21 May 2010

The Beginning of the End

Global Guerrillas: Leaking Legitimacy
Over the last month, it's become increasingly clear that there is a coordinated information operations campaign in place to downplay the impact of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. The US government and British Petroleum have imposed a scientific and media blackout to prevent the gathering of the information on the oil leak needed to generate precise estimates (specifically, updates to very low estimates made during the very early days of the crisis). Despite this blackout, credible outside estimates made possible by the little information that has trickled out show that the amount of oil leaking from the broken wellhead is upwards of twenty times the official British Petroleum and Government estimates -- nearly 4,000,000 gallons a day vs. 210,000.

4 million gallons per day, for days on end. The oil spilled by the Exxon Valdez was about 10 million gallons, in total. Per Wikipedia, "The oil [from the Valdez] eventually covered 1,300 miles (2,100 km) of coastline and 11,000 square miles (28,000 km2) of ocean." How long can something of this magnitude be backpaged successfully, as millions of tourists head to the beaches of the South for summer?

The Gulf as we know it is no more. Dmitry Orlov has compared the spill to Chernobyl for its similar roots in political cronyism and potential social consequences. Ecologically, it's probably worse - at least in the case of Chernobyl, the native wildlife of the area survived and regenerated, even in the face of extreme radiation hazards, but a blanket of smothering oil allows for no regeneration.

Live in the South? Time to pick up your hat.

C-Realm letter, May 12

Below is the text of a letter I sent to podcaster KMO of the C-Realm podcast, which he read at the end of episode 205, released on May 12, 2010.

Hey KMO;

Enjoying the new blog (ETC J).

I was just re-listening to your dialogue with Doug Lain talking about your convo with Frank Rotering, and then there was this NYT article: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/10/world/africa/10aids.html and i started thinking about that whole "dieoff" thing that so many folks don't want to talk about. I think it's already started happening, we just haven't been able to see it 'cos it's been hidden by the last whitewashing...and because we willfully ignore the obvious signs. This article highlights an example.. AIDS has barely been talked about in most mainstream media in the States in years, but in Africa, it's a slow-moving mass casualty war, that is now starting to accelerate.

As the ability of the globalists to mask it up starts to fail, AIDS and anything else like this will hit harder, kill more, and move faster. Less money for AIDS? Also less money for cancer research, for grants to rebuild places that have flooded/burned/been tornado-mauled, for vaccination programs, for monitoring of industries.... I grew up in coal country, and I know just how important OSHA inspections are to keep mines safe for miners, but do you think the Labor Dept will do much more than slap a few wrists at Massey these days? And don't even get me started on the oil spill.

I think part of the problem in discussing dieback is that too many people have been media-conditioned to expect One Big Cause. SARS! Swine flu! Zombies! But there won't be One Big Cause, just lots and lots of little ones all adding up, like a Katamari ball. JMG's catabolic collapse is perhaps the most spot-on in that way, although I notice he doesn't discuss dieoff much either. It's the elephant in the doomer's mud hut, it seems. As though any attempt to talk about it implies some kind of inappropriate social hierarchicalization or bigotry. I call BS on that.

I don't have to hold any bigotry in my heart against Africans to know that it is very likely that death by disease there will greatly accelerate in the coming years, and that it is also as likely that the rich folk of Africa will not suffer as much as the poor. Also, that war and violent strife will increase, too, as the ill and the strong compete for dwindling resources. It isn't a pretty picture. It's no wonder people don't want to talk about it. But the same thing is happening here, right now to a lesser extent, but perhaps to a greater one shortly.

Anyway, sorry to bend your ear about what is probably a dead horse of a topic for you these days.

I will try to send some donations your way soon. If you decide to kick off another tour, ping me.


That Zombie-Type Blog

Over the next few weeks, I'll be reviving this blog as a location for direct commentary on podcasts and other media items of note. Feel free to join in the conversation.

30 May 2005

hot days, pushy

i'm far more afraid of the organizational skills and proselytizing power of the right-wing Christians than of the internecene debates of Islam. when the oil starts to run out and society gets weirder, Colorado is a lot closer than Iran. So, if the Ukraine can have a nonviolent revolution through better pre-planning and organization, why can't we? (or is the secret story really that the power that won is the same as the power that lost, only in new clothing?)

A scary review of Wright's Ripped and Torn - scary in that it so offhandedly notes something i've been disturbed by for a while now in my studies: the lack of a robust ideological grounding for leftist and/or progressive discourse in this post-ColdWar globalised world...
"...I found myself reflecting that in this post-Soviet world, when the ideology of socialism is almost an embarrassment ("I'd be called a commie," she writes with mock horror), this book is constantly searching for a language or a structure with which to describe these fundamental issues, which have not simply disappeared with the fall of the wall. Just a generation ago this would probably have been a less readable book, a tract laced with words such as alienation, surplus value and colonial imperialism. But it would have had a coherence underpinned by an understandable philosophy. Today the left has no language, and the multinationals do."
A nicely-put example of the value of social development and the dangers of too much postmodernism slipping into dangerous moral relativism:
"it is empirically demonstrable that men yearn--lazily--for that which is garishly available (cf Paris Hilton, Carl's Jr.). Women, for their part--at least in the Western world--understand that the social contract ensures safety and filters out brutishness. To fall, simplemindedly, for the naked male (cf Denzel/Jude in thong) is to be lured into an open Darwinian zone. This zone--these images--offer prospects of coupling without nurture or long-term guarantees, without the implied masculine pledges on home, hearth and the support of offspring. In backward cultures, women are overprotected and invisible; so men lose all resistance to images--and all self-restraint. In downtown Kandahar, for example, a display of female ankle is proof of flooziness most damnable. In that world, men are rarely required to resist temptation. Consider this clip from Dubai TV, in which an Egyptian rapist on death row is interviewed:

Rapist: Even if she's unmarried, or a little girl, when someone sees her short clothes, he will find the courage, and won't leave her alone. A girl like this makes a guy. . . .

Interviewer: She seduces him?

Rapist: Yes, she makes him take her, even if it's in the middle of town. Even if he has to kill or die, he will still take her.

In the West, by important contrast, men modulate their behavior when faced with seductive images. They have to. Women judge them by their ability to do so. And they are trained, at an early age, to take responsibility for their own lust."
And a review worth quoting at length, of John Ralston Saul's new book:
"...there is a radical critique in this book, although not a critique of globalization per se. Globalization is just a proxy two other targets.

Saul's first target is the assumption that economics is the main determinant of a society's civilization. If a society fixes the correct economic relationships, the rest will fall into place: freedom, democracy, peace, human well-being. According to Saul, the apostles of globalization argued that reducing barriers to international trade would lead to freedom, peace and prosperity at both a national and global level, and indeed to "the end of history." Saul lampoons this assumption. People care about many things beyond the freedom to engage in market exchanges -- such as their religion, culture, homeland and community -- and are quite willing to sweep aside economic relations if necessary to protect these deeper values. According to Saul, the fact that decision-makers in the West had an almost blind faith in the primacy of economic relations explains why they were unprepared for the devastating ethnic and religious conflicts and "irregular warfare" that have broken out since the end of the Cold War.

The idea that economics is the foundation of civilization is not only naive, Saul argues, it also puts the cart before the horse. Free markets cannot be the basis on which successful social, political and legal institutions are built, because markets can only function when these institutions are already in place. Markets require a strong state capable of enforcing the law, collecting taxes and providing public goods like roads, public health and a clean environment. These, in turn, depend on having a sufficiently cohesive society in which citizens co-operate with and trust each other, and participate in collective efforts for the public good.

For these and other reasons, Saul argues, most scholars and decision-makers have rejected the naive view that market reforms are the royal road to peace and prosperity. When Saul says "globalism is dead," it is this assumption, above all, which he has in mind. Global economic integration may proceed apace, but no one maintains the "romantic enthusiasm" that this is a guarantor of a new and better civilization. Even some of the high priests of globalization, such as Milton Friedman and Francis Fukuyama, admit it was a mistake to give precedence to market reforms over broader issues of democratic transition, conflict resolution, national integration, civil society and the rule of law.

Some readers may wonder whether Saul is tilting at windmills. Did anyone really say that markets could, by themselves, generate the end of history? Saul insists this was, indeed, the mind-frame of many people in the heyday of globalization, and he has some nice quotes from the World Economic Forum meetings in Davos in the 1970s and '80s to back it up.

Yet Saul agrees that many of the people who endorsed globalization did not share this romantic illusion. The real work of reducing tariffs, privatizing industries and harmonizing trade policies was done by non-ideological bureaucrats, academic advisers, management consultants and elected officials. Most of these foot soldiers of globalization did not subscribe to any overarching theory about the link between the economy and civilization and, indeed, their specialized training discouraged them from asking such big questions. They are trained to reduce problems to manageable, bite-sized issues, then find the most utilitarian, cost-efficient means of achieving their limited task.

[....] In short, Saul's critique of "globalism" is not an attack on this or that set of trade rules, but rather on two deeply rooted mindsets: a narrowly economistic interpretation of how societies develop, and a narrowly utilitarian and technocratic conception of public administration and corporate management."

Feel the love, oh yeah.