Category "General Topics"

Letter To Pope Francis

July 19th, 2015 by Andy in General Topics

The letter below was crafted by Catholic Workers and members of our group, Friends of Franz. Franz Jagerstatter was an Austrian Catholic family man who knew his fate when he refused to cooperate with the Nazis in 1943. He was beatified by the Church in 2007.

On September 12, 2015, the following letter will be published in the National Catholic Reporter, the largest lay Catholic publication in the United States. If you are a Catholic or of another Christian denomination and wish to sign on, please read the letter and respond. You need not assist financially, but if you can it would be helpful, for the cost is $2800. - Jack Gilroy

Dear Pope Francis,
We are Catholics and fellow Christians living in the United States where you will be visiting this September. We respectfully ask that you listen to our request and publicly respond to it with resoluteness equal to the gravity of the matter here raised.
In your recent encyclical, Laudato Si’, you proclaim that “War always does grave harm to the environment and to the cultural riches of peoples, risks which are magnified when one considers nuclear arms and biological weapons.” Visiting the United States, the most prolific polluter and, not coincidentally, the greatest war maker on the globe, is a challenge and an opportunity that we pray you do not fail to take advantage of.
You have rightly denounced the terrorism of ISIS and similar organizations, and you have appropriately named the murder of more than one million Armenians by the Turkish state in 1915 as “the first genocide of the 20th century.” There were no Catholic chaplains in the Turkish military in 1915 and the banners of ISIS are not displayed today in Catholic churches. The U.S. military, on the other hand, is predominantly Christian with one-third of the force Catholic, so that it might be hoped that your denunciation of terrorism and genocide might have a more positive effect here and now. We beg you to speak out just as clearly and publicly denounce the terrorism and genocide that your host country, the United States, is even now inflicting on the Muslim and Christian Arab people of the Middle East and the people of Afghanistan . Decades of aggression including sanctions, bombings, invasions, arming of insurgents, have left millions dead, many more millions displaced and homeless. Assassinations by remotely controlled drones destabilize civil societies and kill thousands of innocents. Thousands have been imprisoned and tortured. Many lands are being made desolate and poisoned, and ancient communities are being devastated.
In September you will be visiting a nation that is committing a trillion dollars to the development and production of a whole new generation of nuclear weapons, threatening unprecedented destruction of creation, while many of its own people lack the means needed to live lives of simple dignity. The global inequality that you decry, wherein the poorest suffer the brunt of diminishing resources and the ravages of chaos in the climate, is not judged by those who control the government and the economy in the United States as a problem to be solved, but an advantage to be defended at all costs. With more than 800 U.S. military bases already around the globe, the lands of indigenous people are still being plundered against their protests to construct even more bases.
We do appreciate the pleas for peace and justice that you and your predecessors have made over these horrible years. These good words are only rarely taught by the Catholic bishops, pastors and educational institutions in the United States . They have been systematically undermined by U.S. Catholic institutions to the point where the vast majority of the Catholic faithful, Catholic soldiers especially, are completely unaware that they have ever been spoken.
At the end of World War II, Albert Camus lamented that, even as an unbeliever, he was one of millions who waited for but never heard any word from Rome against the carnage he witnessed. The condemnation from Rome was voiced, he later discovered, but voiced in a style “not at all clear”.
We hope that you will not repeat the error of your predecessors. “What the world expects of Christians,” Camus insisted, “is that Christians should speak out, loud and clear, and that they should voice their condemnation in such a way that never a doubt, never the slightest doubt, could rise in the heart of the simplest person.”
Pope Francis, we understand that you come to the United States as a diplomat and as a pastor, but in these perilous times we need you here as a prophet most of all. Please do not speak to President Obama, the U.S. Congress, the U.S. Catholic bishops, and the American people, without making a clear denunciation of the complicity of our nation’s government, its people, its institutions and its churches in crimes against humanity and God’s creation.


If you would like your name added as a sign-on to the letter to Pope Francis, simply reply to with your full name. Organizations as well as individual names are welcomed.
Suggested donation is $20. If you simply want your name used without a donation, that is acceptable, as well.
Send checks to:
Friends of Franz, c/o Jim Clune, Treasurer, 89 Pine St, Binghamton, NY 13901

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

Why Don’t Climate Change Deniers Publish Papers?

February 3rd, 2014 by Andy in General Topics

Good question.

In 2012, National Science Board member James Lawrence Powell investigated peer-reviewed literature published about climate change and found that out of 13,950 articles, 13,926 supported the reality of global warming. Despite a lot of sound and fury from the denial machine, deniers have not really been able to come up with a coherent argument against a consensus. The same is true for a somewhat different study that showed a 97 percent consensus among climate scientists supporting both the reality of global warming and the fact that human emissions are behind it.

Powell recently finished another such investigation, this time looking at peer-reviewed articles published between November 2012 and December 2013. Out of 2,258 articles (with 9,136 authors), how many do you think explicitly rejected human-driven global warming? Go on, guess!

One. Yes, one.

Yet, the anti-science know-nothings that populate American politics and whose voices continue to echo throughout much of the corporate media keep on keeping on with avoiding the facts at hand.

Chronicling the rather disturbing history of the effects of this kind of ignorance, and why the American media has effectively ignored this ever-growing story, is Tom Engelhardt, who recently posted this essential history on his

This piece seems to be getting some traction among the social media circles, which is encouraging. Perhaps it is because it taps into a deep well of truth, one that continues to be held at arms length away from the general consciousness of the populace at large. However, I will admit that this whole issue of climate change, and its dire implications, presses upon me personally more and more each day, making operating in a business-as-usual manner harder and harder to do. It is unnerving to watch for years and years as this train wreck of mass industrial civilization unfolds, while efforts to organize an effective, concerted political and economic responses are continually derailed by small factions, whose personal benefit of keeping the status quo rolling along, in the face of practically all empirical data, is sociopathic at best.

The days of extraction economies and ever-expanding “wealth” in a finite world are over, and the juvenile philosophies that propagate these notions, are as artificial and bankrupt as Lehman Brothers. If you think the political and economic change is all too radical for you, try the kind of environmental changes that are headed our way without them.

There are some scientists who assert that we have already and irreversibly crossed the fatal tipping point on the short road to climate catastrophe and mass extinction. Guy McPherson is one of the most lucid and outspoken of those scientists. Some of this data is outlined here, and you can read more from him on his blog Nature Bats Last, which is quite sobering to say the least.

Read more on these climate study findings Here

Art’s Innovative Role As Research and It’s Power To Save Us

January 30th, 2014 by Andy in General Topics

This article goes to something I’ve been saying for years (and which underlies some of my proposals that I endeavored to advance through my work at the University of Dayton). Any meaningful poltical, social, cultural movement, especially one that encapsulates the advancement of human rights, is profoundly dependent upon art and the artist for its potential to succeed.

As humanity faces enormous problems that challenge our very survival, interdisciplinary approaches must include artists, whose preference for unconventional approaches and unique forms of representation makes them adept at daring and creative problem solving. Artists help move consciousness forward, as they always have.

t is clear that pressing global challenges, such as economic inequality, migration, climate change, aging societies and food security, present problems too difficult for any one discipline to solve. It will take teams of thinkers working across disciplines. And, given the interconnectivity and global scale of these issues, the solutions will have to look and feel completely new. Artists, with their preference for unconventional approaches and unique forms of representation, are adept at this type of daring and creative problem solving. Increasingly welcomed into these conversations, they can help move consciousness forward, as they always have. 

Read Carol Becker’s complete piece on Art and Research

The Need For Personal Evolution In Political Thought

September 28th, 2013 by Andy in General Topics

This blog posting by Glenn Greenwald provides some excellent insight on the nature of how one’s perspectives can and should change over time, with the introduction of new facts and the incorporation of an expanded roster of viewpoints to consider.

“Like most people who do not work on politics or journalism full-time, I had to rely back then on standard political and media venues to form my political impressions of the world. When I first began writing about politics, I had a whole slew of conventional political beliefs that came from lazy ingestion of the false and misleading claims of these conventional political and media sources. Having the time to examine political realities first-hand has led me to realize how many of those former beliefs I held were based on myth or worse, and I’ve radically changed how I think about a whole slew of issues as a result of that re-examination.”

I can relate to this in many ways, as I consider my own politically youthful coming of age, and the notable evolution in personal perspectives that have taken place over the past decades. We need more citizens to have the courage to face up to what is transpiring around us today, if we are to effectively change it. The regime of power is dependent upon our buying into the myth of it’s legitimacy. Now is the time to refuse the lie, to paraphrase Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, to no longer be complicit in supporting it. Liberals and so-called progressives need to give it up with this “supporting the Democrats because they are better than the Republicans” line of thinking. And those on the right need to move beyond their ideological fear of the “mob rule” of democratic accountability, the adherence to which has resulted in the excusing of some of the most flagrant and tyrannical abuses of power to confront our society over the past decades. Confronting unjust and unaccountable power, and to question the legitimacy of state authority, does not inherently entail some kind of manifestation of the “tyranny of the majority over the minority.” In fact, today we couldn’t be farther from such a situation, as we are currently left politically prostrate in the face of a minutely small minority now with effective control over practically every single lever of power in society today. Such protestations about “majority tyranny” right now is a bit like lecturing a fireman about his causing water damage to a burning house.

We need to step beyond our current artificially drawn political paradigm, one consciously designed to keep us securely within the realm of manageable and controlled debate, one in which whatever direction it takes, will always result in the service to the status of quo of money and power that currently exists, no matter how illegitimate those gains are and that power is. This is something that Noam Chomsky identified over two decades ago, when he spoke of how you can maintain control in an ostensibly democratic society is that “you control what people think is by creating the illusion that there’s a debate going on, but making sure that that debate stays within very narrow margins. Namely, you have to make sure that both sides in the debate accept certain assumptions, and those assumptions turn out to be the propaganda system. As long as everyone accepts the propaganda system, then you can have a debate.”

The Campaign For Local Power - Literally and Figuratively

September 12th, 2013 by Andy in General Topics, Video

This is a grassroots David and Goliath campaign to create a landmark model for how communities can take control of their energy future.

It’s an impressive and inspirational campaign for local power - both figuratively and literally. These people have got it down, and are making it happen exactly the way things will have to in order to generate some truly meaningful change. Not only do they deserve support, but they are helping to establish the real-world model
template which can be replicated around the country (and the world).

When you’ve got giant energy corporations this scared, and resorting to the underhanded political tricks they are engaged in to challenge this common sense model for energy independence, you must be doing something right.

You can help support this effort by going to

How The American University was Killed, In Five Easy Steps

February 6th, 2013 by Andy in General Topics

Enlightening and provocative piece by Debra Leigh Scott on the state of higher education in America today, and how and why it got here. A must read for anyone involved with, participating in, or contemplating pursuing a path through higher education today.

A few years back, Paul E. Lingenfelter began his report on the defunding of public education by saying, “In 1920 H.G. Wells wrote, “History is becoming more and more a race between education and catastrophe.’ I think he got it right. Nothing is more important to the future of the United States and the world than the breadth and effectiveness of education, especially of higher education. I say especially higher education, but not because pre- school, elementary, and secondary education are less important. Success at every level of education obviously depends on what has gone before. But for better or worse, the quality of postsecondary education and research affects the quality and effectiveness of education at every level.”

In the last few years, conversations have been growing like gathering storm clouds about the ways in which our universities are failing. There is talk about the poor educational outcomes apparent in our graduates, the out-of-control tuitions and crippling student loan debt. Attention is finally being paid to the enormous salaries for presidents and sports coaches, and the migrant worker status of the low-wage majority faculty. There are now movements to control tuition, to forgive student debt, to create more powerful “assessment” tools, to offer “free” university materials online, to combat adjunct faculty exploitation. But each of these movements focuses on a narrow aspect of a much wider problem, and no amount of “fix” for these aspects individually will address the real reason that universities in America are dying.

Read The Complete Article

9/11: Explosive Evidence - Experts Speak Out

December 2nd, 2012 by Andy in General Topics, Video

This is one of the best pieces done on the whole issue of unresolved questions surround the events of September 11. Unlike so much of what is referred to as “Truther” material, which all-too-often makes speculative declarations and uncorroborated assertions, this video, featured on PBS, asks the right questions and only talks about what it knows.

Highly recommended for any and everyone who has questions (or hasn’t even considered the questions) about how the three buildings at the World Trade Center complex all fell that day.

For more information on the questions raised in this program, particularly the mysterious collapse of World Trade Center Building 7, visit Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth.

Watch 9/11: Explosive Evidence - Experts Speak Out on PBS. See more from KBDI.

War Photographer - The Camera as an Instrument for Justice

October 25th, 2012 by Andy in General Topics, Video

War Photographer is a moving, challenging, and inspirational film about James Nachtwey, one of the world’s foremost photographers of war and injustice throughout the world. Famine, war, tragedy, and the images of them within the mass media, are the grounds for some real questioning within this must-watch film. As magazine editor Christiane Breustedt asks…

“Do I make a living from other people’s suffering? Has their suffering and misery been my ladder to success? Do I exploit people? Am I the bloodsucker? The vampire with the camera?”

The film also highlights the power of media as a tool in the protection and advancement of human rights, and the challenges faced for human rights issues to find a voice in a market-driven information system. As Nachtwey points out…

“Advertisers are tired of having their products displayed next to images of human tragedy. They feel that it somehow detracts from the saleability of their products.”

“The main purpose of my work is to appear in the mass media. It’s not so much that I want my pictures to be looked upon as art objects, as it is a form of communication.”

“Its more difficult to get publications to focus on issues that are more critical, that do not provide people an escape from reality, but attempt to get them deeper into reality. To be concerned about something much greater than themselves. And I think people are concerned. I think quite often publishers don’t give their audience enough credit for that.”

“We must look at it. We’re required to look at. We’re required to do what we can about it. If we don’t, who will?”

That whole issue of trying to communicate difficult but necessary truths within a media context that is geared to maximizing audience share in the minimum time, and where delivering information is not their goal, but rather its delivering audience share to advertisers, that presents some fundamental questions about how we have organized our information systems within society, and who and what do they serve? It’s a fundamental question in regards to human rights in a media context.

“For me, the strength of photography lies in its ability to evoke a sense of humanity. If war is an attempt to negate humanity, than photography can be perceived as the opposite of war. And if its used well, it can be a powerful ingredient in the antidote to war.”

“In a way, if an individual assumes the risk of placing himself in the middle of a war in order to communicate to the rest of the world what is happening, he’s trying to negotiate for peace. Perhaps that’s the reason why those in charge of perpetuating a war do not like to have photographers around.”

“It’s occurred to me that if everyone could be there just once, to see for themselves what white phosphorous does to the face of a child, or what unspeakable pain is caused by the impact of a single bullet, or how a jagged piece of shrapnel can rip someone’s leg off; If everyone could be there to see for themselves the fear and the grief just one time, then they would understand that nothing is worth letting things get to the point where that happens to even one person, let alone thousands.”

“But everyone cannot be there. And that is why photographers go there. To show them, and reach out and grab them, and make them stop what they’re doing, and pay attention to what is going on. To create pictures powerful enough to overcome the deluding effects of the mass media, and shake people out of their indifference. To protest, and by the strength of that protest, to make others protest.”

As the slogan of the human rights media organization WITNESS states: See It, Film It, Change It.


WikiLeaks 2012 Documentary - Sex, Lies & Sweden

August 23rd, 2012 by Andy in General Topics, Video

There’s been an awful lot of press in regards to the soap opera surrounding Julian Assange and his organization WikiLeaks. This report from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation is one of the best yet produced on the issues involved with the sexual assault allegations stemming from Assange’s time in Sweden. It provides some detailed insights into what the nature of those allegations stem from, and importantly, the timeline of events surrounding them.

If only the American ABC, or any of the other English-speaking western media could only be half as good in actually detailing the facts of the case as they stand.

This is a must-watch report for anyone remotely interested in understanding this and the important ramifications to it. The report was completed in July of 2012, shortly before Ecuador provided asylum to Assange, not for fleeing the sexual assault accusations (which he is clearly not doing if one understands the facts of the case), but for avoiding what looks very much like an attempt by the United States to extradite him on charges of “conspiracy to commit espionage.” But as US Ambassador to Australia Jeffrey L. Bleich says about the ongoing legal battles surrounding Assange, “The US has nothing to do with the issue here, it’s simply a matter between the UK and Sweden.” Sure. That’s why this is happening.

The program also documents the harassment experienced by Assange’s supporters across the globe - including his Australian lawyer - and the FBI’s attempts to convince some to give evidence against him. For more insight on what this is about, and the role the US and UK are playing in targeting WikiLeaks in an investigation that is “unprecedented both in its scale and its nature” (which Bleich blithely denies is even happening), read Don’t Lose Sight of Why the US Is Out to Get Julian Assange.

Glenn Greenwald weighs in with this excellent piece on the “bizarre, unhealthy, blinding media contempt for Julian Assange” that one finds among the western press and so-called intellectual class.

When it comes to the issue of WikiLeaks, the bulk of the attention in the American media is about the crime of revealing secrets, not the crimes that the secrets reveal.

And for those who don’t believe we need organizations such as WikiLeaks in order to help keep an eye on the unaccountable nature of the surveillance state, there’s This.

“I’m tired of my government harassing me and violating the Constitution,” says [Binney]. He is “among a group of N.S.A. whistle-blowers, including Thomas A. Drake, who have each risked everything - their freedom, livelihoods and personal relationships - to warn Americans about the dangers of N.S.A.’s domestic spying.”

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