Monday, February 28, 2011

Chris Hedges: No Other Way Out

No Other Way Out
by Chris Hedges
TruthDig

I have watched mothers and fathers keening in grief over the frail corpses of their children in hospitals in Gaza and rural villages in El Salvador, Bosnia and Kosovo. The faces of these dead children, their bodies ripped apart by iron fragments or bullets tumbling end over end through their small, delicate frames, appear to me almost daily like faint and sadly familiar ghosts. The frailty and innocence of my own children make these images difficult to bear.

A child a day dies in war-related violence in Afghanistan. Children die in roadside explosions. They die in airstrikes. They die after militants lure them to carry suicide bombs, usually without their knowledge. They die in firefights. They are executed by the Taliban after being accused, sometimes correctly, of spying for the Afghan National Army. They are tiny pawns in a futile and endless war. They are robbed of their childhood. They live in fear and surrounded by the terror of indiscriminate violence. The United Nations, whose most recent report on children in Afghanistan covered a two-year period from Sept. 1, 2008, to Aug. 30, 2010, estimates that in the first half of last year at least 176 children were killed and 389 more wounded. But the real number is probably much, much higher. There are big parts of the country where research can no longer be carried out.

We will not stop the war in Afghanistan and Iraq, we will not end this slaughter of innocents, unless we are willing to rise up as have state workers in Wisconsin and citizens on the streets of Arab capitals. Repeated and sustained acts of civil disobedience are the only weapons that remain to us. Our political system is as broken and dysfunctional as that once presided over in Egypt by Hosni Mubarak. We must be willing to accept personal discomfort, to put our bodies in the way of the machine, if we hope to expose the lies of war and blunt the abuse by corporate profiteers. To do nothing, to refuse to act, to be passive, is to be an agent of injustice and to be complicit in murder. The U.N. report estimates that during the two-year period it studied almost 1,800 children were killed or injured in conflict-related violence, but numbers can never transmit the reality of such suffering.

On March 19, the eighth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, I will join a coalition of U.S. military veterans from Iraq Veterans Against the War, March Forward!, Vietnam Veterans Against the War and Veterans for Peace who will gather in Lafayette Park across from the White House. The veteran-led action will result in numerous arrests, as did a Dec. 16 protest organized by Veterans for Peace. It will seek, because it is all we have left, to use our bodies to challenge the crimes of the state.

It does not matter if this protest or any other does not work. It does not matter if we are 500, as we were in December, or 50. It does not matter if the event is covered in the press or ignored. It matters only that those of us who believe in the rule of law, who find the organized sadism of war and militarism repugnant and who seek to protect the sanctity of life rise up. If we do not defend these virtues they will be extinguished. No one in power will defend them for us. Protests are rending the fabric of the U.S.-backed dictatorships in Tunisia, Yemen, Jordan, Egypt and Libya. They are flickering to life in the U.S. in states like Wisconsin. And they are beginning to convulse Iraq. Iraqis, for whom eight years of war and occupation have brought nothing but misery and death, are surrounding government buildings to denounce their puppet government. They are rising up to demand jobs, basic services including electricity, a reining in of our mercenary killers, some of whom have been used to quell restless crowds, and a right to determine their own future. These protesters are our true allies, not the hired thugs we pay to repress them.

We are wasting $700 million a day to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, while our teachers, firefighters and police lose their jobs, while we slash basic assistance programs for the poor, children and the elderly, while we turn our backs on the some 3 million people being pushed from their homes by foreclosures and bank repossessions and while we do nothing to help the one in six American workers who cannot find work. These wars have taken hundreds of thousands of lives. They have pushed millions into refugee or displacement camps. They have left young men and women severely crippled and maimed. They have turned our nation into an isolated pariah, fueling the very terrorism we seek to defeat. And they cannot be won. The sooner we leave Iraq and Afghanistan the sooner we will save others and finally save ourselves.

To Read the Rest of the Commentary

In Their Words

From Feministing

"The words from this video were taken directly from the legal complaint against the Pentagon over their failure to respond to the sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape that the 15 plantiffs (and so many more) experienced while in the military."

Rage Against the Machine: Revolution in the Head and the Art of Protest

Government Report: U.S. Has Wasted Tens Of Billions Of Dollars On Contractors In Iraq And Afghanistan

Report: U.S. Has Wasted Tens Of Billions Of Dollars On Contractors In Iraq And Afghanistan
by Susan Crabtree
Talking Points Memo

A new report from a bipartisan commission set up to scrutinize the unprecedented use of contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan concludes that the United States has wasted tens of billions of the nearly $177 billion that has been spent on those contracts and grants since 2002.

The report, titled "At What Risk? Correcting Over-reliance on Contractors in Contingency Operations," said its estimate may even understate the problem because it may not take into full account ill-conceived projects, poor planning and oversight by the U.S. government, as well as criminal behavior and blatant corruption by both government and contractor employees.

"For many years," the report says, "the government has abdicated its contracting responsibilities - too often using contractors as the default mechanism ... without consideration for the resources needed to manage them."

The commission, chaired by Michael Thibault, former deputy director of the Defense Contract Audit Agency, and former Rep. Chris Shays (R-CT) holds a hearing Monday to review the new report's findings.

About 200,000 contractor employees are working in Iraq and Afghanistan -- a number roughly equal to the American military forces deployed there, according to the report. Their work includes guarding bases, building facilities, providing food and laundry services, escorting supply and personnel movements, and translating local languages.

To Read the Rest of the Essay

Flobots: Fight with Tools

Hayes Carll: KMAG YOYO

"A unionized employee, a Tea Party member & a corporate CEO..."

(from Michael Marchman)

"A unionized employee, a Tea Party member & a corporate CEO are sitting at a table. In the middle is a plate with a dozen cookies on it. The CEO reaches out & takes 11 of the cookies, then says to the Tea Party member "look out for that union guy, he wants a piece of your cookie."

Yochai Benkler: Newspaper of the Future

Newspaper of the Future
On the Media

News existed before newsprint. Will it exist after? Of course, according to Yochai Benkler. What we confront, he argues, is a set of practical questions: what do we need in our news? What do we care about? The author of The Wealth of Networks describes our shift from the newspaper we get to the newspaper we seek.

To Listen to the Episode

More:

More Episodes on the Future of the Newspaper

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Abu Atris: A Revolution Against Neoliberalism?

[Thivai: Excellent short essay -- discusses neoliberalism here and abroad, through the lenses of David Harvey, Timothy Mitchell and Naomi Klein. Would be a great intro for people that are not familiar with neoliberalism or political economy or broader global interconnections or problems with free market/privatization in a real world setting.]

A revolution against neoliberalism? If rebellion results in a retrenchment of neoliberalism, millions will feel cheated.
by Abu Atris
Al Jazeera

...

Rhetoric vs. reality

Two observations about Egypt’s history as a neoliberal state are in order. First, Mubarak’s Egypt was considered to be at the forefront of instituting neoliberal policies in the Middle East (not un-coincidentally, so was Ben Ali’s Tunisia). Secondly, the reality of Egypt’s political economy during the Mubarak era was very different than the rhetoric, as was the case in every other neoliberal state from Chile to Indonesia. Political scientist Timothy Mitchell published a revealing essay about Egypt’s brand of neoliberalism in his book Rule of Experts (the chapter titled "Dreamland" — named after a housing development built by Ahmad Bahgat, one of the Mubarak cronies now discredited by the fall of the regime). The gist of Mitchell’s portrait of Egyptian neoliberalism was that while Egypt was lauded by institutions such as the International Monetary Fund as a beacon of free-market success, the standard tools for measuring economies gave a grossly inadequate picture of the Egyptian economy. In reality the unfettering of markets and agenda of privatization were applied unevenly at best.

The only people for whom Egyptian neoliberalism worked "by the book" were the most vulnerable members of society, and their experience with neoliberalism was not a pretty picture. Organised labor was fiercely suppressed. The public education and the health care systems were gutted by a combination of neglect and privatization. Much of the population suffered stagnant or falling wages relative to inflation. Official unemployment was estimated at approximately 9.4% last year (and much higher for the youth who spearheaded the January 25th Revolution), and about 20% of the population is said to live below a poverty line defined as $2 per day per person.

For the wealthy, the rules were very different. Egypt did not so much shrink its public sector, as neoliberal doctrine would have it, as it reallocated public resources for the benefit of a small and already affluent elite. Privatization provided windfalls for politically well-connected individuals who could purchase state-owned assets for much less than their market value, or monopolise rents from such diverse sources as tourism and foreign aid. Huge proportions of the profits made by companies that supplied basic construction materials like steel and cement came from government contracts, a proportion of which in turn were related to aid from foreign governments.

Most importantly, the very limited function for the state recommended by neoliberal doctrine in the abstract was turned on its head in reality. In Mubarak’s Egypt business and government were so tightly intertwined that it was often difficult for an outside observer to tease them apart. Since political connections were the surest route to astronomical profits, businessmen had powerful incentives to buy political office in the phony elections run by the ruling National Democratic Party. Whatever competition there was for seats in the Peoples’ Assembly and Consultative Council took place mainly within the NDP. Non-NDP representation in parliament by opposition parties was strictly a matter of the political calculations made for a given elections: let in a few independent candidates known to be affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood in 2005 (and set off tremors of fear in Washington); dictate total NDP domination in 2010 (and clear the path for an expected new round of distributing public assets to "private" investors).

Parallels with America

The political economy of the Mubarak regime was shaped by many currents in Egypt’s own history, but its broad outlines were by no means unique. Similar stories can be told throughout the rest of the Middle East, Latin America, Asia, Europe and Africa. Everywhere neoliberalism has been tried, the results are similar: living up to the utopian ideal is impossible; formal measures of economic activity mask huge disparities in the fortunes of the rich and poor; elites become "masters of the universe," using force to defend their prerogatives, and manipulating the economy to their advantage, but never living in anything resembling the heavily marketised worlds that are imposed on the poor.


Unemployment was a major grievance for millions of Egyptian protesters [EPA]

The story should sound familiar to Americans as well. For example, the vast fortunes of Bush era cabinet members Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, through their involvement with companies like Halliburton and Gilead Sciences, are the product of a political system that allows them — more or less legally — to have one foot planted in "business" and another in "government" to the point that the distinction between them becomes blurred. Politicians move from the office to the boardroom to the lobbying organization and back again.

As neoliberal dogma disallows any legitimate role for government other than guarding the sanctity of free markets, recent American history has been marked by the steady privatization of services and resources formerly supplied or controlled by the government. But it is inevitably those with closest access to the government who are best positioned to profit from government campaigns to sell off the functions it formerly performed. It is not just Republicans who are implicated in this systemic corruption. Clinton-era Secretary of Treasury Robert Rubin’s involvement with Citigroup does not bear close scrutiny. Lawrence Summers gave crucial support for the deregulation of financial derivatives contracts while Secretary of Treasury under Clinton, and profited handsomely from companies involved in the same practices while working for Obama (and of course deregulated derivatives were a key element in the financial crisis that led to a massive Federal bailout of the entire banking industry).

So in Egyptian terms, when General Secretary of the NDP Ahmad Ezz cornered the market on steel and was given contracts to build public-private construction projects, or when former Minister of Parliament Talaat Mustafa purchased vast tracts of land for the upscale Madinaty housing development without having to engage in a competitive bidding process (but with the benefit of state-provided road and utility infrastructure), they may have been practicing corruption logically and morally. But what they were doing was also as American as apple pie, at least within the scope of the past two decades.

However, in the current climate the most important thing is not the depredations of deposed Mubarak regime cronies. It is rather the role of the military in the political system. It is the army that now rules the country, albeit as a transitional power, or so most Egyptians hope. No representatives of the upper echelons of the Egyptian military appear on the various lists of old-regime allies who need to be called to account. For example, the headline of the February 17th edition of Ahrar, the press organ of the Liberal party, was emblazoned with the headline "Financial Reserves of the Corrupt Total 700 Billion Pounds [about $118 billion] in 18 Countries."

A vast economic powerhouse

But the article did not say a single word about the place of the military in this epic theft. The military were nonetheless part of the crony capitalism of the Mubarak era. After relatively short careers in the military high-ranking officers are rewarded with such perks as highly remunerative positions on the management boards of housing projects and shopping malls. Some of these are essentially public-sector companies transferred to the military sector when IMF-mandated structural adjustment programs required reductions in the civilian public sector.

To Read the Rest of the Essay

Reuters: Government Study says most corporations pay no U.S. income taxes

Study says most corporations pay no U.S. income taxes
Reuters

Most U.S. and foreign corporations doing business in the United States avoid paying any federal income taxes, despite trillions of dollars worth of sales, a government study released on Tuesday said.

The Government Accountability Office said 72 percent of all foreign corporations and about 57 percent of U.S. companies doing business in the United States paid no federal income taxes for at least one year between 1998 and 2005.

More than half of foreign companies and about 42 percent of U.S. companies paid no U.S. income taxes for two or more years in that period, the report said.

During that time corporate sales in the United States totaled $2.5 trillion, according to Democratic Sens. Carl Levin of Michigan and Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, who requested the GAO study.

The report did not name any companies. The GAO said corporations escaped paying federal income taxes for a variety of reasons including operating losses, tax credits and an ability to use transactions within the company to shift income to low tax countries.

With the U.S. budget deficit this year running close to the record $413 billion that was set in 2004 and projected to hit a record $486 billion next year, lawmakers are looking to plug holes in the U.S. tax code and generate more revenues.

Dorgan in a statement called the report "a shocking indictment of the current tax system." Levin said it made clear that "too many corporations are using tax trickery to send their profits overseas and avoid paying their fair share in the United States."

The study showed about 28 percent of large foreign corporations, those with more than $250 million in assets, doing business in the United States paid no federal income taxes in 2005 despite $372 billion in gross receipts, the senators said. About 25 percent of the largest U.S. companies paid no federal income taxes in 2005 despite $1.1 trillion in gross sales that year, they said.

Link

Cryptome: 4 Collections of Pictures From the Libyan Revolution

Cryptome hosting a series of pictures of the Libyan Revolution





Harriet Blair Rowan: Wisconsin’s Uprising -- A Guided Tour of the 11-Day Protest Encampment Inside the State Capitol in Madison

Wisconsin’s Uprising: A Guided Tour of the 11-Day Protest Encampment Inside the State Capitol in Madison
Democracy Now

Public employees, labor activists and students have been filling the hallways of the Wisconsin State Capitol for the past 11 days. Hundreds of people have slept inside the Capitol building each night. So many people are staying here that protesters have begun building impromptu dining areas, a lending library and a medic center. Democracy Now! senior producer Mike Burke and John Hamilton receive a tour of the building from an activist who’s stayed at the Capitol building for nine straight nights.

To Watch/Listen/Read

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Detourned Republican Logo

Brandalism: The Art of Self Defence

Douglas Rushkoff: Program or Be Programmed

Rachel Maddow Show: Reporting from Wisconsin -- Scott Walker Using People Like Poker Chips

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Who's Counting? Marilyn Waring on Sex, Lies and Global Economics

NFB (Canada)

In this feature-length documentary, Marilyn Waring demystifies the language of economics by defining it as a value system in which all goods and activities are related only to their monetary value. As a result, unpaid work (usually performed by women) is unrecognized while activities that may be environmentally and socially detrimental are deemed productive. Waring maps out an alternative vision based on the idea of time as the new currency.



More:

"Author/Entrepreneur Tara Hunt on the influence of Marilyn Waring"

Wisconsin Police Have Joined Protest Inside State Capitol

(via The Understory: Wisconsin Police Have Joined Protest Inside State Capitol)

Juan Cole: Popular Army to March on Tripoli, as Qaddafi Massacres Protesters

Popular Army to March on Tripoli, as Qaddafi Massacres Protesters
by Juan Cole
Informed Comment

...

Aljazeeera Arabic is reporting that Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi has lost control of much of Tripoli and really only dominates the area of the capital immediately around his palace. Certainly, his security forces are having to fight for control.

Time reports that 100,000 Libyan soldiers in the east who have joined the popular forces are preparing to march on the capital, Tripoli.

The Saudi newspaper Al-Watan Online reports in Arabic that that the noose seemed to tighten Friday around the neck of Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi. Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets in the capital of Tripoli after Friday prayers. Qaddafi himself gave a defiant speech at the central Green Square in which he threatened to open arms depots so that his civilian and tribal supporters could arm themselves and take on the protesters. (He doesn’t seem to have considered that the dissidents might raid the depots as well, but likely his officer corps isn’t as addled as he).

There were reports from several cities of mutinies in the ranks of the military, with military personnel going over to the protesters in disgust at the brutal repression Qaddafi had ordered against them. More high officials, including ambassadors, announced their resignations, after which they joined the rebellion. These included the attorney general, Abd al-Rahman al-Abbar, and the ambassadors to France, Russia, the Arab League, and the Human Rights Council at the Hague.

In the capital of Tripoli, demonstrations broke out after Friday prayers in the Fashloum, Jumhuria, Ashur, Suq al-Jum`ah and Tahira quarters and at Algeria Square, demanding the fall of the Qaddafi regime. They were, however, confronted with gunfire by members of the security forces and of Qaddafi’s popular committees. Al-Sharq al-Awsat says that for the first time dissident, armed militias took on the pro-regime security forces in running firefights that left 7 dead.

Al-Watan says that eyewitnesses reported that dozens of protesters were shot. Some observers asserted that 9,000 members of the Khamis Brigade (the Qaddafi family’s personal guard, which includes mercenaries) had spread out through the capital. In addition, the regime deployed tanks, jets and heavy artillery, according to an unconfirmed report relayed by an Egyptian guest worker from the capital who reached al-Bayda in the east. The same source asserted that there were significant defections in Tripoli from the regular army on Friday.

Aljazeera reports that some congregants stormed out of mosques in Tripoli in disgust at the conservative and pro-regime themes of the sermons.

In contrast, Aljazeera says, a cleric in the town of Mselata (80 km east of the capital) whipped up his congregation and called on them to fight back against the regime. Some 2,000 of them then set out for Tripoli with weapons they had taken off defeated security forces. At the city of Tajoura they ran into opposition from French-speaking mercenaries in Qaddafi’s employ, and got into a gunfight with them. The protesters were prevented from advancing on Tripoli, and suffered an unspecified number of casualties. Refugees from Tajoura brought the story with them as they fled to Tunisia, Aljazeera said.

In Benghazi, al-Watan says, tens of thousands of people came out in front of the court building, which has been turned into a center of popular governance, for a big celebration in which children joined. Patrols were mounted by citizen committees and by troops who had joined the rebellion. Other troops were putting their weapons up for sale. One security source estimated that 500 protesters had been killed in Benghazi before it fell to the opposition.

To Read the Rest of the Report

Friday, February 25, 2011

Tennessee State Senator Bill Ketron and Representative Judd Matheny: Feet Washing and Islamic Prayer Are "Treasonous"

Tennessee: Feet Washing and Islamic Prayer Are "Treasonous"
by Robin Marty
Care2

In a sign that the fear of "sharia law" has become utterly ridiculous, a new bill in Tennessee will make any Islamic ritual a jailable offense.

Via USA Today:

A proposed Tennessee law would make following the Islamic code known as Shariah law a felony, punishable by 15 years in jail.

A bill introduced by Tennessee state Sen. Bill Ketron ... and Rep. Judd Matheny calls Islamic code a danger to U.S. security.

State Sen. Bill Ketron, R-Murfreesboro, and state Rep. Judd Matheny, R-Tullahoma, introduced the same bill in the Senate and House last week. It calls Shariah law a danger to homeland security and gives the attorney general authority to investigate complaints and decide who's practicing it.

It exempts peaceful practice of Islam but labels any adherence to Shariah law — which includes religious practices such as feet washing and prayers — as treasonous. It claims Shariah adherents want to replace the Constitution with their religious law.

A dozen other states are considering anti-Shariah bills, and there's a federal lawsuit in Oklahoma over one.

Imam Mohamed Ahmed of the Islamic Center of Nashville on 12th Avenue South said Islam teaches its followers to obey the law of the land. Shariah law, he said, teaches moral values.

"What do you mean, really, by saying I can't abide by Shariah law?" he said. "Shariah law is telling me don't steal. Do you want me to steal and rob a bank?"

Ketron is from Murfreesboro, the site of the mosque that has been plagued with vandalism and arson, and where opponents to the mosque claimed the Islamic faith wasn't a "real religion."

To Read the Rest

Liz Dwyer: That Plan to Close Half of Detroit's Schools? It's Really Happening

That Plan to Close Half of Detroit's Schools? It's Really Happening
by Liz Dwyer
Good

Eminem's acclaimed Super Bowl advertisement for Chrysler told the world that despite what you've heard, Detroit is making a comeback. Tell that to the city's children, because the State of Michigan has sounded the death knell for Detroit Public Schools. DPS's Emergency Financial Manager (EFM), Robert Bobb, has received approval for his plan to shut down half of the city's public schools over the next two years, raising remaining school class sizes to 60 students. The decision could be the tipping point that pushes Michigan into Wisconsin-style protesting.

Bobb's solution addresses a $327 million budget deficit and will reduce the current 142 schools in the district down to 72 by the 2012-13 school year. The plan will likely drive more families out of the Detroit, setting up a domino effect of even more financial problems for the schools.

Steve Conn, a 25-year-veteran teacher at Detroit's Cass Technical High School, is heavily involved in plans to march through the state capital, Lansing, today at noon with teachers, parents, students, and other public education allies. The planned protest targets education budget cuts, the school closings, and a bill that will expand the number of EFM positions in the state.

If the bill passes, it "will allow the state to appoint an EFM over any school district, city or town that is in a financial deficit," says Conn. EFM's have the power to fire entire school boards, change pay and benefits and eliminate union contracts, all without any public debate. When financial times are tough, as they are now in many low-income communities, EFM's can decide to sell off or close libraries, schools and other public buildings, and they're only answerable to the governor. Conn says such a system position "replaces democracy with tyranny."

To Read the Rest of the Report

Guerrilla Girls: Do Women Have to be Naked to Get Into the Met

Empire: Information wars -- How will governments deal with the information revolution?

Information wars: How will governments deal with the information revolution?
Empire (Al Jazeera)



Information is power and in the age of the information revolution, cyber and satellite communication is transforming our lives, reinventing the relationship between people and power.

New media, from WikiLeaks to Facebook, Twitter to YouTube, is persistently challenging the traditional flow of information, and cyber disobedience is exposing powerful governments.

Websites are now being treated like hostile territories; whistleblowers and leakers as terrorists, and hackers as insurgents.

Governments are scrambling to salvage their influence and take advantage of the new cyber and satellite media. From China to the Sudan, Egypt to Iran, despots and armies are tracking web activity and setting up Facebook accounts to spy on their citizens.

So is this the century of free information and expression as the cyber utopians predicted, or new methods of electronic oppression as the cyber sceptics warned?

Joining Marwan Bishara to discuss these issues are: Carl Bernstein, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist; Amy Goodman, the host and executive producer of Democracy Now!; Professor Emily Bell, the director of digital journalism at Columbia University; Evgeny Morozov, the author of The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom; Professor Clay Shirky, the author of Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age.

Our interviewees are: Daniel Ellsberg, the Pentagon Papers whistleblower; Charlie Beckett, the director of Polis at London School of Economics; Jeremy Goldkorn, the founder of Danwei.org, and Pink Ke, the co-founder of antiwave.net

Anti-terrorism and uprisings: North African leaders have worked with the West against Islamists and migrants - becoming more repressive as a result.

Anti-terrorism and uprisings: North African leaders have worked with the West against Islamists and migrants - becoming more repressive as a result.
by Yasmine Ryan
Al Jazeera

The string of uprisings in North Africa have laid bare Western governments' relationships with regimes in the region, which pro-democracy activists argue have long been fixated on anti-terrorism, immigration and oil.

Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader, appears to be on the brink of joining Tunisia's Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and Egypt's Hosni Mubarak - both ousted by their own people. In Algeria, meanwhile, Abdelaziz Bouteflika's government is holding firm, clamping down on protests and carrying out limited reforms in a bid to lull anti-regime rage.

The four men have co-operated to varying degrees with the West in the post 9/11 era, offering their services against the perceived twin menaces of political Islam and migration from the African continent to Europe.

Salima Ghezali, a well-known Algerian journalist and rights activist, says that politicians have used these supposed threats to justify state violence. Elites in the West, she argues, have attempted to distract voters by playing up threats to security, whilst sidestepping debate on their economies. Their counterparts in the developing world have used the same arguments to draw attention away from "institutional chaos".

"It is this chaos which is provoking and fuelling the anger of the people," she says.

By focusing on security, leaders have found a means to legitimise state violence, withhold rights and freedoms and neglect political and social management, Ghezali says. "Violence has even become a means of social and political advancement. Murderers have become heroes and hold power in public institutions."

Jeremy Keenan, a professorial research associate at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, agrees that the uprisings are, in some way, related to the prevalence of anti-terrorist policy.

"I think that whole 'war on terror' syndrome has had a potentially significant role in what we're seeing today," Keenan says. "These states have become more repressive in the knowledge that they have the backing of the West."

Demographic disconnect

Many youthful protesters are no longer willing to swallow their leaders’ use of anti-colonialist ideology to justify their political power.

Far from fighting imperialism, these leaders, their opponents say, have been complicit with the West: Acting as its torturers, buying its arms and patrolling the Mediterranean Sea to stem the tides of young people desperate to flee their homelands. All were partners in the CIA's controversial 'extraordinary rendition programme' and Libya has been a pro-active partner in a secretive Rome-Tripoli deal, signed in 2009, to intercept boats carrying migrants. In return for the sea patrols, Italy pledged to pay Libya $7bn over 20 years.

"The young generation of Algerians, and the not-so-young, don’t have any illusions about the convictions of their leaders," Ghezali explains.

Despite being sceptical of their leaders' ideological leanings, Ghezali says the youth do still respect authentic symbols of the Algerian War of Independence. Anti-government protesters in Libya have taken to waving the pre-Gaddafi, post-independence flag - a reference to the country's struggle against colonial rule.

With the exception of Ben Ali, all of these leaders have been in government since before most of their people were born. Bouteflika, for example, first became a minister in 1962, yet rules over a country where the average age is 27, according to the CIA World Factbook. Gaddafi took power in 1969, while the average Libyan is just 24.

Playing the 'Islamist card'

The region's leaders have repeatedly tried to portray the current wave of uprisings as somehow terrorist-related.

In a recently released report, Martin Scheinin, the UN special rapporteur on the protection of human rights while countering terrorism, details how Tunisia's counterterrorism laws and policies played a central part in the former government's crushing of political opposition.

And, as Scheinin notes in an interview with Al Jazeera, this was the very language Ben Ali turned to when he responded to the Tunisian uprising.

"I think it is important that when the people started to revolt in Tunisia, the initial reaction by the president and by the government was to say this is terrorists," the UN Rapporteur says.

Ben Ali accused demonstrators in the centre of the country of "unpardonable terrorist acts" on January 10, two days after Tunisian security forces had begun deliberately killing protesters in the centre of the country. The Libyan leader's son, Saadi Gaddafi, told the Financial Times on Wednesday that bombing in the east of Libya was necessary because "thousands" of al-Qaeda fighters were taking control of the region. His father elaborated on these allegations in a speech on Thursday night, accusing Osama bin Laden of brainwashing, and even drugging, the country's youth.

Ghezali points to Gaddafi's most recent threats to end his co-operation on immigration, as well as his attempts to blame protests on al-Qaeda, as a particularly "ludicrous" example of what has become a standard form of blackmail.

Tunisian activists interviewed by Al Jazeera cited ending corruption and tyranny and the right to employment, democracy and freedom of expression as the motivations that drove their uprising, while Libyans likewise dismissed Gaddafi's assertion that Osama bin Laden was working to incite dissent against his rule.

Keenan says that the absence of Islamist ideology in the protest movements has underlined the extent to which the "Islamist card" has been overplayed by politicians and the media. "These revolts have nothing much to do with Islamism, they are to do with young people fighting for their rights.

"All of these countries, to varying degrees, have exaggerated the menace of terrorism," says the author of The Dark Sahara: America's War on Terror in Africa.

To Read the Rest of the Article

America's Joyous Future

William John Cox: Political Upheaval and Women's Rights

Political Upheaval and Women's Rights
By William John Cox
Consortium

As the youth-led Freedom Movement of 2011 spreads rapidly across the Middle East, one can only wonder what would be happening in Iraq today if the U.S. had not invaded eight years ago.

Might Saddam Hussein have been driven from power by an internal popular uprising – as happened to Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and Zine El Abidine Ben Ali in Tunisia – without all the death and destruction wrought by George W. Bush’s invasion?

And, what does the overthrow of authoritarian governments – whether in Iraq from the U.S. invasion or in Tunisia from a popular uprising – portend for the rights of women? Will the changes unleash more Islamic fundamentalism and thus worsen the status of women in those countries?

Women’s rights continue to deteriorate in Iraq under the U.S.-installed Shiite government; their status is also threatened by Islamists in Tunisia, which – like Iraq – was long renowned as among the most secular of Arab nations.

It should be noted, too, that the personal liberties of women are under assault in the United States – by Christian fundamentalist politicians. The rise of fundamentalism, whether Islamic or Christian, almost always translates into fewer freedoms for women.

Iraq’s History

Under Iraq’s longtime Ba’athist government led by Saddam Hussein, Iraqi women enjoyed greater freedom than women in most other Arab nations and they played an active role in the political, economic and educational development of the nation.

The 1970 Constitution formally guaranteed equal rights to women and ensured their right to obtain an education, own property, vote and be elected to political offices. Iraq acceded to the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women in 1986.

However, at a cost of more than $1 trillion to the U.S. Treasury, President George W. Bush’s “Operation Iraqi Freedom” led to the slaughter of well over 100,000 Iraqis, including thousands of children, and the invasion resulted in women losing many of their previous rights.

After the ouster of Saddam Hussein, President Bush often bragged that now “Iraq is free of rape rooms;” however, his illegal invasion of Iraq not only exposed its women to rape by U.S. soldiers and mercenaries, but rape is increasingly used as a weapon by warring tribal factions, according to evidence gathered by women’s rights organizations.

“Rape is being used in the settling of scores in the sectarian war,” said Besmia Khatib of the Iraqi Women's Network.

While the new Iraqi constitution adopted after the invasion requires that women hold 25 percent of the seats in the parliament, it also provides that no law can contradict the “established rulings of Islam.”

Thus, the personal rights of women are subject to the interpretation of religious leaders, and those rights are being officially curtailed by the Shiite-controlled government.

Iraqi women must now submit to any male authority, including boys as young as 12-years-old, and they are being attacked and murdered for working, dressing "inappropriately" or attending university.

Because Iraq has more than three million widows – a result of Bush’s invasion and earlier wars under Saddam Hussein – sex trafficking has become widespread, as there is little or no opportunity for these women to find other employment.

Today, as the youth-driven Freedom Movement sweeps across the Middle East, it is touching Iraq, too, where freedom demonstrations have drawn thousands of protesters in the cities of Sulaimaniya, Falluja, Nassiriya Province, and Baghdad.

These demonstrations are being suppressed by the Iraqi security forces using U.S. supplied weapons and intimidation tactics, including raids on the office of the Iraqi organization that monitors press freedom.

The U.S. mainstream media and the Obama Administration have been largely silent about the Iraqi demonstrations; however, fair-minded Americans should conclude that, absent the invasion, the young people of Iraq would have been in the forefront of the Freedom Movement of 2011.

If history had taken that course, untold lives would have been spared and vast sums of money could have been spent improving the quality of life rather than destroying Iraqi standards of living. Plus, the United States would today enjoy greater respect from the world for promoting freedom and the rule of law, rather than violating those principles.

To Read the Rest of the Essay

Mark Bittman: How to Make Oatmeal . . . Wrong

How to Make Oatmeal . . . Wrong
By MARK BITTMAN
The New York Times

There’s a feeling of inevitability in writing about McDonald’s latest offering, their “bowl full of wholesome” — also known as oatmeal. The leading fast-food multinational, with sales over $16.5 billion a year (just under the GDP of Afghanistan), represents a great deal of what is wrong with American food today. From a marketing perspective, they can do almost nothing wrong; from a nutritional perspective, they can do almost nothing right, as the oatmeal fiasco demonstrates.

One “positive” often raised about McDonald’s is that it sells calories cheap. But since many of these calories are in forms detrimental rather than beneficial to our health and to the environment, they’re actually quite expensive — the costs aren’t seen at the cash register but in the form of high health care bills and environmental degradation.

Oatmeal is on the other end of the food spectrum. Real oatmeal contains no ingredients; rather, it is an ingredient. As such, it’s a promising lifesaver: oats are easy to grow in almost any non-extreme climate and, minimally processed, they’re profoundly nourishing, inexpensive and ridiculously easy to cook. They can even be eaten raw, but more on that in a moment.

Like so many other venerable foods, oatmeal has been roundly abused by food marketers for more than 40 years. Take, for example, Quaker Strawberries and Cream Instant Oatmeal, which contains no strawberries, no cream, 12 times the sugars of Quaker Old Fashioned Oats and only half of the fiber. At least it’s inexpensive, less than 50 cents a packet on average. (A serving of cooked rolled oats will set you back half that at most, plus the cost of condiments; of course, it’ll be much better in every respect.)

The oatmeal and McDonald’s story broke late last year, when Mickey D’s, in its ongoing effort to tell us that it’s offering “a selection of balanced choices” (and to keep in step with arch-rival Starbucks) began to sell the cereal. Yet in typical McDonald’s fashion, the company is doing everything it can to turn oatmeal into yet another bad choice. (Not only that, they’ve made it more expensive than a double-cheeseburger: $2.38 per serving in New York.) “Cream” (which contains seven ingredients, two of them actual dairy) is automatically added; brown sugar is ostensibly optional, but it’s also added routinely unless a customer specifically requests otherwise. There are also diced apples, dried cranberries and raisins, the least processed of the ingredients (even the oatmeal contains seven ingredients, including “natural flavor”).

A more accurate description than “100% natural whole-grain oats,” “plump raisins,” “sweet cranberries” and “crisp fresh apples” would be “oats, sugar, sweetened dried fruit, cream and 11 weird ingredients you would never keep in your kitchen.”

Since we know there are barely any rules governing promotion of foods, one might wonder how this compares to real oatmeal, besides being 10 times as expensive. Some will say that it tastes better, but that’s because they’re addicted to sickly sweet foods, which is what this bowlful of wholesome is.

Others will argue that the McDonald’s version is more “convenient.” This is nonsense; in the time it takes to go into a McDonald’s, stand in line, order, wait, pay and leave, you could make oatmeal for four while taking your vitamins, brushing your teeth and half-unloading the dishwasher. (If you’re too busy to eat it before you leave the house, you could throw it in a container and microwave it at work.

To Read the Rest of the Commentary

Emptywheel: Spain Will Investigate Gitmo Torture

Spain Will Investigate Gitmo Torture
Emptywheel

The High Court in Spain has decided that it can proceed with its investigation of the torture that Lahcen Ikassrien alleges he suffered at Gitmo.

A Spanish court Friday agreed to investigate a complaint by a Moroccan who said he was tortured while in the US detention camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, judicial sources said.

The National Court said it was competent to take the case as the complainant, Lahcen Ikassrien, has been living in Spain for 13 years.

[snip]

The judges Friday rejected an appeal by prosecutors who sought to have the case thrown out on the grounds that Ikassrien did not have sufficient links with Spain.


Here’s what the Center for Constitutional Rights has to say about the news:

This is a monumental decision that will enable a Spanish judge to continue a case on the “authorized and systematic plan of torture and ill treatment” by U.S. officials at Guantanamo. Geoffrey Miller, the former commanding officer at Guantánamo, has already been implicated, and the case will surely move up the chain of command. Since the U.S. government has not only failed to investigate the illegal actions of its own officials and, according to diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks, also sought to interfere in the Spanish judicial process and stop the case from proceeding, this will be the first real investigation of the U.S. torture program. This is a victory for accountability and a blow against impunity. The Center for Constitutional Rights applauds the Spanish courts for not bowing to political pressure and for undertaking what may be the most important investigation in decades.


As always, it pays to be skeptical that the US won’t still find a way to quash this investigation. But given the exposure WikiLeaks gave DOJ’s prior interventions with Spanish officials, they may have overplayed their hand.Also note, this is not the case that implicates the 6 lawyers who approved torture. I suspect that the pending suits against John Yoo and others might give the DOJ the ability to claim that crime is still being investigated here in the states.

Link to the Report and To Access More Resources

Guardian Live Blog: Gaddafi defiant amid Libya turmoil – live

Gaddafi defiant amid Libya turmoil – live
Guardian

• Gaddafi speaks to supporters in Green Square
• More Libyan diplomats abandon regime
• Foreign Office denies paying bribes at Tripoli airport
• UN security council to meet to discuss action

To Read the Reports and Continuing Updates

Jess Zimmerman: Costco agrees to stop ravaging the oceans

Costco agrees to stop ravaging the oceans
by Jess Zimmerman
Grist

It only took eight months for pressure from Greenpeace to make food-hoard purveyor Costco stop selling threatened fish. Twelve species that appear on Greenpeace's "red list" were also appearing on Costco's shelves. Activists finally made the wholesale giant revise its seafood policies, but first they had to open up economy-sized whoop@ss:

Over 100,000 people took action online -- sending messages to Costco's CEO demanding real progress. Thousands of concerned citizens downloaded our activist toolkit and participated in surveying Costco stores across the country. And, that's not all -- hundreds of phone calls were placed to stores, the Greenpeace airship flew over their headquarters and shoppers handed out informational flyers in front of stores on busy days.


Here's what the future of Costco's seafood purchasing and sales looks like:

-- Eliminate 12 red list species, which will not return unless the company can find an MSC-certified option. This is certainly not perfect -- we'd like to see these unsustainable options off the shelves until the populations recover -- but it's a major step forward. The species are:

- Atlantic cod
- Atlantic halibut
- Chilean sea bass
- Greenland halibut
- Grouper
- Monkfish
- Orange roughy
- Redfish
- Shark
- Skates and rays
- Swordfish
- Bluefin tuna

-- Pledge to play more of a leadership role within aquaculture;

-- Partner with World Wildlife Fund to examine their remaining wild-caught species and determine how to best transition to the most sustainable alternative; and

-- Acknowledge the role that the canned tuna industry plays within the global sustainable seafood movement and is in the process of shifting to more sustainable tuna sources in all sectors (fresh, frozen, and canned).


Whether you shop at Costco or elsewhere, there are apps -- like one from the Monterey Bay Aquarium -- that will let you know whether the fish you're buying is sustainable, and what to choose instead if it isn't.

To Read the Rest of the Report and Access Resources Mentioned

2007: Barack Obama promised to "walk on that picket line" if workers are denied the right to bargain

Time to step up Mr. President -- who do you serve?

MUBI: Film Poster of the Week -- Chris Ware's Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives

To read about the poster:

On the Media: Information Wants to Be Expensive; Has Apple Become the Morality Police?

Information Wants to Be Expensive
On the Media (NPR)

The idea that “information wants to be free,” says Michael Hirschorn in the current issue of the Atlantic, has been the most powerful meme of the past 25 years. But in the mall-like app era of Apple, he argues, that meme is moderating.

To Listen to the Episode

Has Apple Become the Morality Police?
On the Media (NPR)

Do we want Steve Jobs to act as a de facto V-chip for users of Apple products? Adult users of Apple products? Radiolab host Jad Abumrad and DailyFinance media columnist Jeff Bercovici weigh in.

To Listen to the Episode

On the Media: Closing the Book on Bloody Sunday

Closing the Book on Bloody Sunday
On the Media

Reporters rarely get a second chance to correct the record. But British reporter Peter Pringle did in 1998 when the British government decided to reopen the inquiry into Bloody Sunday, the 1972 massacre that took place in the city of Derry, Northern Ireland. In 2002 Brooke took a look at this tragic event and the role reporters played in revealing the truth. She also caught up with Peter Pringle again this week after the long-anticipated Saville Inquiry's report was finally released and the British Prime Minister apologized.

To Listen to the Episode

History for the Future: Wendy Goldman on the Purges in the USSR

Wendy Goldman on the Purges in the USSR
History for the Future

On this brand new episode of HFTF, Wendy Z. Goldman, professor of history at Carnegie Mellon University, discusses the dynamics of the Purges that gripped the Soviet Union during the 1930s. In doing so she gives HFTF a sneak peak at her latest work on the early history of the Soviet Union, a book due out next year titled Intimate Betrayal. This account of the purges utilizes a unique set of sources: stenographic reports of the denunciations that sit at the heart of this tragic social phenomenon. Goldman is also the author of three other fascinating works on the Soviet Union: Women, the State, and Revolution; Women at the Gates; and Terror and Democracy in the Age of Stalin.

To Listen to the Interview

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Sebastian Errazuriz: American Kills



Design Bloom explains this artist's project Sebastian Errazuriz: American Kills

Michael Hastings: Another Runaway General -- Army Deploys Psy-Ops on U.S. Senators

Another Runaway General: Army Deploys Psy-Ops on U.S. Senators
By Michael Hastings
Rolling Stone

The U.S. Army illegally ordered a team of soldiers specializing in "psychological operations" to manipulate visiting American senators into providing more troops and funding for the war, Rolling Stone has learned – and when an officer tried to stop the operation, he was railroaded by military investigators.

The orders came from the command of Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, a three-star general in charge of training Afghan troops – the linchpin of U.S. strategy in the war. Over a four-month period last year, a military cell devoted to what is known as "information operations" at Camp Eggers in Kabul was repeatedly pressured to target visiting senators and other VIPs who met with Caldwell. When the unit resisted the order, arguing that it violated U.S. laws prohibiting the use of propaganda against American citizens, it was subjected to a campaign of retaliation.

"My job in psy-ops is to play with people’s heads, to get the enemy to behave the way we want them to behave," says Lt. Colonel Michael Holmes, the leader of the IO unit, who received an official reprimand after bucking orders. "I’m prohibited from doing that to our own people. When you ask me to try to use these skills on senators and congressman, you’re crossing a line."

The list of targeted visitors was long, according to interviews with members of the IO team and internal documents obtained by Rolling Stone. Those singled out in the campaign included senators John McCain, Joe Lieberman, Jack Reed, Al Franken and Carl Levin; Rep. Steve Israel of the House Appropriations Committee; Adm. Mike Mullen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; the Czech ambassador to Afghanistan; the German interior minister, and a host of influential think-tank analysts.

The incident offers an indication of just how desperate the U.S. command in Afghanistan is to spin American civilian leaders into supporting an increasingly unpopular war. According to the Defense Department’s own definition, psy-ops – the use of propaganda and psychological tactics to influence emotions and behaviors – are supposed to be used exclusively on "hostile foreign groups." Federal law forbids the military from practicing psy-ops on Americans, and each defense authorization bill comes with a "propaganda rider" that also prohibits such manipulation. "Everyone in the psy-ops, intel, and IO community knows you’re not supposed to target Americans," says a veteran member of another psy-ops team who has run operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. "It’s what you learn on day one."

When Holmes and his four-man team arrived in Afghanistan in November 2009, their mission was to assess the effects of U.S. propaganda on the Taliban and the local Afghan population. But the following month, Holmes began receiving orders from Caldwell’s staff to direct his expertise on a new target: visiting Americans. At first, the orders were administered verbally. According to Holmes, who attended at least a dozen meetings with Caldwell to discuss the operation, the general wanted the IO unit to do the kind of seemingly innocuous work usually delegated to the two dozen members of his public affairs staff: compiling detailed profiles of the VIPs, including their voting records, their likes and dislikes, and their "hot-button issues." In one email to Holmes, Caldwell’s staff also wanted to know how to shape the general’s presentations to the visiting dignitaries, and how best to "refine our messaging."

To Read the Rest of the Essay

Jacob Weisberg: Tech Revolutionaries -- The Arab Revolt shows that Google's and Twitter's corporate values are better than Facebook's

Tech Revolutionaries: The Arab Revolt shows that Google's and Twitter's corporate values are better than Facebook's.
By Jacob Weisberg
Slate

American technology companies have often faced tricky issues about how they operate in relation to authoritarian regimes in China, Russia, and elsewhere. But as revolution sweeps through the Middle East, three companies have found themselves central to the action in an unprecedented way. Google, Facebook, and Twitter are all confronting the kind of moral and political dilemmas that global corporations usually hope to avoid. Their differing reactions tell us a lot about their corporate values—in a deeper sense than that issue is usually talked about.

Google's response has been the most exemplary. From its earliest days, Google has asserted an unusual claim to ethical behavior—its slogan is "Don't Be Evil." The company has, on occasion, shown itself willing to forgo profits and take risks that others wouldn't to avoid violating its own principles. The best previous example was China, where Google pulled out of the search engine market instead of continuing to accede to government demands for censorship of results. There's a biographical explanation for this kind of corporate policy decision. The company's co-founder Sergey Brin's experience as a child of Jewish refuseniks living under Soviet tyranny has influenced the company's behavior.

In Egypt, Google went even further than it did in China by directly opposing an oppressive government. There has been no suggestion that Google authorized or encouraged Wael Ghonim to foster a revolution there. But, amazingly, Google did not distance itself from one of its executives trying to overthrow the Mubarak regime in his spare time. Google's CEO, Eric Schmidt, said recently that he was "very proud" of Ghonim, and the company has made clear that it would welcome him back to his old job. This was not all Google did. When Mubarak cut off Internet access, the company developed a workaround that allowed users to send Twitter messages over phone lines. YouTube, which Google owns, also created a hub to promote videos from protestors in Tahrir Square. This sort of activism has provoked Glenn Beck—and the Russian government—to charge Google with being in league with the Obama administration in supporting Egyptian revolution. In fact, Google has walked a fine line on this point, providing tools to help undermine tyranny without directly embracing any particular group of revolutionaries.

You can contrast this response with that of Facebook. Facebook's platform played the bigger role in Hosni Mubarak's downfall. It was the "We Are All Khaled Said" page Ghonim set up in June to memorialize a businessman who died in police custody that became the cradle of the revolution. But Facebook the company, unlike Google, has hardly embraced the honor. Last fall, it removed the crucial page rather than allowing the administrator to protect his identity. Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois sent Facebook a letter requesting that it amend to its no-anonymity policy to protect democratic activists in the Middle East. Facebook said no. When the Tunisian government used a virus to obtain passwords of activists, Facebook couched its response in terms of protecting user privacy, not challenging a vile regime.

Facebook is such a powerful organizing tool that the question of its attitude toward those who use its product is in some ways irrelevant. But it is worth pointing that the company has never shown any sign of having the kind of core commitment to liberty that Google does. Where Google voluntary pulled out of China, Facebook—which is blocked there—is desperate to get in. This, too, reflects the background and worldview of its founder. Mark Zuckerberg, a child of privilege, has never known a lack of political freedom. He has no obvious ideological leanings and his big outside investors include a radical libertarian and a junior oligarch. It is difficult to imagine Facebook—or most other technology companies, for that matter—passing up a major business opportunity because of concerns about human rights. Facebook's overriding objective is the much more typical one of expanding its market while avoiding bad PR and staying out of trouble with governments that set the rules.

To Read the Rest of the Essay

Ronnie Cummins: The Organic Elite

(via PR Watch)

The Organic Elite Surrenders to Monsanto
By RONNIE CUMMINS
Counterpunch

"The policy set for GE alfalfa will most likely guide policies for other GE crops as well. True coexistence is a must."

-- Whole Foods Market, Jan. 21, 2011

In the wake of a 12-year battle to keep Monsanto's Genetically Engineered (GE) crops from contaminating the nation's 25,000 organic farms and ranches, America's organic consumers and producers are facing betrayal. A self-appointed cabal of the Organic Elite, spearheaded by Whole Foods Market, Organic Valley, and Stonyfield Farm, has decided it's time to surrender to Monsanto. Top executives from these companies have publicly admitted that they no longer oppose the mass commercialization of GE crops, such as Monsanto's controversial Roundup Ready alfalfa, and are prepared to sit down and cut a deal for "coexistence" with Monsanto and USDA biotech cheerleader Tom Vilsack.

In a cleverly worded, but profoundly misleading email sent to its customers last week, Whole Foods Market, while proclaiming their support for organics and "seed purity," gave the green light to USDA bureaucrats to approve the "conditional deregulation" of Monsanto's genetically engineered, herbicide-resistant alfalfa. Beyond the regulatory euphemism of "conditional deregulation," this means that WFM and their colleagues are willing to go along with the massive planting of a chemical and energy-intensive GE perennial crop, alfalfa; guaranteed to spread its mutant genes and seeds across the nation; guaranteed to contaminate the alfalfa fed to organic animals; guaranteed to lead to massive poisoning of farm workers and destruction of the essential soil food web by the toxic herbicide, Roundup; and guaranteed to produce Roundup-resistant superweeds that will require even more deadly herbicides such as 2,4 D to be sprayed on millions of acres of alfalfa across the U.S.

In exchange for allowing Monsanto's premeditated pollution of the alfalfa gene pool, WFM wants "compensation." In exchange for a new assault on farmworkers and rural communities (a recent large-scale Swedish study found that spraying Roundup doubles farm workers' and rural residents' risk of getting cancer), WFM expects the pro-biotech USDA to begin to regulate rather than cheerlead for Monsanto. In payment for a new broad spectrum attack on the soil's crucial ability to provide nutrition for food crops and to sequester dangerous greenhouse gases (recent studies show that Roundup devastates essential soil microorganisms that provide plant nutrition and sequester climate-destabilizing greenhouse gases), WFM wants the Biotech Bully of St. Louis to agree to pay "compensation" (i.e. hush money) to farmers "for any losses related to the contamination of his crop."

In its email of Jan. 21, 2011 WFM calls for "public oversight by the USDA rather than reliance on the biotechnology industry," even though WFM knows full well that federal regulations on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) do not require pre-market safety testing, nor labeling; and that even federal judges have repeatedly ruled that so-called government "oversight" of Frankencrops such as Monsanto's sugar beets and alfalfa is basically a farce. At the end of its email, WFM admits that its surrender to Monsanto is permanent: "The policy set for GE alfalfa will most likely guide policies for other GE crops as well True coexistence is a must."

Why is Organic Inc. Surrendering?

According to informed sources, the CEOs of WFM and Stonyfield are personal friends of former Iowa governor, now USDA Secretary, Tom Vilsack, and in fact made financial contributions to Vilsack's previous electoral campaigns. Vilsack was hailed as "Governor of the Year" in 2001 by the Biotechnology Industry Organization, and traveled in a Monsanto corporate jet on the campaign trail. Perhaps even more fundamental to Organic Inc.'s abject surrender is the fact that the organic elite has become more and more isolated from the concerns and passions of organic consumers and locavores. The Organic Inc. CEOs are tired of activist pressure, boycotts, and petitions. Several of them have told me this to my face. They apparently believe that the battle against GMOs has been lost, and that it's time to reach for the consolation prize. The consolation prize they seek is a so-called "coexistence" between the biotech Behemoth and the organic community that will lull the public to sleep and greenwash the unpleasant fact that Monsanto's unlabeled and unregulated genetically engineered crops are now spreading their toxic genes on 1/3 of U.S. (and 1/10 of global) crop land.

WFM and most of the largest organic companies have deliberately separated themselves from anti-GMO efforts and cut off all funding to campaigns working to label or ban GMOs. The so-called Non-GMO Project, funded by Whole Foods and giant wholesaler United Natural Foods (UNFI) is basically a greenwashing effort (although the 100% organic companies involved in this project seem to be operating in good faith) to show that certified organic foods are basically free from GMOs (we already know this since GMOs are banned in organic production), while failing to focus on so-called "natural" foods, which constitute most of WFM and UNFI's sales and are routinely contaminated with GMOs.

To Read the Rest of the Essay

Democracy: Peace and Conflict Studies Archive

Abdurrahman, Sarah. "My Detainment Story or: How I learned to Stop Feeling Safe in My Own Country and Hate Border Agents." On the Media (September 20, 2013)

Abu-Jamal, Mumia. "The United States Is Fast Becoming One of the Biggest Open-Air Prisons on Earth." Democracy Now (February 1, 2013)

"A Free Irresponsible Press: Wikileaks and the Battle Over the Soul of the Networked Fourth Estate." Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review (Forthcoming: 2011)

Alperovitz, Gal. ""Worker-Owners of America, Unite": Will Cooperative Workplaces Democratize U.S. Economy?" Democracy Now (December 15, 2011)

Ali, Tariq and Noam Chomsky. "Global Politics." The World Tomorrow (June 26, 2012)

Anderson, Rocky. "Ex-Salt Lake Mayor Rocky Anderson, Former Democrat, Launches Third Party Presidential Bid Against Obama, GOP." Democracy Now (December 13, 2011)

Bamford, James. "They Know Much More Than You Think." The New York Review of Books (August 15, 2013)

Barker, Kim. ""Nonprofits" Tied to Karl Rove, Koch Brothers Spend Millions on Elections and Call it Public Welfare." Democracy Now (August 20, 2012)

Barlow, Maude, Richard Grossman and Thomas Linzey. "When Lawmaking Becomes Rebellion (Water Privatization, Democracy School and the Corporate State)." Unwelcome Guests #307 (May 21, 2006) ["A new populist alliance of long time environmental activists and rural folk in central Pennsylvania has grown out of a struggle to ban toxic agribusiness operations that have targeted the area as the next profit opportunity. This movement is taking a new approach that is spreading across America via a project of public education and organization called democracy schools, that are teaching direct action lawmaking to challenge corporate supremacy and to create rights under law for people and the land."]

Bauwens, Michael et al. "Occupy 2.0 (Peer Produced Politics)." Unwelcome Guests (March 10, 2012)

Bender, Stephen. "Propaganda, Public Relations, & the Not-So-New Dark Age." LiP(Winter 2006)

Benton, Michael. "A nation starts to mobilize: Something’s happening here." North of Center (October 12, 2011)

---. "What Does Our Nation Value: Examining Two Cases of Student Demonstrations and Police Responses (or non-responses)." Dialogic (November 10, 2011)

Berry, Wendell. "A Citizen’s Response to the National Security Strategy." Orion (March/April 2003)

Binney, William and Glenn Greenwald. "'On a Slippery Slope to a Totalitarian State': NSA Whistleblower Rejects Gov’t Defense of Spying." Democracy Now (June 10, 2013)

Blumenthal, Max. "Max Blumenthal At “Against Israeli Apartheid” in New York City" Law and Disorder Radio (April 7, 2014)["... a speech by award winning journalist, and best selling author Max Blumenthal speaking at the event Against Israeli Apartheid along with Palestinian journalist Ali Abunimah. Max’s new book Goliath: Life and Loathing In Greater Israel shows the reader how the Netanyahu right wing government is actually moderate compared to most other institutions in Israel. His book takes a hard look at Israeli authoritarian politics from a cross section of interviews, from the homes of Palestinian activists to the political leaders behind the organized assault on democratic rights."]

Borradori, Giovanna. "The Illusion of Negative Freedom." Dialogic (Excerpt from "Terrorism and the Legacy of the Enlightenment: Habermas and Derida." Philosophy in a Time of Terror: Dialogues with Jurgen Habermas and Jacques Derrida. University of Chicago Press, 2003: 1-24.)

Brennan, Niall, Glenn Greenwald, Burt Neuborne, and Geoff Stone. "The Constitution and National Security: The First Amendment Under Attack." The Center on Law and Security (December 1, 2010)

Calhoun, Craig and David Graeber. "The Democracy Project." The London School of Economics and Political Science." (April 30, 2013)

"Capitol Crimes." Bill Moyers Journal (May 7, 2010)

Carlin, Dan. "An Army of One." Common Sense #260 (September 3, 2013)

---. "The Bitter Harvest of Fear." Common Sense #214 (December 15, 2011)

---. "Gunning for Violence." Common Sense #244 (December 28, 2012)

---. "Liberty on Life Support." Common Sense #231 (July 4, 2012)

---. "Pyrrhic Schadenfreude." Common Sense #199 (May 2, 2011)

---. "Security Uber Alles. Common Sense #219 (February 9, 2012)

---. "The Wages of Fear." Common Sense #274 (May 7, 2014) ["Should police need a warrant to search the cellphones of arrested individuals? The Supreme Court is debating it and Dan is using it as a springboard to discuss the how our fear is affecting the 4th Amendment."]

Carpini, Michael X Delli and Bruce A. Williams. "After Broadcast News: Media Regimes, Democracy, and the New Information Environment." Media Matters (February 19, 2012)

Chomsky, Noam. "America's Economic Suicide." AlterNet (May 4, 2012)

Chua, Amy. "The Myths of Globalization: Markets, Democracy, and Ethnic Hatred." Conversations with History (November 21, 2005)

Cole, Juan. "Scenarios for Egypt’s Future: How Democratic Will it Be?" Informed Comment (February 12, 2011)

Common Sense with Dan Carlin (It's a hard recipe to master, but when passion and reason are finely blended the results can be unpredictable and intoxicating. They can also be maddening. This is part of the attraction of Dan Carlin. Original and outside-the-box thinking on current events and history to be sure, but could he also be woefully out of step with conventional wisdom? He talks fast, he's loud, he's a deep thinker who adores history and who will challenge your view of the world, while he does the same thing to himself. He's a bit of a throwback to something from the past, and yet not quite like anything else yet seen. It's a New Media/ “eye of the beholder” sort of thing. You'll have to decide for yourself. His style is not for everyone. It's not meant to be.)

"Consensus Decision Making (Direct Democracy @ Occupy Wall Street) (Video: November 2011)

Cray, Charlie. "Citizens United v. America's Citizens: A Voter's Guide." CorpWatch (October 22, 2010)

Crow, Scott and Mike German. "FBI to Expand Domestic Surveillance Powers As Details Emerge of Its Spy Campaign Targeting Activists." Democracy Now (June 14, 2011)

"Declaration of the Occupation of New York City." New York General Assembly (September 30, 2011)

Dershowitz, Alan, Glenn Greenwald, Michael Hayden and Alexis Ohanian. "Glenn Greenwald Debates Former NSA Director Michael Hayden." The Intercept (May 2, 2014)

Drake, Thomas. "Snowden saw what I saw: surveillance criminally subverting the constitution." The Guardian (June 12, 2013)

Dubal, Veena. "Presumed Guilty: American Muslims and Arabs (9-11 Encore Edition)." Making Contact (September 6, 2011)

Edgar, Bob and Benjamin Jealous. "Wave of Restrictive Voting Laws Prompts Federal Probes, Grassroots Activism Ahead of 2012 Elections." Democracy Now (December 15, 2011)

"Egypt Today, Tomorrow the World." CrimethInc (February 2, 2011)

el-Shafei, Omar. "Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi Ousted Following Days of Massive Largest Anti-Government Protest" Law and Disorder (July 8, 2013)

Engelhardt, Tom. "Praying at the Church of St. Drone: The President and His Apostles." Tom Dispatch (June 5, 2012)

Ginger, Ann Fagan. "Challenging US Human Rights Violations since 9/11." Uprising Radio (February 8, 2006)

Giroux, Henry A. "Left Behind? American Youth and the Global Fight for Democracy." Truthout (February 28, 2011)

---. "Neoliberalism, Democracy and the University as a Public Sphere." Truthout (April 22, 2014)

"Glenn Greenwald On Security and Liberty." (Archive of commentaries at The Guardian newspaper: "A critical, campaigning column on vital issues of civil rights, freedom of information and justice – and their enemies, from the award-winning journalist, former constitutional litigator and author of three New York Times bestsellers.")

Goodman, Bill. "State of Democratic Rights." Law and Disorder Radio (January 31, 2011)

Gordon, Paul. "Billionaires Score Big Win With McCutcheon Decision." Truthout (April 10, 2014)

Gosztola, Kevin and Dorian Warren. "Occupy Wall Street Emerges as “First Populist Movement” on the Left Since the 1930s." Democracy Now (October 10, 2011)

Graeber, David. "Occupy and anarchism's gift of democracy." (November 15, 2011)

---. "Occupy Wall Street's anarchist roots: The 'Occupy' movement is one of several in American history to be based on anarchist principles." Al Jazeera (November 30, 2011)

Graves, Lisa. "A CMD Special Report: Scott Walker Runs on Koch Money." PR Watch (February 18, 2011)

---. "Executive Director for The Center for Media and Democracy." Media Matters (December 5, 2010)

Greenwald, Glenn. "On How NSA Leaker Edward Snowden Helped Expose a 'Massive Surveillance Apparatus'." Democracy Now (June 10, 2013)

---. "What's Behind the Scorn for the Wall Street Protests?" Common Dreams (September 28, 2011)

Gusterson, Hugh and Elaine Scarry. "Are We Numb to Nukes?" Radio Open Source (April 10, 2014) ["We’re thinking our way through a plausible nuclear emergency with Elaine Scarry who reminds you – we’ve got a weapons monarchy in this democracy. Two decades after the fall of the Berlin wall and a nuclear football still accompanies the president at all times, nuclear missile silos still dot the great plains, and hundreds of nukes remain constantly on alert. How can we call it a democracy, the rule of the people, when there’s one man’s finger on the trigger that could destroy us all?"]

Hanrahan, John. "Local police forces are now little armies. Why?" Nieman Watchdog (October 6, 2011)

Harvey, David. "Urban Uprisings from Occupy Wall Street to the Paris Commune." Democracy Now (April 30, 2012)

Hedges, Chris. "Empire of Illusion and the Occupy Wall Street Movement." Mic Check Radio (January 20, 2012)

---. "We’re Losing the Last Shreds of Legal Rights to Protect Ourselves from Oligarchy." RINF (May 8, 2014)

Heins, Marjorie. "Priests of Our Democracy, The Supreme Court, Academic Freedom, and the Anti-Communist Purge." Law and Disorder Radio (February 25, 2013)

Herman, Edward. "Toward a Homeland "Favorable Climate of Investment." Z Magazine (April 1, 2011)

Horvat, Srećko and Igor Štiks. "Welcome to the Desert of Transition!: Post-Socialism, the European Union, and a New Left in the Balkans." Monthly Review (March 1, 2012)

Hudson, Michael. "Wall Street vs. Greece: G20 Opens as Greek PM Pushes for Referendum on Bailout and Austerity Measures." Democracy Now (November 2, 2011)

Hudson, Michael and Jeffrey Sommers. "Wisconsin Death Trip." Counterpunch (March 11, 2011)

"Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (CCI)." Bill Moyers Journal (April 30, 2010)

Johnson, Chalmers. "Our Managed Democracy." TruthDig (May 15, 2008)

Jourdan, Brandon. "New Documentary: Bosnia and Herzegovina in Spring." Global Uprisings (March 21, 2014) ["This short documentary tells the story of the uprising in Bosnia and Herzegovina that started in early February 2014. Since February 5 2014, protests have swept across Bosnia and Herzegovina. The protests were started by workers from five factories in northern city of Tuzla: Dita, Polihem, Poliolhem, GUMARA and Konjuh. The factories had been privatized, bankrupted and stripped of assets, leaving the workers with large debts, no salaries, no health care and no benefits. The protests culminated on February 7, 2014 when several governmental buildings were set on fire in cities across the country, including the presidential building in Sarajevo. Under pressure of protests, four regional governments resigned. The protests were followed with mass popular assemblies, referred to as plenums, that quickly spread across the country."]

Keen, Andrew, et al. "Debate: The Internet and Democracy." FORA TV (May 18, 2010)

King, Martin Luther, Jr. "Letter From a Birmingham Jail." African Studies Center of University of Pennsylvania (April 16, 1963)

Kroll, Andy. "'The Next Citizens United': McCutcheon Opens Floodgates for 1 Percent to Spend Millions on Campaigns." Democracy Now (April 3, 2014)

Kuznick, Peter and Oliver Stone. "The Untold History of the United States." After Words (December 29, 2012)

"The Last Word: Rewriting Occupy Wall St." Dialogic (September 27, 2011: archive of videos and reports on the police brutality against peaceful protestors at Occupy Wall St.)

Le Blanc, Paul. "What Do Socialists Say About Democracy." International Socialist Review #74 (November/December 2010)

Levine, Bruce. "Are Americans A Broken People?" The Burt Cohen Show (May 24, 2011)

---. "Toward a Healthy Society." Equal Time for Freethought (June 4, 2011)

Lindorff, Dave. "FBI Ignored Deadly Threat to Occupiers." Counterpunch (December 28, 2012)

Liptak, Adam. "Justices, 5-4, Reject Corporate Spending Limit." The New York Times (January 22, 2010)

Lofgren, Ian. "The Deep State Hiding in Plain Sight." Moyers & Co. (February 21, 2014) ["Everyone knows about the military-industrial complex, which, in his farewell address, President Eisenhower warned had the potential to “endanger our liberties or democratic process” but have you heard of the 'Deep State'?”]

Manningham-Buller, Eliza. "Securing Freedom." Reith Lectures (2011)

Mayer, Carl. "Challenging The National Defense Authorization Act of 2012." Law and Disorder Radio (January 7, 2013)

McChesney, Robert W. "The Crisis in Journalism and Democracy." History for the Future (March 23, 2010)

McChesney, Robert W. and John Nichols. "The Bull Market: Political Advertising." Monthly Review (April 1, 2012)

Milstein, Cindy. "Democracy is Direct." Revolution by the Book (November 8, 2011)

---. "On Radicalism." Deep Green Philly (November 8, 2011)

Mitchell, Don. "You Who are the Bureaucrats of Empire, Remember Who We Are" History of a Weapon (April 6, 2004: Address at The Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University)

Morales, Frank, Gary Null, Peter Phillips and Peter Dale Scott. "The Consolidation of Police State USA (The Ongoing American Military Coup)." Unwelcome Guests #618 (August 25, 2012)

Morozov, Evgeny. "The Internet and Society: Empowering or Censoring Citizens?" RSA Animate (March 22, 2011)

Moyers, Bill. "His Legendary Journalism Career: 'Democracy Should Be a Brake on Unbridled Greed and Power.'" Democracy Now (June 8, 2011)

Nace, Ted. Gangs of America: The Rise of Corporate Power and the Disabling of Democracy. Revised Edition. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2005.

Nader, Ralph. "Where are the Lawyers?: Obama at Large." Counterpunch (May 31, 2012)

Noujaim, Jehane. "The Square: Jehane Noujaim’s New Film Captures Egypt’s Ongoing Revolution After Mubarak’s Fall." Democracy Now (January 25, 2014)

Novara, Marissa. "On Pedestrians and Democracy." Metro Planning (Septemeber 2, 2011)

Occupy! N + 1 (October 2011)

O'Hehir, Andrew. "From Ike to “The Matrix”: Welcome to the American dystopia." Salon (June 16, 2013)

Orwell Rolls in His Grave (USA: Robert Kane Pappas, 2003: 82 mins) [Documentary available online]

Parenti, Michael. "Executive Power and Democratic Needs." Unwelcome Guests #5 (April 5, 2000)

---. "Globalization: The New Imperialism." Unwelcome Guests (March 22, 2000)

Pirsch, Michael. "Class Warfare, the Final Chapter." Truthout (March 15, 2011)

Potter, Will. "From Tim DeChristopher to Tar Sands Protests, the Environmental Movement Steps Up Civil Disobedience." Green is the New Red (September 2, 2011)

Power, Nina. "The Spectre of the “Public”: The Ideology of Law and Order." Backdoor Broadcasting Company (The Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities "Ideology Now – Conference": April 28, 2012)

Ravitch, Diane. "Public Schools for Sale." Moyers & Co. (March 28, 2014)

Reitman, Tyrone. "An Oregon Experiment in Citizen Governance:A new law that puts voters in charge of breaking through political spin could be a first step in making policy decisions that work." Yes! (November 4, 2011)

"Researching Corporations, Front Groups, and Corporate Influence on Government." Radical Reference (April 3, 2011)

Richardson, Michelle. "Senate Votes To Extends Warrantless Wiretaps For Five More Years: No Oversight, No Transparency." Law and Disorder (February 11, 2013)

Right Here All Over: Occupy Wall Street Protests (Alex Mallis and Lily Henderson, 2011: 6 mins and 52 seconds)

Roos, Jerome. "Venezuela: it’s the opposition that’s anti-democratic." ROAR (February 21, 2014)

Roy, Arundhati. "Capitalism: A Ghost Story" We Are Many (March 26, 2014 at The New School in NYC) ["From the poisoned rivers, barren wells, and clear-cut forests, to the hundreds of thousands of farmers who have committed suicide to escape punishing debt, to the hundreds of millions of people who live on less than two dollars a day, there are ghosts nearly everywhere you look in India. India is a nation of 1.2 billion, but the country’s 100 richest people own assets equivalent to one-fourth of India’s gross domestic product. Capitalism: A Ghost Story examines the dark side of democracy in contemporary India, and shows how the demands of globalized capitalism has subjugated billions of people to the highest and most intense forms of racism and exploitation."]

---. "Is India on a Totalitarian Path? Arundhati Roy on Corporatism, Nationalism and World’s Largest Vote." Democracy Now (April 9, 2014)

Sanders, Bernie. "Supreme Court Undermines Democracy by Allowing Billionaires to "Buy Elections." Democracy Now (April 3, 2014)

Sandiumenge, Lili. "Spain: The Rebel Grandparents of the 15M." Global Voices (February 9, 2012)

Santur, Hassan Ghedi. "On Being A Muslim In The West, Part 1 and 2." Ideas (May 31/June 1, 2011)

Shift Change: True Stories of Dignified Jobs in Democratic Workplaces. Films For Action (February 14, 2013)

Shiva, Vandana. "Create Food Democracy, Occupy our Food Supply." The Understory (February 27, 2012)

---. Stolen Harvest: The Hijacking of the Global Food Supply. Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 2000: 5-20.

Sitrin, Marina. "Ruptures in imagination: Horizontalism, autogestion and affective politics in Argentina." Policy & Practice (Autumn 2007)

Snowden, Edward. ""You’re Being Watched": Edward Snowden Emerges as Source Behind Explosive Revelations of NSA Spying." Democracy Now (June 10, 2013)

Stryker, Deena. "Iceland's On-going Revolution." Daily Kos (August 1, 2011)

Sullivan, Kathleen. "On the U.S. Constitution." Entitled Opinions (May 2, 2006)

Taft, Jessica. "Growing Up and Rising Up: An Introduction." Rebel Girls: Youth Activism and Social Change Across the Americas New York University Press, 2010: 1-19.

Tomasic, John. "Watchdog targets mayors: Stop harassing journalists covering Occupy protests." The Colorado Independent (November 16, 2011)

Tomlinson, Jay. "Compilations of Media Clips of Reports on the Occupy Movement, Pts. 1-7." Best of the Left (September - November, 2011)

"The United States of ALEC: Bill Moyers on the Secretive Corporate-Legislative Body Writing Our Laws." Democracy Now (September 27, 2012)

"Uprising in Egypt: A Two-Hour Special on the Revolt Against the U.S.-Backed Mubarak Regime." Democracy Now (February 5, 2011)

Wade, Lisa. "History Repeating Itself: Discriminatory Voting Laws." Sociological Images (July 1, 2013)

"Why a Michigan High School is Ground Zero for US Politics." The Rachel Maddow Show (April 22, 2011)

Yates, Michael D. "The Great Inequality." Monthly Review (March 1, 2012)

Zinn, Howard. Declarations of Independence: Cross-Examining American Ideology. Harper Perennial, 1990.

Zizek, Slavoj. "For Egypt, this is the miracle of Tahrir SquareThere is no room for compromise. Either the entire Mubarak edifice falls, or the uprising is betrayed." Guardian (February 10, 2011)

Zogby, James. "Islamophobia and Radicalization." Counterpunch (March 11, 2011)