“THE New Digital Age” is a startlingly clear and provocative blueprint for technocratic imperialism, from two of its leading witch doctors, Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen, who construct a new idiom for United States global power in the 21st century. This idiom reflects the ever closer union between the State Department and Silicon Valley, as personified by Mr. Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google, and Mr. Cohen, a former adviser to Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton who is now director of Google Ideas.
The authors met in occupied Baghdad in 2009, when the book was conceived. Strolling among the ruins, the two became excited that consumer technology was transforming a society flattened by United States military occupation. They decided the tech industry could be a powerful agent of American foreign policy.
The book proselytizes the role of technology in reshaping the world’s people and nations into likenesses of the world’s dominant superpower, whether they want to be reshaped or not. The prose is terse, the argument confident and the wisdom — banal. But this isn’t a book designed to be read. It is a major declaration designed to foster alliances.
“The New Digital Age” is, beyond anything else, an attempt by Google to position itself as America’s geopolitical visionary — the one company that can answer the question “Where should America go?” It is not surprising that a respectable cast of the world’s most famous warmongers has been trotted out to give its stamp of approval to this enticement to Western soft power. The acknowledgments give pride of place to Henry Kissinger, who along with Tony Blair and the former C.I.A. director Michael Hayden provided advance praise for the book.
In the book the authors happily take up the white geek’s burden. A liberal sprinkling of convenient, hypothetical dark-skinned worthies appear: Congolese fisherwomen, graphic designers in Botswana, anticorruption activists in San Salvador and illiterate Masai cattle herders in the Serengeti are all obediently summoned to demonstrate the progressive properties of Google phones jacked into the informational supply chain of the Western empire.
The authors offer an expertly banalized version of tomorrow’s world: the gadgetry of decades hence is predicted to be much like what we have right now — only cooler. “Progress” is driven by the inexorable spread of American consumer technology over the surface of the earth. Already, every day, another million or so Google-run mobile devices are activated. Google will interpose itself, and hence the United States government, between the communications of every human being not in China (naughty China). Commodities just become more marvelous; young, urban professionals sleep, work and shop with greater ease and comfort; democracy is insidiously subverted by technologies of surveillance, and control is enthusiastically rebranded as “participation”; and our present world order of systematized domination, intimidation and oppression continues, unmentioned, unafflicted or only faintly perturbed.
The authors are sour about the Egyptian triumph of 2011. They dismiss the Egyptian youth witheringly, claiming that “the mix of activism and arrogance in young people is universal.” Digitally inspired mobs mean revolutions will be “easier to start” but “harder to finish.” Because of the absence of strong leaders, the result, or so Mr. Kissinger tells the authors, will be coalition governments that descend into autocracies. They say there will be “no more springs” (but China is on the ropes).
From Common Dreams: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/06/02
The Swedish riots appear to have ended, but while most of the media fumbles about to understand what happened, the answers arguably seem to have been provided 12 March, over two months before the unrest began. At that time I interviewed Paul Lappalainen, a senior Swedish civil servant who had run the Government’s 2005 inquiry into ‘structural discrimination’. It was a most prescient moment when he said “I prefer not seeing riots”, but warned it “seems that policymakers are not trying to avoid the conditions within which riots occur.”
Contrary to what many believe Sweden to be, while the country’s borders may indeed be open, certain ‘cultural borders’ within it are another matter, assorted reports documenting the prejudice minorities and immigrants daily live with.
What Lappalainen emphasized was a ‘structure’ of pervasive and disenfranchising discrimination, discrimination discussed in the report his 2005 inquiry provided, ‘Det blågula glashuset – strukturell diskriminering i Sverige’ (The blue/yellow glass house – structural discrimination in Sweden); by a 2007 report by the UN’s International Labour Organization, ‘Discrimination against Native Swedes of Immigrant Origin in Access to Employment’; by a 2008 report by the government’s Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention (Brå), ‘Discrimination in the criminal justice process in Sweden…The direct and indirect discrimination of individuals from a non-Swedish or other minority background’; and, in a November 2012 government report, ‘Främlingsfienden inom oss’ (The enemy of strangers within us – my own translation). Significantly, while much media is blaming disenfranchised immigrants, the poor, and their allies for the recent violence, the government’s November 2012 report noted its title was justified by the significant threat posed to vulnerable groups by the ‘many different forms of everyday racism’ which ordinary Swedes can embrace, the xenophobia many harbor. Tellingly, the report’s summary ends by observing that Swedes “must begin with ourselves” (måste börja med oss själva) in addressing this.
The fuse gets lit
Unfortunately, while there’s long been much discussion about discrimination and prejudice, there’s a Swedish expression – ‘mycket snack och lite verkstad’. It means ‘a lot of talk and little action’. However, if a powder keg sits around long enough, sooner or later the fuse gets lit.
The start of the 2011 riots in Paris’ suburbs, the Brixton riots in the UK, and virtually all of the US’s major strife dating from the 1960s, do have one factor in common – perceived police wrongdoing triggered the unrest. In Sweden, the riots began following the police killing of a man in his late sixties, reports initially suggesting he had a machete, a woman hostage, and had threatened police. Swedish papers screamed “Machetemannen” (The Machete Man), the implications being obvious, printing that the fellow had died in hospital, attempts to save him failing…but, it appears this isn’t quite right.
Continue reading at: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/06/02
From Alternet: http://www.alternet.org/activism/how-protest-corporate-power
The broad movement for peace and social, economic and environmental justice is here and you should be part of it.
Two years ago, we announced October2011.org with an article called “ History is Knocking.” We asked if the time might be right for a larger mass of people to rise up and occupy public space to challenge the corporate control of our government, a corrupt economy and US militarism. We were not certain what the answer would be, but six months later hundreds of thousands of you did rise up in Occupy encampments across the nation. Many more were inspired by the massive mobilizations to join the work on a broad variety of injustices in their communities.
Today we know that history is no longer knocking. History has opened the door and is standing in front of us. The broad movement for peace and social, economic and environmental justice is here and you should be part of it.
Today we announce the launch of a new platform to connect and build that mass popular resistance that is growing in the US, PopularResistance.org. It provides daily movement news and resources to keep you informed about actions and events and to provide you with tools for organizing in your community (See for example these two new Occucards on Corporate Media and Public Banking).
The vision of PopularResistance.org is to end the rule of money so that people’s needs and the protection of the planet come before corporate profits. The website puts forward a strategic framework to achieve this goal and links to 200 tactics that have proven effective – our two track philosophy is to protest and build, i.e. stop the machine and create a new world. This process will build a mass movement, first by creating solidarity among the movements currently working for transformative change; and, second by pulling key groups of people to the movement, thereby weakening the power structure.
To make this next phase effective, we need you to be involved in PopularResistance.org. We ask you to share this article with people in your community, people you work with across the country and people who you think should be involved; share it on Twitter, Facebook and other social networks. We want this site to be the movement’s site and encourage you to use it: submit your projects to the calendar, send us your ideas, and share articles and tools. Many have already joined as contributors and more are being added.
Continue reading at: http://www.alternet.org/activism/how-protest-corporate-power
From Common Dreams: http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/06/01-2
Published on Saturday, June 1, 2013 by Common Dreams
Europe’s anti-austerity movement was flexing its muscles again on Saturday as tens of thousands joined street protests in Germany, Spain, Portugal, Greece, and elsewhere to voice their opposition and anger at the ongoing and worsening economic crisis on the continent.
Released this week, official statistics showed the EU has broken unemployment records, with the continent’s unemployment rate at over 12 prercent and nearly 1 out of every 4 youth jobless. Such statistics, say demonstrators, shows the ineffectiveness of the dominant economy policies over the last several years.
In Frankfurt, Germany a second straight day of protest was targeted at the European Central Bank, one of the three institutions in Europe known collectively as “the Troika” which also includes the European Commission and the International Monetary Fund. Under their authority, the struggling national economies of Europe have been forced to slash public budgets, cut services, reduce pensions and benefit plans, and privatize public entities like hospitals, energy companies, and transportation
On Friday, protesters under the banner of “Blockupy Frankfurt‘ shut down the ECB from “business as usual” by surrounding the institution’s headquarters and blockading the entrances. Following that, the group said many more thousands had joined for Saturday’s march, with more than 20,000 reportedly attending.
The Blockupy activists say that even though Germany is portrayed as Europe’s strongest economy, the reality is that many Germans object to the mistaken and heavy-handed role its country has played in the ongoing crisis in Europe.
Calling its government a “profiteer of crisis,” the group said in a statement, it was the labor market reforms pushed through in Germany in 2004, including “slashing long fought-for workers’ rights and securities” that is now serving “as the model for the neoliberal reforms that the German government and European financial elites try to push in all of Europe.”
Continue reading at: http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/06/01-2
Studies show that bike lanes make streets safer for everyone and are better for business.
By Jay Walljasper
May 30, 2013
Former New York mayor Ed Koch envisioned bicycles as vehicles for the future. In 1980, he created experimental bike lanes on 6th and 7th avenues in Manhattan where riders were protected from speeding traffic by asphalt barriers. It was unlike anything most Americans had ever seen, and some people roared their disapproval. Within weeks, the bike lanes were gone.
Twenty-seven years later, New York mayor Michael Bloomberg and his transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan saw the growing ranks of bicyclists on the streets as a key component of 21st-century transportation, and began building protected bike lanes in Manhattan and Brooklyn. They had studied the success of similar projects in Copenhagen and the Netherlands, noting how to make projects more efficient and aesthetically pleasing.
These “green lanes” and pedestrian plazas were an immediate hit, but they ignited a noisy reaction from a small group of well-connected people unhappy about projects in their neighborhoods, including Bloomberg’s former transportation commissioner Iris Weinshall (who happens to be married to Senator Chuck Schumer). Lawsuits were filed while New York Post and Daily News columnists thundered about the inconvenience to motorists and supposed dangers to pedestrians. New York magazine declared the situation a “Bikelash” on its cover.
Pressure mounted on Bloomberg to sack Sadik-Khan and rip out the green lanes. Anthony Weiner, then a Queens congressman and mayoral hopeful, told Bloomberg he would spend his first year as mayor attending “a bunch of ribbon cuttings tearing out your [expletive] bike lanes.” Bicyclists everywhere braced themselves for a setback, which would once again slow progress toward safer streets in New York and around the continent.
Now two years later, Sadik-Khan is still very much the commissioner, despite the fact that the lawsuit is still in the works. Bike lanes continue appearing across the city, including 11.3 new miles of green lanes last year alone, and New York City has launched the most ambitious bike-share program in U.S. history.
Two-thirds of New Yorkers call bike lanes a good idea in the most recent New York Times poll, compared to only 27 percent who oppose them. All of the major candidates to replace Bloomberg as mayor expressed support for bicycling at a recent forum, notes Paul Steely White, executive director of the local group Transportation Alternatives.
May 31, 2013
WASHINGTON — The legal watchdogs at the Federal Trade Commission have been trying to police the proliferating — and often false — claims in recent years that products are “green” or “environmentally friendly.”
The agency recently brought cases against Amazon.com, Macy’s and Sears, Roebuck & Company for selling clothing purportedly made of bamboo fiber that was really fashioned from rayon, a decidedly ungreen material. It cracked down on the paint manufacturers Sherwin-Williams and PPG Industries for saying that some of their products did not produce hazardous fumes. It shut down an online firm selling “tested green” certifications for products that were neither tested nor green.
“This is certainly one of our priorities,” said James A. Kohm, the associate director of the trade commission’s enforcement division. “We’ll bring a case where we need to make a point, where consumers are getting hurt the most.”
This week, two environmental groups, ForestEthics and Greenpeace, filed a complaint with the trade commission claiming that an organization that certifies paper and other forest products as “green” is a front group for the timber industry and violates the agency’s new standards for such claims. They call it a classic case of falsely claiming that a product or service is somehow more environmentally friendly or sustainable than similar products.
ForestEthics and Greenpeace charge that the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, or S.F.I., a group originally formed by big timber companies, defrauds the public by certifying that products carrying its label are harvested using only environmentally responsible practices. The environmental groups say that some of the companies using the S.F.I. label engage in damaging forestry methods like clear-cutting, overusing pesticides and destroying habitats or rare species.
The groups claim that the certification panel, far from being independent of the industry it supposedly oversees, as required by F.T.C. guidelines, is in fact a body created by and dominated by timber companies. S.F.I. officials deny the allegations.
By Mike Ludwig
Thursday, 30 May 2013
Protests are raging outside of a biotechnology conference in Asheville, North Carolina, where demonstrators are voicing opposition to proposals to grow genetically engineered eucalyptus trees across the southeastern United States.
Hundreds of demonstrators marched outside the Tree Biotechnology 2013 conference on Tuesday, and organizers said the protest was the largest against genetically engineered trees yet. On Monday, two Asheville residents were arrested after disrupting a presentation at the conference, according to a release from activist groups.
The protests come just days after an estimated 2 million people joined protests against biotech giant Monsanto in countries across the world.
Two major sponsors of the biotechnology conference in Asheville, FuturaGene and ArborGen, have proposed to introduce genetically engineered eucalyptus trees for commercial cultivation in the United States and Brazil. The trees would be burned as a source of biomass energy.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is currently considering a petition to allow the planting of ArborGen’s eucalyptus trees, which are genetically engineered to tolerate freezing temperatures so the trees can be grown in the southeastern US and other climates that can be too cold for normal eucalyptus.
Opponents say the tropical, genetically altered trees would threaten native species and turn forests into mono-crop fuel generators.
“ArborGen is genetically engineering non-native eucalyptus trees to be freeze tolerant to feed ethanol refineries and biomass burners under the umbrella of climate mitigation,” said Anne Petermann, executive director of Global Justice Ecology Project. “They want to convert biodiverse and carbon-rich forests into vast plantations of invasive, flammable and water-draining eucalyptus trees. This will be a disaster for the climate.”
Shockwaves are being felt across the world’s wheat markets following the first-ever discovery of unauthorised genetically engineered wheat growing on a US farm – a development that gives further proof that GE crops cannot be controlled.
The discovery of Monsanto’s GE wheat, confirmed by US authorities, sparked alarm among Washington’s trading nations, pushed wheat prices lower and is threatening US exports. It should not be seen, however, as totally unexpected.
The GE wheat is a herbicide tolerant wheat (probably MON 71800) that Monsanto tested in fields across 16 states between 1998 and 2005. The wheat was never authorised and never commercialised because Monsanto withdrew its application in May 2004 following massive global opposition from farmers, consumers and environmentalists.
So what happened between the last field tests in 2005 and the announcement of a contamination in a Oregon eight years later? How did it get there? Who is responsible? Who will pay for the decontamination? Is the contamination limited to one farmer’s field in Oregon or is it only the tip of the iceberg of a wider problem? Will Canada, where the GE wheat was also tested, be affected by the contamination?
About 90% of Oregon wheat production is exported mainly to Asian countries. This contamination will hit commodity trade as more Asian governments start testing for GE contamination and require guarantees from the US (and possibly from Canada) that wheat imports are not contaminated with this GE wheat. According to figures from the US Wheat Associates, out of the 11.4 million tonnes of wheat exported by Oregon, 50% is sold to East Asia (China, Japan, South Korea), 28% to South East Asia, 9% to Latin America and 9% to the Middle east.
From Systematic Capital: http://www.systemiccapital.com/imperialism-ravishes-sumatran-rainforest-nears-total-destruction/
June 2, 2013
In only a few years, logging and agribusiness have cut Indonesia’s vast rainforest by half. The government has renewed a moratorium on deforestation but it may already be too late for the endangered animals – and for the people whose lives lie in ruin
Our small plane had been flying low over Sumatra for three hours but all we had seen was an industrial landscape of palm and acacia trees stretching 30 miles in every direction. A haze of blue smoke from newly cleared land drifted eastward over giant plantations. Long drainage canals dug through equatorial swamps dissected the land. The only sign of life was excavators loading trees on to barges to take to pulp mills.
The end is in sight for the great forests of Sumatra and Borneo and the animals and people who depend on them. Thirty years ago the world’s third- and sixth-largest islands were full of tigers, elephants, rhinos, orangutan and exotic birds and plants but in a frenzy of development they have been trashed in a single generation by global agribusiness and pulp and paper industries.
Their plantations supply Britain and the world with toilet paper, biofuels and vegetable oil to make everyday foods such as margarine, cream cheese and chocolate, but distraught scientists and environmental groups this week warn that one of the 21st century’s greatest ecological disasters is rapidly unfolding.
Official figures show more than half of Indonesia‘s rainforest, the third-largest swath in the world, has been felled in a few years and permission has been granted to convert up to 70% of what remains into palm or acacia plantations. The government last week renewed a moratorium on the felling of rainforest, but nearly a million hectares are still being cut each year and the last pristine areas, in provinces such as Ache and Papua, are now prime targets for giant logging, palm and mining companies.
The toll on wildlife across an area nearly the size of Europe is vast, say scientists who warn that many of Indonesia’s species could be extinct in the wild within 20-30 years. Orangutan numbers are in precipitous decline, only 250-400 tigers remain and fewer than 100 rhino are left in the forests, said the International Union for Conservation of Nature.