Published: Tuesday 20 November 2012
The crises are fostering a class war that will dwarf anything imagined by Karl Marx.

 

Gaza is a window on our coming dystopia. The growing divide between the world’s elite and its miserable masses of humanity is maintained through spiraling violence. Many impoverished regions of the world, which have fallen off the economic cliff, are beginning to resemble Gaza, where 1.6 million Palestinians live in the planet’s largest internment camp. These sacrifice zones, filled with seas of pitifully poor people trapped in squalid slums or mud-walled villages, are increasingly hemmed in by electronic fences, monitored by surveillance cameras and drones and surrounded by border guards or military units that shoot to kill. These nightmarish dystopias extend from sub-Saharan Africa to Pakistan to China. They are places where targeted assassinations are carried out, where brutal military assaults are pressed against peoples left defenseless, without an army, navy or air force. All attempts at resistance, however ineffective, are met with the indiscriminate slaughter that characterizes modern industrial warfare.

In the new global landscape, as in Israel’s occupied territories and the United States’ own imperial projects in Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen and Afghanistan, massacres of thousands of defenseless innocents are labeled wars. Resistance is called a provocation, terrorism or a crime against humanity. The rule of law, as well as respect for the most basic civil liberties and the right of self-determination, is a public relations fiction used to placate the consciences of those who live in the zones of privilege. Prisoners are routinely tortured and “disappeared.” The severance of food and medical supplies is an accepted tactic of control. Lies permeate the airwaves. Religious, racial ...

Published: Friday 19 October 2012
“The ICC is the only permanent international court with a mandate to prosecute individuals accused of the most heinous crimes – genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.”

 

Ten years after the International Criminal Court (ICC) opened its doors in The Hague, the United Nations Security Council held its first open discussion on the role of the court, with some nations reiterating complaints that its docket is highly politicized and has unfairly singled out African nations for censure.

The ICC is the only permanent international court with a mandate to prosecute individuals accused of the most heinous crimes – genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

The official seat of the court is in the Netherlands, but proceedings can take place anywhere in the world. The ICC has received complaints about alleged crimes in over a hundred countries, but investigations have only been opened into seven states so far, all of them in Africa – Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, the Central African Republic, Kenya, Libya and Cote d’Ivoire.

The ICC can either undertake an investigation on the prosecutor’s own initiative, if a case is referred to the court by the concerned states parties themselves, or if the case is referred to the court by the United Nations Security Council.

During the debate on Wednesday, representatives from several countries expressed concerns about the Security Council taking politicized decisions about which cases to refer to the Court.

The fact that the Security Council has not referred the burning case of Syria to the ICC, for example, was highlighted by representatives from a number of states.

Human rights groups have made similar critiques.

Human Rights Watch  recently sent a letter to 121 foreign ministers urging them to address the inconsistency of the Security Council’s referrals to the ICC. The letter calls for a development of a ...

Published: Tuesday 9 October 2012
Washington, it seems, now has only one mode of thought and action, no matter who is at the helm or what the problem may be, and it always involves, directly or indirectly, openly or clandestinely, the application of militarized force.

 

Americans lived in a “victory culture” for much of the twentieth century.  You could say that we experienced an almost 75-year stretch of triumphalism -- think of it as the real “American Century” -- from World War I to the end of the Cold War, with time off for a destructive stalemate in Korea and a defeat in Vietnam too shocking to absorb or shake off.

When the Soviet Union disintegrated in 1991, it all seemed so obvious.  Fate had clearly dealt Washington a royal flush.  It was victory with a capital V.  The United States was, after all, the last standing superpower, after centuries of unceasing great power rivalries on the planet.  It had a military beyond compare and no enemy, hardly a “rogue state,” on the horizon.  It was almost unnerving, such clear sailing into a dominant future, but a moment for the ages nonetheless.  Within a decade, pundits in Washington were hailing us as “the dominant power in the world, more dominant than any since Rome.”

And here’s the odd thing: in a sense, little has ...

Published: Tuesday 4 September 2012
“Politicians, including Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, serve the demented ends of corporations that will, until the final flicker of life, attempt to profit from our death spiral.”

I retreat in the summer to the mountains and coasts of Maine and New Hampshire to sever myself from the intrusion of the industrial world. It is in the woods and along the rugged Atlantic coastline, the surf thundering into the jagged rocks, that I am reminded of our insignificance before the universe and the brevity of human life. The stars, thousands visible in the night canopy above me, mock human pretensions of grandeur. They whisper the biblical reminder that we are dust and to dust we shall return. Love now, they tell us urgently, protect what is sacred, while there is still time. But now I go there also to mourn. I mourn for our future, for the fading majesty of the natural world, for the folly of the human species. The planet is dying. And we will die with it.

The giddy, money-drenched, choreographed carnival in Tampa and the one coming up in Charlotte divert us from the real world—the one steadily collapsing around us. The glitz and propaganda, the ridiculous obsessions imparted by our electronic hallucinations, and the spectacles that pass for political participation mask the deadly ecological assault by the corporate state. The worse it gets, the more we retreat into self-delusion. We convince ourselves that global warming ...

Published: Friday 17 August 2012
More than 46 million U.S. citizens currently rely on the federally-funded food stamp program to help meet their nutritional needs – more than one in seven people. The average benefits amount to about 143 dollars a month, even as food prices continue to rise.

 

Food rights activists from around the world will descend on the coastal U.S. state of Florida next week to protest homelessness and hunger facing millions of people in the United States and across the globe.

The Aug. 20-26 protests in Tampa were organized to draw attention to the Republican Party’s aggressive stance on tax cuts for the rich and reductions in the social safety net for poor and working families.

The Republicans hold their national convention in Tampa on Aug. 17 to formally anoint Mitt Romney as the party’s candidate for the presidential election in November.

“I have seen people who did not eat for five days. This is happening in the world’s wealthiest country,” Keith McHenry, co-founder of Food Not Bombs and an organizer of next week’s protests, told IPS.

More than 46 million U.S. citizens currently rely on the federally-funded food stamp program to help meet their nutritional needs – more than one in seven people. The average benefits amount to about 143 dollars a month, even as food prices continue to rise.

“What’s going on with the poor here and abroad is economic manipulation,” said McHenry. “Access to food is a right, not a privilege, but our leaders don’t recognize that. That is why there are so many people in jails because they are poor.”

The United States leads the world in incarceration rates, with more than two million people living behind bars.

The Barack Obama administration intends to cut food stamps funding by about two percent, or 1.6 billion dollars, a year. Besides attacks on health-care, the Republicans are seeking much greater cuts to the program, whose funding in 2011 was 78 million dollars.

Beyond the U.S., millions across the world are mired in chronic conditions of hunger and starvation. ...

Published: Friday 15 June 2012
It would be a fine show watching the bishops try to scramble and pick up the slack if the sisters said “enough.”

They run hospitals, schools, and social programs. They are stalwart leaders in many spiritual communities. And they are contributing vital insights to the Christian theological discussion. If nuns went on strike, many of the institutions of the Catholic Church would grind to a standstill.

Sure, a work stoppage of this sort is a long shot. But I’d love to see it. Having witnessed both priests and nuns in action, there’s no doubt in my mind which group dominates in the getting-shit-done department. It would be a fine show watching the bishops try to scramble and pick up the slack if the sisters said “enough.”

Certainly, the nuns would have good reason to do so. A storm has been brewing since April, when the Vatican released a statement condemning American nuns for showing too much independence of thought and not adequately deferring to the bishops, who, Rome tells us, “are the church’s authentic teachers of faith and morals.” A remarkable June 1 story in the New York Times recounted how the Vatican criticized the sisters for “focusing its work too much on poverty and economic injustice, while keeping ‘silent’ on abortion and same-sex marriage.”

Then there’s this transgression: “During the debate over the health care overhaul in 2010, American bishops came out in opposition to the health plan, but dozens of sisters, many of whom belong to the Leadership Conference [of Women Religious], signed a statement supporting it—support that provided crucial cover for the Obama administration in the battle over health care.”

For such grave sins as spending too much time with the poor, the Vatican has put a bishop (needless to say, a man) in charge of ...

Published: Saturday 17 March 2012
“How far continuing financial and political pressures may lead other officials to attempt to secure revenues by selling off public assets is an open question.”

This is the third post in a series of three. Click to read Part One and Part Two at Yes Magazine.

Editor’s Note: In this series, leading cooperative theorist Gar Alperovitz details the ways collaborative ownership will revolutionize our society. (Check out his thoughts on transforming the banking system, and on health care, jobs, and community development).

 

Although public ownership is surprisingly widespread, it can also be vulnerable to challenge.  The fiscal crisis, and conservative resistance to raising taxes, has led some mayors and governors to sell off public assets.  In Indiana, Governor Mitch Daniels sold the Indiana Toll Road to Spanish and Australian investors.  In Chicago, then-Mayor Richard Daley privatized parking meters and toll collection on the Chicago Skyway and even proposed selling off recycling collection, equipment maintenance, and the annual “Taste of Chicago” festival.  How far continuing financial and political pressures may lead other officials to attempt to secure revenues by selling off public assets is an open question.  Public resistance to such strategies, although ...

Published: Saturday 25 February 2012
“On Tuesday, U.S. technology billionaire and philanthropist Bill Gates announced nearly 200 million dollars in grants to smallholder farmers, channeled through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.”

As the links between food security and climate change become increasingly inextricable, the necessity for sustainable agriculture is now a universal concern.

Smallholder farmers in the global South - who suffer most from changes in climate patterns and the degradation of natural resources, since they live and work in the most vulnerable landscapes – are in urgent need of sustainable agricultural technologies, a reality that was recognized at the annual meeting of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), which drew to a close in Rome on Thursday.

Despite ongoing economic and financial crises, developed and developing countries alike - represented by hundreds of development leaders and heads of state gathered in Rome for the 35th session of the Governing Council - committed 1.5 billion dollars to finance agriculture and rural development projects throughout the developing world.

During the two-day event, representatives from IFAD's 167 member states addressed the connection between overcoming poverty and food insecurity, and discussed how to ensure food security to a growing population while simultaneously protecting the environment.

In December 2011, member states gave a boost to sustainable agriculture with 1.5 billion dollars in new contributions to IFAD.

Now, the U.N. agency says it is scaling up its efforts even further to better link climate-smart technologies and sustainable agriculture in more than 40 countries.

"To help implement IFAD’s environmental policy and climate change strategy, we have developed a groundbreaking initiative called the Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Program, or ASAP, which will help channel (funds) into climate-smart, sustainable investments in poor, smallholder communities," IFAD’s president Kanayo Nwanze announced in his opening statement at the conference.

Representatives of smallholders, family farmers, pastoralists and ...

Published: Monday 12 December 2011
“Their Bread, Our Circus”

Sometimes words outlive their usefulness.  Sometimes the gap between changing reality and the names we’ve given it grows so wide that they empty of all meaning or retain older meanings that only confuse us.  “Election,” “presidential election campaign,” and “democracy” all seem like obvious candidates for name-change.

I thought about this recently as President Obama hustled around my hometown, snarling New York traffic in the name of Campaign 2012.  He was, it turned out, “hosting” three back-to-back fundraising events: one at the tony Gotham Bar and Grill for 45 supporters at $35,800 a head (the menu: roasted beet salad, steak and onion rings, with apple strudel, chocolate pecan pie, and cinnamon ice cream -- a meal meant to “shine a little light” on American farms); one for 30 Jewish supporters at the home of Jack Rosen, chairman of the American Jewish Congress, for at least $10,000 a pop; and one at the Sheraton Hotel, evidently for the plebes of the contribution world, that cost a mere $1,000 a head. (Maybe the menu there was rubber chicken.)

In the course of his several meals, the president pledged 

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