Monthly Archives: December 2004

RealClimate: Blogging by climate scientists

If you’re interested in reading what climate scientists have to say about global warming and other climate related topics you’ll want to check out RealClimate:

RealClimate is a commentary site on climate science by working climate scientists for the interested public and journalists. We aim to provide a quick response to developing stories and provide the context sometimes missing in mainstream commentary. The discussion here is restricted to scientific topics and will not get involved in any political or economic implications of the science.

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Is This What Democracy Looks Like?

The folks that comprise the Why War? Wobbly Squirrel Collective have written a great article which asks: Is This What Democracy Looks Like? They get off to a great start with this quote from Noam Chomsky:

One conception of democracy has it that a democratic society is one in which the public has the means to participate in some meaningful way in the management of their own affairs and the means of information are open and free. […] An alternative conception of democracy is that the public must be barred from managing their own affairs and the means of information must be kept narrowly and rigidly controlled. That may sound like an odd conception of democracy, but it’s important to understand that it is the prevailing conception.

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More important than any other resource is the raw awareness that you have the power to change the world— this is the hardest one to develop and share, and the most essential. It doesn’t help to give your endorsement to political representatives, social programs, or radical ideologies when the fundamental problem is that you don’t know your own strength.

Self-determination begins and ends with your initiatives and actions, whether you live under a totalitarian regime or the canopy of a rain forest. It must be established on a daily basis, by acting back on the world that acts upon you—whether that means calling in sick to work on a sunny day, starting a neighborhood garden with your friends, or toppling a government. You cannot make a revolution that distributes power equally except by learning firsthand how to exercise and share power—and that exercising and sharing, on any scale, is itself the ongoing, never-concluded project of revolution.


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Will Kerry Unconcede?

More news regarding the democratic facade in America, some suggest that the ground has been prepared for Kerry to unconcede the election:

If you haven’t been following John Kerry closely, get ready to hear of surprising developments. The vote-defrauded, potential president-in-waiting has just indicated through his lawyer that the validity of George Bush’s reelection is no longer a given.

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How to learn the truth about Iraq

To sum it up: watch and listen to the media outside of the U.S. The LA Weekly reports on 4 Ways to Find Out What’s Really Happening in Iraq:

If you want to know why public opinion in Western Europe has been so overwhelmingly against the U.S. war in and occupation of Iraq, there’s one obvious answer: the difference in television news between theirs and ours. You can easily determine this for yourself: Spend a week watching the news broadcasts and TV magazines of the BBC, France2 and Deutsche Welle, all available on many U.S. cable systems. The footage of dead Iraqi babies and children — victims of U.S. attacks on “terrorists” — that you will regularly see on European public television is rarely aired on U.S. networks. The regular interviews in Iraqi hospitals with doctors recounting the slaughter of the innocents that show up on European news broadcasts aren’t often seen on the all-news cable networks here, let alone on the Big Three broadcast nets’ newscasts. Iraqis, of course, know this daily reality all too well — which explains their overwhelming hostility to the U.S. occupation.

The degree to which coverage of Iraq reflects the structural corruption of U.S. major media is even more damningly portrayed in Weapons of Mass Deception, the superb new film by Danny Schechter. Schechter, a TV veteran of three decades, is an Emmy-winning former investigative producer for ABC and CNN (he calls himself a “network refugee”), and the founder of the independent TV production company Globalvision and also of, the Web site where his sharp-eyed, acid-tongued media criticism punches gaping holes in official newsdom’s coverage of Iraq. In this film — which is much more meticulously documented and more accurate than Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11, and therefore infinitely more devastating — Schechter shows with precision how U.S. mass media have been recruited as part and parcel of the Pentagon’s war-propaganda machine.

They also recommend Undernews, Truthout, and Informed Comment. I would add Dahr Jamail and Democracy Now! to that list.

In additon to the above story I’d suggest Mike Whitney’s article over at Counterpunch, Rummy’s Quagmire of Lies in which he discusses the U.S. military’s use of information and mis-information as a weapon. I agree with his suggestion that lying by the military is now “a matter of policy.” Unfortunately the corporate media regurgitates the lies with no critique or independent verification, proof, or corroboration.

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Grass now established in warmer Antarctic

According to The Australian scientists with the British Antarctic Survey are now reporting that the Antarctic has warmed enough for the establishment of year round grass:

Grass has become established in Antarctica, showing the continent is warming to temperatures unseen for 10,000 years.

Scientists have reported that broad areas of grass are now forming turf where there were once ice-sheets and glaciers.

Tufts have previously grown on patches of Antarctica in summer, but the scientists have now observed larger areas surviving winter and spreading in the summer months.

Some fear the change portends a much wider melting of the ice-cap that formed at least 20 million years ago.

‘Grass has taken a grip. There are very rapid changes going on in the Antarctic’s climate, allowing grass to colonise areas that would once have been far too cold,’ said Pete Convey, an ecologist conducting research with the British Antarctic Survey.

Mr Convey said that many species of wildlife were at serious risk from such rapid change, including emperor and other species of penguin, seals, cold-water fish and giant sea spiders.

Via Infoshop News – Thaw sees grass take hold in Antarctica.

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Bush ordered torture in Iraq

The Irregular Times has a good summation of the recently released FOIA documents which implicate Bush in the torture of Iraqi prisoners:

Documents obtained this week as the result of a Freedom of Information Act request indicate that President George W. Bush himself issued an Executive Order directing American forces in Iraq to torture prisoners during interrogations.

In these documents, an agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) reports that an Executive Order coming directly from George W. Bush provided authorization for American guards and interrogators in Iraqi prisons to use methods of torture including attack dogs, sensory and sleep deprivation, and application of pain through the prolonged binding of prisoners in stress positions. The documents even suggest that the hoods worn by tortured prisoners seen in the photographs from Abu Ghraib were Bush’s idea.

With every piece of evidence that emerges from the secret files of the Bush Administration, it becomes more and more clear that the tortures at Abu Ghraib prison and other locations in Iraq were the direct result of orders given by President Bush himself. Recent reports also indicate that the White House was aware of allegations of torture made by the Red Cross, but did nothing to stop the torture, and kept the information secret from the American public.

President Bush’s direct supervision of the torture of prisoners is not just unsavory. It is illegal. Torture is not only unconstitutional. Torture is also specifically prohibited by federal law. These are impeachable offenses.

It is already clear that torture by agents of the American government has not been taking place in mere “isolated incidents”. The use of torture by government agents under the authority of the Bush White House has now been shown to be premeditated and worldwide. In many cases, the torture has been so severe that prisoners have died during interrogations, their internal organs ruptured, their throats crushed.

Welcome to the New America.

Source Documents at ACLU

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Ohio and the crumbling facade of democracy

Funny thing about the Ohio recount: John Kerry doesn’t care. Now, anyone that reads this blog already knows how I feel about American “democracy” and electoral politics. It’s a lie, a facade designed to hide the truth. What’s interesting in the case of the 2004 elections is not the fact that the election was stolen nor is it the fact that the corporate media is not talking about the obvious evidence that has emerged to those on the ground in Ohio. I fully expect that to happen. No, what is interesting is that John Kerry and the Democratic Party quit the fight so quickly. I have come to expect that the establishment, Republican and Democrat, do care about appearances. They have an interest in maintaining what has become a one party system and so to an extent they have an interest in the illusion of choice. I would have expected John Kerry to put up just a little more of a fight but the danger there is that too much fight might draw too much attention to the little game going on.

The facade is crumbling and the irony is that those that care most about democracy are fighting for the integrity of the lie. It’s a strange situation. I think about those fighting the fight in Ohio and I wonder, do they really want John Kerry to be president? While they struggle for a recount, he apparently has given up the fight and is hoarding the remaining millions of dollars given to elect him. I’ve felt from the beginning that he’s a scumbag and the truth is I think that anyone who’s put up for the presidency from the Republicrat establishment is just going to be a representative of that establishment and not of the people. What we can see here is that it is that there is the distinction between the professional party bureaucrats that make up the machine and those on the ground that supposedly represented.

My suggestion: let the facade crumble. Let us look directly upon the truth of governance by the wealthy few. Those that are organizing for the recount, stop. Now is the time to build the movement that will destroy the lies of false democracy and challenge not just the one party system, but the system as a whole. Frankly, I don’t care if you’re Christian, Muslim, Athiest, Jewish, Buddhist, Agnostic, Hindu; I don’t care if you are black, white, red, yellow, green, blue, or martian; I don’t care if you have a penis or a vagina and I don’t care what you like to suck or fuck.

I propose that we live on one planet and that it should not be a planet of me against you.

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Blogs: do we learn from disagreement?

As I’ve been browsing through Blog Explosion sites over the past 2 weeks I’ve noticed that there are, as we’d expect, many conflicting opinions regarding U.S. politics as well as U.S. foreign policy. There’s nothing wrong with this conflict, but it has me wondering about the role of the internet, and blogs in particular, in the mediation of political discussion. My initial thinking is that blogs offer citizens the opportunity to engage one another and that this could be most useful when those involved in the discussion have differing viewpoints. I have doubts though. Much of what I see can be best characterized as shallow and angry reaction. Should we not be making more of an effort to work through our differences? I suppose this is really just a question about the goals of communication. I’d guess that our behavior here is reflective of our “real life” communications.

Why do we blog? Why do we read the blogs of others? Is it that we are brilliant and must share our genius? Or is it based on a desire to learn from others? What do we really learn when we read the words of those we disagree with? Just a few of many possible questions.

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Getting to know Direct Action

Interested in fighting back? Check out Crimethinc’s Twelve Myths About Direct Action

Direct action—that is, any kind of action that bypasses established political channels to accomplish objectives directly—has a long and rich heritage in North America, extending back to the Boston Tea Party and beyond. Despite this, there are many misunderstandings about it, in part due to the ways it has been misrepresented in the corporate media.

1. Direct action is terrorism.
Terrorism is calculated to intimidate and thus paralyze people. Direct action, on the other hand, is intended to inspire and thus motivate people by demonstrating the power individuals have to accomplish goals themselves. While terrorism is the domain of a specialized class that seeks to acquire power for itself alone, direct action demonstrates possibilities that others can make use of, empowering people to take control of their own lives. At most, a given direct action may obstruct the activities of a corporation or institution that activists perceive to be committing an injustice, but this is simply a form of civil disobedience, not terrorism.

2. Direct action is violent.
To say that it is violent to destroy the machinery of a slaughterhouse or to break windows belonging to a party that promotes war is to prioritize property over human and animal life. This objection subtly validates violence against living creatures by focusing all attention on property rights and away from more fundamental issues.

3. Direct action is not political expression, but criminal activity.
Unfortunately, whether or not an action is illegal is a poor measure of whether or not it is just. The Jim Crow laws were, after all, laws. To object to an action on the grounds that it is illegal is to sidestep the more important question of whether or not it is ethical. To argue that we must always obey laws, even when we consider them to be unethical or to enforce unethical conditions, is to suggest that the arbitrary pronouncements of the legal establishment possess a higher moral authority than our own consciences, and to demand complicity in the face of injustice. When laws protect injustice, illegal activity is no vice, and law-abiding docility is no virtue.

4. Direct action is unnecessary where people have freedom of speech.
In a society dominated by an increasingly narrowly focused corporate media, it can be almost impossible to initiate a public dialogue on a subject unless something occurs that brings attention to it. Under such conditions, direct action can be a means of nurturing free speech, not squelching it. Likewise, when people who would otherwise oppose an injustice have accepted that it is inevitable, it is not enough simply to talk about it: one must demonstrate that it is possible to do something about it.

5. Direct action is alienating.
On the contrary, many people who find traditional party politics alienating are inspired and motivated by direct action. Different people find different approaches fulfilling; a movement that is to be broad-based must include a wide range of options. Sometimes people who share the goals of those who practice direct action while objecting to their means spend all their energy decrying an action that has been carried out. In doing so, they snatch defeat from the jaws of victory: they would do better to seize the opportunity to focus all attention on the issues raised by the action.

6. People who practice direct action should work through the established political channels instead.

Many people who practice direct action also work within the system. A commitment to making use of every institutional means of solving problems does not necessarily preclude an equal commitment to picking up where such means leave off.

7. Direct action is exclusive.
Some forms of direct action are not open to all, but this does not necessarily mean they are without worth. Everyone has different preferences and capabilities, and should be free to act according to them. The important question is how the differing approaches of individuals and groups that share the same long-term goals can be integrated in such a way that they complement each other.

8. Direct action is cowardly.
This accusation is almost always made by those who have the privilege of speaking and acting in public without fearing repercussions: that is to say, those who have power in this society, and those who obediently accept their power. Should the heroes of the French Resistance have demonstrated their courage and accountability by acting against the Nazi occupying army in the full light of day, thus dooming themselves to defeat? For that matter, in a nation increasingly terrorized by police and federal surveillance of just about everyone, is it any wonder that those who express dissent might want to protect their privacy while doing so?

9. Direct action is practiced only by college students/privileged rich kids/desperate poor people/etc.
This allegation is almost always made without reference to concrete facts, as a smear. In fact, direct action is and long has been practiced in a variety of forms by people of all walks of life. The only possible exception to this would be members of the wealthiest and most powerful classes, who have no need to practice any kind of illegal or controversial action because, as if by coincidence, the established political channels are perfectly suited to their needs.

10. Direct action is the work of agents provocateurs.
This is another speculation generally made from a distance, without concrete evidence. To allege that direct action is always the work of police agent provocateurs is disempowering: it rules out the possibility that activists could do such things themselves, overestimating the powers of police intelligence and reinforcing the illusion that the State is omnipotent. Likewise, it preemptively dismisses the value and reality of a diversity of tactics. When people feel entitled to make unfounded claims that every tactic of which they disapprove is a police provocation, this obstructs the very possibility of constructive dialogue about appropriate tactics.

11. Direct action is dangerous and can have negative repercussions for others.
Direct action can be dangerous in a repressive political climate, and it is important that those who practice it make every effort not to endanger others. This is not necessarily an objection to it, however–on the contrary, when it becomes dangerous to act outside established political channels, it becomes all the more important to do so. Authorities may use direct actions as excuses to terrorize innocents, as Hitler did when the Reichstag was set afire, but those in power are the ones who must answer for the injustices they commit in so doing, not those who oppose them. Likewise, though people who practice direct action may indeed run risks, in the face of an insufferable injustice it can be more dangerous and irresponsible to leave it uncontested.

12. Direct action never accomplishes anything.
Every effective political movement throughout history, from the struggle for the eight hour workday to the fight for women’s suffrage, has made use of some form of direct action. Direct action can complement other forms of political activity in a variety of ways. If nothing else, it highlights the necessity for institutional reforms, giving those who push for them more bargaining chips; but it can go beyond this supporting role to suggest the possibility of an entirely different organization of human life, in which power is distributed equally and all people have an equal and direct say in all matters that affect them.

Via the Infoshop

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