Monday, February 25, 2013

From Myth to Symptom: The Case of Kosovo





Slavoj Žižek & Agon Hamza – From Myth to Symptom: The Case of Kosovo

I managed to obtain a  very fragmented copy of an upcoming English book written by Slavoj Žižek & Agon Hamza titled From Myth to Symptom: The Case of Kosovo, so for now I can at least share the books contents:
Contents
Introduction — Slavoj Žižek & Agon Hamza
NATO as the left hand of God? — Slavoj Žižek
The Impasse of the Left
Human Rights and Their Obverse
The Ideology of Victimisation
The Carnival in the Eye of the Storm
The SECOND Way
The Obscenity of Humanitarian Bio-Politics
The Lie of De-Politicization


Beyond Independence — Agon Hamza
I
II
III
IV
V
Slavoj Žižek is a professor at the European Graduate School, International Director of the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities, Birkbeck College. His latest publication include Less Than Nothing: Hegel and the Shadow of Dialectical Materialism, The Year of Dreaming Dangerously, Living in the End Times, and many more.
Agon Hamza is writing his PhD in philosophy. He is the editor of Për Althusserin [For Althusser], Ese të Zgjedhura [Selected Essays], by Slavoj Žižek (co-editor), both in Albanian. He is a member of KMD, Prishtina.
Book Endorsments
Of what is Kosovo a symptom? Žižek’s initial provocation and Hamza’s relentless continuation will enrage anyone who looks to culture, ethnicity, and neoliberalism to explain the tragedy of the Balkans. Only those willing to confront their own humanitarian fantasies will have the strength necessary to en-counter the truth in these brave, important essays.  – Jodi Dean, author of The Communist Horizon
Thinking about recent Balkan developments – and tragedies – has been dominated, for too long by varieties of nationalist, simplistically anti-imperialist, and ‘realist’ discourses. What has been missing is a critical theoretical discourse that will not only deconstruct these discourses, but also attempt to bring forward how recent political developments, from the NATO bombings in 1999 to the proclamation of Kosova independence, have also been determined by attempts to create conditions favorable to the most aggressive neoliberal politics. The two texts in this volume offer exactly this kind of critical theoretical scrutiny that is most needed than ever, if we want to avoid seeing not only Kosova but the Balkans in general being turned into vast laboratories of neoliberal social engineering.  —Panagiotis Sotiris, Department of Sociology, University of the Aegean

It's No Good (title of good poetry book by Kirill Medvedev)


Friday, February 22, 2013

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Monday, February 18, 2013

Why the free market fundamentalists think 2013 will be the best year ever


As communists once did, today's capitalists blame any failures on their system being 'impurely' applied

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/feb/17/free-market-fundamentalists-think-2013-best

[…]

That's the problem with development and progress: they are always uneven, they give birth to new instabilities and antagonisms, they generate new expectations that cannot be met. In Egypt just prior to the Arab spring, the majority lived a little better than before, but the standards by which they measured their (dis)satisfaction were much higher.

In order not to miss this link between progress and instability, one should always focus on how what first appears as an incomplete realisation of a social project signals its immanent limitation. There is a story (apocryphal, maybe) about the left-Keynesian economist John Galbraith: before a trip to the USSR in the late 1950s, he wrote to his anti-communist friend Sidney Hook: "Don't worry, I will not be seduced by the Soviets and return home claiming they have socialism!" Hook answered him promptly: "But that's what worries me – that you will return claiming USSR is not socialist!" What Hook feared was the naive defence of the purity of the concept: if things go wrong with building a socialist society, this does not invalidate the idea itself, it simply means we didn't implement it properly. Do we not detect the same naivety in today's market fundamentalists?

When, during a recent TV debate in France, the French philosopher and economist Guy Sorman claimed democracy and capitalism necessarily go together, I couldn't resist asking him the obvious question: "But what about China?" He snapped back: "In China there is no capitalism!" For the fanatically pro-capitalist Sorman, if a country is non-democratic, it is not truly capitalist, in exactly the same way that for a democratic communist, Stalinism was simply not an authentic form of communism.

This is how today's apologists for the market, in an unheard-of ideological kidnapping, explain the crisis of 2008: it was not the failure of the free market that caused it, but the excessive state regulation; the fact that our market economy was not a true one, but was instead in the clutches of the welfare state. When we dismiss the failures of market capitalism as accidental mishaps, we end up in a naive "progress-ism" that sees the solution as a more "authentic" and pure application of a notion, and thus tries to put out the fire by pouring oil on it.

Why Latin America Didn't Join Washington's Counterterrorism Posse


Posted by Greg Grandin


[…]
the Open Society Institute published the most comprehensive investigation yet of the offshore system of injustice that George W. Bush and his top officials set up to kidnap “terror suspects,” imprison them without charges or end, and torture and abuse them, or “render” them to other countries willing to do the same. It turns out that 54 nations (other than the U.S.) took part in setting up, aiding, and maintaining this American global gulag. It’s a roster of dishonor worth noting: Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Finland, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Iceland, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Jordan, Kenya, Libya, Lithuania, Macedonia, Malawi, Malaysia, Mauritania, Morocco, Pakistan, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Syria, Thailand, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, Uzbekistan, Yemen, and Zimbabwe.

Remarkably, according to the Open Society report, just one of those states evidently had a lawyer on hand who could actually recognize torture, even if well after the fact.  “Canada,” its authors write, “is the only country to issue an apology to an extraordinary rendition victim, Maher Arar, who was extraordinarily rendered to, and tortured in, Syria.” 
[…]

Profiting From Human Misery



By Chris Hedges

Marela, an undocumented immigrant in her 40s, stood outside the Elizabeth Detention Center in Elizabeth, N.J., on a chilly afternoon last week. She was there with a group of protesters who appear at the facility’s gates every year on Ash Wednesday to decry the nation’s immigration policy and conditions inside the center. She was there, she said, because of her friend Evelyn Obey.

Obey, 40, a Guatemalan and the single mother of a 12-year-old and a 6-year-old, was picked up in an immigration raid as she and nine other undocumented workers walked out of an office building they cleaned in Newark, N.J. Her two children instantly lost their only parent. She languished in detention. Another family took in the children, who never saw their mother again. Obey died in jail in 2010 from, according to the sign Villar had hung on her neck, “pulmonary thromboembolism, chronic bronchiolitis and emphysema and remote cardiac Ischemic Damage.’ ”

“She called me two days after she was seized,” Marela told me in Spanish. “She was hysterical. She was crying. She was worried about her children. We could not visit her because we do not have legal documents. We helped her get a lawyer. Then we heard she was sick. Then we heard she died. She was buried in an unmarked grave. We did not go to her burial. We were too scared of being seized and detained.”
The rally—about four dozen people, most from immigrant rights groups and local churches—was a flicker of consciousness in a nation that has yet to fully confront the totalitarian corporate forces arrayed against it. Several protesters in orange jumpsuits like those worn by inmates held signs reading: “I Want My Family Together,” “No Human Being is Illegal,” and “Education not Deportation.” 

“The people who run that prison make money off of human misery,” said Diana Mejia, 47, an immigrant from Colombia who now has legal status, gesturing toward the old warehouse that now serves as the detention facility. As she spoke, a Catholic Worker band called the Filthy Rotten System belted out a protest song. A low-flying passenger jet, its red, green and white underbelly lights blinking in the night sky, rumbled overhead. Clergy walking amid the crowd marked the foreheads of participants with ashes to commemorate Ash Wednesday.

“Repentance is more than merely being sorry,” the Rev. Joyce Antila Phipps, the executive director of Casa de Esperanza, a community organization working with immigrants, told the gathering. “It is an act of turning around and then moving forward to make change.”

The majority of those we incarcerate in this country—and we incarcerate a quarter of the world’s prison population—have never committed a violent crime. Eleven million undocumented immigrants face the possibility of imprisonment and deportation. President Barack Obama, outpacing George W. Bush, has deported more than 400,000 people since he took office. Families, once someone is seized, detained and deported, are thrown into crisis. Children come home from school and find they have lost their mothers or fathers. The small incomes that once sustained them are snuffed out. Those who remain behind often become destitute.

But human beings matter little in the corporate state. We myopically serve the rapacious appetites of those dedicated to exploitation and maximizing profit. And our corporate masters view prisons—as they do education, health care and war—as a business. The 320-bed Elizabeth Detention Center, which houses only men, is run by one of the largest operators and owners of for-profit prisons in the country, Corrections Corporation of America. CCA, traded on the New York Stock Exchange, has annual revenues in excess of $1.7 billion. An average of 81,384 inmates are in its facilities on any one day. This is a greater number, the American Civil Liberties Union points out in a 2011 report, “Banking on Bondage: Private Prisons and Mass Incarceration,” than that held by the states of New York and New Jersey combined.

The for-profit prisons and their lobbyists in Washington and state capitals have successfully blocked immigration reform, have prevented a challenge to our draconian drug laws and are pushing through tougher detention policies. Locking up more and more human beings is the bedrock of the industry’s profits. These corporations are the engines behind the explosion of our prison system. They are the reason we have spent $300 billion on new prisons since 1980. They are also the reason serious reform is impossible.

The United States, from 1970 to 2005, increased its prison population by about 700 percent, according to statistics gathered by the ACLU. The federal Bureau of Justice Statistics, the ACLU report notes, says that for-profit companies presently control about 18 percent of federal prisoners and 6.7 percent of all state prisoners. Private prisons account for nearly all of the new prisons built between 2000 and 2005. And nearly half of all immigrants detained by the federal government are shipped to for-profit prisons, according to Detention Watch Network.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which imprisons about 400,000 undocumented people a year, has an annual budget of more than $5 billion. ICE is planning to expand its operations by establishing several mega-detention centers, most run by private corporations, in states such as New Jersey, Texas, Florida, California and Illinois. Many of these private contractors are, not surprisingly, large campaign donors to “law and order” politicians including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

In CCA’s annual report to the Securities and Exchange Commission for 2011, cited by the ACLU, the prison company bluntly states its opposition to prison reform. “The demand for our facilities and services could be adversely affected by the relaxation of enforcement efforts, leniency in conviction or parole standards and sentencing practices or through the decriminalization of certain activities that are currently proscribed by criminal laws,” it declares. CCA goes on to warn that “any changes with respect to drugs and controlled substances or illegal immigration” could “potentially [reduce] demand for correctional facilities,” as would “mak[ing] more inmates eligible for early release based on good behavior,” the adoption of “sentencing alternatives [that] ... could put some offenders on probation” and “reductions in crime rates.”

CCA in 2011 gave $710,300 in political contributions to candidates for federal or state office, political parties and 527 groups (PACs and super PACs), the ACLU reported. The corporation also spent $1.07 million lobbying federal officials along with undisclosed funds to lobby state officials, according to the ACLU. 

CCA, through the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), lobbies legislators to impose harsher detention laws at the state and federal levels. The ALEC helped draft Arizona’s draconian anti-immigrant law SB 1070.

A March 2012 CCA investor presentation prospectus, quoted by the ACLU, tells potential investors that incarceration “creates predictable revenue streams.” The document cites demographic trends that the company says will continue to expand profits. These positive investment trends include, the prospectus reads, “high recidivism”—“about 45 percent of individuals released from prison in 1999 and more than 43 percent released from prison in 2004 were returned to prison within three years.” The prospectus invites investments by noting that one in every 100 U.S. adults is currently in prison or jail. And because the U.S. population is projected to grow by approximately 18.6 million from 2012 to 2017, “prison populations would grow by about 80,400 between 2012 and 2017, or by more than 13,000 additional per year, on average,” the CCA document says.

The two largest private prison companies in 2010 received nearly $3 billion in revenue. The senior executives, according to the ACLU report, each received annual compensation packages worth well over $3 million. The for-profit prisons can charge the government up to $200 a day to house an inmate; they pay detention officers as little as $10 an hour.

“Within 30 miles of this place, there are at least four other facilities where immigrants are detained: Essex, Monmouth, Delaney Hall and Hudson, which has the distinction of being named one of the 10 worst detention facilities in the country,” Phipps, who is an immigration attorney as well as a minister, told the gathering in front of the Elizabeth Detention Center. “The terrible secret is that immigration detention has become a very profitable business for companies and county governments.”

“More than two-thirds of immigrants are detained in so-called contract facilities owned by private companies, such as this one and Delaney Hall,” she went on. “The rise of the prison industrial complex has gone hand in hand with the aggrandizing forces of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, which, by the way, has filed suit against the very government it is supposed to be working for because they were told to exercise prosecutorial discretion in their detention practices.” [Click here to see more about the lawsuit, in which 10 ICE agents attack the administration’s easing of government policy on those who illegally entered the United States as children.]

There is an immigration court inside the Elizabeth facility, although the roar of the planes lifting off from the nearby Newark Airport forces those in the court to remain silent every three or four minutes until the sound subsides. Most of those brought before the court have no legal representation and are railroaded through the system and deported. Detainees, although most have no criminal record beyond illegal entry into the United States, wear orange jumpsuits and frequently are handcuffed. They do not have adequate health care. There are now some 5,000 children in foster care because their parents have been detained or deported, according to the Applied Research Center’s report “Shattered Families.” The report estimates that this number will rise to 15,000 within five years.

“I am in family court once every six to eight weeks representing some mother who is surrendering custody of her child to somebody else because she does not want to take that child back to the poverty of Guatemala, Honduras or El Salvador,” Phipps said when we spoke after the rally. “She has no option. She does not want her child to live in the same poverty she grew up in. It is heartbreaking.”
We have abandoned the common good. We have been stripped of our rights and voice. Corporations write our laws and determine how we structure our society. We have all become victims. There are no politicians or institutions, no political parties or courts, that are independent enough or strong enough to resist the corporate onslaught. Greater and greater numbers of human beings will be consumed. The poor, the vulnerable, the undocumented, the weak, the elderly, the sick, the children will go first. And those of us watching helplessly outside the gates will go next.

I Ain't Got No Home in this World Anymore

Equal Opportunity, Our National Myth



http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/16/equal-opportunity-our-national-myth/

[…]

The gap between aspiration and reality could hardly be wider. Today, the United States has less equality of opportunity than almost any other advanced industrial country. Study after study has exposed the myth that America is a land of opportunity. This is especially tragic: While Americans may differ on the desirability of equality of outcomes, there is near-universal consensus that inequality of opportunity is indefensible. The Pew Research Center has found that some 90 percent of Americans believe that the government should do everything it can to ensure equality of opportunity.

Perhaps a hundred years ago, America might have rightly claimed to have been the land of opportunity, or at least a land where there was more opportunity than elsewhere. But not for at least a quarter of a century. Horatio Alger-style rags-to-riches stories were not a deliberate hoax, but given how they’ve lulled us into a sense of complacency, they might as well have been.

It’s not that social mobility is impossible, but that the upwardly mobile American is becoming a statistical oddity. According to research from the Brookings Institution, only 58 percent of Americans born into the bottom fifth of income earners move out of that category, and just 6 percent born into the bottom fifth move into the top. Economic mobility in the United States is lower than in most of Europe and lower than in all of Scandinavia.

Another way of looking at equality of opportunity is to ask to what extent the life chances of a child are dependent on the education and income of his parents. Is it just as likely that a child of poor or poorly educated parents gets a good education and rises to the middle class as someone born to middle-class parents with college degrees? Even in a more egalitarian society, the answer would be no. But the life prospects of an American are more dependent on the income and education of his parents than in almost any other advanced country for which there is data.

How do we explain this? Some of it has to do with persistent discrimination. Latinos and African-Americans still get paid less than whites, and women still get paid less than men, even though they recently surpassed men in the number of advanced degrees they obtain. Though gender disparities in the workplace are less than they once were, there is still a glass ceiling: women are sorely underrepresented in top corporate positions and constitute a minuscule fraction of C.E.O.’s.

Discrimination, however, is only a small part of the picture. Probably the most important reason for lack of equality of opportunity is education: both its quantity and quality. After World War II, Europe made a major effort to democratize its education systems. We did, too, with the G.I. Bill, which extended higher education to Americans across the economic spectrum.

But then we changed, in several ways. While racial segregation decreased, economic segregation increased. After 1980, the poor grew poorer, the middle stagnated, and the top did better and better. Disparities widened between those living in poor localities and those living in rich suburbs — or rich enough to send their kids to private schools. A result was a widening gap in educational performance — the achievement gap between rich and poor kids born in 2001 was 30 to 40 percent larger than it was for those born 25 years earlier, the Stanford sociologist Sean F. Reardon found.

Of course, there are other forces at play, some of which start even before birth. Children in affluent families get more exposure to reading and less exposure to environmental hazards. Their families can afford enriching experiences like music lessons and summer camp. They get better nutrition and health care, which enhance their learning, directly and indirectly.

Americans are coming to realize that their cherished narrative of social and economic mobility is a myth.
Unless current trends in education are reversed, the situation is likely to get even worse. In some cases it seems as if policy has actually been designed to reduce opportunity: government support for many state schools has been steadily gutted over the last few decades — and especially in the last few years. Meanwhile, students are crushed by giant student loan debts that are almost impossible to discharge, even in bankruptcy. This is happening at the same time that a college education is more important than ever for getting a good job.

Young people from families of modest means face a Catch-22: without a college education, they are condemned to a life of poor prospects; with a college education, they may be condemned to a lifetime of living at the brink. And increasingly even a college degree isn’t enough; one needs either a graduate degree or a series of (often unpaid) internships. Those at the top have the connections and social capital to get those opportunities. Those in the middle and bottom don’t. The point is that no one makes it on his or her own. And those at the top get more help from their families than do those lower down on the ladder. Government should help to level the playing field.

Americans are coming to realize that their cherished narrative of social and economic mobility is a myth. Grand deceptions of this magnitude are hard to maintain for long — and the country has already been through a couple of decades of self-deception.

Without substantial policy changes, our self-image, and the image we project to the world, will diminish — and so will our economic standing and stability. Inequality of outcomes and inequality of opportunity reinforce each other — and contribute to economic weakness, as Alan B. Krueger, a Princeton economist and the chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, has emphasized. We have an economic, and not only moral, interest in saving the American dream.

Policies that promote equality of opportunity must target the youngest Americans. First, we have to make sure that mothers are not exposed to environmental hazards and get adequate prenatal health care. Then, we have to reverse the damaging cutbacks to preschool education, a theme Mr. Obama emphasized on Tuesday. We have to make sure that all children have adequate nutrition and health care — not only do we have to provide the resources, but if necessary, we have to incentivize parents, by coaching or training them or even rewarding them for being good caregivers. The right says that money isn’t the solution. They’ve chased reforms like charter schools and private-school vouchers, but most of these efforts have shown ambiguous results at best. Giving more money to poor schools would help. So would summer and extracurricular programs that enrich low-income students’ skills.

Finally, it is unconscionable that a rich country like the United States has made access to higher education so difficult for those at the bottom and middle. There are many alternative ways of providing universal access to higher education, from Australia’s income-contingent loan program to the near-free system of universities in Europe. A more educated population yields greater innovation, a robust economy and higher incomes — which mean a higher tax base. Those benefits are, of course, why we’ve long been committed to free public education through 12th grade. But while a 12th-grade education might have sufficed a century ago, it doesn’t today. Yet we haven’t adjusted our system to contemporary realities.

The steps I’ve outlined are not just affordable but imperative. Even more important, though, is that we cannot afford to let our country drift farther from ideals that the vast majority of Americans share. We will never fully succeed in achieving Mr. Obama’s vision of a poor girl’s having exactly the same opportunities as a wealthy girl. But we could do much, much better, and must not rest until we do.

Black Panthers and Young Patriots

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Bernie Sanders’ Climate Change Legislation



The best solution on climate change requires Congress to act

Unless we take bold action to reverse climate change, our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren are going to look back on this period in history and ask a very simple question: Where were they? Why didn't the United States of America, the most powerful nation on earth, lead the international community in cutting greenhouse gas emissions and preventing the devastating damage that the scientific community was sure would come?

The issue that we are dealing with is not political. It has nothing to do with the squabbling we see in Washington every day. It has everything to do with physics. The leading scientists in the world who study climate change now tell us that their earlier projections were wrong. The crisis facing our planet is much worse than they had thought only a few years ago. Twelve out of the last 15 years ranked as the warmest on record in the United States. Now, scientists say that our planet could be 8F warmer or more by the end of this century if we take no decisive action to transform our energy system and cut greenhouse gas emissions.

What would that mean to planet earth? Sea levels would rise by three to six feet, which would flood cities like New Orleans, Boston and Miami and coastal communities all over the world. It would mean that every year we would see more and more extreme weather disturbances, like Hurricanes Irene and Sandy, costing taxpayers tens of billions of dollars every year and resulting in devastating blows to our economy and productive capabilities.

We would see the price of food go up because crops in the US and around the world would be affected by temperatures substantially greater than what we have today. It would mean greater threats of war and international instability because hungry and thirsty people would be fighting for limited resources. It would mean more disease and unnecessary deaths.

Legislation that I introduced (pdf) with the support of leading environmental organizations in the country can actually address the crisis and do what has to be done to protect the planet. Senator Barbara Boxer of California, chairman of the Senate environment and public works committee, co-sponsored the bill that would reverse greenhouse gas emissions in a significant way. It also would help create millions of jobs as we transform our energy system away from fossil fuel and into energy efficiency and such sustainably energies as wind, solar, geothermal and biomass.

A major focus of this legislation is a price on carbon and methane emissions. This fee on the largest fossil-fuel polluters affects fewer than 3,000 entities nationwide but covers 85% of the greenhouse gas emissions in the US, according to the Congressional Research Service. The legislation ends fossil fuel subsidies. It also protects communities by requiring that drillers engaged in a new technology called fracking must comply with the Safe Drinking Water Act and disclose chemicals they use.

To help consumers, 60% of the carbon fee revenue will be rebated to every US resident. To level the playing field for US manufacturers and create incentives for international cooperation, there would be a border fee on imported fuels and products unless the nation they were shipped from had a similar carbon price.
To transform our energy system, the legislation would make the boldest ever investment in energy efficiency and sustainable energy. That includes weatherizing 1m homes a year, as President Obama has advocated. It also means tripling the budget for advanced research and investing hundreds of billions through incentives and a public-private Sustainable Technologies Fund focusing on energy efficiency and clean transportation technology, as well as solar, wind, geothermal and biomass alternatives.
In our bill, we also provide funds to train workers for jobs in the sustainable energy economy and to help communities become resilient in the face of extreme weather. We accomplish all of this while paying down the debt by roughly $300bn over 10 years.

With President Obama's commitment in the state of the union address to reverse global warming, we have the opportunity now to make progress. The president must use his executive authority to cut down on power plant pollution and reject the dangerous Keystone XL project. But he must not give up on a comprehensive legislative solution, and neither should we.
We will never fully deal with this crisis until Congress passes strong legislation. Senator Boxer and I are going to fight as hard as we can to do that, and we will work to rally support from American families all across this country that care deeply about their children and grandchildren's future, and want to protect them from this planetary crisis.

on Parsifal (in French)

Heidegger - Pigor & Eichhorn

The Central Task of the Ruling Ideology


"The central task of the ruling ideology in the present crises is to impose a narrative which will place the blame for the meltdown not on the global capitalist system as such, but on secondary and contingent deviations (overly lax legal regulations, the corruption of big financial institutions, and so on)."

Slavoj Žižek, First as Tragedy, Then as Farce. Verso Books, London/New York 2009, p. 19.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Four Irresolvable Antagonisms of Global Capitalism



From “Censorship Today: Violence, or Ecology as the New Opium of the Masses” part 1
http://www.lacan.com/zizecology1.htm
[…]

1. Ecology:
In spite of the infinite adaptability of capitalism which, in the case of an acute ecological catastrophe or crisis, can easily turn ecology into a new field of capitalist investment and competition, the very nature of the risk involved fundamentally precludes a market solution - why? Capitalism only works in precise social conditions: it implies the trust into the objectivized/"reified" mechanism of the market's "invisible hand" which, as a kind of Cunning of Reason, guarantees that the competition of individual egotisms works for the common good. However, we are in the midst of a radical change. Till now, historical Substance played its role as the medium and foundation of all subjective interventions: whatever social and political subjects did, it was mediated and ultimately dominated, overdetermined, by the historical Substance. What looms on the horizon today is the unheard-of possibility that a subjective intervention will intervene directly into the historical Substance, catastrophically disturbing its run by way of triggering an ecological catastrophe, a fateful biogenetic mutation, a nuclear or similar military-social catastrophe, etc. No longer can we rely on the safeguarding role of the limited scope of our acts: it no longer holds that, whatever we do, history will go on. For the first time in human history, the act of a single socio-political agent effectively can alter and even interrupt the global historical process, so that, ironically, it is only today that we can say that the historical process should effectively be conceived "not only as Substance, but also as Subject." This is why, when confronted with singular catastrophic prospects (say, a political group which intends to attack its enemy with nuclear or biological weapons), we no longer can rely on the standard logic of the "Cunning of Reason" which, precisely, presupposes the primacy of the historical Substance over acting subjects: we no longer can adopt the stance of "let the enemy who threatens us deploy its potentials and thereby self-destruct himself" - the price for letting the historical Reason do its work is too high since, in the meantime, we may all perish together with the enemy. Recall a frightening detail from the Cuban missile crisis: only later did we learn how close to nuclear war we were during a naval skirmish between an American destroyer and a Soviet B-59 submarine off Cuba on October 27 1962. The destroyer dropped depth charges near the submarine to try to force it to surface, not knowing it had a nuclear-tipped torpedo. Vadim Orlov, a member of the submarine crew, told the conference in Havana that the submarine was authorized to fire it if three officers agreed. The officers began a fierce, shouting debate over whether to sink the ship. Two of them said yes and the other said no. "A guy named Arkhipov saved the world," was a bitter comment of a historian on this accident.

2. Private Property:
The inappropriateness of private property for the so-called "intellectual property." The key antagonism of the so-called new (digital) industries is thus: how to maintain the form of (private) property, within which only the logic of profit can be maintained (see also the Napster problem, the free circulation of music)? And do the legal complications in biogenetics not point in the same direction? Phenomena are emerging here which bring the notion of property to weird paradoxes: in India, local communities can suddenly discover that medical practices and materials they are using for centuries are now owned by American companies, so they should be bought from them; with the biogenetic companies patentizing genes, we are all discovering that parts of ourselves, our genetic components, are already copyrighted, owned by others...

The crucial date in the history of cyberspace is February 3 1976, the day when Bill Gates published his (in)famous "Open Letter to Hobbysts," the assertion of private property in the software domain: "As the majority of hobbysts must be aware, most of you steal your software. /.../ Most directly, the thing you do is theft." Bill Gates has built his entire empire and reputation on his extreme views about knowledge being treated as if it were tangible property. This was a decisive signal which triggered the battle for the "enclosure" of the common domain of software.

3. New Techno-Scientific Developments:
The socio-ethical implications of new techno-scientific developments (especially in bio-genetics) - Fukuyama himself was compelled to admit that the biogenetic interventions into human nature are the most serious threat to his vision of the End of History.

With the latest biogenetic developments, we are entering a new phase in which it is simply nature itself which melts into air: the main consequence of the scientific breakthroughs in biogenetics is the end of nature. Once we know the rules of its construction, natural organisms are transformed into objects amenable to manipulation. Nature, human and inhuman, is thus "desubstantialized," deprived of its impenetrable density, of what Heidegger called "earth." This compels us to give a new twist to Freud's title Unbehagen in der Kultur - discontent, uneasiness, in culture. With the latest developments, the discontent shifts from culture to nature itself: nature is no longer "natural," the reliable "dense" background of our lives; it now appears as a fragile mechanism which, at any point, can explode in a catastrophic direction.

4. New Forms of Apartheid:
Last but not least, new forms of apartheid, new Walls and slums. On September 11th, 2001, the Twin Towers were hit; twelve years earlier, on November 9th, 1989, the Berlin Wall fell. November 9th announced the "happy '90s," the Francis Fukuyama dream of the "end of history," the belief that liberal democracy had, in principle, won, that the search is over, that the advent of a global, liberal world community lurks just around the corner, that the obstacles to this ultra-Hollywood happy ending are merely empirical and contingent (local pockets of resistance where the leaders did not yet grasp that their time is over). In contrast to it, 9/11 is the main symbol of the forthcoming era in which new walls are emerging everywhere, between Israel and the West Bank, around the European Union, on the U.S.-Mexico border.

So what if the new proletarian position is that of the inhabitants of slums in the new megalopolises? The explosive growth of slums in the last decades, especially in the Third World megalopolises from Mexico City and other Latin American capitals through Africa (Lagos, Chad) to India, China, Philippines and Indonesia, is perhaps the crucial geopolitical event of our times. It is effectively surprising how many features of slum dwellers fit the good old Marxist determination of the proletarian revolutionary subject: they are "free" in the double meaning of the word even more than the classic proletariat ("freed" from all substantial ties; dwelling in a free space, outside the police regulations of the state); they are a large collective, forcibly thrown together, "thrown" into a situation where they have to invent some mode of being-together, and simultaneously deprived of any support in traditional ways of life, in inherited religious or ethnic life-forms.

While today's society is often characterized as the society of total control, slums are the territories within a state boundaries from which the state (partially, at least) withdrew its control, territories which function as white spots, blanks, in the official map of a state territory. Although they are de facto included into a state by the links of black economy, organized crime, religious groups, etc., the state control is nonetheless suspended there, they are domains outside the rule of law. In the map of Berlin from the times of the now defunct GDR, the are of West Berlin was left blank, a weird hole in the detailed structure of the big city; when Christa Wolf, the well-known East German half-dissident writer, took her small daughter to the East Berlin's high TV tower, from which one had a nice view over the prohibited West Berlin, the small girl shouted gladly: "Look, mother, it is not white over there, there are houses with people like here!" - as if discovering a prohibited slum Zone...

This is why the "de-structured" masses, poor and deprived of everything, situated in a non-proletarized urban environment, constitute one of the principal horizons of the politics to come. If the principal task of the emancipatory politics of the XIXth century was to break the monopoly of the bourgeois liberals by way of politicizing the working class, and if the task of the XXth century was to politically awaken the immense rural population of Asia and Africa, the principal task of the XXIth century is to politicize - organize and discipline - the "de-structured masses" of slum-dwellers. Hugo Chavez's biggest achievement is the politicization (inclusion into the political life, social mobilization) of slum dwellers; in other countries, they mostly persist in apolitical inertia. It was this political mobilization of the slum dwellers which saved him against the US-sponsored coup: to the surprise of everyone, Chavez included, slum dwellers massively descended to the affluent city center, tipping the balance of power to his advantage.

How do these four antagonisms relate to each other? There is a qualitative difference between the gap that separates the Excluded from the Included and the other three antagonisms, which designate three domains of what Hardt and Negri call "commons," the shared substance of our social being whose privatization is a violent act which should also be resisted with violent means, if necessary: the commons of culture, the immediately socialized forms of "cognitive" capital, primarily language, our means of communication and education (if Bill Gates were to be allowed monopoly, we would have reached the absurd situation in which a private individual would have literally owned the software texture our basic network of communication), but also the shared infrastructure of public transport, electricity, post, etc.; the commons of external nature threatened by pollution and exploitation (from oil to forests and natural habitat itself); the commons of internal nature (the biogenetic inheritance of humanity). What all these struggles share is the awareness of the destructive potentials, up to the self-annihilation of humanity itself, if the capitalist logic of enclosing these commons is allowed a free run. It is this reference to "commons" which justifies the resuscitation of the notion of Communism - or, to quote Alain Badiou:
The communist hypothesis remains the good one, I do not see any other. If we have to abandon this hypothesis, then it is no longer worth doing anything at all in the field of collective action. Without the horizon of communism, without this Idea, there is nothing in the historical and political becoming of any interest to a philosopher. Let everyone bother about his own affairs, and let us stop talking about it. In this case, the rat-man is right, as is, by the way, the case with some ex-communists who are either avid of their rents or who lost courage. However, to hold on to the Idea, to the existence of this hypothesis, does not mean that we should retain its first form of presentation which was centered on property and State. In fact, what is imposed on us as a task, even as a philosophical obligation, is to help a new mode of existence of the hypothesis to deploy itself.
So where do we stand today with regard to communism? The first step is to admit that the solution is not to limit the market and private property by direct interventions of the State and state ownership. The domain of State itself is also in its own way "private": private in the precise Kantian sense of the "private use of Reason" in State administrative and ideological apparatuses:
The public use of one's reason must always be free, and it alone can bring about enlightenment among men. The private use of one's reason, on the other hand, may often be very narrowly restricted without particularly hindering the progress of enlightenment. By public use of one's reason I understand the use which a person makes of it as a scholar before the reading public. Private use I call that which one may make of it in a particular civil post or office which is entrusted to him.
What one should add here, moving beyond Kant, is that there is a privileged social group which, on account of its lacking a determinate place in the "private" order of social hierarchy, directly stands for universality: it is only the reference to those Excluded, to those who dwell in the blanks of the State space, that enables true universality. There is nothing more "private" than a State community which perceives the Excluded as a threat and worries how to keep the Excluded at a proper distance. In other words, in the series of the four antagonisms, the one between the Included and the Excluded is the crucial one, the point of reference for the others; without it, all others lose their subversive edge: ecology turns into a "problem of sustainable development," intellectual property into a "complex legal challenge," biogenetics into an "ethical" issue. One can sincerely fight for ecology, defend a broader notion of intellectual property, oppose the copyrighting of genes, while not questioning the antagonism between the Included and the Excluded - even more, one can even formulate some of these struggles in the terms of the Included threatened by the polluting Excluded. In this way, we get no true universality, only "private" concerns in the Kantian sense of the term. Corporations like Whole Foods and Starbucks continue to enjoy favor among liberals even though they both engage in anti-union activities; the trick is that they sell products that contain the claim of being politically progressive acts in and of themselves. One buys coffee made with beans bought at above fair-market value, one drives a hybrid vehicle, one buys from companies that provide good benefits for their customers (according to the corporation's own standards), etc. Political action and consumption become fully merged. In short, without the antagonism between the Included and the Excluded, we may well find ourselves in a world in which Bill Gates is the greatest humanitarian fighting against poverty and diseases, and Rupert Murdoch the greatest environmentalist mobilizing hundreds of millions through his media empire.

When politics is reduced to the "private" domain, it takes the form of the politics of FEAR - fear of losing one's particular identity, of being overwhelmed. Today's predominant mode of politics is post-political bio-politics - an awesome example of theoretical jargon which, however, can easily be unpacked: "post-political" is a politics which claims to leave behind old ideological struggles and, instead, focus on expert management and administration, while "bio-politics" designates the regulation of the security and welfare of human lives as its primal goal. It is clear how these two dimensions overlap: once one renounces big ideological causes, what remains is only the efficient administration of life... almost only that. That is to say, with the depoliticized, socially objective, expert administration and coordination of interests as the zero-level of politics, the only way to introduce passion into this field, to actively mobilize people, is through fear, a basic constituent of today's subjectivity.

No wonder, then, that the by far predominant version of ecology is the ecology of fear, fear of a catastrophe - human-made or natural - that may deeply perturb, destroy even, the human civilization, fear that pushes us to plan measures that would protect our safety. This ecology of fear has all the chances of developing into the predominant form of ideology of global capitalism, a new opium for the masses replacing the declining religion: it takes over the old religion's fundamental function, that of putting on an unquestionable authority which can impose limits. The lesson this ecology is constantly hammering is our finitude: we are not Cartesian subjects extracted from reality, we are finite beings embedded in a bio-sphere which vastly transgresses our horizon. In our exploitation of natural resources, we are borrowing from the future, so one should treat our Earth with respect, as something ultimately Sacred, something that should not be unveiled totally, that should and will forever remain a Mystery, a power we should trust, not dominate. While we cannot gain full mastery over our bio-sphere, it is unfortunately in our power to derail it, to disturb its balance so that it will run amok, swiping us away in the process. This is why, although ecologists are all the time demanding that we change radically our way of life, underlying this demand is its opposite, a deep distrust of change, of development, of progress: every radical change can have the unintended consequence of triggering a catastrophe.

It is this distrust which makes ecology the ideal candidate for hegemonic ideology, since it echoes the anti-totalitarian post-political distrust of large collective acts. This distrust unites religious leaders and environmentalists - for both, there is something of a transgression, of entering a prohibited domain, in this idea of creating a new form of life from scratch, from the zero-point. And this brings us back to the notion of ecology as the new opium for the masses; the underlying message is again a deeply conservative one - any change can only be the change for the worst - here is a nice quote from the TIME magazine on this topic:
Behind much of the resistance to the notion of synthetic life is the intuition that nature (or God) created the best of possible worlds. Charles Darwin believed that the myriad designs of nature's creations are perfectly honed to do whatever they are meant to do - be it animals that see, hear, sing, swim or fly, or plants that feed on the sun's rays, exuding bright floral colours to attract pollinators.
This reference to Darwin is deeply misleading: the ultimate lesson of Darwinism is the exact opposite, namely that nature tinkers and improvises, with great losses and catastrophes accompanying every limited success - is the fact that 90 percent of the human genome is 'junk DNA' with no clear function not the ultimate proof of it? Consequently, the first lesson to be drawn is the one repeatedly made by Stephen Jay Gould: the utter contingency of our existence. There is no Evolution: catastrophes, broken equilibriums, are part of natural history; at numerous points in the past, life could have turned into an entirely different direction. The main source of our energy (oil) is the result of a past catastrophe of unimaginable dimensions. One should thus learn to accept the utter groundlessness of our existence: there is no firm foundation, a place of retreat, on which one can safely count. "Nature doesn't exist": "nature" qua the domain of balanced reproduction, of organic deployment into which humanity intervenes with its hubris, brutally throwing off the rails its circular motion, is man's fantasy; nature is already in itself "second nature," its balance is always secondary, an attempt to negotiate a "habit" that would restore some order after catastrophic interruptions.

With regard to this inherent instability of nature, the most consequent was the proposal of a German ecological scientist back in 1970s: since nature is changing constantly and the conditions on Earth will render the survival of humanity impossible in a couple of centuries, the collective goal of humanity should be not to adapt itself to nature, but to intervene into the Earth ecology even more forcefully with the aim to freeze the Earth's change, so that its ecology will remain basically the same, thus enabling humanity's survival. This extreme proposal renders visible the truth of ecology. 

Will the Keystone XL Pipeline Go Down?


Tomgram: Michael Klare, Will the Keystone XL Pipeline Go Down?
Posted by Michael Klare at 4:54pm, February 10, 2013.
Follow TomDispatch on Twitter @TomDispatch.

[…]
Extracting and processing tar sands is an extraordinarily expensive undertaking, far more so than most conventional oil drilling operations. Considerable energy is needed to dig the sludge out of the ground or heat the water into steam for underground injection; then, additional energy is needed for the various upgrading processes. The environmental risks involved are enormous (even leaving aside the vast amounts of greenhouse gases that the whole process will pump into the atmosphere). The massive quantities of water needed for SAGD and those upgrading processes, for example, become contaminated with toxic substances.  Once used, they cannot be returned to any water source that might end up in human drinking supplies -- something environmentalists say is already occurring.  All of this and the expenses involved mean that the multibillion-dollar investments needed to launch a tar-sands operation can only pay off if the final product fetches a healthy price in the marketplace.

And that’s where geography enters the picture.  Alberta is theoretically capable of producing five to six million barrels of tar-sands oil per day.  In 2011, however, Canada itself consumed only 2.3 million barrels of oil per day, much of it supplied by conventional (and cheaper) oil from fields in Saskatchewan and Newfoundland.  That number is not expected to rise appreciably in the foreseeable future. No less significant, Canada’s refining capacity for all kinds of oil is limited to 1.9 million barrels per day, and few of its refineries are equipped to process tar sands-style heavy crude. This leaves the producers with one strategic option: exporting the stuff.

And that’s where the problems really begin. Alberta is an interior province and so cannot export its crude by sea. Given the geography, this leaves only three export options: pipelines heading east across Canada to ports on the Atlantic, pipelines heading west across the Rockies to ports in British Columbia, or pipelines heading south to refineries in the United States.

Alberta’s preferred option is to send the preponderance of its tar-sands oil to its biggest natural market, the United States. At present, Canadian pipeline companies do operate a number of conduits that deliver some of this oil to the U.S., notably the original Keystone conduit extending from Hardisty, Alberta, to Illinois and then southward to Cushing, Oklahoma. But these lines can carry less than one million barrels of crude per day, and so will not permit the massive expansion of output the industry is planning for the next decade or so.
In other words, the only pipeline now under development that would significantly expand Albertan tar-sands exports is Keystone XL.  It is vitally important to the tar-sands producers because it offers the sole short-term -- or possibly even long-term -- option for the export and sale of the crude output now coming on line at dozens of projects being developed across northern Alberta.  Without it, these projects will languish and Albertan production will have to be sold at a deep discount -- at, that is, a per-barrel price that could fall below production costs, making further investment in tar sands unattractive. In January, Canadian tar-sands oil was already selling for $30-$40 less than West Texas Intermediate (WTI), the standard U.S. blend.

The Pipelines That Weren’t

Like an army bottled up geographically and increasingly at the mercy of enemy forces, the tar-sands producers see the completion of Keystone XL as their sole realistic escape route to survival.  “Our biggest problem is that Alberta is landlocked,” the province’s finance minister Doug Horner said in January. “In fact, of the world’s major oil-producing jurisdictions, Alberta is the only one with no direct access to the ocean. And until we solve this problem... the [price] differential will remain large.”

Logistics, geography, and finally timing. A presidential stamp of approval on the building of Keystone XL will save the tar-sands industry, ensuring them enough return to justify their massive investments. It would also undoubtedly prompt additional investments in tar-sands projects and further production increases by an industry that assumed opposition to future pipelines had been weakened by this victory.

A presidential thumbs-down and resulting failure to build Keystone XL, however, could have lasting and severe consequences for tar-sands production. After all, no other export link is likely to be completed in the near-term. The other three most widely discussed options -- the Northern Gateway pipeline to Kitimat, British Columbia, an expansion of the existing Trans Mountain pipeline to Vancouver, British Columbia, and a plan to use existing, conventional-oil conduits to carry tar-sands oil across Quebec, Vermont, and New Hampshire to Portland, Maine -- already face intense opposition, with initial construction at best still years in the future.

The Northern Gateway project, proposed by Canadian pipeline company Enbridge, would stretch from Bruderheim in northern Alberta to Kitimat, a port on Charlotte Sound and the Pacific.  If completed, it would allow the export of tar-sands oil to Asia, where Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper sees a significant future market (even though few Asian refineries could now process the stuff).  But unlike oil-friendly Alberta, British Columbia has a strong pro-environmental bias and many senior provincial officials have expressed fierce opposition to the project. Moreover, under the country’s constitution, native peoples over whose land the pipeline would have to travel must be consulted on the project -- and most tribal communities are adamantly opposed to its construction.

Another proposed conduit -- an expansion of the existing Trans Mountain pipeline from Edmonton to Vancouver -- presents the same set of obstacles and, like the Northern Gateway project, has aroused strong opposition in Vancouver.

This leaves the third option, a plan to pump tar-sands oil to Ontario and Quebec and then employ an existing pipeline now used for oil imports. It connects to a terminal in Casco Bay, near Portland, Maine, where the Albertan crude would begin the long trip by ship to those refineries on the Gulf Coast. Although no official action has yet been taken to allow the use of the U.S. conduit for this purpose, anti-pipeline protests have already erupted in Portland, including one on January 26th that attracted more than 1,400 people.

With no other pipelines in the offing, tar sands producers are increasing their reliance on deliveries by rail.  
This is producing boom times for some long-haul freight carriers, but will never prove sufficient to move the millions of barrels in added daily output expected from projects now coming on line.

The conclusion is obvious: without Keystone XL, the price of tar-sands oil will remain substantially lower than conventional oil (as well as unconventional oil extracted from shale formations in the United States), discouraging future investment and dimming the prospects for increased output.  In other words, as Bill McKibben hopes, much of it will stay in the ground.

Industry officials are painfully aware of their predicament.  In an Annual Information Form released at the end of 2011, Canadian Oil Sands Limited, owner of the largest share of Syncrude Canada (one of the leading producers of tar-sands oil) noted:

“A prolonged period of low crude oil prices could affect the value of our crude oil properties and the level of spending on growth projects and could result in curtailment of production... Any substantial and extended decline in the price of oil or an extended negative differential for SCO compared to either WTI or European Brent Crude would have an adverse effect on the revenues, profitability, and cash flow of Canadian Oil Sands and likely affect the ability of Canadian Oil Sands to pay dividends and repay its debt obligations.”


The stakes in this battle could not be higher.  If Keystone XL fails to win the president’s approval, the industry will certainly grow at a far slower pace than forecast and possibly witness the failure of costly ventures, resulting in an industry-wide contraction.  If approved, however, production will soar and global warming will occur at an even faster rate than previously projected. In this way, a presidential decision will have an unexpectedly decisive and lasting impact on all our lives.

Venezuela donates free heating oil to 100,000 needy US households



Feb 6, 2013 in Business

Baltimore - For the eighth straight year, Venezuela's state oil company is donating free heating oil to hundreds of thousands of needy Americans.

The CITGO-Venezuela Heating Oil Program has helped more than 1.7 million Americans in 25 states and the District of Columbia keep warm since it was launched back in 2005. The program is a partnership between the Venezuelan state oil company Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA), its subsidiary CITGO and Citizens Energy Corporation, a nonprofit organization founded by former US Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II that provides discounted and free home heating services and supplies to needy households in the United States and abroad. It has been supported from the beginning by Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez.

In 2005, a pair of devastating hurricanes, Katrina and Rita, led to dwindling oil supplies and skyrocketing fuel costs. Some of the poorest and most vulnerable Americans, including many elderly people on fixed incomes, found themselves having to choose between heating their homes or providing food, clothing or medicine for themselves and their families. Since that first winter, CITGO has provided 227 million gallons of free heating oil worth an estimated $465 million to an average of 153,000 US households each year. Some 252 Native American communities and 245 homeless shelters have also benefited from the program. This winter, more than 100,000 American families will receive Venezuelan aid. With the US government estimating that households heating primarily with oil will pay $407 (19 percent) more this year than last, the program remains an invaluable helping hand to many needy Americans.

"The CITGO-Venezuela Heating Oil Program has been one of the most important energy assistance efforts in the United States," CITGO CEO Alejandro Granado said at the Night of Peace Family Shelter in Baltimore, Maryland, where he and Citizens Energy Corporation Chairman Kennedy launched the 2013 program. "This year, as families across the Eastern Seaboard struggle to recover from the losses caused by Hurricane Sandy, this donation becomes even more significant."

Last year, President Barack Obama and Congress reduced Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) funding by 25 percent, cutting off an estimated one million US households from desperately needed assistance just as winter's worst chill, accompanied by record heating oil prices, set in. Fortunately, the CITGO-Venezuela Heating Oil Program was able to assist an estimated 400,000 Americans last year.
"The federal fuel assistance program reaches only one-fifth of all the eligible households in the US," Kennedy said in Baltimore. "Millions of families just go cold at night in their own homes."

US Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), who was on hand at the Baltimore launch, expressed his gratitude to CITGO.
"The demand is greater and the resources are shorter," Cummings said to widespread "amens" from the packed house. "We must not turn our heads away from the working poor-- remember, we could be in the same position. The help you provide to families is bigger than just the oil. It's about helping children lead stable lives."

The people gathered at the shelter prayed for the recovery of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, whose condition is reportedly improving following cancer surgery in Havana, Cuba.

Chávez is often demonized as a dictator by many US politicians and by the US corporate mainstream media. But he remains wildly popular in Venezuela, where he has won four straight presidential elections. He was reelected last October with 54.4 percent of the vote. Although his leadership style is increasingly authoritarian, his Bolivarian Revolution-- characterized by popular democracy, economic independence, equitable distribution of national wealth and reduced corruption-- has improved the lives of millions of Venezuela's poorest citizens and inspired tens of millions of Latin Americans seeking more just societies to vote in leftist governments throughout the region.

US critics claim that Chávez is anti-American. This oversimplifies matters-- while he is an ardent anti-imperialist who raised eyebrows and ire in Washington and on Wall Street by nationalizing the assets of foreign petroleum companies which many Venezuelans asserted were exploiting the country's natural resources, the US remains Venezuela's most important trading partner. And while Chávez is highly critical of US policies and actions around the globe, he is far from alone in his opposition. His distaste for Washington has also no doubt been influenced by the fact that senior officials in the George W. Bush administration were deeply involved in an attempted 2002 coup d'état against his popular regime.

All of this matters little to most of the 1.7 million Americans who have received free fuel from the CITGO-Venezuela Heating Oil Program.

"All I know is he was kind to the people of the United States," program recipient Alice Maniotis, a New York grandmother on a fixed income, said of Chávez. "He rules differently, like Obama rules differently," Maniotis told RT last year. "Who are we to tell these people how to live? Are they invading our country? They're not. They're being generous to give us what comes out of their earth at no charge. So could you really have ill feelings against them?"

Kennedy thanked CITGO, Venezuela and Chávez for "help[ing] more than 400,000 people stay warm and safe this winter," adding that he has approached numerous major oil-producing nations as well as some of the largest US oil companies and asked them if they were interested in helping the poor heat their homes.
"I don't see Exxon responding," he told the crowd in Baltimore. "I don't see other major oil companies heating the homes of the poor."

"They all said no," Kennedy added, "except for CITGO, President Chávez and the people of Venezuela.”

Friday, February 8, 2013

from funny or DIE





Global Unions Urge Release of Imprisoned Russian Trade Unionist





February 6, 2012—Trade unionist Valentin Urusov is proof that in Russia, it’s still possible to be imprisoned in the 21st century equivalent of the gulag for standing up for worker rights on the job. An electrical fitter at an ore-processing mill owned by the diamond mining company Alrosa, Urusov has spent more than four years of a six-year term in a penal colony in Yakutia in far northern Russia.

Described by friends as an intelligent and persuasive leader, Urusov in June 2008 formed the Profsvoboda trade union, affiliated with the Russian Metalworkers Trade Union. Profsvoboda sought to represent workers at the Udachny Pipe Diamond Mine, where workers toil in brutal cold in an open diamond pit just outside the Arctic circle.

Days after the union was founded, workers in one of the mine’s vehicle depots, dissatisfied with low pay and working conditions, announced a hunger strike. Alrosa refused to meet with them and instead unleashed a crackdown against trade union activists. When workers responded by preparing for a large-scale protest rally, Urusov was detained on suspicion of narcotics possession. The company’s deputy director for economic security was “coincidentally” present when the drugs were allegedly found on Urusov, enabling the deputy director to serve as an official witness, which is required under Russian law during police searches.

Valentin Urusov was detained prior to the start of a rally he was organizing. Photo: CSID

According to the Russian Confederation of Labor (KTR), which for years has engaged the international labor community in pressing for Urusov’s release, Urusov told his lawyer that the men who arrested him threatened to kill him if he refused to sign a document stating he possessed the drugs. They took him to the woods, and shots were fired near his head. He was beaten with batons and told he should get ready to die. Further, they demanded that Urusov confess that his union deputy had given the packet to him, but Urusov refused to give false testimony against his co-worker. After Urusov’s conviction, a higher court set aside the verdict, finding that there were serious procedural errors in the handling of his case and referred the case back for retrial. But in a retrial, the lower court did not change the verdict. In 2011, Urusov applied for parole and was denied. Urusov, who suffers from chronic kidney disease, remains in prison.

With Urusov behind bars, the KTR says Alrosa continued its campaign to destroy the union. Management representatives threatened union supporters and even those who had applied to join the union. By March 2009, the company fired the last 13 union activists. They appealed their dismissal in court, but lost. Those dismissed failed to find jobs because all enterprises in the city are linked to the Alrosa company.

The KTR filed Urusov’s case with the International Labor Organization (ILO) which in November issued a report requesting the Russian government indicate whether the allegation of anti-union persecution had been investigated. If not, the ILO recommended the government conduct an independent investigation. Russia’s Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights in January sent an appeal signed by journalists, human rights activists and other public figures to Russian President Vladimir Putin urging the government follow the ILO recommendations. A recent Human Rights Watch report harshly criticized Russia’s use of laws to restrict civil society.

Russian trade union activists face many types of workplace harassment, sackings and beatings by company thugs. But this is the first time in recent years, trade union activity has been “punished” with a lengthy jail sentence.

Monday, February 4, 2013

America's Healthcare System is the Third Leading Cause of Death

http://www.health-care-reform.net/causedeath.htm
  
America's Healthcare System is the Third Leading Cause of Death
 
Barbara Starfield, M.D. (2000)
  
Summary by Kah Ying Choo
This Journal of the American Medical Association article
illuminates the failure of the U.S. medical system in providing
 decent medical care for Americans.

In spite of the rising health care costs that provide the illusion
of improving health care, the American people do not enjoy good
health, compared with their counterparts in the industrialized nations.
Among thirteen countries including Japan, Sweden, France and
Canada, the U.S. was ranked 12th, based on the measurement of 16
health indicators such as life expectancy, low-birth-weight averages
and infant mortality.  In another comparison reported by the
World Health Organization that used a different set of health indicators,
the U.S. also fared poorly with a ranking of 15
among 25 industrialized nations.

Although many people attribute poor health to the bad habits
of the American public, Starfield (2000) points out that the
 Americans do not lead an unhealthy lifestyle compared to their
 counterparts.  For example, only 28 percent of the male population
 in the U.S. smoked, thus making it the third best nation in the
category of smoking among the 13 industrialized nations.
The U.S. population also achieved a high ranking (5th best)
for alcohol consumption.  In the category of men aged 50 to 70
years, the U.S. had the third lowest mean cholesterol concentrations
among 13 industrialized nations. Therefore, the perception that
the American public’s poor health is a result of their
 negative health habits is false.

Even more significantly, the medical system has played a large role
in undermining the health of Americans.  According to several research
studies in the last decade, a total of 225,000 Americans per year
have died as a result of their medical treatments:
• 12,000 deaths per year due to unnecessary surgery
• 7000 deaths per year due to medication errors in hospitals
• 20,000 deaths per year due to other errors in hospitals
• 80,000 deaths per year due to infections in hospitals
• 106,000 deaths per year due to negative effects of drugs
  
Thus, America's healthcare-system-induced deaths
are the third leading cause of the death in the U.S.,
after heart disease and cancer.

  
One of the key problems of the U.S. health system
is that as many as 40 million
people in the U.S. do not have access to healthcare. 
The social and economic
inequalities that are an integral part of American
 society are mirrored in the
inequality of access to the health care system. 
Essentially, families of
low socioeconomic status are cut off from receiving
a decent level of health care.
By citing these statistics, Starfield (2000) highlights
 the need to examine
the type of health care provided to the U.S.
population.  The traditional
medical paradigm that emphasizes the use of
prescription medicine
and medical treatment has not only failed to
 improve the health of
Americans, but also led to the decline in the
overall well-being of Americans.

[...]

Starfield’s (2000) article is invaluable in unveiling 
the catastrophic effects of the medical treatments 
provided to the American people.  
In order to improve the medical system, 
American policymakers and the medical 
 establishment need to adopt a comprehensive 
approach and critically examine the failure of the 
richest country in the world to provide 
decent health care for its people.
[…]