Global Surveillance Apparatus Largely Independent of National Politicians

SurveillanceGlobal1

Like many multi-national corporations, the international surveillance apparatus apparently operates globally without any meaningful checks and balances. National leaders do not even know the extent to which their own intelligence agencies are or are not cooperating with the NSA. This is tantamount to a kind of international shadow government.

https://firstlook.org/theintercept/article/2014/03/13/nsa-elected-officials-foreign-countries-unaware-countries-cooperation-us/

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The NSA is Hacking Systems Administrators

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The NSA Installs Malware Globally: The Outer Limits of Surveillance

NSAMalware1

Though not surprising, this is appalling. It’s another indication how close we are to totalitarianism.

https://firstlook.org/theintercept/article/2014/03/12/nsa-plans-infect-millions-computers-malware/


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The NSA and Living in a Totalitarian State

NSA1

We now live in at least a semi-totalitarian state–an alliance between government, multinational corporations, and the extremely wealthy. The distinction between us and other totalitarian states is a matter of degree (which is thankfully still substantial), not of definition:

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2013/06/verizon-nsa-metadata-surveillance-problem.html

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Political Leadership: Misconceptions and Myths

Many environmentalists have criticized President Obama for not leading on climate change. I have defended him on this (see http://mysticscholar.org/climate/), arguing that environmentalists need to produce a movement that is politically effective. This is a question of what political leadership is: 1) having the courage to take positions that your constituents do not support in order to produce legislation that will have long-term positive affects; or 2) having the courage to wait until your constituents are close to supporting a position after you have guided them and persuaded them over time–then you can help them to get over the last impediments to produce the same legislation. It’s my view that #1 can produce short-term results, but cannot produce lasting political change, which only happens with #2.

Of course , there are times of crisis when #1 may be the way to go, in an emergency or a time of horror when waiting is morally and practically indefensible. However, helping people over the last hill that they need to get over is generally what political leadership in a democratic society is. I can’t think of many examples where political leaders in the U.S. have successfully advocated for a policy well beyond where people are ready to go. I include Washington, Lincoln, and Roosevelt in this. Each one of them took positions as they made sense both from both a moral and political point of view.

For example, it took Lincoln a long time to push for emancipation of slaves; he did not do so until he thought he could so successfully. Now you can criticize him for not doing this sooner given the horror and evil of slavery, but he successfully pulled it off where many others might not have. In the case of Roosevelt, many have criticized him for not intervening sooner in the Holocaust (e.g. not entering the war sooner or not bombing Auschwitz), but the U.S. eventually won the war and defeated Hitler, ending his reign of evil. That was not always a given–it wasn’t even a given that the U.S. would enter the war. It’s easy to criticize Roosevelt in hindsight, but the result was the end of the Nazis. Arm-chair theorists can hypothesize all they want, but political leadership involves difficult decisions that may seem cowardly, yet are in fact acts of courage given the time and situation.

Now, at the same time, it’s the job of activist leaders like Bill McKibben to persuade people to support their positions so that political leaders can act. That what abolitionist leaders in the nineteenth century did. It was true for civil rights leaders such as MLK. It’s the same for women’s rights advocates in the early 1900’s and more recently and for gay rights activists now.

Leadership is different when applied in different contexts. A political leader does not have the same role as an activist leader. Of course, some politicians can AFFORD to act, because their constituents will support them anyway. That was true of abolitionists, and it’s true today of many northeastern and west-coast politicians on the environment. But it’s different for politicians the bulk of whose constituents oppose a particular position and will continue to oppose that politician no matter how artfully or powerfully they craft their oratory.

Of course, many politicians misjudge events either by not acting whey could do so effectively or by acting before people are ready. For example, FDR might have been able to push for healthcare reform, while Bill Clinton did not have the political climate to win on healthcare. Of course, I could be wrong about that too (Clinton’s failure may have set the stage for Obama’s success): in the end, these leadership calculations are an art, not a science.

If you want to push for change before people agree with you, you should be an activist leader (or a writer or scholar or artist), not a political one. That’s one reason why I personally was never interested in professional life in politics. I do not have the patience to operate in such an environment, but thank God there are people who do. Politics is all about patience and the waiting game. It’s only in retrospect that political movements look as if they come from nowhere. They almost never do.

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Republicans Trying to Rig the Electoral College

PriebusRince1

I don’t normally focus on party politics here, but this story is particularly disturbing, because it strikes at the heart of American freedom and democracy. If Republicans succeed in rigging the electoral college so that Democrats win the popular vote by substantial margins but lose the presidency, the U.S. will no longer have a voting system that is free, fair, or representative. I know Republicans are upset about losing elections and the demographics that are making it more difficult to win in the future, but changing the winner-take-all system only in Democratic-leaning states (like Pennsylviania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Virginian, Florida, Ohio) will lead to a goverment that no longer represents the will of the people. It’s one thing to buy elections so that money rules, which is what we have now, but it’s even worse to set up a voting system that’s more likely to be found in third-world dictatorships. This is a time when Americans of all political stripes need to speak out and try to preserve some fragments of what makes us great and free. Destroying our voting system by ending ‘majority rule’ is a form of evil and ought to be labeled as such.

I see this as a spiritual crisis? Will Americans allow ourselves to have the voting process converted to a meaningless charade, or will we stand up and say that we may disagree on policies and politics, but we believe in the fundamental values of democracy and representative government? If we don’t have that, what’s left?
http://news.yahoo.com/gop-eyes-election-laws-091622720–election.html

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Egypt’s New Pharaoh?

Morsi1

I hope Chris Hedges is wrong, but he might not be. One thing I would say: the Egyptian military has its code and laws and would not probably not accept a radical Islamic government. Morsi had better be careful with them. How this plays out will determine the future of the Arab Spring.


http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/egypts_new_pharaoh_20121216/

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Banks Hire Uniformed Police in Banks

PoliceInBanks1

The linking of banks with off-duty police in full uniform is a perilous development for our freedom. Corporations and public security join forces to potentially oppose the will of the people. What’s happening to our freedom and democracy?

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/dec/17/nypd-for-hire-cops-moonlighting-banks/print

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Freedom of the Press Foundation

 

FreedomOfThePressFoundation1

A fundamental cause of our time. Without a free press that actively challenges state authority and secrets, we cannot have free societies. Whatever you think of Wikileaks (and I have my issues) and of other muckracking organizations, we need them. They are the rock on which our freedom stands.

https://pressfreedomfoundation.org/

 

 

 

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EPA Allows Exemptions to Pollute Aquifers

PollutingAquifers1

We as a nation are destroying our potable water supply in in order to allow companies to mine and farms to irrigate.

http://www.propublica.org/article/poisoning-the-well-how-the-feds-let-industry-pollute-the-nations-undergroun

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Political Turbulence and the Coming World Transformation

I just saw Rachel Maddow’s program this evening. Did you know the extent to which Democrats have been winning unexpectedly in heavenly Republican districts? Obviously there’s the stunning victory in New York 26, but there’s much more going on.  Democrats are winning everywhere: for Jacksonville mayor, for Tampa mayor, in New Hampshire for a state senate seat, and in Wisconsin for a state assembly seat.  In a 50-50 Maine state senate district, the Democrat won by over 40 percentage points. In Ohio a Republican state senator who voted for the union busting bill resigned after relentless criticism for that vote. In Alabama, a state senator flipped from Republican to Democrat. The Republican governor of Florida (Rick Scott) has a 29% approval rating, while Republican John Kasich in Ohio is cratering in the polls and Republican Scott Walker is doing poorly in Wisconsin. In Ohio a poll showed an 18% lead for the opponents of the union busting bill.

What’s going on? I don’t think I’ve ever seen this quick of a political turn-around? This is more dramatic than what happened after the government shut-down in 1994-95. Now you never know what will happen down the road, but what were the Republicans thinking? Their strategy makes no political sense. It’s as if the end of the world were coming, and the Republicans tried to grab as much stuff as they possibly could before all hell broke loose. Busting unions, destroying Medicare, eviscerating social programs, offering tax-give-aways to the super-rich and corporations, gutting the environment, criminalizing abortion, and much more does not seem to be working out so well for them politically.

Honestly, I can’t make sense of what they’re thinking politically. It’s totally illogical and just plain bizarre. They could have caused a lot of damage and still maintained some semblance of political viability, but they chose instead to take a wrecking ball. The only thing that I can postulate is that Republicans were not thinking politically, but were instead doing the bidding of a few very powerful super-rich people such as the Koch Brothers. In other words,, Republicans had marching orders and happily walked the plank. Somehow, I guess, they think that these guys will rescue them or do something.  I’m not sure, but that’s all I came come up with.

They are handing the 2012 general election on a silver platter to the Democrats. Why?????  Do you have any ideas out there? It makes no sense. I’m perplexed.

Now, that said, I am concerned for our country. Yes, I want far-right-wing crazies, nut-jobs, and loony-tunes to lose, but our country needs at least two viable competing parties. Without that either party will probably mess things up even more. I can’t imagine that Democrats will know what to do with the massive majorities they might win in next election if things go as they seem to be going. We need two real parties with serious ideas that must compete with the serious ideas of the other party. Right now the Republicans are nuts, like invading locusts destroying everything in their paths, while Democrats are gleefully watching the self-destruction, but they don’t have any real ideas. Now Obama, I believe, has a vision, but the Democrats as a whole are pretty much empty.  So where does that leave us as a country?

What I wish for are two parties: one which is expansive, trying to move the nation forward by advocating expenditures that will improve our quality of life and develop a new strategy to keep our economic global prominence; and another party that stands for fiscal responsibility that creatively figures our ways to save money, keep taxes reasonable, and act as good managers and stewards of our resources.

What’s happened? Where are these parties? I consider myself a progressive independent, a strong supporter of Obama, who has no alternative but to vote Democrat in light of the madness that currently passes for Republican policy.  But that’s not what I want. I want a Democrat party that stands for something meaningful and hopeful and a Republican party that recognizes itself as a solid citizen watching over expenditures carefully and supporting change while also understanding the value of tradition. Instead, the Democrats just kind of float along living in FDR’s shadow, while the Republicans have gone off the deep end. Where is the imagination and creativity? Where is honor and responsibility. It exists with a few individuals, but it’s absent from political groups as wholes.

This is a wild time. Maybe we have to go through it as a country, but we are sure facing tremendous uncertainty and volatility unlike anything I can remember and really know about historically, at least since the Civil War. This is, I think, part of the great shift happening at a global level. We are entering a new period of history and consciousness, watching the collapse of old systems (including political ones) while new ones emerge.  Perhaps we should not get caught up in the day-to-day, political and social earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, but look through and beyond that to the world that is coming–for us and the globe. Perhaps nation-states will disintegrate as new forms of governance emerge that act at both global and local levels. A lot of people focus on up-and-coming countries like China, but perhaps we need to look toward the new structures that are emerging that have nothing to do with nations or political parties, but with movements–such as environmental activism or freedom movements in the Middle East or micro-financing or the post-religious “spiritual but nor religious” phenomenon or whatever –that are creating systems that we can’t even really seen just yet.

I have for a long time sensed a global shift and world transformation bubbling up from the depths, but experiencing it is completely different from envisioning it.

Any thoughts out there in the blogosphere and web world?

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The Case of Thomas Drake: Are We Living in a Police State?

This is scary. The U.S. now finds itself in the position of teetering between anarchy and fascism. We are busy prosecuting NSA whistleblowers, while letting bank executive crooks and perjurers go scot free. They live lives in the lap of luxury after stealing and cheating, while those who question fraud and waste in the NSA have their lives ruined. There is something wrong with this picture.
http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/05/23/110523fa_fact_mayer?currentPage=all

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Immigrants are the Core of Who We are in the US

I could not agree more with Reverend Wallis.  As the recent dismissal of  Chipotle employees (in Washington, D.C.) demonstrates (because the company was afraid of their legal status), our immigration system is broken. Reverend Wallis is right when he notes that our country would grind to a halt without Latino/a immigrant workers. We would simply not function as a country without them. These are hard-working people with the kind of drive and energy that is at the core of the prosperity and dynamism of the U.S. The xenophobia and fear that characterizes so much of our national discourse on this topic is not only economically and morally harmful to us, but it diverts us from the real problems we face.

Except for Native americans, we are all immigrants, including my grandparents who came to this country from Russia and Poland. The Statue of Liberty (“Give me your tired, your poor, / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”) is one of our greatest symbols, representing the most deeply held values of our people. Let us not react to our anxieties and hatred, but let us live out our dreams and hopes. That is the meaning of every great moral and spiritual tradition.

http://blog.sojo.net/2011/05/19/chipotle-firings-one-story-of-a-broken-immigration-system/#disqus_thread

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Ethical and Spiritual Dimensions of Health Care as a Human Right

I could not agree more with Bernie Sanders. It’s also practical if we want our country to be able to compete effectively in the world. Right now our companies are saddled with huge costs, and patients face obscenely high payments and inadequate, uncertain coverage.

I think there is a deeper issue here as well. Giving everyone access to basic health care means they many more individuals will have the opportunity to embark on building start-up companies and on accepting higher risk jobs without fear of losing their health insurance coverage. I see universal coverage as an issue of freedom. When you don’t have to stay in a job in order to have your health problems covered, then you are free to take on careers and jobs that are more meaningful and rewarding. Universal health care adds to our liberty, because it gives us more choices and more mobility.

I wonder sometimes whether opposition to universal coverage stems from a fear of allowing people too much freedom. Universal coverage would take leverage from those in power (in corporations and in government) and put it into the hands of working people and our creative class. Denying individuals this opportunity concentrates power in the hands f those who already have it.

Thus, there are ethical and politco-spiritual dimensions here: ethical in that a civilized society needs to insure basic health care for its citizens; and politico-spiritual in that universal health coverage increases the level of human freedom, putting more decision-making power into the hands of more people. Universal health care coverage is a global, transformative movement of the human species toward greater freedom and independence.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2011/may/10/healthcare-congress

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Secret Mercenary Force Set Up by Blackwater Founder for UAE

Erik Prince, the former head of Blackwater (now XE) is now working on building a mercenary force of mostly Latin American soldiers that will work on behalf of the UAE in order to put down internal revolts, defend pipelines, and combat terrorism. No Muslims need apply, because the leadership and Prince is convinced that Muslim soldiers will not shoot other Muslims.  Prince is also associated with Christian dominionism. Meanwhile, is this legal? Can an American citizen hire out a mercenary force on behalf of a foreign nation without permission of the U.S. government? At the least, this will not make the United States look very good to the Arab/Muslim world.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/15/world/middleeast/15prince.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all

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Corporate Bullies and How to Deal with Them

Why do we in the U.S. let corporate giants bully and abuse us? Richard Wolff proposes a solution:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2011/may/09/economics-us-taxation/print

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Seabrook Nuclear Power Backup Fails

Not too confident in our nuclear power safety procedures. I might feel differently about nuclear power if we as a nation actually took regulation seriously. But we don’t. And this is the consequence. Serious regulation would actually allow us more energy options.
http://articles.boston.com/2011-05-13/news/29540672_1_nrc-nuclear-plants-vermont-yankee

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European Corporations Treat U.S. Homeowners and Workers Like Slumlords

In Europe, corporations treat workers with some respect, but in the good, old USA, those very same corporations act as slumlords and bully workers. This shows how important government actually is in protecting our standard of living.  Who else will protect working people?

http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-meyerson-europeans-20110515,0,3990894.story

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Wisconsin Legislators Find New Ways to Keep Voters Away: Freedom on the Exit Ramp?


On what basis are Americans qualified to pontificate on democracy if we pull this kind of garbage?
http://prospect.org/cs/articles?article=curbing_voting_rights_in_wisconsin

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Nuclear Power Regulation Ineffective in U.S.


Regulators have cozy relationship with the nuclear power corporations and generally pass on doing their job:

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/america-s-nuclear-nightmare-20110427?print=true

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Enormous Health Problems from Gulf Oil Spill

The health impact is enormous, while neither BP, the state, or the U.S. government offers anywhere near sufficient assistance.

http://www.alternet.org/environment/150816/health_crisis_rocks_the_gulf_in_aftermath_of_the_spill,_but_feds_and_bp_turn_a_blind_eye/?page=entire

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Repub Medicaid Cuts To Increase Uninsured by 44 Million

Which century do we live in?
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/us_medicaid_cuts

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Rumsfeld Denies Waterboarding Helped Kill Bin Laden

Even Donald Rumsfeld agrees that water-boarding was not important in the intelligence that identified the location of Osama Bin Laden:
http://foknewschannel.com/rumsfeld-disproves-conservatives-tortured-argument/

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Bradley Manning’s Miraculous Recovery

Isn’t it amazing how quickly Bradley Manning recovered from his problems? Gee, I wonder if public pressure had anything to do with it.
http://fdlaction.firedoglake.com/2011/05/06/miraculous-reversal-bradley-mannings-humane-conditions-at-leavenworth/

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Banks Continue to Bully Homeowners

This is an excellent survey of the many ways in which banks bully homeowners and decimate the middle class:
http://dailycensored.com/2011/04/20/beyond-foreclosuregate-it-gets-uglier/

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Taxes for Super Rich Drop Dramatically

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Problems with Off-Shore Oil Rig Regulation

This article illustrates the serious problems with oil rig regulation and the close relationship between oil companies and their regulators:
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/17/us/politics/17regulate.html

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Pennsylvania Limits Authority of Natural Gas Inspectors

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Big Corporations and Big Government

An analysis of how big government and big corporations work hand in glove:
http://www.truthdig.com/report/print/the_new_corporate_world_order_20110419/

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Ryan Budget Has Guts, but no Courage

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BP Oil Spill and Local Power

How local, not national, power effects will effect the most influence on environmental issues:
http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-wohlforth-bp-20110420,0,3704732,print.story

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Koch Brothers’ Thought Control

The Koch Brothers use their power to intimidate their employees to vote for their favored candidates:
http://www.thenation.com/article/160062/big-brothers-thought-control-koch

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Exxon 2nd to GE in Not Paying Taxes

Exxon comes in a close second to General Electric as tax deadbeats:
http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/04/12-1

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GOP Pushes to Cut Environmental Regulations at State Level

A sad story that makes no rational sense, but the GOP effort is a nice pay-off to large corporations and campaign contributors.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/16/science/earth/16enviro.html?_r=1&emc=tnt&tntemail1=y

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Art as Protest

Art is one of the most potent means of protesting authoritarianism and affirming freedom, but artists face threats in many nations, including China.
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/20/opinion/20Rushdie.html

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Sweden and the USA

This article by David Michael Green argues that Sweden is a much better county in which to live than the USA.

Of course, Sweden, that paragon of freedom, democracy, and equality, is now riven with conflict between Swedes and immigrant Muslims, turning antisemitic (I don’t think it’s the place for people like me with its distaste for MOTs),  and busy trying to extradite Julian Assange so that it can protect governments from that wicked scourge of (gasp)–transparency. Diversity is not exactly one of Sweden’s hallmarks.

Worshipping Sweden reminds me of a Euro-version of Edward Said’s “Orientalism”: the left romanticizing modern Norsemen in their quest for a homogenous Valhalla that doesn’t really exist.

Everything looks greener when you don’t live there.

Sweden, I’m sure, has wonderful attributes, but it’s not nirvana. I’ve always said that you don’t really belong to any group until you see its underside and still love it. That’s a grown-up way to view the world. The other is for children.

http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/03/06-2

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Egypt Sentences Blogger

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How the Super-Rich Avoid Taxes

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Debtor Prisons Back in Vogue

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Rider Removes Wolves from Endangered Species List

Yes, that sounds like a great idea. Congress is much more knowledgeable than scientists. That’s a no-brainer–not.
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/13/us/politics/13wolves.html

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