Archive for International

Sep
21

But not a drop to drink?

Posted by: | Comments (0)

As the People’s Climate March begins in New York later today, California struggles with record drought. It’s not just the hippies worried about climate change, and not just here.

The UK must prepare for “the worst droughts in modern times” experts will warn this week at a major international conference to discuss the growing global water crisis.

Britain is looking at ways of reconfiguring its water infrastructure — expanding reservoirs, imposing tougher water extraction licenses, considering more desalination plants. “In the past we have planned for our water resources to cope with the worst situation on record but records are only 100 years long,” explains Trevor Bishop, the Environment Agency’s deputy director. “We may get a situation that is worse than that – with climate change that is perfectly possible.”

From Papua New Guinea to London, marchers bear witness to the threat.

Meanwhile in the boardrooms, scarcity for the many means opportunity for a select few. Some of those circling vultures aren’t birds.

Privatizing water supplies is a growth industry. Whether it’s American Water, Aqua America, Suez, Veolia Water, or Nestle, private water companies are competing to lock up water resources and public water systems. If not for you, for the fracking industry. As with charter schools and vouchers in public education, public-private partnerships are one of business’ favorite tactics for getting this particular camel’s nose under the tent.

When Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s emergency manager took charge in Detroit this year, it was no accident that the first public infrastructure up for sale was its water and sewer system. They began by shutting off water to thousands of poor residents behind on their bills. Local activist Maureen Taylor told the Netroots Nation conference in July [timestamp 1:08:45], “This monstrous thing that’s going on in Detroit … beyond demonic … You gotta leave here changed! … Water is a human right.”

But with the metastasized capitalism Naomi Klein describes, we’re dealing with people who would sell you the air you breathe if they could control how it gets to your nose. And if you cannot afford to buy their air, well, you should have worked harder, planned better, and saved more.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

Sep
18

Changing everything

Posted by: | Comments (0)

Naomi Klein appeared last night on All In with Chris Hayes to discuss her new book, “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs The Climate.” The logical extension of her earlier work, Klein called last night for a reevaluation of “the values that govern our society.” She writes, “our economic system and our planetary system are now at war … there are policies that can lower emissions quickly, and successful models all over the world for doing so. The biggest problem is that we have governments that don’t believe in governing.”
I haven’t read it yet, but I wanted to comment on the backlash we are sure to see.

Klein believes trying to address climate alone — as the environmental movement has — gets the issue wrong. As the Guardian put it, “[I]t’s about capitalism – not carbon – the extreme anti-regulatory version that has seized global economies since the 1980s and has set us on a course of destruction and deepening inequality.” Klein told Chris Hayes, “It’s not the end of the world. It’s just the end of that highly individualistic, zero-sum game kind of thinking.”

This, of course, will set lots of hair on fire on the right. In fact, Hayes led off the segment with a few choice quotes from some spokesmen on the right who believe climate change is a left-wing conspiracy. Then there is Rush Limbaugh: “That’s what global warming is. It’s merely a platform to advance communism.”

Please. I was born during the second Red Scare. I was a tot when they launched Sputnik. I remember the Cuban Missile Crisis. That was half a century ago.

A quarter of a century after that, the Berlin Wall fell and American conservatives declared that Saint Ronald of Reagan had slain the Evil Empire and won the Cold War. And a quarter of a century after that, they’re still looking for commies in woodpiles and for Reds under their beds before they cower beneath the sheets.

Last year, even Forbes gave communism all the relevance of a Renaissance festival.

Not even the Chinese are communists anymore. Have you seen Shanghai lately? China has about cornered the free market in glass-and-steel skyscrapers and the cranes and concrete to build them. They sure as hell cornered a chunk of investment by Republican donors.

It took most of the 1990s, but with the former Soviet Pacific fleet rusting away at the docks in Vladivostok, even the Pentagon figured out communism wasn’t the Red Menace anymore. It took Russia less than a decade after the Wall fell to revert to the oligarchy it was before the Bolshevik Revolution – peasants and plutocrats. Which is where we’re headed, if you haven’t noticed.

If conservatives’ would-be leaders are so worried about the U.S. emulating the Roosskies, they might want to stop licking the boots of our domestic plutocrats. They might want to get their heads out of their anti-communism and join the rest of us in addressing the challenges of the twenty-first century.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

Sep
17

Old warhorses

Posted by: | Comments (0)

Buster Keaton in “The General.” Public domain.

Hear that melody? Sen. Lindsay Graham is conducting the Village Symphony Orchestra in one of Republicans’ favorite warhorses. You’ve heard it before. You’ll hear it again.

“Republicans mount their warhorses” sits atop the WaPo’s online Opinion section this morning. (If you arrived late, music lovers, the VSO just began the ISIS movement.)

The sudden desire for a ground war is a bit suspect, both because many Republicans adopted this view only after Obama came around to their previous view and because many Republicans oppose even the modest funding Obama has requested to train Syrian fighters. (Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) said she opposed “giving even more money to the so-called vetted moderates who aren’t moderate at all.”)

It may be that Republicans embraced the boots-on-the-ground position because Obama rejected it. Whatever the cause, the militancy is spreading — even though polls indicate that while Americans favor military action against the Islamic State, they aren’t keen on ground troops.

Of course, whatever the Kenyan Pretender wants is not enough for Graham and the VSO. Rep. John Fleming (R-La.) wants “all-out-war.” Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) doesn’t want another “half-pregnant war.” As Dana Milbank observes, the rest of the VSO (or is it the Very Serious Orchestra?) oppose anything less than a new ground war in the Middle East. And soon, because they want to hurry back to their districts to campaign for reelection wearing new campaign ribbons. And hoping war hysteria might distract voters from quizzing them on what they haven’t done in Washington to earn their paychecks.

Maybe I missed the act of war ISIS committed against the United States of America that justifies the war into which (with their new trailer) ISIS wants to goad us. Or has America just gone so far down the rabbit hole that we’ll launch another war because — when in doubt — it’s the one thing this aging empire does by default? Like the clueless civilian Buster Keaton plays in “The General,” who, finding himself in the middle of a Civil War battle, brandishes a discarded saber to rally troops whenever he doesn’t know what else to do?

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

Comments (0)
Sep
15

Peek-a-boo, we spy you

Posted by: | Comments (1)

Why don’t the spy agencies just give their next eavesdropping program a name like “Big Brother” and be done with it? Der Spiegel began its weekend report on the hacking of Deutsche Telekom with the cutsey names British and American spooks give to various Internet snooping programs: “Evil Olive” or “Egoistic Giraffe.” Or the Johnny Depp-ish “Treasure Map,” with a logo featuring a skull with glowing eye holes. [Emphasis mine.]

Treasure Map is anything but harmless entertainment. Rather, it is the mandate for a massive raid on the digital world. It aims to map the Internet, and not just the large traffic channels, such as telecommunications cables. It also seeks to identify the devices across which our data flows, so-called routers.

Furthermore, every single end device that is connected to the Internet somewhere in the world — every smartphone, tablet and computer — is to be made visible. Such a map doesn’t just reveal one treasure. There are millions of them.

Soon, they’ll teach your smartphone to bark out commands and lead you in morning calisthenics:

“Smith! 6079 Smith W.! Yes, you! Bend lower, please! You can do better than that. You’re not trying. Lower, please! That’s better, comrade.”

But before getting to that, according documents from Britain’s GCHQ leaked by Edward Snowden, the plan is to map out the entire geography of the worldwide Internet. And not just the hardware.

Treasure Map allows for the creation of an “interactive map of the global Internet” in “near real-time,” the document notes. Employees of the so-called “FiveEyes” intelligence agencies from Great Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, which cooperate closely with the American agency NSA, can install and use the program on their own computers. One can imagine it as a kind of Google Earth for global data traffic, a bird’s eye view of the planet’s digital arteries.

Unless your are Angela Merkel, the spying revealed by Snowden has, for the most part, always seemed abstract, theoretical. Here, it gets personal. Der Spiegel reviewed some of the Snowden documents with staff from a German telecom, Stellar. In Der Spiegel’s video (watch it here), we see the engineers “visibly shocked” as they realize not only have their systems been hacked and client passwords compromised, but key engineers sitting in the room have been “tasked” for surveillance because of their level of access to the network. Pointing to a name in one of the Treasure Map documents, the reporter says, “That’s you,” to the stunned guy sitting across the table. The security breach, the engineer explains, would allow the spy agency to remotely see “the exact point on the globe that a customer is located.”

Don’t you feel safer knowing you’re paying the salaries of the Americans doing the same? That they work for you?

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

Categories : International, Privacy
Comments (1)
Sep
14

Piece of crap

Posted by: | Comments (3)

In a lead Sunday op-ed, I once slammed local planners for wanting to develop a former factory site into yet another strip mall anchored by big-box stores. Low prices, low wages. Just what the unemployed factory workers need, right? I couldn’t believe the editors allowed it to run with the line about stores selling “cheap, plastic crap from China.”

Now this from the WaPo: The Postal Service is losing millions a year to help you buy cheap stuff from China

Via an arcane treaty mechanism, the U.S. Postal Service delivers small packages from Chinese merchants to destinations in the U.S. at below its cost. The inspector general’s office estimated that foreign “ePacket” treaty mail cost the USPS $79 million in 2013 and another $5 billion last year.

Read More→

Comments (3)

Naomi Klein contemplates the struggle between climate change and the globalization juggernaut. It is a struggle she once left to environmentalists. But having struggled with infertility and having covered the Gulf oil spill, her perspective changed. “It’s not that I got in touch with my inner Earth Mother,” Klein writes, “it’s that I started to notice that if the Earth is indeed our mother, then she is a mother facing a great many fertility challenges of her own.”

That climate change is linked to our lifestyle and our economy – and our attempts to deal with planetary warming without changing either – is the crux of Klein’s long piece in the Guardian:

“What is wrong with us? I think the answer is far more simple than many have led us to believe: we have not done the things needed to cut emissions because those things fundamentally conflict with deregulated capitalism, the reigning ideology for the entire period we have struggled to find a way out of this crisis. We are stuck, because the actions that would give us the best chance of averting catastrophe – and benefit the vast majority – are threatening to an elite minority with a stranglehold over our economy, political process and media.”

Read: Billionaires with good intentions, flashy pronouncements, and market-driven solutions have failed to curb emissions. Much of the piece focuses on Richard Branson’s failed, but much ballyhooed efforts to apply a the same business savvy that made him rich to save the planet.

The idea that only capitalism can save the world from a crisis it created is no longer an abstract theory; it’s a hypothesis that has been tested in the real world. We can now take a hard look at the results: at the green products shunted to the back of the supermarket shelves at the first signs of recession; at the venture capitalists who were meant to bankroll a parade of innovation but have come up far short; at the fraud-infested, boom-and-bust carbon market that has failed to cut emissions. And, most of all, at the billionaires who were going to invent a new form of enlightened capitalism but decided, on second thoughts, that the old one was just too profitable to surrender.

Post-Reagan, deregulated capitalism has long looked like something out of Mary Shelley or science-fiction films, a creature we created, but no longer control. Billionaires and their acolytes see only its benefits, but as Jeff Goldblum’s Dr. Ian Malcolm says in The Lost World: Jurassic Park, “Oh, yeah. Oooh, ahhh, that’s how it always starts. Then later there’s running, and then screaming.” Where once We the People held capitalism’s leash, now we wear the collar.

Whether it’s turning your child’s education from a shared public cost into a corporate profit center; or turning the principle of one-man, one-vote into one-dollar, one-vote; or carbon tax credits and accounting tricks for addressing rising sea levels; questioning the universal application of a business approach to any human need or problem often prompts the challenge, “Do you have something against making a profit?” A more subtle form of red-baiting, this ploy is supposed to be a conversation stopper. Yes? You’re a commie. Game over.

Maybe it’s time our billionaire problem-solvers got over themselves.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

Sep
06

Not Your Average Tourist Video

Posted by: | Comments (1)
YouTube Preview Image

The eruption of Mount Tavurvur volcano on August 29th, 2014. Captured by Phil McNamara.

Categories : Breather, International
Comments (1)
Jul
19

People At Risk, Water A Weapon

Posted by: | Comments (10)

Michigan has Rick Snyder. North Carolina has Pat McCrory. Here in Detroit for Netroots Nation, it is clear that Michigan is facing some of the same issues with GOP governance as North Carolina. The Koch brothers’ influence is palpable to these people. And where North Carolina has Art Pope, Michigan has the DeVos family.

With twenty percent of the world’s fresh water in the Great Lakes and flowing past our hotel, Detroit faces water privatization. It was not lost on those in Asheville that when Michigan’s governor appointed an emergency manager for Detroit — superseding local democracy and local governance — about the first public asset that went on the auction block was its water and sewer.

Sound familiar?

Over and over again this weekend, stories being told at Netroots echo what we are experiencing in North Carolina. The same destructive agenda is being acted out across the country. Other states are worse off, having enacted budgets like Gov. Sam Brownback’s in Kansas ahead of Pat McCrory’s in North Carolina. But the results will be the same in the Old North State. We are only now seeing the leading edge.

As we sit here, a panel of local activists is discussing the privatization of Detroit’s water system and Michigan’s public schools. In actions described by activist Maureen Taylor as “beyond demonic,” thousands of poor residents are having their water cut off in Detroit. Some going without running water for over a year. Mothers with children. The United Nations

It is not encouraging to see how widespread the assault is on public institutions, but it is good to know we are not alone in the fight.

Jul
06

Feeling Violated?

Posted by: | Comments (3)

They see London.
They see France.
Baby pics you sent your aunt.

The Washington Post reports today,

Ordinary Internet users, American and non-American alike, far outnumber legally targeted foreigners in the communications intercepted by theNational Security Agency from U.S. digital networks, according to a four-month investigation by The Washington Post.

Nine of 10 account holders found in a large cache of intercepted conversations, which former NSA contractor Edward Snowden provided in full to The Post, were not the intended surveillance targets but were caught in a net the agency had cast for somebody else.

Love letters and baby pictures of innocent bystanders, Edward Snowden told the Post, of no intelligence value today, continue to be stored by the NSA. As late as May, the NSA had denied Snowden had access to FISA content.

Many other files, described as useless by the analysts but nonetheless retained, have a startlingly intimate, even voyeuristic quality. They tell stories of love and heartbreak, illicit sexual liaisons, mental-health crises, political and religious conversions, financial anxieties and disappointed hopes. The daily lives of more than 10,000 account holders who were not targeted are catalogued and recorded nevertheless.

As a piping engineer, work searches including terms such as nipple (threaded pipe nipple), diaphragm (valve type), or just “pipe” can get your account flagged by an overzealous corporate “nanny watch” program scanning for drug- or sex-related searches. Joking about anything terrorist-related in an airport can get you hauled aside and questioned. Heaven help you if you comment on any Middle East-related news in an email to the wrong person.

Ah, freedom.

Categories : International, Privacy
Comments (3)
Jun
20

Friday Open Thread

Posted by: | Comments (11)

It’s “Free-Market Ideology Gone Mad” Friday here at ScruHoo, courtesy of Wikileaks:

Public Services International (PSI), a global trade union federating public service workers in 150 countries, has reported that TISA threatens to allow multinational corporations to permanently privatize vital public services such as healthcare and transportation in countries across the world.

“This agreement is all about making it easier for corporations to make profits and operate with impunity across borders,” said PSI General Secretary Rosa Pavanelli in response to the leak. “The aim of public services should not be to make profits for large multinational corporations. Ensuring that failed privatizations can never be reversed is free-market ideology gone mad.”

It’s not mad. No. It’s become a cult.