Thursday, February 17, 2011
The strings of military power still pull far and wide, and western governments rush in to protect billion dollar investments, the unjust dictatorships they've helped prop up for years. But the Brushfires of Freedom are igniting in this year of revolutions. Here is an amazing video speech by Ron Paul the American senator who so eloquently captured the mood of the moment...
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Japan suspends Antarctic whale hunt
Updated 1 hour 20 minutes ago
Japanese whalers have suspended their Antarctic hunt, citing harassment by environmentalists, and are considering ending their annual mission early, a fisheries agency official says.
Activists from the US-based environmental group Sea Shepherd have pursued and harassed the Japanese fleet for months to stop its harpoon ships from killing the mammals.
Japanese Fisheries Agency official Tatsuya Nakaoku says the factory ship Nisshin Maru, "which has been chased by Sea Shepherd, has suspended operations since February 10 so as to ensure the safety (of the crew)".
"We are now studying the situation, including the possibility of cutting the mission early," he said, confirming media reports, but stressing that "nothing has been decided at this point".
Sea Shepherd says it is having its most successful season yet in its fight against Japanese whalers in the Southern Ocean.
"I see victory on the horizon," spokesman Peter Hammarstedt told ABC News 24 after the announcement from Japan.
"I think certainly our actions down here have contributed to them possibly calling their season off early.
"This year has really been our most successful campaign to date."
But he stopped short of claiming victory until the fleet turns back towards Japan.
"We're speaking the language these guys understand, and that is profit and loss.
"Everyday we prevent these guys from whaling we're costing them millions of dollars in profit."
Tokyo Broadcasting System (TBS) Television said "the government is judging the situation so dangerous that it may cause casualties, and preparing to call back the fleet and ending the research whaling earlier than usual".
A TBS newscaster added: "If the government does call back the fleet it would mean giving in to anti-whaling activists, which would affect other research whaling missions. The government will have to make a difficult decision."
Junichi Sato, an anti-whaling campaigner at Greenpeace, said the group had information that the fleet would indeed return home early because Japan is already burdened with excess stocks of whale meat.
"Whistleblowers have told us that they would come home early," Mr Sato said.
"Given the excessive stockpiles they are economically troubled," he said, noting that the factory ship is not big enough to carry the hunt's target number of up to 1,000 whales.
"Harassment (by Sea Shepherd) has been cited as the reason, but really this is about Japan's internal situation."
Greenpeace has long argued the state-financed whale hunts are a waste of taxpayers' money, producing stockpiles of whale meat that far exceed demand in Japan where diets and culinary fashions have changed in recent years.
Earlier today Mr Hammarstedt told Radio National the Japanese fleet had only managed to kill between 30 and 100 whales, a fraction of their quota of 1,035.
He said Sea Shepherd was confident the fleet would only be able to catch under 10 per cent of its quota this season.
"This year we had a very specific goal that we were going to try to get the Japanese whaling quota down as close to zero kills as possible," he said.
"And this year we'll be surprised if they even get 10 per cent of their quota. We've been with these guys from the first day of the hunting season."
Japan introduced scientific whaling to skirt the commercial whaling ban under a 1986 moratorium, arguing it had a right to watch the whales' impact on its fishing industry.
The fleet, consisting of around 180 people on four vessels, is aiming to cull about 850 minke whales in Antarctic waters this season, which is scheduled to end around March.
In the same period last year, Japan killed 506 minke whales, well below its planned catch of around 850.
Last year Australia filed a complaint against Japan at the world court in The Hague to stop Southern Ocean scientific whaling.
The decision is expected to come in 2013 or later.
A Sea Shepherd activist was given a two-year suspended jail term by a Japanese court last July for boarding a whaling ship, while one of the group's ships sank last year after a collision with a Japanese whaling ship.
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Chevron is responsible for one of the largest environmental disasters in history. Rather than take responsibility, however, the oil giant is waging unprecedented public relations and lobbying campaigns to avoid having to clean up environmental and public health catastrophes that continue today.
Between 1964 and 1990, Texaco (which Chevron acquired in 2001) drilled for oil in a remote northern region of Ecuador’s Amazon rainforest. Using obsolete technology and substandard environmental controls, the company deliberately dumped 18.5 billion gallons of highly toxic waste sludge into the streams and rivers that local people depend on for drinking, bathing, and fishing. The company dug over 900 open-air, unlined waste pits that continue to seep toxins into the ground. The sludge contains some of the most dangerous chemicals known — including benzene and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) — in lethal concentrations. Rupturing oil pipelines and gas flaring was also a regular occurrence.
What’s worse, the dumping was done intentionally to cut corners and save an estimated $3 per barrel.
In the Oriente region of the Ecuadorean rainforest, which once supported 30,000 people, the land itself has become toxic and the entire water system contaminated. Almost any kind of food from this region — whether it’s farmed, domesticated, caught in the wild or in water — is unsafe to eat.
While Chevron has refused to accept responsibility and clean up the pollution, more than 1,400 people have died of attributed cancers — and continue to die — from Chevron’s toxic legacy. Children under 14 have been most vulnerable, suffering high rates of birth defects and leukemia. Parents cannot adequately feed their families. Local economies and communities have collapsed. And for those who remain, their way of life, their culture and traditions, have been radically altered.
Chevron has actually denied that 18.5 billion gallons of toxic waste can harm people.
Courageously, the rainforest people are standing up to Chevron. Seventeen years ago they filed a class-action lawsuit that they continue to fight today. Damages for this historic trial, taking place in Ecuadorean court, has been assessed at a record $27.3 billion. If successful, the case will establish a monumental precedent for corporate accountability and environmental justice across the globe. If successful, Chevron will be forced to finally care about human health and the environment.
Learn more about the contamination in Ecuador and the historic trial at ChevronToxico.com.
Chevron’s dangerous, irresponsible practices and policies are not confined to Ecuador — or to the past.
Today, Chevron’s century-old oil refinery in Richmond, California, is the state’s biggest emitter of greenhouse gases. For decades, this pollution has caused high rates of asthma, cancer, and heart disease in the region. But instead of reducing pollution, Chevron has been trying to “update” the refinery to process heavier oil grades, which would spew greater amounts of global warming and disease-causing gases into our atmosphere.
Around the world, over and over again, Chevron’s outdated practices and policies have consistently violated human rights, damaged human health, and worsened global warming.
In Kazakhstan, Chevron has contaminated land and water resources and impaired the health of local residents. In Canada’s Alberta region, Chevron is invested in tar sands — one of the most environmentally damaging projects on the planet. In the Niger Delta, Chevron is complicit in human rights violations committed by security forces against local people. In the Philippines, regular oil leaks and spills have sickened Manila residents. Chevron’s operations in Burma are providing a financial lifeline to the Burmese military regime — known for its appalling human rights record. In Western Australia, Chevron’s liquefied natural gas facility threatens the health of local communities and fragile humpback whale and turtle populations.
From Richmond, California to Ecuador’s Amazon rainforest, communities are working to change Chevron. But to really move one of the world’s largest and most dangerous corporations, we need an even bigger, more powerful, and more global movement. Join us.
Saturday, February 12, 2011
Friday, February 4, 2011
The New Face of Revolution: After Tunisia and Egypt, the World
by Ted Rall
NEW YORK--From the British newspaper the Independent: "Like in many other countries in the region, protesters in Egypt complain about surging prices, unemployment and the authorities' reliance on heavy-handed security to keep dissenting voices quiet."
Coverage by U.S. state-controlled media of the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt is too dim by half: they say it's an Arab thing. So it is. But not for long. The problems that triggered the latest uprisings, rising inequality of income, frozen credit markets, along with totally unresponsive government, span the globe. To be sure, the first past-due regimes to be overthrown may be the most brutal U.S. client states--Arab states such as Yemen, Jordan and Algeria. Central Asia's autocrats, also corrupted by the U.S., can't be far behind; Uzbekistan's Islam Karimov, who likes to boil his dissidents to death, would be my first bet. But this won't stop in Asia. Persistent unemployment, unresponsive and repressive governments exist in Europe and yes, here in the U.S. They are unstable. The pressure is building.
Global revolution is imminent.
The first great wave of revolutions from 1793 through 1848 was a response to the decline of feudal agrarianism. (Like progressive historians, I don't consider the 1775-1781 war of American independence to be a true revolution. Because it didn't result in a radical reshuffling of classes, it was little more than a bunch of rich tax cheats getting theirs.)
During the 19th century European elites saw the rise of industrial capitalism as a chance to stack the cards in their favor, paying slave wages for backbreaking work. Workers organized and formed a proletariat that rejected this lopsided arrangement. They rose up. They formed unions. By the middle of the 20th century, a rough equilibrium had been established between labor and management in the U.S. and other industrialized nations. Three generations of autoworkers earned enough to send their children to college.
Now Detroit is a ghost town.
The uprisings we are witnessing today have their roots in the decline of industrial production that began 60 years ago. As in the early 1800s the economic order has been reshuffled. Ports, factories and the stores that serviced them have shut down. Thanks to globalization, industrial production has been deprofessionalized, shrunken, and outsourced to the impoverished Third World. The result, in Western countries, is a hollowed-out middle class--undermining the foundation of political stability in post-feudal societies.
In the former First World industry was supplanted by the knowledge economy. Rather than bring the global economy in for a soft landing after the collapse of industrial capitalism by using the rising information sector to spread wealth, the ruling classes chose to do what they always do: they exploited the situation for short-term gain, grabbing whatever they could for themselves. During the '70s and '80s they broke the unions. (Which is one reason average family income has steadily declined since 1968.) They gouged consumers in the '90s and '00s. (Now their credit cards are maxed out.) Now the banks are looting the government.
Now that the bill is due, they want us to pay. But we can't. We won't.
It's bad enough during a cyclical recession, when millions of Americans are losing their jobs and getting evicted from their homes. When the government's response to an economic holocaust is not to help these poor people, but instead to dole out hundreds of billions of dollars to the giant banks and insurance companies causing the firings and carrying out the foreclosures, it's crazy.
And when the media tells the one in four adults who is "structurally" (i.e. permanently) unemployed that he and she doesn't exist--the recession is over! recovery is underway!--it's obvious that the U.S. is cruising for revolution. Not the Tea Party kind, with corny flags and silly hats.
American Revolution, Tunisian/Egyptian style.
Late last year I wrote a book, The Anti-American Manifesto, which calls for Americans to revolt against our out-of-control plutocracy and the corrupt political biarchy that props it up. I expected the Right to react with outrage. To the contrary. While the desire for revolution is hardly universal among Americans, it is widespread and distributed across the political spectrum. Revolution, when it occurs here, will be surprisingly popular.
Criticism of my Manifesto centers not on its thesis that the status quo is unsustainable and ought to go, but on my departure from traditional Marxist doctrine. Old-school lefties say you can't (or shouldn't) have revolution without first building a broad-based popular revolutionary movement.
"We are still in a time and place where we can and should be doing more to build popular movements that can liberate people's consciousnesses and win reforms necessary to lay the foundation for a transformed society without it being soaked in blood," Michael McGehee wrote in Z magazine. "All this talk about throwing bricks and Molotov cocktails is extremely premature and reckless..."
Maybe that used to be true. I think things have changed. Given the demoralized state of dissent in the United States since the 1960s and the co-opting of radical activists by the cult of militant pacifism, it would be impossible to create such an organization.
As I argue in the book, anyone who participates in the Official Left as it exists today--the MoveOns, Michael Moores, Green Party, etc.--is inherently discredited in the current, rapidly radicalizing political environment. Old-fashioned liberals can't really help, they can't really fight, not if they want to maintain their pathetic positions--so they don't really try. America's future revolutionaries--the newly homeless, the illegally dispossessed, people bankrupted by the healthcare industry--can only view the impotent Official Left with contempt.
Revolution will come. When it does, as it did in Tunisia and Egypt, it will follow a spontaneous explosion of long pent-up social and economic forces. We will not need the old parties and progressive groups to lead us. Which is good, because they aren't psychologically conditioned to create revolution or midwife it when it occurs. New formations will emerge from the chaos. They will create the new order.
In my Manifesto I argue that old-fashioned ideologies are obsolete. Left, Right, Whoever must and will form alliances of convenience to overthrow the existing regime. The leftist critic Ernesto Aguilar is typical of those who take issue with me, complaining that "merging groups with different political goals around an agenda that does not speak openly to those goals, or worse no politics at all, is bound for failure."
The revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt may well be destined for failure--but it doesn't look that way now. So far those popular insurrections have played out exactly the way I predict it will, and must, here in the United States: set off by unpredictable events, formed by the people themselves, as the result of spontaneous passion rather than organized mobilization.
In Egypt, an ad hoc coalition composed of ideologically disparate groups (the Muslim Brotherhood, secular parties, independent intellectuals), has coalesced around Mohamed ElBaradei. "Here you will see extremists, moderates, Christians, Muslims, all kinds of people. It is the first time that we are all together since the revolution of Saad Zaghloul," a rebel named Naguib, referring to the leader of the 1919 revolution against the British, told Agence France-Press. ElBaradei's popularity, said Tewfik Aclimandos of the College de France, is due to the fact that "he is not compromised by the regime; he has integrity."
This is how it will go in Greece, Portugal, England, and--someday--here. There is no need to organize or plan. Scheming won't make any difference. Just get ready to recognize revolution when it occurs, then drop what you're doing and then organize.
What will set off the next American Revolution? I don't know. Nevertheless, the liberation of the long-oppressed peoples of the United States, and the citizens of nations victimized by its foreign policy, is inevitable.
Ted Rall is the author of the new books "Silk Road to Ruin: Is Central Asia the New Middle East?," and "The Anti-American Manifesto" . His website is tedrall.com.