gauge the active presence of female characters in Hollywood films and just how well rounded and complete those roles are. It was created by Allison Bechdel in her comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For in 1985. It is astonishing the number of popular movies that can’t pass this simple test. It demonstrates how little women’s complex and interesting lives are underrepresented or non existent in the film industry. We have jobs, creative projects, friendships and struggles among many other things that are actually interesting in our lives… so Hollywood, start writing about it!

Check out other great blogs and commentary about the Bechdel Test:

  1. The Bechdel Test Movie List: here you can find a long, long list of movies and where they rate on the Bechdel Test.
  2. Why Film Schools Teach Screenwriters Not to Pass the Bechdel Test’s by Jennifer Kesler. This is a must read – exposing the systemic problems of the film industry starting with film school.
  3. See the original comic strip “The Rule” here.
  4. You can visit Allison Bechdel’s site here and I highly recommend her graphic novel Fun Home
  5. Over at the Blog “The Angry Black Woman” she adapted the Bechdel Test to apply to race. Take a look: The Bechdel Test and Race in Popular Fiction

Child soldiers in the Congo Civil War

A civil war has been raging in the Democratic Republic of the Congo since.. well.. pretty much since the Belgians conquered the area, committed genocide, and called it a colony, as told in the excellent book King Leopold’s Ghost. But in the past 13 years, warfare has escalated and killed over 6 million Congolese, while rape has become an absolute epidemic and one of the main weapons of war. The UN’s top humanitarian official described the sexual violence against Congolese women as “almost unimaginable” for its frequency and ferocity.

This is a conflict that concerns us all, as it sheds crucial light on the functioning of global capitalism. At the center of the war is a mineral called coltan, short for Columbite-tantalite, which is used in capacitors, a necessary piece of electronics found in virtually every electronic device of modern capitalist society, from laptops to cell phones to cameras and jet engines. See Coltan: Learning the Basics. Coltan is just one of several expensive and rare minerals abundant in this remote region of central Africa, but coltan is ONLY available in this part of the world, which makes it extremely valuable.

Millions of children are exploited to mine coltan and other valuable minerals in the Congo

The DRC government, Uganda, Rwanda, and various militias and guerrilla forces are fighting over control of the land where these minerals are mined. The local residents, whose traditional lifestyles have been disrupted by decades of civil war, are forced to dig tiny amounts of these “conflict minerals” from the soil in inhuman conditions, often with their bare hands. An estimated 2 million of the miners are children, and often they are literal or virtual slaves who are on the brink of starvation. It is a situation which can only be described as hell on earth.

When you hear about such extreme exploitation, you can be pretty sure that some folks are making a hell of a lot of money. In this case, it’s western corporations like Nokia, Motorola, Compaq, Dell, IBM, Sony and many more who rely on extremely cheap capacitors in their electronics to make their profits from our Christmas presents. These companies have thus far avoided scrutiny by outsourcing the more direct business of extracting the minerals to smaller companies.

If there is any hope in this terrible situation, it is that capitalism is reaching the end of its ability to exploit the people of the world the way it has for the last centuries, and through the increased awareness of what is happening in places like the Congo, we as a people will say “Never again.” It is primarily the responsibility of those of us in the wealthy countries to put a stop to this paradigm of rape, slavery, and capitalist profit. Only we have the power to end the madness.

Below is a wonderful article that outlines specific solutions to the Congo civil war. [alex]


Conflict Minerals: A Cover For US Allies and Western Mining Interests?

Kambale Musavuli and Bodia Macharia

Originally published by Huffington Post, Dec. 14, 2009.


As global awareness grows around the Congo and the silence is finally being broken on the current and historic exploitation of Black people in the heart of Africa, myriad Western based “prescriptions” are being proffered. Most of these prescriptions are devoid of social, political, economic and historical context and are marked by remarkable omissions. The conflict mineral approach or efforts emanating from the United States and Europe are no exception to this symptomatic approach which serves more to perpetuate the root causes of Congo’s challenges than to resolve them.

The conflict mineral approach has an obsessive focus on the FDLR and other rebel groups while scant attention is paid to Uganda (which has an International Court of Justice ruling against it for looting and crimes against humanity in the Congo) and Rwanda (whose role in the perpetuation of the conflict and looting of Congo is well documented by UN reports and international arrest warrants for its top officials). Rwanda is the main transit point for illicit minerals coming from the Congo irrespective of the rebel group (FDLR, CNDP or others) transporting the minerals. According to Dow Jones, Rwanda’s mining sector output grew 20% in 2008 from the year earlier due to increased export volumes of tungsten, cassiterite and coltan, the country’s three leading minerals with which Rwanda is not well endowed. In fact, should Rwanda continue to pilfer Congo’s minerals, its annual mineral export revenues are expected to reach $200 million by 2010. Former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Herman Cohen says it best when he notes “having controlled the Kivu provinces for 12 years, Rwanda will not relinquish access to resources that constitute a significant percentage of its gross national product.” As long as the West continues to give the Kagame regime carte blanche, the conflict and instability will endure. Read the rest of this entry »


Wonderful essay by Stephanie Guilloud on the shifting sands of movement strategy in the wake of the high-tide of the Global Justice Movement, which in Seattle articulated a world beyond capitalism that was not controlled by corporate giants and corrupt governments, but built by democratic cooperation of communities all around the world.

The Seattle direct actions shut down the World Trade Organization for a weekend in 1999, because the WTO had been spreading the corporate agenda across the planet, and this began a string of movement victories that shut down the WTO permanently – by delegitimizing the organization and emboldening Global South nations to refuse rich countries’ poverty-spreading deals and abandon its negotiations.

Now, as Global South nations lead the call for justice in Copenhagen and as we gear up for the US Social Forum in Detroit next summer, it’s a great time to look back at the lessons the movement for justice, democracy and sustainability has learned in the past decade. [alex]

From Seattle to Detroit: 10 Lessons for Movement Building on the 10th Anniversary of the WTO Shutdown

By Stephanie Guilloud November 30, 2009 | Reposted from the Indypendent

For five days in 1999, 80,000 people from Seattle and from all over the country stopped the World Trade Organization from meeting. Despite extreme police and state violence, students, organizers, workers, and community members participated in a public uprising using direct actions, marches, rallies, and mass convergences. Longshoremen shut down every port on the West Coast. Global actions of solidarity happened from India to Italy. Trade ministers, heads of state, and corporate hosts were forced to abandon their agenda and declare the Millenium Ministerial a complete failure. We said we would shut it down, and we did.

“The fact is that the Social Forum and Peoples Movement Assembly process actually started in Seattle. The Social Forum took off from the experience of the ‘Battle of Seattle’ when the Brazilian organizing committee formed in 2000 and held the first World Social Forum in 2001. Ten years later, we come back to where this started. What has been accomplished in the last 10 years? How have our social movements developed to build the power towards real social systemic change in the US? How do we map the new forces and what is the power of the social movement assembly?”
– Ruben Solis, Southwest Workers Union, participant in the Seattle shutdown, and one of the founders of the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance

As one of the founders and leaders of the Direct Action Network and a resident of Olympia, Washington, I offer personal and political reflections on the WTO shutdown as a major turning point in my life as an organizer and in our lives working to build movements in the US. As an organizer with the US Social Forum process and a co-lead to develop the People’s Movement Assembly, I carry these lessons with me on a daily basis. I offer these stories with humility and a sense of responsibility. When I refer to “we” in this brief article, I refer to my community of young people in their early twenties, living in Seattle, Olympia, Portland, and the Bay Area, who, with many others, mobilized, organized, and implemented the direct action strategies we had planned for months.

1.) Know your history: Seattle was a turning point

Seattle was a historic turning point in our movements for racial, economic and gender justice for a few reasons. On a global scale, the demonstrations and effective shutdown of the World Trade Organization’s ministerial was historic because of our position and location in the US. Seattle did not mark the beginning of a movement, it marked the beginning of a significant connection between the US and the rest of the world. Global movements had and have been challenging and confronting financial institutions and their systemic effects for decades. The demonstrations – the five days of direct action, the massive and violent state response, and the subsequent alliances – accomplished a few major shifts in historic directions. The demonstrations exposed to the US public the tangible affects of globalization on regular people’s lives. The effectiveness of the actions and stalling of the meetings allowed for delegates from the global South to challenge the policies and procedures of the WTO. And for the first time in history, the decision-making rounds of a global financial institution collapsed.

Seattle also opened a door on a new era for movement in the US. The strengths and weaknesses of our organizing efforts served as a spark for new work, new alliances, new conversations, and a new generational drive. It opened the possibility for a generation of people to understand action, movement, and strategy as effective. It also offered an opportunity to see the strengths of innovation and mass organizing, as well as the weaknesses of underdeveloped leadership and lack of connection to long-term transformative practices.

2.) Claim your victories and evaluate your mistakes. Read the rest of this entry »


http://www.democracynow.org/2009/12/17/bolivian_president_evo_morales_on_climate

AMY GOODMAN: Just before we went to air today, I interviewed Evo Morales, Bolivia’s first indigenous president. He was re-elected in a landslide victory earlier this month. On Wednesday, Evo Morales called on world leaders to hold temperature increases over the next century to just one degree Celsius, the most ambitious proposal so far by any head of state. Morales also called on the United States and other wealthy nations to pay an ecological debt to Bolivia and other developing nations.

AMY GOODMAN: President Morales, welcome to Democracy Now!

PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: [translated] Thank you very much for the invitation.

AMY GOODMAN: You spoke yesterday here at the Bella Center and said we cannot end global warming without ending capitalism. What did you mean?

PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: [translated] Capitalism is the worst enemy of humanity. Capitalism—and I’m speaking about irrational development—policies of unlimited industrialization are what destroys the environment. And that irrational industrialization is capitalism. So as long as we don’t review or revise those policies, it’s impossible to attend to humanity and life.

AMY GOODMAN: How would you do that? How would you end capitalism?

PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: [translated] It’s changing economic policies, ending luxury, consumerism. It’s ending the struggle to—or this searching for living better. Living better is to exploit human beings. It’s plundering natural resources. It’s egoism and individualism. Therefore, in those promises of capitalism, there is no solidarity or complementarity. There’s no reciprocity. So that’s why we’re trying to think about other ways of living lives and living well, not living better. Not living better. Living better is always at someone else’s expense. Living better is at the expense of destroying the environment.

AMY GOODMAN: President Morales, what are you calling here—for here at the UN climate summit?

PRESIDENT EVO MORALES: [translated] Defense of the rights of Mother Earth. Read the rest of this entry »


Thom Hartmann provides a great short history lesson of the US over the last 30 years, to show why politics are changing today and why the American public won’t be falling into another coma to let the “Banksters” and “Gangsters” run the show like they have been.

The Health Care “Reform” bill that is currently being debated in the Senate is nothing but a total sell-out to the insurance industry. Not even a public OPTION (when we really need a Medicare-for-All single payer system). No extension of Medicare. Only a mandate that if you don’t insurance you have to buy it!  There’s no way people are going to take this turd and call it gold, no matter how good Obama sounds when he pitches it. It’s crap and everyone knows it.

The House bill, while woefully inadequate to help the 50 million Americans without access to a doctor, is a lot better than the Senate version. As Howard Dean has said,”Honestly, the best thing to do right now is kill the Senate bill, go back to the House, start the reconciliation process, where you only need 51 votes and it would be a much simpler bill.”

Lieberman be damned. [alex]

Healthcare: First They Came for the Banksters

by Thom Hartmann

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Originally published by Common Dreams.

With apologies to Pastor Niemöller:

First they came for the banksters, and showered them with money and put them in the Administration in a way that was not change we could believe in.

Then they came for the military industrial complex, and sent more and more of our children to die in faraway lands that had never attacked us in a way that was not change we could believe in.

And now they’ve sold out our hope for a national health care system not run by millionaire gangsters in suits. And who is left to speak for us?

President Obama is playing the Bill Clinton game of throwing people a bone and telling them it’s steak. Perhaps he’s doing it because he thinks it’s his only choice; perhaps it’s because he’s surrounded himself with Bill Clinton advisors (and Hillary as Secretary of State); whatever the reason, while it worked for Clinton, it won’t work for Obama.

It worked for Reagan, and for the first Bush, and even worked somewhat for George W. Bush.

But it won’t work anymore. Here’s why.

From 1929 until the 1980s, most Americans were “high information voters.” They were paying attention to politics. The Republican Great Depression of 1929-1938, World War II, the Korean War, Kennedy’s election, and the War in Vietnam were all Big Events that caused Americans to pay attention. Americans of that era needed to know what was up in Washington, DC, because they felt the consequences directly.

This is why in November of 1954, Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower wrote a letter to his John Bircher brother Edgar, “Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H. L. Hunt (you possibly know his background), a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.”

The voters knew. Even as late as 1977, when George W. Bush ran for Congress from Texas on a nearly singular platform of privatizing Social Security, he lost badly. The voters knew.

Then came Reagan. Read the rest of this entry »


This is a great, short video that shows why “Cap and Trade” schemes to reduce carbon emissions, like what world leaders are discussing at the Copenhagen Summit, are fundamentally flawed. Turns out that selling our atmosphere to corporations might actually be a bad way to stop climate change. It’s just another attempt to bail out capitalism, this time by making a commodity out of our hopes for a sustainable future.

Annie Leonard, creator of the original “Story of Stuff,” has hit another one out of the park by breaking down complex political issues into simple, accessible and visually appealing viral videos. Check it out (And share with family and friends)! [alex]

And here is the original, highly-acclaimed “Story of Stuff”

see more at storyofstuff.com


Guardian / UK Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A Troop Surge Can Only Magnify the Crime Against Afghanistan

If Barack Obama heralds an escalation of the war, he will betray his own message of hope and deepen my people’s pain

by Malalai Joya

After months of waiting, President Obama is about to announce the new US strategy for Afghanistan. His speech may be long awaited, but few are expecting any surprise: it seems clear he will herald a major escalation of the war. In doing so he will be making something worse than a mistake. It is a continuation of a war crime against the suffering people of my country.

I have said before that by installing warlords and drug traffickers in power in Kabul, the US and Nato have pushed us from the frying pan to the fire. Now Obama is pouring fuel on these flames, and this week’s announcement of upwards of 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan will have tragic consequences.

Already this year we have seen the impact of an increase in troops occupying Afghanistan: more violence, and more civilian deaths. My people, the poor of Afghanistan who have known only war and the domination of fundamentalism, are today squashed between two enemies: the US/Nato occupation forces on one hand and warlords and the Taliban on the other.

While we want the withdrawal of one enemy, we don’t believe it is a matter of choosing between two evils. There is an alternative: the democratic-minded parties and intellectuals are our hope for the future of Afghanistan.

It will not be easy, but if we have a little bit of peace we will be better able to fight our own internal enemies – Afghans know what to do with our destiny. We are not a backward people, and we are capable of fighting for democracy, human and women’s rights in Afghanistan. In fact the only way these values will be achieved is if we struggle for them and win them ourselves.

After eight years of war, the situation is as bad as ever for ordinary Afghans, and women in particular. The reality is that only the drug traffickers and warlords have been helped under this corrupt and illegitimate Karzai government. Read the rest of this entry »

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