Too many people desire to suppress criticism simply because they think it will give some comfort to the enemy... . If that comfort makes the enemy feel better for a few moments, they are welcome to it ... because the maintenance of the right to criticism in the long run will do the country maintaining it a great deal more good than it will do the enemy. (Sen. Robert A. Taft)

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FLUSH THE TPP! The Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement usurps federal, state and local authority, and functions as a global corporate coup. Learn more about it Here

Protect Your Cell Phone Communication and Stop Mass Bulk Surveillance
The government has used the USA Patriot Act to claim enormous new powers to spy on all of us. It’s gone too far, but on June 1, 2015, key provisions of the USA Patriot Act are set to expire – including a provision that the NSA claims lets it collect private data about all of our phone calls. It’s illegal and ineffective, and it must stop.
Tell Congress to Put an Expiration Date on Unconstitutional Bulk Surveillance

Read more about it Here

Stop CISPA - Help Preserve Internet Freedom
Like a zombie from the crypt, this terrible rights-killing legislation comes crawling back to consume our internet. Sign on to stop it - again. And pass it on…

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Mass Surveillance, The Dark Web and Defending Anonymity on the Internet

March 8th, 2015 by Andy in Patriot Act & The Surveillance State, Video

This is an extremely important piece of television documentary work on a vital
communication rights (i.e. human rights) issue - that of mass suspicion-less surveillance and its sweeping ramifications on the future of the internet and all that entails for the future of society and all of us living in it.

This film touches on a host of issues, including the role data collection holds over political and economic power, its use in advertising, and its impact upon our ability to live our lives in freedom.

As Bruce Schneier, a leading internet security expert points out, “As you are being surveilled 24/7, you are more under control. You are less free. You are less autonomous.”

It delves into the vital effects that encryption can have on these issues, for good and bad, and the history and purpose of these technologies, especially that of the Tor system.

David Chaum explains, whose groundbreaking work was the foundation for the Tor project, its use was designed to provide protection against a world in which our communications could be analyzed and potentially used against us.

In this accompanying piece, film director Mike Radford writes for the BBC about the Defenders of Anonymity on the Internet, providing more context to this issue.

You may not realise it, but every time you open up your laptop or switch on your phone, you are at the heart of one of the greatest battles now taking place in our midst - what shape will the internet take in the future, and what role will anonymity play in deciding it?

——

“The power of that data to predict and analyse what we’re going to do is very, very high,” says Dr Joss Wright of the Oxford Internet Institute. “And giving that power to somebody else, regardless of the original or stated intentions, is very worrying.”

What Dr Wright is talking about is “traffic analysis”, which allows the prediction of the behaviours of individuals, not by looking at the contents of their emails, but by looking at the patterns of communication.

It’s become ever more possible as we spend more of our lives online. However, what few may realise is that scientists at the dawn of the information age predicted such issues would eventually become matters of public concern and interest.

Read the full article Here

Growth Is Death - Our Economics Must Change or We Die

March 1st, 2015 by Andy in General Topics

Finally - someone pointing in no uncertain terms the stark obviousness of the “impossibility of growth”, and how things that cannot go on forever…don’t.

Last spring, British writer George Monbiot wrote this starkly lucid and honest piece on how and why our economic systems (and thus the political ones which enable them) must fundamentally change. The system has to fundamentally change, and our notion of what “progress” is has to be conformed to something other than economic cancer.

As he says, discussion of this primordially important issue is “the great taboo of our age ‚Äì and the inability to discuss the pursuit of perpetual growth will prove humanity’s undoing. Of course, turning our focus upon this issue is being aided of late by the outspokeness of Pope Francis, who has increasingly used his notably visible platform for addressing the fundamental moral and ethical dimensions upon which this whole subject resides.

Not that it’s “new” to many of us, but to see this spelled out in such socially uncomfortable detail in a global publication like this is telling. This is a must read for just about everyone. Monbiot, bringing the party of truth, whether you like it or not…

If we can’t change our economic system, our number’s up

To succeed is to destroy ourselves. To fail is to destroy ourselves. That is the bind we have created. Ignore if you must climate change, biodiversity collapse, the depletion of water, soil, minerals, oil; even if all these issues miraculously vanished, the mathematics of compound growth make continuity impossible.

Economic growth is an artefact of the use of fossil fuels. Before large amounts of coal were extracted, every upswing in industrial production would be met with a downswing in agricultural production, as the charcoal or horse power required by industry reduced the land available for growing food. Every prior industrial revolution collapsed, as growth could not be sustained. But coal broke this cycle and enabled for a few hundred years the phenomenon we now call sustained growth.

It was neither capitalism nor communism that made possible the progress and pathologies (total war, the unprecedented concentration of global wealth, planetary destruction) of the modern age. It was coal, followed by oil and gas. The meta-trend, the mother narrative, is carbon-fuelled expansion. Our ideologies are mere subplots. Now, with the accessible reserves exhausted, we must ransack the hidden corners of the planet to sustain our impossible proposition.

———

The trajectory of compound growth shows that the scouring of the planet has only just begun. As the volume of the global economy expands, everywhere that contains something concentrated, unusual, precious, will be sought out and exploited, its resources extracted and dispersed, the world’s diverse and differentiated marvels reduced to the same grey stubble.

———

Those with the means buy ever bigger houses to store the growing stash of stuff they will not live long enough to use. By unremarked accretions, ever more of the surface of the planet is used to extract, manufacture and store things we don’t need. Perhaps it’s unsurprising that fantasies about colonising space - which tell us we can export our problems instead of solving them - have resurfaced.

As the philosopher Michael Rowan points out, the inevitabilities of compound growth mean that if last year’s predicted global growth rate for 2014 (3.1%) is sustained, even if we miraculously reduced the consumption of raw materials by 90%, we delay the inevitable by just 75 years. Efficiency solves nothing while growth continues.

The inescapable failure of a society built upon growth and its destruction of the Earth’s living systems are the overwhelming facts of our existence. As a result, they are mentioned almost nowhere. They are the 21st century’s great taboo, the subjects guaranteed to alienate your friends and neighbours. We live as if trapped inside a Sunday supplement: obsessed with fame, fashion and the three dreary staples of middle-class conversation: recipes, renovations and resorts. Anything but the topic that demands our attention.

Statements of the bleeding obvious, the outcomes of basic arithmetic, are treated as exotic and unpardonable distractions, while the impossible proposition by which we live is regarded as so sane and normal and unremarkable that it isn’t worthy of mention. That’s how you measure the depth of this problem: by our inability even to discuss it.

Monbiot also continued this discourse with his more recent piece on Growth: The Destructive God That Can Never Be Appeased.

You’ve heard of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the international “trade” deal which is in essence a corporate coup over the organs of self-governance. Here, Monbiot elaborates on a EU-US version of this process.

This bonfire of regulation is accompanied by a reckless abandonment of democratic principles. In the Commons on Monday, Cameron spoke for the first time about the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). If this treaty between the EU and the US goes ahead, it will grant corporations a separate legal system to which no one else has access, through which they can sue governments passing laws that might affect their profits. Cameron insisted that “it does not in any way have to affect our national health service.” (Note those words “have to”). Pressed to explain this, he cited the former EU trade commissioner, who claimed that “public services are always exempted.”

Read the complete article Here

MLK vs. Malcolm X

February 23rd, 2015 by Andy in Politics In America

King was right about people. Malcolm X was right about systems. And systems have their own way of sublimating people, regardless of their individual nature or intentions. Its why you can’t look to change systems by appealing simply to people’s individual conscience. They are part of the social ecosystem for sure, but its like trying to combat climate change through changing light bulbs and recycling.

Chris Hedges lays out a provocative analysis about the comparative importance of both figures, yet leaving little doubt as to which one he believes should be considered more relevant to our situation today…

Malcolm X , unlike Martin Luther King Jr., did not believe America had a conscience. For him there was no great tension between the lofty ideals of the nation—which he said were a sham—and the failure to deliver justice to blacks. He, perhaps better than King, understood the inner workings of empire. He had no hope that those who managed empire would ever get in touch with their better selves to build a country free of exploitation and injustice. He argued that from the arrival of the first slave ship to the appearance of our vast archipelago of prisons and our squalid, urban internal colonies where the poor are trapped and abused, the American empire was unrelentingly hostile to those Frantz Fanon called “the wretched of the earth.” This, Malcolm knew, would not change until the empire was destroyed.

——

King was able to achieve a legal victory through the civil rights movement, portrayed in the new film “Selma.” But he failed to bring about economic justice and thwart the rapacious appetite of the war machine that he was acutely aware was responsible for empire’s abuse of the oppressed at home and abroad. And 50 years after Malcolm X was assassinated in the Audubon Ballroom in Harlem by hit men from the Nation of Islam, it is clear that he, not King, was right. We are the nation Malcolm knew us to be. Human beings can be redeemed. Empires cannot. Our refusal to face the truth about empire, our refusal to defy the multitudinous crimes and atrocities of empire, has brought about the nightmare Malcolm predicted. And as the Digital Age and our post-literate society implant a terrifying historical amnesia, these crimes are erased as swiftly as they are committed.

——

“Martin [Luther King Jr.] doesn’t have the revolutionary fire that Malcolm had until the very end of his life,” Cornel West says in his book with Christa Buschendorf, “Black Prophetic Fire.” “And by revolutionary fire I mean understanding the system under which we live, the capitalist system, the imperial tentacles, the American empire, the disregard for life, the willingness to violate law, be it international law or domestic law. Malcolm understood that from very early on, and it hit Martin so hard that he does become a revolutionary in his own moral way later in his short life, whereas Malcolm had the revolutionary fire so early in his life.”

Read The Full Essay

Are We Finally Turning a Corner In Our Toleration of Media Fabrications and Distortions?

February 22nd, 2015 by Andy in Media and Democracy

With all the hoopla swirling regarding the “controversy” over Brian Williams fabricating war stories, and now one of his biggest critics, uber-bloviator Bill O’Reilly caught in his own web of absurd storytelling, it’s as if our media has become like some kind of dark fun house of mirrors, each one increasingly distorting the distortion reflected by the other. This is by no means a recent phenomenon, of course.

But I’m wondering if its coming to a head, if the gradual degradation of its ability to report and inform, thanks in large part to the rise of various neoliberal policies which have resulted in in the dismantling of so many barriers between journalistic processes and the desire for ever-increasing corporate profits at any cost, is reaching a turning point. Have people’s desire for actual, rational, empirically-based discourse finally been stretched to the breaking point, where they just won’t accept the mental flotsam of infotainment and shock value headlines, that might get immediate ratings but have no intellectual caloric value? Is this wishful thinking on my part, or are enough people actually hungry enough to really stop buying into the bulls**t, and like one’s physical immune system, becoming more inherently resilient to the obvious pablum of lies and nonsense that has been peddled so shamelessly, and increasingly so, by the power elites in this country?

I know H.L. Mencken famously stated how no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public, and unfortunately he was onto something there. But there are number of counter examples as well, of people eventually coming around to figuring some things out, and acting in a way that led to some profound changes in the structure of our society and in the course of our collective history (abolitionism, worker’s protections, women’s rights, etc.). Things that were considered simply unchangeable have on occasion, within a generation, been completely transformed. Perhaps we could do the same with how our information and communication systems are structured - who and how control over how journalism works; how our communication systems are owned and managed; how we provide access to people to utilize them, particularly for purposes other than those aimed at monetizing all communication; how surveillance over these networks functions; how people can be better educated in media literacy skills, not only in how to effectively use these mediums, but how to be more resilient to the negative effects of the disinformation and propaganda that pollutes them, etc.

Maybe it’s idealistic to consider these things (but then every single example of personal and social human progress was at its inception). But the alternative seems not only unpalatable to me, but thoroughly untenable. At least that is if we are to have any notion of living in a society that has any real value and merit when it comes to being a place worth not just existing in, but fully living in.

How To Use a Cellphone Without Being Spied On

February 21st, 2015 by Andy in Patriot Act & The Surveillance State, Video

A highly insightful and useful report produced by Democracy Now! featuring Christopher Soghoian, a security researcher and technologist with the American Civil Liberties Union, as well as a visiting fellow at Yale Law School’s Information Society Project. Well worth the watch and read, and especially so in light of the recent Snowden-enabled revelations reported by The Intercept on The Great SIM Heist: How Spies Stole the Keys to the Encryption Kingdom.

And when you’re done watching this, you can Sign The Petition promoted by Fight For The Future as part of an organizing effort to pressure U.S. legislators to drop key portions of the so-called PATRIOT ACT which are set to expire this Spring. If enough effort can be mobilized via the web to make sure they do, it will strike a blow to the government’s implementation of some of the most abusive of these programs. Success here will help promote online privacy and beat back the NSA’s attacks upon the fundamental freedoms and rights we should all be provided within the digital realm.

Ebola and Inequality: Disease, Health and Neoliberalism

February 9th, 2015 by Andy in Taxes, The Commons & The Social Contract

Yet more reason why inequality is bad, and can even be considered a human rights issue in its sweepingly negative effects on the well-being and dignity of people. This from Inequality.org

How do inequality and health relate? Increasing evidence from scientists the world over indicates that many health outcomes — everything from life expectancy to infant mortality and obesity — can be linked to the level of economic inequality within a given population. Greater economic inequality appears to lead to worse health outcomes.

By greater inequality, epidemiologists — the scientists who study the health of populations — don’t just mean poverty. Poor health and poverty do go hand-in-hand. But high levels of inequality, the epidemiological research shows, negatively affect the health of even the affluent, mainly because, researchers contend, inequality reduces social cohesion, which leads to more stress, fear, and insecurity for everyone.

Hey, no worries. The “market” will solve this.

Yet more of the incessant litany of evidence as to why the libertarian wet dream of market purity is insane.

Read more on these studies Here

Speaking of inequality and health, this from Yves Smith points out the very dramatic consequences to all when collective problems are addressed through “individual incentives” and traditional capital “market forces.” I’m leaping to a specific point here, when this raises a whole hose of issues, questions, etc… which if I have time I will try to dig into with much more detail.

But this aspect of the issue is definitely brought to the fore here, in the sense that we *all* pay when this kind of inequality becomes systemic in the very processes that our society functions upon, and most importantly, responds to problems to. It also brings to mind the important point that one of America’s greatest challenges, World War II, was met and won *not* by letting the “market” solve it - but the complete opposite. The nation has never been under a more command and controlled economic structure than during that period. It took that to win that war. I’m not arguing that we should operate a society like that, but to dismiss standard libertarian and capitalist pablum about the transcendent “efficiencies” of the “market,” and that relying on those processes will achieve optimum results for society.

Read her piece Ebola Is an Economic Black Swan on her excellent blog Naked Capitalism

Karl Polyani’s 1944 book The Great Transformation had this whole neoliberal delusion pegged generations ago.

As for Ebola itself, the prestigious British medical journal The Lancet recently reported how U.S. government funding for the National Health Institute, which is leading the nation’s effort in attempting to stop this deadly virus, has been reduced by the GOP-controlled Congress to its lowest levels in years. This, immediately after a harrowing surge of the disease’s spread throughout western Africa, with cases beginning to show up in North America, in which members of that same Congress were accusing the Obama administration for not devoting enough attention towards stopping.

The GOP is Actively Working To Prevent Local Ownership of Broadband Service

February 3rd, 2015 by Andy in Media and Democracy

This is what the GOP in the House has voted to keep from happening in your hometown, and another reason why what is transpiring right now regarding FCC deliberations over regulatory policies regarding the internet are so important.

Both of the major U.S. business parties are beholden in various ways to corporate interest, but the GOP is off the charts in that regard, using politics to protect the likes of Comcast, and prevent a “public option” from being applied to the internet. Chattanooga and a few other cities that have led the way in making this happen, have proven all too well that public broadband not only works, but is superior to anything TW or Comcast is going to provide. Thus, it must be squelched.

House Votes to Save Bans on City Internet Service

Republicans want to stop the FCC from preempting state laws

Rep. Marsha Blackburn, a Tennessee Republican, spearheaded the amendment that would bar the FCC from using any funds to prevent states from imposing limits on city broadband. The amendment, which is attached to a fiscal 2015 spending bill, passed mostly along party lines in a 223-200 vote.

Blackburn’s home state of Tennessee would be a likely first target for FCC action.

Chattanooga, Tenn., has rolled out a high-speed fiber Internet network for its residents. The service, called “Gig City,” offers speeds about 50 times faster than the national average for about $70 per month.

A state law, however, is keeping the city from expanding the service to other communities that want it, according to the city’s mayor.

As my colleague Michael E. stated (though I would reiterate the fact that we do have very dismal communications policy)…

“Let’s see . . . Congressional representatives owned by telco interests vote to protect the rights of their State legislators who have also been bought by the same corporate interests. This isn’t so much about the dismal state of communications policy in the US as the need for major campaign finance reform.”

This is all pretty sick stuff.

Here’s one relatively recent report regarding what’s transpired in Chattanooga, giving some good insight into why having a publicly owned broadband system can be so tremendously vital to the well-being of our communities in the 21st century.

Fast Internet Is Chattanooga’s New Locomotive

American Corporations Profiting From Nazi Germany During World War II

January 28th, 2015 by Andy in Corporations, 'Democracy' & USA Inc., Video

With all of the stories and events taking place this week commemorating the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, it got me thinking once again about about these reports I remember reading and watching many years ago, and which I had always intended to post something about.

It concerns this rather interesting segment from the film “The Corporation” on the history of American corporate collusion with enemy nations during the Second World War in order to keep the profits going. This includes how IBM’s proprietary punch card system was used to help manage the Holocaust in Europe. Unfortunately, this information rarely, if ever, gets discussed in history classes. Or, more importantly, in business schools.

International investigative author Edwin Black (who is featured in the video), has done extensive work on this subject, and published more updated information on IBM’s role in the Holocaust earlier this year on The Huffington Post.

And if one thinks this story is an anomaly, a deviation from the norm of how global corporate capital functions all-too-often in the world, this report from The Washington Post serves as a sorry and disturbing reminder of what constitutes “business as usual,” one of the important elements of American history airbrushed out of the mainstream narrative. Yesterday it was places like Nazi Germany, later to manifest itself in places like Chile and Guatemala, today China…the quest for profit at any cost (usually to be incurred by someone else, of course) never ceases.

Martin Luther King Jr. on the Three Evils of Society

January 27th, 2015 by Andy in Politics In America

I would vote for this perhaps being Martin Luther King’s greatest, most radical speech he ever gave. It certainly resonates all-too-well with the tenor of current times, unfortunately. Addressing the “three evils” of modern American society - war, racism, poverty - MLK directly takes on the moral vacuity of material consumerism, the politics of diversion and distraction, and the spiritual illegitimacy of war.

This speech is at times almost a cavalcade of greatest hits when it comes to some of his most well known, and radical, points that became more well known through their inclusion in various other addresses of his over the years. If you want to know about what King was really about, if you doubt the radicalism of his politics, and wonder why the government resorted to backing his murder, this speech may help begin to explain it.

Many thanks to Pacifica Radio for having covered this and preserving it in their archives.

Battle Hymns To American ‘Heroes’

January 24th, 2015 by Andy in What Is Patriotism?

What with all the discourse and debate raging of late regarding the film “American Sniper,” what heroism means, the political divides between how we perceive the bloodshed and sacrifice of the Iraq War, etc, it made me recall this true cultural artificat. One which poses some of these pretty deep seated questions as to what comprises “patriotism,” and what are the values being truly expressed through the proclamation of patriotic allegiance?

Hat tip to Chase Madar for the heads up on this, but wow. I had no idea that this piece of cultural/political history existed. As Madar commented, the American people don’t seem to care too much for Bradley Manning, but just listen to this little ditty about My Lai massacre commander Lt. Calley! It sold over 1 million copies in only four days back in 1971.

Released appropriately on Plantation Records. What’s the B-Side? “Linebacker II - Laying the Carpet of Freedom”?

It is, as John Halle commented, a Dolchstosslegende masterpiece. Horst Wessel lives.

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