Punditman alive and well

Punditman says...

Rumours of Punditman's demise are highly overstated. Punditman has simply been busy with matters other than blogging. That's what happens on this planet. Busy humans keep getting busier, or so it seems. Let me count the ways humans get busy: trying to eke out an existence is a big one. Others get busy being warmongers, or corporate polluters, or dedicated followers of fashion, or making money, or being wage slaves, or making predictions, or making last call, or just being a busy bee-nosy nelly-youtube-twitter-facebooker. You Twit-Face.

What happens is no one is left to save the planet from the busy human bees! Because we humans North Americans have become too busily self absorbed to even save ourselves from destroying our own social fabric. Too busy to even write more than 140 characters.

So knock yerself out if you have anything remotely intelligent to say about Japan's nuclear crisis, Libya, how the Leafs are going to miss the playoffs for the 6th straight year despite an impressive home stretch or why Punditman should continue to exist.

Didn't think so. Slackers. Surfers. Googlers - the lot of you. Very few who have ever landed on these hallowed pages have ever had much to say in the comments - on a blog punditman and peacenik have slaved over for years. Years!

Sour grapes aside, punditman is taking a hiatus. It could be permanent. Peacenik is just burned out, period. Peacenik also quit, or was fired (not sure which).

Punditman is now on Twitter under the wayplanet identity. It's the busy thing to do. All the cool kids with no attention spans are on Twitter, so p-man has taken it for a test drive. Not sure if the big Tweet is anything other than texting on steroids. It could just be another narcisistic waste of time.

Meanwhile, peacenik insisted on a buy out package consisting of a beer and a bag of pucks. We settled for a puck and a bag of beer.

Punditman says...

さようなら Sayounara!

Punditman Blog
R.I.P ???



Canadian aid agencies, under the banner of the HUMANITARIAN COALITION, are urging Canadians to support the relief efforts in Japan after a massive 8.9 magnitude earthquake, the largest in the nation’s recorded history, and tsunami has devastated the region. Recent reports suggest that thousands are among the dead after the quake and a resulting tsunami, which reached a height of up to 10 metres in some areas.

The HUMANITARIAN COALITION is working together with our partners in Japan and will provide funds to help where the Japanese government indicates that help is most needed While the Japanese government is extremely well prepared for such situations, we are stepping up to help and urge Canadians to do the same.

To donate to THE HUMANITARIAN COALITION, Canadians can log onto www.together.ca or send donations to THE HUMANITARIAN COALITION, P.O. Box 7023, Ottawa, ON, K1L 5A0.


Are Violent Video Games Preparing Kids For The Apocalypse? (Funny!)

punditman says...

This is hilarious, but sad at the same time. I believe Ronald Reagan once said something to the effect that he liked arcade video games because they prepared young boys to become fighter pilots. It's been downhill ever since. Yep, we've come a long way since Pac-Man.

Punditman would like to see a video game in which the object is to create a better future rather than just blow stuff up. Is that too much to ask of these manufacturers? Punditman has always maintained there's brainwashin' in those darn games. A little sarcasm brings the point home:


Keiser Report: Taste of Freedom

punditman says...Punditman is not surprised to learn that Tony Blair went camping with Gadhafi or that Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi let the despicable dictator and Lockerbie bomb plotter pitch his tent in the heart of Rome or that Libya has invested in Italian companies including Fiat SpA and UniCredit SpA and the Juventus soccer team. Or any other number of crimes committed in West in the name of cheap oil.

Punditman is also not surprised when he overhears redneck ignoramus's down at the coffee shop calling for an attack on Libya. These people don't know jack about what and who has enabled this despot. They just think the US is the world cop who needs to act in the name of "freedom" now and then and go blow up Arabs whenever they want. And they cheer every time. That's because these people read the Toronto Sun. The Sun is not a great Canadian newspaper. It stinks.

You can learn about all the corruption and cronyism behind today's headlines, including the Libyan crisis by listening to this Keiser report. If you are a redneck ignoramus, you may learn something:


Worshipping a deceased Celebrity Prez

punditman says...What's with all this Ronald Reagan post mortem worship? It's been going on for years but I guess a commemorative 100th birthday gives the media another excuse for celebrity worship, even for the deceased. For those who recall his presidency without rose coloured glasses, he certainly didn't enjoy the omnipotent popularity that he's now afforded.  Of course there were and always are those who are naively insulated from the powers that be. The 1980s song by Timbuk 3, The future's so bright, I gotta wear shades, apparently had many at the time believing it was an upbeat ditty instead of a sarcastic anti-nuke song.

It's amazing where hindsight and willful blindness will take you. He didn't screw up as badly as Bush II so he gets God-like status? His crimes were more hidden than others so everyone should ignore them? Punditman wrote about Reagan's actual legacy and how it has seeped into Canadian culture here.

In this piece, Gerry Caplan similarly sums up the Gipper's accomplishments and the price paid for those on the receiving end. Do all Americans really think Ronald Reagan was a demigod? Do they? Do Canadians? Punditman ponders.


Wake Me, Shake Me

Jim Kunstler is giving Saudi Arabia three weeks before it blows. Then $10 a gallon diesel fuel will end civilization as it is presently known. Peacenik says plant your garden now. And tune up your bicycle. Time for communities to get their acts together because working together is the only way to survive as we go forward into the...ah...future.

A quickening of events pulses through lands where for so long time stood still, and the oil - what's left of it - lies locked for the moment beneath hot sands - woe upon all ye soccer moms! - while Colonel Gadhafi ponders the Mussolini option - that is, to be hoisted up a lamp-post on a high-C piano wire until his head bursts like a rotten pomegranate. Then the good folk of Libya can fight amongst themselves for the swag, loot, and ka-chingling oil revenues he left behind. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton scowls on the sidelines knowing how bad it would look if US marines actually hit the shores of Tripoli (and perhaps how fruitless it might turn out to be). And Italian grandmothers across the Mediterranean wonder why there's no gas to fire up the orecchiette con cime di rapa.
The fluxes of springtime run cruelly across the sands of Araby, clear into Persia where the ayatollahs' vizeers toy with uranium centrifuges and thirty million young people wonder how long they will allow bearded ignoramuses to tell them how to pull their pants on in the morning. Along about now, I wouldn't feel secure standing next to somebody lighting a cigarette in that part of the world.
Pretty soon we're going to find out just how fragile things are in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, there at the heart of things oily. Last week, King Abdullah wobbled out of his intensive care unit to spread a little surplus cash around the surging population, but let's remember that their share of the oil "welfare" has been going down steadily in recent years - a simple matter of numbers really. Putting aside even the common folk, a thousand princes from dozens of different tribes pace restively in the background awaiting the struggle that must follow King Abdullah's overdue transmigration to the farther shore. All along the western coast of the Persian Gulf and down toward the Horn of Africa, dark forces stir. Fuses sputter in Kingdoms from Bahrain to the Yemen.

Read on...

10 Ways Scott Walker Is Selling Out His Constituents to Corporations

Peacenik read this list of stuff the GOP is doing in Wisconsin and Peacenik realized that there is no common ground. All 10 of these GOP actions are insane. You cannot convince Peacenik otherwise. And Peacenik is certain that you cannot convince Scott Walker that his actions are crazy. Clean drinking water is too much of a burden on who? So in the misguided belief that only in taking actions like the 10 listed here, can the economy be cured and employment return, the GOP is taking society back to a time that is forgotten. Back to the dark ages. What would you do if you lived in Wisconsin. In Ontario, what would you do if the government passed a law that created the likelihood that the Walkerton tragedy would replay itself? Peacenik is not even sure that the regulation of drinking water in Ontario is adequate after Walkerton. What do you do when the government turns its back on the people and acts like there is no common good? Watch Wisconsin. The future is there.

Walker’s assault on public employees is only one part of a larger political program that aims to give corporations free reign in the state.

As the standoff between the Main Street Movement and Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) continues for the twelfth day, much of the media coverage — and anger — from both sides has focused on Walker’s efforts to strip Wisconsin public workers of their right to collective bargaining. But Walker’s assault on public employees is only one part of a larger political program that aims to give corporations free reign in the state while dismantling the healthcare programs, environmental regulations, and good government laws that protect Wisconsin’s middle and working class. These lesser known proposals in the 144-page bill reveal how radical Walker’s plan actually is:

1. ELIMINATING MEDICAID: The Budget Repair Bill includes a little-known provision that would put complete control of the state’s Medicaid program, known as BadgerCare, in the hands of the state’s ultra-conservative Health and Human Services Secretary Dennis Smith. Smith would have the authority to “to override state Medicaid laws as [he] sees fit and institute sweeping changes” including reducing benefits and limiting eligibility. Ironically, during the 1990s it was Republicans, especially former Gov. and Bush HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson, who helped develop BadgerCare into one of the country’s most innovative and generous Medicaid programs. A decade later, a new generation of radical Republicans is hoping to destroy one of Wisconsin’s “success stories.”

Read on...


Chomsky: Only a Massive Uprising Will Change Our Politics

Are there enough progressives to stage a mass uprising in the U.S.A? Wisconsin seems to be the test. And in Wisconsin a majority of the citizens apparently elected a Republican/Tea Party dominated legislature. The eviseration of the labour movement in Wisconsin, and in your state or province might just be done democratically. That one percent of the U.S. that controls over 99 percent of the wealth, seems to have convinced the 99 percent that that is a normal and just state of affairs. Is this the last gasp of the labour movement in the U.S. (and soon in Canada), or is it the beginning of a re-birth. Peacenik is not feeling good about what is going down in Wisconsin. Editorials about Tea Party over-reach are not going to get it done. This is the pitch fork moment. But wait, who is on Dancing with The Stars. And did J-Lo really cry on American Idol this week. Is Charlie Sheen finished? Will Lindsay go to jail?

Chomsky: "What has to be done is what's happening in Madison, or Tahrir Square. If there's mass popular opposition, any political leader is going to have to respond.

NOAM CHOMSKY: We were talking about unions before. Union busting is criminal activity by the government, because they’re saying, "You can go ahead and do it; we’re not going to apply the laws," effectively. And the COINTELPRO, which you mentioned, is actually the worst systematic and extended violation of basic civil rights by the federal government. It maybe compares with Wilson’s Red Scare. But COINTELPRO went on from the late ’50 right through all of the ’60s; it finally ended, at least theoretically ended, when the courts terminated it in the early ’70s. And it was serious.

It started, as is everything, going after the Communist Party, then the Puerto Rican Independence Party. Then it extended—the women’s movement, the New Left, but particularly black nationalists. And it ended up—didn’t end up, but one of the events was a straight Gestapo-style assassination of two black organizers, Fred Hampton and Mark Clark, literally. The FBI set up the assassination. The Chicago police actually carried it out, broke into the apartment at 4:00 in the morning and murdered them. Fake information that came from the FBI about arms stores and so on. There was almost nothing about it. In fact, the information about this, remarkably, was released at about the same time as Watergate. I mean, as compared with this, Watergate was a tea party. There was nothing, you know?

Read on...


WikiLeaks’ Assange can be extradited to Sweden: judge

Supporters of the founder of WikiLeaks Julian Assange hold placards as they wait for his arrival for his extradition hearing Feb. 24.

Has Sweden offered any assurances that Julian Assange will not be extradited to the U.S.A? Sweden has already shown itself to be a big secret supporter of U.S. foreign policy. And now for the first time someone has been extradited for sex charges in the European Union. Peacenik doesn't trust Sweden in this matter, nor Britain, nor the U.S.A. Peacenik hopes Julian Assange will have his own security. Meanwhile has anyone noticed a lack of news from Wikileaks. The efforts to marginalize and intimidate and bankrupt Wikileaks seem to be having an effect. Peacenik says release the Doomsday File now. Lets see the Bank of America documents. And free Julian Assange.

Supporters of the founder of WikiLeaks Julian Assange hold placards as they wait for his arrival for his extradition hearing Feb. 24.
LONDON — Julian Assange can be extradited to Sweden in a sex crimes inquiry, a British judge ruled Thursday, rejecting claims by the WikiLeaks founder that he would not face a fair trial there. Assange's lawyer said he would appeal.
Judge Howard Riddle said the allegations of rape and sexual molestation by two women against Assange meet the definition of extraditable offenses and said the Swedish warrant had been properly issued and was valid.
Assange, 39, a key figure in the release of tens of thousands of secret U.S. government and military documents, has been out on bail during the extradition fight. He has seven days to appeal the ruling in British courts.
After hearing three days of testimony this month, Riddle concluded “there is simply no reason to believe there has been a mistake” about the European Arrest Warrant issued by Swedish authorities.

Read on...


This is my farm: From the city to the country and back again

Peacenik has been so busy trying to follow and make sense out of all the revolutions and protests in the world that Peacenik hasn't written much about urban farming and sustainability lately. But with bank runs in Korea, riots in Wisconsin and Tripoli, food shortages all over the world, and Peacenik's "empty storeshelves" google alert filling Peacenik's inbox, it may be time to start thinking about food. And how to get it during a state of anarchy, or when the supply chain collapses due to oil shortages, crop shortages (winter storm destroyed usual tomato crop), or total economic collapse. This article is a celebration of Urban Homesteading Day, which was on Monday. Peacnenik has said many times that Peacenik feels fortunate to have a small garden on Peacenik's balcony, and window sills. And Peacneik feels fortunate to live near a large Amish community in Ontario. Peacenik fears Peacenik is going to need both in the near future.

by Sharon Astyk

Note: You've got to give the Dervaes' some credit - their asshattery has inspired a wholel lot of focus on urban sustainable agriculture, homesteading and making a good life in the city! Today is "Urban Homesteading Day" and in its honor, here are some meditations on the relationships we need between city homesteaders and farmers, country homesteaders and farmers and everyone in between.

Urbanization is the biggest trend in history. For the first time, more human beings live in cities than in the country. More than 50,000 farmers worldwide leave their land or are driven off of it every single day, most of them moving to cities, often to slum dwellings on the outskirts of growing megacities.

In each family that makes this journey, there will be a recognizable pattern that emerges from that shift in culture.. The first generation who moves from the farm to the city remains agricultural in mindset and practice. They will never fully assimilate into urban life, but will be the grandparents who embarass their children by picking edible plants from the side of the road and giving nutritious soups instead of vitamins.

Their children will want to fit into the urban life. They will disdain and reject the skills of their parents, in many cases, or at best view what their parents know as irrelevant. This second generation recognizes that what the first generation knew is now gone, and wants it as far out of the way as possible. The second generation will be taught how to pick and use those plants, but they will see such knowledge as old fashioned, embarassing or even "dirty."

Then comes the third generation removed from the land. They may have eaten grandmother's soup, or seen her pick the greens, but they will also have absorbed their parent's rejection of these things - at least at first. And only when they are grown will the grandchildren begin to see the value of what their grandparents knew, and to try and recreate it a little. If they are fortunate, they will have noticed their lack before the first generation is gone. If not, they will try and recreate what is lost as best they can, knowing that it is never the same as the first. They will start searching for the echoes of their agrarian past everywhere, and begin trying to remake the world from echoes, growing fainter every year.

Read on...


Wisconsin's Political Crisis Is A Good Deal More Serious Than Its Fiscal Crisis

Peacenik thinks that if public sector collective bargaining can be destroyed in Wisconsin, then public sector collective bargaining can be destroyed anywhere in North America, including Canada. There are lots of movies about the development of unions in North America. Watch one. It was a tough battle. And now after years of having the right to bargain collectively, the right to join a union, and the right to worker safety laws, it is now all at risk. Some wingnut in Missouri is even trying to ban child labour laws. And who is standing up to defend worker rights. Is Obama? Is Bill Clinton? Is Hillary? A lot of common people are, along with the captain of the Green Bay Packers. If the governor of Wisconsin wins this battle, the United States of America will make Libya look like a tea party. Not today. Maybe not tomorrow. But sooner than anyone wants. Collective bargaining is part of the fabric of society. Rip it apart, and watch out.

MADISON - Wisconsin’s Legislative Fiscal Bureau was created in 1968 by a Republican governor, Warren Knowles, and a Republican-controlled state legislature.

The purpose was to establish a non-partisan agency that would provide honest fiscal analysis and information for Wisconsin Legislators. Across more than four decades, the bureau has done just that, earning the respect of legislators from both parties, including a young Scott Walker, who frequently cited the bureau when he served in the state Assembly.

Less than a month ago, a Fiscal Bureau memo reported that the state had a $121.4 million surplus through the remainder of the current fiscal year.

That is a fact that is now under attack by Governor Walker, who the conservative publication Human Events refers to as the “new hero” of the Republican right. Walker argues-- as Republicans and Democrats have acknowledged for some time -- that the state’s fiscal house is not in order and that unsettled issues relating to a payment due Minnesota after the canceling of a tax agreement, as well as rising health care and prison costs, could well create a shortfall before the end of the year.

So it is possible that Wisconsin might need a budget repair bill of the sort Walker has proposed before the fiscal year is finished, as it has in many years.

Read on...


Uncommon Wisdom at the Convenience Store

punditman says..
Punditman recently learned that convenience store owners everywhere toss out more old newspapers than ever before because apparently nobody reads anymore.

Punditman always knew that news industry circulation numbers were faked but the whole thing has become laughable. Call it the Twitterization of the public mind, but surely publishing newsprint is one dying industry. Saves trees anyway.

In any case, contributory negligent deforestation occurs whenever we decide to trade in our strained, screen-reading eyes, for the relaxing and tactile experience one can only achieve through the purchase of a morning newspaper composed of dead trees.

Punditman's local variety store is owned by Afghan Canadians and recently passed hands to relatives or family friends (Punditman is not exactly sure). In his short conversations, Punditman has always found these folks have an uncommon sense of humanity and social justice. No doubt informed by the harshness of earlier life under Russian occupation, they have told Punditman that they are similarly outraged by what NATO forces have been doing to their country for the past decade. Leave the place alone, they insist.

For some reason these fine folks often feel compelled to engage Punditman in a little tete-a-tete. And my friendly shopkeepers have an uncanny way of getting straight to the point— be it sports, business, or world politcs.

As it happened, Punditman walked in yesterday bleary and sleep-deprived as a result of a restless night. Thankfully, Punditman's psyche was abruptly jolted into cognition when the store owner asked Punditman what was going on in Libya. Punditman said there were some protests and riots and he heard on the radio yesterday that some people had been killed. Punditman forgot the name of one of the cities in Libya (Benghazi), where these things were happening. But Punditman did say that he thought the Libyans were emulating what was happening in the rest of the Arab world. The shopkeeper agreed that the Arab world was exploding and that it needs to change and that in fact the whole world needed to change (waving his hands). Punditman agreed (waving Punditman's hands).

As an example, the shopkeeper said that let's say he made 100k and Punditman made 20k, well that it's not right and that has to change, he proclaimed. Was this guy reading Punditman's mind? Punditman finds the idea of a guaranteed annual income a no-brainer as have many big wigs throughout history and though it is gaining traction across the political spectrum, entrenched power apparently doesn't agree. So Punditman nodded again. So there you have it: a straightforward treatise on wealth redistribution from a hard working immigrant and small business owner. Such insights are sadly lacking in the minds of many second and third generation Canadians, Punditman mused. Yep, this guy had more common sense that a sauna full of PhDs. Have a redistributive evening.

PS: This reminds Punditman of Johnny Cash:

Well, we're doin' mighty fine, I do suppose,
In our streak of lightnin' cars and fancy clothes,
But just so we're reminded of the ones who are held back,
Up front there ought 'a be a Man In Black.

I wear it for the sick and lonely old,
For the reckless ones whose bad trip left them cold,
I wear the black in mournin' for the lives that could have been,
Each week we lose a hundred fine young men.

And, I wear it for the thousands who have died,
Believen' that the Lord was on their side,
I wear it for another hundred thousand who have died,
Believen' that we all were on their side.

Well, there's things that never will be right I know,
And things need changin' everywhere you go,
But 'til we start to make a move to make a few things right,
You'll never see me wear a suit of white.

See the whole video back here.


Radical States: GOP Forcing Their Nightmarish Right-Wing Vision on People Who Elected Them

The scary thing is that these people are getting elected in the first place. The U.S.A. is a very sick place, Culturally, politically and economically. And it may take more that some protesting to cure it. And Canada may not be much better off. Tea Bagger Ford got elected mayor of Canada's biggest city. Ford has already declared war on the cities unions. Can Canada's economy improve without the U.S. economy improving? Peacenik doesn't think so. If Wisconsin can become Egypt, can Guelph become Egypt too. Peacenik thinks so.

When President Obama took office amidst the worst recession in three generations, he immediately focused his energy on enacting a comprehensive plan to revive the nation's economy. Newly elected Republicans, however, have interpreted their temporary rise to power in an entirely different way. Where Obama saw an immediate need to grow the nation's economy, GOP leaders are seizing their moment to force longstanding GOP fantasies upon the people they govern. Several GOP-led states are pushing plans to strip state workers of their collective bargaining rights. Twelve states are considering unconstitutional bills "nullifying" the Affordable Care Act. Arizona Republicans are lining up behind a plan to unconstitutionally strip citizenship from millions of Americans. New Hampshire Republicans have returned to the GOP's favorite pastime of denying gay Americans their constitutional rights. Given the opportunity to lead, far-right politicians have decided instead to ignore the nation's needs and pursue their own narrow, unpopular ideological vendettas.

Read on...

"What's Disgusting? Union Busting!" Chant Wisconsin Crowds That Swell to 30,000; Key GOP Legislators Waver

This is beginning to look a lot like Egypt. Peacenik knows some rightwing whacko first suggested this but that doesn't mean it is necessarily untrue. Or that there is something wrong with comparing a mass protest in Wisconsin to a mass protest in Egypt. Protests are going to be a way of life around the world very soon. The good news is that the protesters in Wisconsin are not being tasered, and shot at with rubber bullets. This is a beginning in Wisconsin. Regular people are standing up to Tea Party bullies. It is a good beginning.

by John Nichols

"I have never been prouder of our movement than I am at this moment," shouted Wisconsin AFL-CIO President Phil Neuenfeldt, as he surveyed the crowds of union members and their supporters that surged around the state Capitol and into the streets of Madison Wednesday, literally closing the downtown as tens of thousands of Wisconsinites protested their Republican governor’s attempt to strip public employee unions of their collective bargaining rights.

Where Tuesday’s mid-day protests drew crowds estimated at 12,000 to 15,000, Wednesday's mid-day rally drew 30,000, according to estimates by organizers. Madison Police Chief Noble Wray, a veteran of 27 years on the city’s force, said he had has never see a protest of this size at the Capitol – and he noted that, while crowd estimates usually just measure those outside, this time the inside of the sprawling state Capitol was “packed.”
On Wednesday night, an estimated 20,000 teachers and their supporters rallied outside the Capitol and then marched into the building, filling the rotunda, stairways and hallways. Chants of "What's disgusting? Union busting!" shook the building as legislators met in committee rooms late into the night.

Read on...

Update: Chomsky weighs in.


FOX News Creates Fraudulent Video to Discredit Ron Paul

Peacenik isn't a supporter of Ron Paul. Nor is Fox News. But this example shows how blatant the media's manipulation of news is. And meanwhile the CRTC thinks having Fox News, or Fox News wannabes, is ok in Canada. You want to know why most Republicans think Obama is a Muslim? It is because of media distortion/propaganda like this. Follow the link. Watch the video.

As Paul Joseph Watson of PrisonPlanet writes:

In a shocking act of mass public deception, Fox News attempted to skew Ron Paul’s 2011 CPAC straw poll win by representing it with footage from the previous year’s CPAC event, at which Mitt Romney supporters had loudly booed the result, another example of the continuing dirty tricks campaign being waged against Paul by the establishment media.

Congressman Paul replicated his 2010 victory over Mitt Romney by defeating the former Governor of Massachusetts for a second consecutive year at the annual CPAC conference.

However, before anchor Bill Hemmer introduced a segment concerning the story, Fox News played a clip of the 2010 announcement of the poll results, during which Mitt Romney supporters had loudly booed Ron Paul’s victory, passing off last year’s footage as representative of this year’s event.

Hemmer then proceeded to state, “In the end he was the winner, probably not the reaction he was hoping for,” describing the reaction as “mixed applause and boos,” before directly asking Ron Paul if he knew who was booing him.

Read on....


A 'Dictator' Governor in Wisconsin Sets Out to Cut Wages, Slash Benefits and Destroy Public Unions

My, My, isn't the world an interesting place. While Peacenik is cheering on protesters all over the world, look what is happening in Peacenik's backyard. Organized labour is under a frontal assault all over North America. The people in Tunisia, Egypt, Iran, Syria, etc. all no longer want to be serfs. But in the good old U.S.A. the people are electing rightwing dingbats who are marching the U.S.A. quickly down the road to serfdom. And the serfs are loving it. God bless those patriotic tea baggers. And it isn't much better in Canada. But some of the serfs are doing ok. The publically bailed out General Motors is giving everyone a good old bonus. And Wall Street is awash with bonus money. Peacenik doesn't know what to think. Peacenik is losing track of who the good guys are and who the bad guys are. But Peacenik does know Peacnik is on the slippery slope to something.

by John Nichols

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s proposal to strip public employees of most collective bargaining rights, cut pay and gut benefits without any negotiation the most radical assault yet by the current crop of Republican governors on the rights of workers has inspired outrage in a historically progressive and pro-labor state.

With unions calling on members an allies to “fight back” against a “blatant power grab,” tensions are running so high that the governor, who took office in January, is threatening to call out the National Guard in case of industrial action by state, county and municipal employees. “Even if you don’t like unions,” says Rich Abelson, executive director of AFSCME Council 48, the union that represents Milwaukee County workers, “surely we all can agree that anti-freedom attacks that deny public employees the right to negotiate a fair contract…are outrageous and wrong.”

Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI). Walker’s proposal to strip public employees of most collective bargaining rights, cut pay and gut benefits without any negotiation the most radical assault yet by the current crop of Republican governors on the rights of workers has inspired outrage in a historically progressive and pro-labor state. (AP Photo) Even Republicans are unsettled, with a senior GOP legistator, state Senator Luther Olsen, describing the governor’s announcement a “radical” move that threatens “a lot of good working people.”

Walker never discussed ending collective bargaining during a campaign in which he promised to work across lines of partisanship and ideology to create jobs.

Instead, he has chosen to play political games.

The governor’s budget repair bill, which includes the plan to gut collective bargaining protections for public employees, does not seek to get the state’s fiscal house in order.

Read on...


Mubarak Steps Down, Ceding Power to Military

Peacenik has been trying to follow the Egypt story which has been dragging on for a while now. But Peacenik is confused. The military dictatorship of Murbarak is stepping down in favour of a military dictatorship? How is this an improvement? Why are all those people on TV so happy. Why can I never remember question marks. Until Peacenik sees who steps forth, someone who the people want, Peacenik thinks this may have been an unsuccessful revolution. Peacenik is sure the US is very comfortable with the Egyptian army being in control. Goodbye status quo. Hello status quo. Saudi Arabia is next. Whatever next means, in this case.

CAIRO — President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt resigned his post and turned over all power to the military on Friday, ending his nearly 30 years of autocratic rule and bowing to a historic popular uprising that has transformed politics in Egypt and around the Arab world.

The streets of Cairo exploded in shouts of “God is Great” moments after Mr. Mubarak’s vice president and longtime intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman, announced during evening prayers that Mr. Mubarak had passed all authority to a council of military leaders.
“Taking into consideration the difficult circumstances the country is going through, President Mohammed Hosni Mubarak has decided to leave the post of president of the republic and has tasked the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to manage the state’s affairs,” Mr. Suleiman, grave and ashen, said in a brief televised statement.

Read on...

Foreign Policy 101: Plus ca Change

punditman says...

Punditman is not sure why any student would want to study US foreign policy these days because the course could easily be completed in a couple of lectures. That is if the right prof. is lecturing. Or the student could just survey the internet for a couple of hours to get the ugly truth.

Undoubtedly these courses need to fill the time somehow (commercials are probably the next step in university lectures, just like anywhere else you venture these days outside of your already heavily mediated head space). In any case, punditman assumes these course still contain the obligatory, redundant drivel about the machinations of realists, idealists, triangular diplomacy, and other flopsam and jetsom (yawn), most of which avoids the fundamental point concerning American statecraft: namely, the essence of American foreign policy is not difficult to understand because it is based primarly on elite control, corporate profit, war-making and war-preparing and has rarely changed in substantive ways over the centuries and decades regardless of who the boogeyman is (natives, nationalists, Communists, Islamists, etc.) This goes back to the days of Mark Twain around when the US began its fateful path towards imperial power. Twain knew a thing or two about the corruptions of power and money and wasn't afraid to call it as he sees it. The new posthumous autobiography of Twain is no doubt a great read in this regard.

In more recent times, the same old pattern has emerged from country to country:  Support a dictator with money, arms and well wishes for years and years until the people finally rebel. Then preach "stability" while pretending to support people power all the while maneuvering behind the scenes to install your next puppet either overtly or covertly.

It reminds punditman of the following lyrics from "Lives in the Balance," by Jackson Browne (a great American):

And there's a shadow on the faces
Of the men who send the guns
To the wars that are fought in places
Where their business interests run

On the radio talk shows and the T.V.
You hear one thing again and again
How the U.S.A. stands for freedom
And we come to the aid of a friend

But who are the ones that we call our friends--
These governments killing their own?
Or the people who finally can't take any more
And they pick up a gun or a brick or a stone
And there are lives in the balance
There are people under fire
There are children at the cannons
And there is blood on the wire

This article by Philip Giradi, pretty much sums up Punditman's view of the whole scene unfolding in Egypt and how it relates to US foreign policy. It would be nice if the United States lived up to its rhetoric about democracy for once and stopped interfering in other people's countries and put the will of the people above that of elite interests. Then they could actually say and do the right things. Punditman is not holding punditman's breath because punditman does not want to die.


It Ain't Just Mubarak -- 7 of the Worst Dictators the U.S. Is Backing to the Hilt

Peacenik watched the Superbowl and was appalled, amused, and entertained by all the hoopla. Like the U.S. has no problems. All is well with the world. What a celebration. WOW. War criminal George Bush was in the owner's box, along with a whole bunch of other "celebrities/criminals". What other country celebrates the worst of their society? (Btw George Bush had to cancel a trip to Switzerland to avoid getting arrested for war crimes.) What other country celebrates the worst of their society? Take a look at the list of dictatorial regimes the U.S. supports below. And every other banana republic you can think of. Better than Roman circuses before the collapse. At least the Packers won.
From Saudi Arabia to Uzbekistan to Chad, the U.S. keeps some very bad autocrats in power.
Let's take a look at the other dictators from around the planet who are fortunate enough to be on Uncle Sam's good side.
1. Paul Biya, Cameroon
Biya has ruled Cameroon since winning an “election” in 1983. He was the only candidate, and did pretty well, getting 99 percent of the vote.
According to the country's Wikipedia entry, “The United States and Cameroon work together in the United Nations and a number of other multilateral organizations. While in the UN Security Council in 2002, Cameroon worked closely with the United States on a number of initiatives. The U.S. government continues to provide substantial funding for international financial institutions, such as the World Bank, IMF, and African Development Bank, that provide financial and other assistance to Cameroon.”
Amnesty International details unlawful executions, journalists being thrown in jail and a host of other nasty business.

Musings on Western Hypocrisy

punditman says...
Punditman has been busy these past few days, with, among other things, attending to some urgent family matters. Meanwhile, I am happy to see Peacenik has kept the site up-to-date. Let's hear it for Peacenik.

Punditman does not have much time to comment on the state of the world at the moment, but he will point out a few salient features of Western diplomacy and policy that have reared their hypocritical heads a little higher than usual this past little while. Namely, hypocrisy on human rights and the blatent double standard when it comes to the behaviour of "our side" versus "theirs."

Exhibit A: the terror bombing of the Moscow Domodedovo Airport. Remember that? It was all of two weeks ago, soon to be overshadowed by events in Egypt. But it was a major act of terror: at least 36 killed and 180 wounded. Wow, that's certainly newsworthy enough to have more than the tepid follow-up that Western media coverage affords it, meaning it will soon simply slip down the memory hole.

Punditman did read an article the next day in the Toronto Star that talked about how Russia needs to rethink its Caucasus policy to "come to grips with the roots of anger and frustration that have grown a crop of deadly extremists." Not only that, but the situation has become so fragmented politically that it’s not clear with whom Russia can negotiate. Funny, that has a familiar ring to it. Where has Punditman heard that before? Oh yes, in Punditman's head, that's where. Because we rarely hear any such sentiments in the mainstream media when it comes to Western foreign policy, in places like, oh, I dunno...Afghanistan? Or the whole Middle East for that matter. That's because we're on the side of the angels, and democracy, and human rights, and Israel, and all things bright and beautiful, just like we are in Egypt, which leads to Exhibit B: Have you ever seen such hypocritical drivel oozing from the cake holes of Western leaders? The Egytian eruption is a widespread popular revolt against a Western-backed dictatorship, and yet Stephen Harper and Barak Obama can't bring themselves to say without equivocation that we support the people, period. Not Mubarak ("I would not refer to him as a dictator," said Joe Biden), not a Mubarak successor groomed to support our interests, not some sort of "smooth transition," but the people. Smooth transition is code for putting into place the people we want, so they trot out all the unwarranted fears of the Muslim Brotherhood, etc. Human rights, eh?

Ditto for Israel's shameful reaction, best summed up by Anshel Pfeffer in Haaretz:
We (Israelis are) all suffering from Orientalism, not to say racism, if the sight of an entire people throwing off the yoke of tyranny and courageously demanding free elections fills us with fear rather than uplifting us, just because they’re Arabs.
Actually Noam Chomsky sums up these attitudes and the situation a  lot better than Punditman ever could. Check it out.


How to Maintain Internet Access Even If Your Government Turns It Off

It wouldn't surprise Peacenik at all if the Harper Gov't tried to set up a kill switch for the Internet. He's already allowed the CRTC to make it too expensive for some people to use. So Peacenik is going to file this article away for future reference. And Peacenik is glad Peacenik has some walkies talkies and a citizen's band radio. 10-4

This is a great companion article to the brief article I posted yesterday about the expected increasing growing civil unrest and violence worldwide that will be the fallout from Central Banks' highly inflationary fiat currency devaluation schemes. If mass civil unrest strikes a country, a government may respond by banning internet access and severely restricting information flow. To address this concern, Patrick Miller & David Daw just published an article to let you know how you can maintain your freedom of information even when your government tries to ban this right.

I've reprinted some of the most pertinent excerpts from Get Internet Access When Your Government Shuts it Down, by Patrick Miller & David Daw below. I figured that this information will probably be useful to someone living in a country where the next revolution is brewing.

"Even if you've managed to find an Internet connection for yourself, it won't be that helpful in reaching out to your fellow locals if they can't get online to find you. If you're trying to coordinate a group of people in your area and can't rely on an Internet connection, cell phones, or SMS, your best bet could be a wireless mesh network of sorts--essentially, a distributed network of wireless networking devices that can all find each other and communicate with each other. Even if none of those devices have a working Internet connection, they can still find each other, which, if your network covers the city you're in, might be all you need. At the moment, wireless mesh networking isn't really anywhere close to market-ready, though we have seen an implementation of the 802.11s draft standard, which extends the 802.11 Wi-Fi standard to include wireless mesh networking, in the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) XO laptop."

Read on...

The New Face of Revolution: After Tunisia and Egypt, the World

Ted Rall thinks there is hope for a revolution in the U.S.A. And every where else in the world. Peacenik thinks there is too. Peacenik was just reading about the normalization of tent cities in the U.S.A., and about how there are 11 million empty homes in the U.S.A., and how food inflation costs were up over 3% in the last month alone, and how the payrolls on Wall Street set a new all-time record. But it is hard to visualize a protest in the U.S.A. on the scale of the present Egyptian protests. On the other hand, citizens in the U.S.A. own on average 4 guns each. And citizens in the U.S.A. won't be riding around on camels and ponies, hitting people with sticks and whips, if and when they to get riled up enough to get off their asses, and away from their boob tubes. The right-wing media and politicians have been working overtime to delegitimize government. Peacenik didn't used to think that a military coup was possible in the U.S.A. But now Peacenik thinks a military coup might be the event that gets the citizens of the U.S.A. in a protesting mood. First a coup. Then a counter-revolution against the coup. Peacenik thinks it is a possible future.

by Ted Rall

NEW YORK--From the British newspaper the Independent: "Like in many other countries in the region, protesters in Egypt complain about surging prices, unemployment and the authorities' reliance on heavy-handed security to keep dissenting voices quiet."

Sound familiar?

Coverage by U.S. state-controlled media of the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt is too dim by half: they say it's an Arab thing. So it is. But not for long. The problems that triggered the latest uprisings, rising inequality of income, frozen credit markets, along with totally unresponsive government, span the globe. To be sure, the first past-due regimes to be overthrown may be the most brutal U.S. client states--Arab states such as Yemen, Jordan and Algeria. Central Asia's autocrats, also corrupted by the U.S., can't be far behind; Uzbekistan's Islam Karimov, who likes to boil his dissidents to death, would be my first bet. But this won't stop in Asia. Persistent unemployment, unresponsive and repressive governments exist in Europe and yes, here in the U.S. They are unstable. The pressure is building.

Global revolution is imminent.

Read on...


When Corporations Choose Despots Over Democracy

Obama and corporations desperately want the status quo. Even when the status quo means supporting a vicious tyrant. Egypt of course has been the country that has done much of the torturing for Obama. And this is what has Obama and corporations befuddled. The uprisings in Egypt are spontaneous. The spark that set off the uprising was the self immolation of a vegetable vendor in Tunisia about a month ago. Who'da thunk it. A vegetable vendor joins Arch Duke Ferdinand. The outcome of the revolution in Egypt is unknown and uncontrollable. So far, other than Anderson Cooper getting a boo boo, there hasn't been much anti-americanism visible. So Obama and the corporations wait and watch. Hoping that whoever emerges as a leader is willing to accept their corrupt and criminal support. Peacenik.

by Amy Goodman

“People holding a sign ‘To: America. From: the Egyptian People. Stop supporting Mubarak. It’s over!” so tweeted my brave colleague, “Democracy Now!” senior producer Sharif Abdel Kouddous, from the streets of Cairo.

More than 2 million people rallied throughout Egypt on Tuesday, most of them crowded into Cairo’s Tahrir Square. Tahrir, which means liberation in Arabic, has become the epicenter of what appears to be a largely spontaneous, leaderless and peaceful revolution in this, the most populous nation in the Middle East. Defying a military curfew, this incredible uprising has been driven by young Egyptians, who compose a majority of the 80 million citizens. Twitter and Facebook, and SMS text messaging on cell phones, have helped this new generation to link up and organize, despite living under a U.S.-supported dictatorship for the past three decades. In response, the Mubarak regime, with the help of U.S. and European corporations, has shut down the Internet and curtailed cellular service, plunging Egypt into digital darkness. Despite the shutdown, as media activist and professor of communications C.W. Anderson told me, “people make revolutions, not technology.”

The demands are chanted through the streets for democracy, for self-determination. Sharif headed to Egypt Friday night, into uncertain terrain. The hated Interior Ministry security forces, the black-shirted police loyal to President Hosni Mubarak, were beating and killing people, arresting journalists, and smashing and confiscating cameras.

Read on...


Tunisia's Spark & Egypt's Flame: The Middle East Is Rising

Peacenik is becoming bored with the Egyptian riots. Peacenik doesn't know if that says something about Peacenik or about the state of the world. The world is in the early stages of a cataclysmic collapse and Peacenik is bored. Is seven days of watching Egyptians milling around a square boring? Seven days of shitty tv pundits trying to put their spin on things? Seven days of watching Al Jazeera tv on a laptop, and running up huge Internet usage charges? The revolution is moving at a snails pace. Peacenik wants resolution and then on the the next revolution. And the next. And the next. And the next.

Is this how empires end, with people flooding the streets, demanding the resignation of their leaders and forcing local dictators out? Maybe not entirely, but the breadth and depth of the spreading protests, the helplessness of the U.S.-backed governments to stop them, and the rapidly diminishing ability of the United States to protect its long-time clients, are certainly resulting in a level of revolutionary fervor not visible in the Middle East in a generation. The legacy of U.S.-dominated governments across the region will never be the same. The U.S. empire's reach in the resource-rich and strategically vital Middle East has been shaken to its core.

There's a domino effect underway in the Arab world. Tunisia was the spark, not only because its uprising came first but because the people of Tunisia won and the dictator fled. Egypt remains for the United States the most important strategic Arab ally.

The fall of Hosni Mubarak, the U.S.-backed dictator in power for more than three decades, would mean an end to Washington's ability to rely on Cairo to stave off Arab nationalism and independence and an end to Egypt's role as a collaborator in the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Whatever happens, what's likely, though not inevitable, is that never again will Tunisia be used as a transit point or Egypt as a "black site" secret prison for U.S. agents engaged in the "extraordinary rendition" of detainees for interrogation and torture.

Read on...


Fresh Protests Erupt in Egypt

Last week Peacenik suggested that the protests sweeping across North Africa just might inspire some protests in North America. But it is very difficult to sweep Charlie Sheen off the front pages. And did you know that Jeff Goldblum is dating Patty Hearst's 26 year old daughter. Where oh where is the Symbionese Liberation Army? But the rioting in North Africa must mean something. Peacenik doesn't think it is about freedom. Any African regimes that topple will probably be replaced by equally corrupt and authoritarian regimes. Peacenik senses a whiff of anarchy in the air. Just good old simple rioting. For the sake of rioting. And Peacenik has been googling "how to prepare for arnarchy." You know, Charlie Sheen seems to be a bit of an anarchist. Is Charlie's behaviour the beginning of something else? Is Jeff Goldblum's? Has it started? The breakdown of society? Is North America already further gone than Egypt but we just don't recognize it? Peacenik is going to read People Magazine. Maybe you should too.

Thousands stream out of mosques to protest against President Mubarak's 30-year rule, defying a government crackdown.

Protests have erupted in cities across Egypt following Friday midday prayers, with angry demonstrators demanding an end to Hosni Mubarak's 30-year presidency. Tens of thousands of protesters have taken to the streets across the country, witnesses have said.
[An Egyptian woman flees as Egyptian anti-riot policemen clash with protesters in Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Jan. 28, 2011. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis) ]An Egyptian woman flees as Egyptian anti-riot policemen clash with protesters in Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Jan. 28, 2011. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)
Al Jazeera's Rawya Rageh, reporting from the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria, said protesters streamed out of mosques shortly after prayers to chant slogans against Mubarak. Police responded immediately, firing tear gas to disperse the crowd.
Alexandria is a stronghold of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's technically banned but largest political opposition group, but Rageh said the crowds in the city predominantly consisted of "ordinary citizens".
"This is the same mosque where protests were held against police brutality in June after a 20-year-old man was beaten to death by police," she said. "It's very symbolic that the current protests are taking place at the same place all over again."
Read on...


What a difference a day makes!

punditman says...

Today is punditman's birthday, and it's a big one, just one day after that other Wayne's birthday: The Great One. Both of us were born in the same year, merely a day apart, and one thing in common is that both of us were destined to take up the good 'ole game of shinny (albeit with slightly different results).

Yeah, I remember the other Wayne. The kid from Brantford, who at age 10, scored 378 goals and 120 assists (still a record). For a few years, when I was but a child, I played in the MTHL "AA" in Toronto with and against many future pros, including some who eventually played with or against His Greatness. To my knowledge, I never faced the other Wayne but that's because he was soon playing way above his weight.

At age 12, the other Wayne was a celebrity, beleaguered by paparazzi every where he played. At age 12, I discovered that you could get the day off school by joining a walk-out student protest (and still make it to your hockey game that night). At age 14, the other Wayne played Tier II Junior; at age 14, I discovered Led Zeppelin, and other distractions. At age 15, the other Wayne played Major Junior A for the Soo Greyhounds; at 15, I discovered that I was a tennis player who could compete provincially, along with other distractions like water skiing, water pollution, and water pipes. At age 18, the other Wayne broke into the NHL; at age 18, I discovered the Grateful Dead.

The truth is, my competitive hockey (think contact hockey) ended in a nightmarish fiasco in which I hit the post on an open net while playing for my High School team in the final playoff game of the season. I can't recall who won; but the shame meant hanging up the skates for several years and deciding for a time that sports was nothing but a bourgeois distraction. Meanwhile the other Wayne began lighting up the NHL.

By then, I had long understood that the dream of taking over Sittler's Leaf captaincy had been nothing but childish delusion. The closest I would ever get to Bobby Orr was, when, as a 11-year-old, I got his autograph in the Boston Bruins dressing room. That was back in the day when they let kids into Maple Leaf Gardens before game time and when you and your buddy could take the subway downtown without parental overlords. The truth is my hockey dreams ended somewhere in puberty when the goalies got bigger, the defencemen meaner and the parents and coaches even more certifiably wacko (I recall one incident in which an opposing player from East York hurled his stick javelin-style over the boards at some parent. Maybe it was his Dad).

Thus as maturity took root (in some far off future, to be sure), I chose to temper my "jockness" with other interests and pursuits, not the least of which involved traipsing off to University in pursuit of co-educational distractions, beer, and...ahem...wisdom. Had I not done so, I would not have become the man of punditry that I am today.

So when you think about it, what a difference a day makes: A self-made multi-millionaire's remarkable talent and penchant for setting NHL scoring records wasted lining the pockets of the league's corporate fat cats when he could have hit 50 as an overly educated pond hockey and beer league enthusiast/tennis coach/blogger/editor/Deadhead/default entrepreneur with a much more rounded life.

It's a shame really, seeing "the best [talent] of my generation destroyed by madness..."* Then again, maybe the other Wayne has made peace with his misspent youth.

No regrets, eh.

* Allen Ginsberg: Ginsberg's epic poem "Howl", in which he celebrates his fellow "angel-headed hipsters" and excoriates what he saw as the destructive forces of capitalism and conformity in the United States, is one of the classic poems of the Beat Generation (Wikipedia).


Activism Is Not a Crime: Why I Will Not Testify Before This Federal Grand Jury

Peacenik will not be watching the State of the Union speech tonight. Peacenik doesn't want to puke. There seems to be little doubt that Obama is on board with the dismantling of Social Security and the last shreds of the social safety net. But he probably won't say anything tonight for or against. It should be astounding that the Tea Party is running the agenda. But it isn't. Meanwhile Obama's justice department continues to harass anti-war activists, just like George Bush's justice department harassed activists. Obama is not defending civil liberties, the poor, the unemployed or the sick. Peacenik doesn't care how eloquent Obama might be. The message is bad. No amount of eloquence will improve it.

by Maureen Murphy

I have been summoned to appear before a federal grand jury in Chicago on January 25. But I will not testify, even at the risk of being put in jail for contempt of court, because I believe that our most fundamental rights as citizens are at stake.

I am one of 23 anti-war, labor and solidarity activists in Chicago and throughout the Midwest who are facing a grand jury as part of an investigation into "material support for foreign terrorist organizations." No crime has been identified. No arrests have been made. And when it raided several prominent organizers' homes and offices on Sept. 24, the FBI acknowledged that there is no immediate threat to the American public. So what is this investigation really about?

The activists who have been ensnared in this fishing net work with different groups to end the US wars and occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan, to end US military aid for Israel's occupation of Palestinian land and US military aid to Colombia, which has a shocking record of repression and human rights abuses. All of us have publicly and peacefully dedicated our lives to social justice and advocating for more just and less deadly US foreign policy.

Read on...


Breaking: Keith Olbermann Announces Abrupt Departure From MSNBC; "Countdown" to End

Two years into Obama's presidency and the right wing is in total control of the media.
At the very least Obama should have stopped the dominance of the right wing media, and he should have helped reverse the trend. Instead he kowtowed, he wavered, he hummed and hawed, he kissed ass, and now the right is so firmly entrenched that progressive ideas are minimalized. Peacenik doesn't know why Olberman left MSNBC, but Peacenik suspects it was either a firing or a complete lack of support. The good news will be if Olberman reappears somewhere else with greater viewership. The bad new is that the progressive cause has lost one of its most effective voices and is on the run. Pretty sad when the voice of the left is led by a fuckin comedian....Jon Stewart.

MSNBC announced Friday night that its marquee "Countdown" anchor and talk show host Keith Olbermann was out. The network did not provide a reason for his abrupt departure.

"MSNBC and Keith Olbermann have ended their contract. The last broadcast of "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" will be this evening. MSNBC thanks Keith for his integral role in MSNBC's success and we wish him well in his future endeavors," NBC Universal said in a statement.

MSNBC announced Friday night that its marquee "Countdown" anchor and talk show host Keith Olbermann was out. The network did not provide a reason for his abrupt departure.

"MSNBC and Keith Olbermann have ended their contract. The last broadcast of "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" will be this evening. MSNBC thanks Keith for his integral role in MSNBC's success and we wish him well in his future endeavors," NBC Universal said in a statement.

Read on...

Feeding Cars instead of People: The Food Crisis Deconstructed

punditman says...
The question before The House is as follows: Should we feed cars or people? If the cars were in charge, we know what they would choose. I mean just look at how they behave.

As Lester Brown, president of the Earth Policy Institute points out in The Great Food Crisis of 2011, the US harvested 416 million tons of grain in 2009, 119 million tons of which went to grain ethanol distilleries to feed automobiles. That amount could have fed 350 million people for a whole year. But it didn't. Maybe the cars are in charge. This is insanity.

The issue of food security is real, and unless you think the human race is one big joke and deserves extinction, it's not exactly a laugh riot. Unless you're a car.

Brown explains that unless we change our priorities, increased food shortages and rising food prices will contribute to a rather dystopian future with unhappy results for billions. He lists a myriad of causes including the aforementioned use of grain to feed hungry cars, population growth, overgrazing, rising affluence, the demand for meat, soil erosion, aquifer depletion, loss of cropland to non-farm uses like suburban sprawl, the diversion of irrigation water to cities, shrinkage of irrigated area, and of course climate change—with its crop-withering heat waves and melting mountain glaciers and ice sheets. Sorry to spoil your Bagel B.E.L.T.

Brown says that governments need to "quickly redefine security and shift expenditures from military uses to investing in climate change mitigation, water efficiency, soil conservation, and population stabilization." This sounds long overdue. Punditman and Peacenik concurr. But will this be enough?

What are some other possible solutions? Punditman is starting to think that total veganism may be necessary. And a ban on internal combustion. We may end up vegans anyway once there are no more species to kill off. But these memes need to be marketed as cool and tough because love of cars and love of steak dinners seem to go together, even though they're so 20th century. Punditman would settle for a ban on beef production and mandatory solar powered cars. It would save on health care costs as well.

One commentor suggests "euthanasia for all persons over 60." Do I hear 50? Then we are really talking savings. Wait, punditman has a birthday coming up. Punditman is looking for answers. Are you?


Food Riots 2011

Garth Turner, in his blog www.greaterfool.ca, recommended that Peacenik stop reading doomer sites. Peacenik tried. But Peacenik's computer is infected with doomer links, google alerts, and Peacenik failed. Which brought Peacenik to this site. For two generations North American's have never really had to contend with shortages, other than of mood rings, and Wii games. But now there is a very real possibility that there will be food shortages. Nothing gets Peacenik's dander up quicker than being hungry or thirsty. 41 million people in the U.S. are on food stamps. When that number hits 44 million watch out. In Canada there is unprecedented demand from food banks. Will hunger be the black swan event that gets North American's off their arses? War hasn't. Bankruptcy hasn't. Unemployment hasn't. Racism hasn't. Will hunger?

The stunningly violent food riots in Tunisia and Algeria show just how quickly things can change. Just a few months ago, these two northern Africa nations were considered to be very stable, very peaceful and without any major problems. But now protesters are openly squaring off with police in the streets. Many of the protesters are throwing "fire bombs" or are shooting fireworks at the authorities, and the police are responding with a tremendous amount of violence themselves. In Algeria, several protesters have been killed by police and several others have actually set themselves on fire to protest the economic conditions. In Tunisia, more than 100 people have been killed and the president of that country actually had to flee for his life. But on a global scale, food shortages have not even gotten that bad yet. Yes, food prices are starting to go up and food supplies are a little bit tighter right now, but much worse times than these are coming. So what in the world are the cities of the world going to look like when we have a very serious food shortage? Just as we saw during the food riots of 2008, when people get to the point where they can't even feed themselves anymore, they tend to lose it. In the video posted below, you can really feel the desperation of these young Algerians as they riot in the streets...

Read on...


African Food Riots Spread To Persian Gulf As Oman Is Next; Adverse Implications For Oil Prices?

Is the world order unraveling? Had the fuse to world chaos been lit, as Peacenik speculated occurred in Tunisia last week? The world has now seen riots and self-immolations in Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Yemen and Egypt. And don't forget the riots in Greece and France. And the riots in England where his Royal Highness Prince Charles was almost assaulted over the rise in tuition costs. And with so much corn going into ethanol production, Mexico will probably soon see some very angry actors. Hungry, angry actors. And now Oman. And witness the speed with which these old sclerotic tyrannys fall. Prices continue to go up. Shortages are inevitable. Peacenik is cultivating Peaceniks' links to the Amish community. What are you doing?

While deadly protests in Africa have been largely ignored, because, well, they are in Africa, and they don't even have iPads there and Kindle WhisperNet coverage is spotty if any, the world may be forced to start paying just a little more attention as food riots get ever closer to the center of the oil extraction infrastructure in the Persian Gulf. From BBC Monitoring, which discusses the latest outbreak of protests sweeping Oman "Most participants in the protest were reluctant to be quoted as they were government employees. However, some said they protested against low salaries and soaring prices." Luckily, for now the protest is still peaceful. The thing about hunger is that it doesn't go away if you ignore it. And as Oman borders the UAE, all it takes is for the riots to jump one more border and then it gets interesting. And to all those observent enough to note that soaring prices continue to occur in countries with "growing unemployment" i.e., economic slack, and wonder how this is possible, after all the Fed said record slack can never lead to inflation, don't worry - you are certainly not alone.

Read on...


The Banality of American Violence

punditman says...

Here we are again. Another massacre in the US. In the name of free speech and truth-seeking, I disagree with those who say the Tuscon shooting is simply a case of an individual's mental illness. Everyone is subjected to certain cultural and social imprints that influence their views and actions, including sociopaths.

Yet every time these mass shootings occur, the right wing screams about how the Left gets all political about guns, violence and hate speech. Methinks the Right doth protest too much. However, even though the Right should surely answer for their vile speech, it is probably a mistake to assign undue influence to gun-loving, religion-abusing dummies like Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and the rest over in crackpot corner. Doing so only makes sane, reasonable, people like MSN's Keith Olbermann appear muddle headed. We don't know for sure what Jared Loughner thought of these blow-hards, do we?

On the other hand, it behooves us to at once mourn the victims of this senseless act while also trying to understand the social and political landscape in which such individual crimes of terror occur. All people, including the dangerously disturbed, are social beings who interact with others within a community and who are influenced by society at large.

So let's take an honest look at that society. Even those acts of mass murder that have not targeted politicians are nevertheless part of an alarming social malaise. As punditman pondered after 2007's Virginia Tech masacre:

Is there any correlation between the horrific events at Virginia Tech and the daily carnage unfolding in Iraq, Afghanistan and around the world? There may be no direct link, but it has been shown that domestic violence does increase when nations go to war, as outlined by the landmark study, Violence and Crime in Cross-National Perspective, published in 1984 by Yale University Press. The hypothesis posits that when countries do violence to other human beings, this incites their citizens to perpetrate more violence than they would normally commit. So the phenomenon extends well beyond the returning war vet who becomes a ticking time bomb (although this is a huge problem as well).

Add to this, the plethora of television shows thematically constructed around murder and mayhem, news footage of the daily death toll in Baghdad, even the violence in professional sports--and you have to conclude that this deadly cocktail has an insidious, demonstrable affect on social consciousness, making rage an option for some, instilling fear among the many, and desensitizing us all.

In the documentary film, Restrepo, the soldiers at an Afghanistan remote outpost are a rather different ilk than those of the Vietnam era who mainly wanted to do their part and get the hell out of the of the army asap. By contrast, today's modern volunteer soldiers see themselves as professionals killers hired to do a job. A soldier may or may not believe in one's cause, but for them to consider their role in such historic undertakings in such mundane terms is unsettling. Today's soldiers do suffer the same post traumatic stress disorders that their counterparts did in the sixties and seventies, but there is not the same degree of self reflection that there was back then.This should worry us civilians.

In fact, the hackneyed phrase "banality of evil" comes to mind. The phrase posits that "the great evils in history generally, and the Holocaust in particular, were not executed by fanatics or sociopaths, but rather by ordinary people who accepted the premises of their state and therefore participated with the view that their actions were normal."

At this stage it is hard to detect any coherent political ideology that influenced Jared Loughner to carry out mass murder, although this guy thinks he's nailed his ideology as somewhere to the right of Sarah Palin. Perhaps. But Loughner's reading list apparently included big names in the Western canon and a discombobulated lot it is: Orwell's Animal Farm, Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, Marx's Communist Manifesto, Ayn Rand's We, the Living, Hitler's Mein Kampf, and others, but each is distinctive and unconnected.
Speaking of Nazism, the character of Walter, in The Big Lebowski (John Goodman) did not consider Nazis to be in quite the same category as nihilists when he said, "Say what you will about National Socialists, at least they had an ethos." Others may draw a direct line between German nihilsm and Nazism. We don't know if Loughner actually read or understood Mein Kampf or any of the books found in his house or that he had listed online, or even what kind of impact this had on his scrambled psyche. In any case, Loughner's heinous crime was one of extreme nihilsm (life has no meaning). One wonders why this young man arrived at this conclusion.

Loughner obviously suffered from a dangerous mental illness. But this does not mean that we should ignore the zeitgeist ("spirit of the age") in which he exists. Regardless of Loughner's motives, a society infused with so much violence at home and abroad is neither civil nor secure. And if it is at the point where such violence is considered the norm, even accepted, albeit with sad resignation, then that society will continue to produce more Jared Loughners, until the spirit of the times change. Perhaps that is the real issue here.