Wednesday, January 23, 2019

 

The Old and the New in the Year of the Pig


With the new year almost upon us, some green shoots are appearing to signal the renewal of the (human) spirit:
The feeling of commiseration is the beginning of humanity; the feeling of shame and dislike is the beginning of righteousness; the feeling of deference and compliance is the beginning of propriety; and the feeling of right or wrong is the beginning of wisdom. ~~ Mencius

Of course, the new "geen shoots" I am referring to are these: "Kudos to the New York Times for hiring [Michelle] Alexander as a columnist and letting her say this...:"
[Martin Luther King’s] was a lonely, moral stance. And it cost him. But it set an example of what is required of us if we are to honor our deepest values in times of crisis, even when silence would better serve our personal interests or the communities and causes we hold most dear. It’s what I think about when I go over the excuses and rationalizations that have kept me largely silent on one of the great moral challenges of our time: the crisis in Israel-Palestine.
I have not been alone. Until very recently, the entire Congress has remained mostly silent on the human rights nightmare that has unfolded in the occupied territories. Our elected representatives, who operate in a political environment where Israel’s political lobby holds well-documented power, have consistently minimized and deflected criticism of the State of Israel, even as it has grown more emboldened in its occupation of Palestinian territory and adopted some practices reminiscent of apartheid in South Africa and Jim Crow segregation in the United States.
Many civil rights activists and organizations have remained silent as well, not because they lack concern or sympathy for the Palestinian people, but because they fear loss of funding from foundations, and false charges of anti-Semitism. They worry, as I once did, that their important social justice work will be compromised or discredited by smear campaigns.
Similarly, many students are fearful of expressing support for Palestinian rights because of the McCarthyite tactics of secret organizations like Canary Mission, which blacklists those who publicly dare to support boycotts against Israel, jeopardizing their employment prospects and future careers.
More HERE.

Elsewhere, however, things remain unperturbed in their darkness:
We now have proof that the U.S. has been dispatching New Zealand human intelligence officers, sending them on overseas missions. And not simply to Afghanistan or Iraq. But in one case, to infiltrate a multitude of political parties contesting the 2012 Presidential elections of an ally – France.

I seem to recall officials of the U.S. government accusing another government of precisely this behavior.

What more can we witness amidst this darkness?:
A further WikiLeaks release shows that the U.S. weren’t only involving New Zealand in spying on France for political reasons alone. They were ordering us to steal commercial and trade secrets as well.

Oh, really?

Wasn't a foreign firm accused in the U.S.A. of doing just that?
According to a new report from The Wall Street Journal, U.S. federal prosecutors are preparing a criminal indictment against Huawei for stealing trade secrets. The report, which cites sources with knowledge of the indictment, specifically mentions Huawei’s actions surrounding a T-Mobile smartphone testing tool known as “Tappy.” The report notes that the current investigation is far enough along that an indictment may come soon.

Pot bottom calling the kettle black? Whence will renewal be complete?

Friday, December 07, 2018

 

The Coming War on China - A film by John Pilger


U.S. Imperialism doesn't sleep.



And on the "other end" you have a modernized version of Halford Mackinder's Heartland Theory:
Mackinder is best known for his doctrine of the “Heartland.” Geopolitical strategy was about the endgame of controlling the Heartland—or the enormous transcontinental land mass of Eurasia, encompassing Eastern Europe, Russia through Siberia, and Central Asia. The Heartland, together with the remainder of Asia and Africa, made up the World Island. The Heartland itself was defined by its inaccessibility to sea, making it “the greatest natural fortress on earth.”7 The Columbian Age dominated by sea power, Mackinder argued, was coming to an end to be replaced by a new Eurasian age in which land power would be decisive. The development of land transportation and communication meant that land power could finally rival sea power. In the new Eurasian Age whoever ruled the Heartland, if also equipped with a modern navy, would be able to outflank the maritime world—the world controlled by the British and U.S. empires.
Monthly Review

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Tuesday, September 11, 2018

 

Remembering the Attacks on the Twin Towers


No words necessary...

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Monday, June 25, 2018

 

Central Asia


I had been planning to visit Central Asia with much enthusiasm for quite a while and I managed a first incursion into Kyrgyzstan for an academic conference in Bishkek during the early part of the summer of 2017. That visit only whetted my appetite to see more (especially since I hadn't been able to visit the neighboring countries of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan).



Hence, upon my return, I began planning for my trip to Western China as an ambitious follow-up. My trip took me to Ürümqi, Kashgar, Turpan, Dunhuang and partially down the Chinese side of the famed Karakoram Highway. It was everything I had hoped it would be.

My interest was twofold. First of all, I had been following closely the details surrounding the unfolding of the One Belt-One Road Initiative as part of my academic research agenda. I particularly wanted to see the China-Pakistan Friendship Highway, but I eventually became intrigued with the history of the region. I bought Peter Frankopan's "The Silk Roads: A New History of the World", and devoured as much of the book as I could during the 14 hour flight from the United States' East Coast to Beijing. I couldn't put the book down, even after landing in China:
"Urban centers spurred each other on, with rivalry between rulers and elites prompting ever more ambitious architecture and spectacular monuments. Libraries, places of worship, churches and observatories of immense scale and cultural influence dotted the region, connecting Constantinople to Damascus, Isfahan, Samarkand, Kabul and Kashgar. Cities such as these became homes to brilliant scholars who advanced the frontiers of their subjects. The names of only a small handful are familiar today--men like Ibn Sīnā, ... Al-Bīrūnī, and al-Khwarizmi--giants in the fields of astronomy and medicine; but there were many more besides. For centuries before the modern era, the intellectual centres of excellence of the world, the Oxfords and Cambridges, the Harvards and Yales, were not located in Europe or the west, but in Baghdad and Balkh, Bukhara and Samarkand." --- Peter Frankopan, "The Silk Roads: A New History of the World", Vintage Books, March 2017.


Ürümqi


Kashgar


Karakoram Highway


Turpan


I must say, I'll be back in the near future.

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Sunday, June 03, 2018

 

Media On Trial in Leeds ...and other Sunday musings.


Held recently was an event that should be much more commonplace throughout the western world than is currently, especially after the Iraq debacle. I couldn't help thinking that as it runs out of opportunities for investment, capitalism is accentuating its destructive imperialist phase where it seeks to destroy countries through war just so it can invest (among other things) in the "reconstruction" (yes, I'm admittedly a neophyte in my analysis, lacking in any ideological rigor). Anyway, participating in the "event", known as Media On Trial, were Sheila Coombes, Professor Piers Robinson, independent researcher Robert Stuart, journalist Patrick Henningsen, former UK ambassador to Bahrain and Syria Peter Ford, and investigative journalist and photographer Vanessa Beeley. The talks are also available as a 21st Century Sunday Wire podcast. Well worth taking a couple of hours (grab yourself a cup of coffee or tea) and listening.

Also interesting is a lecture by Dr. Prabhat Patnaik, entitled The State under neo-liberalism. To the question he poses of - "How do you preserve the social legitimacy of the state in the face of its submission to the powers of finance capital?", he respondes - "by locating a common enemy or a fifth column", this in the interests of diverting the public's attention. The war on terror is just one of those diversions. Interesting thoughts by an Indian Marxist economist and political commentator who taught at the Centre for Economic Studies and Planning in the School of Social Sciences at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, from 1974 until his retirement in 2010. He was also the vice-chairman of the Planning Board of the Indian state of Kerala from June 2006 to May 2011.

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Saturday, May 05, 2018

 

Hurricane season precautionary reading...


As the 2018 hurricane season rapidly approaches, I delve into the past. In particular, I'm motivated to recall the introduction to my late father's doctoral dissertation (it is worth noting that his description differs somewhat from historical reports):

On the eleventh of September, 1928, the radio operator of the freighter "Commack" wired a message describing a well-formed tropical disturbance which had been located at longitude 50 ° W., and latitude 15° N. This was the first notice concerning a large and powerful hurricane which was moving across the middle Atlantic from the direction of the Cape Verde Islands. On the following day this hurricane broke with savage fury across the feeble land barrier of islands separating the Caribbean from the Atlantic. The center of the hurricane passed slowly over the northern part of the French island of Guadeloupe during the morning of the twelfth. It was moving in a west-northwesterly direction at a speed of about ten miles an hour. Not only Guadeloupe but also St. Kitts and Montserrate informed the outside world of the great damage of property and high loss of life occasioned by the creature of nature.

Another freighter, "Matura," out of Trinidad, found itself in the path of the winds and registered a low barometer reading of 27.50 at sea level. The position of the ship when taking this reading was about ten miles to the south of St. Croix, one of the largest of the Virgin Islands. The storm kept to its west-northwest course and penetrated into the island of Puerto Rico at the southeast corner near the town of Guayama early in the morning of the thriteenth of September. Moving at a speed of about 13 miles per hour, the storm, known as San Felipe by the Puerto Ricans, ripped the island diagonally from its southeast corner to the northwest area between Isabela and Aguadilla.

From Puerto Rico the storm moved on to the north of Santo Domingo and into the Bahamas, passing south of Nassau and Turk Islands. Finally on the morning of the sixteenth it entered Florida near West Palm Beach. Here it changed direction and moved northward. Spending its force as it advanced up the Atlantic coast, it disappeared finally around Lake Ontario. However, in Florida, particularly in the Lake Okeechobee area, it did a great deal of damage. The losses were calculated in the thousands of dollars and the Red Cross estimated that nearly two thousand people lost their lives in the storm.

This hurricane has been regarded as one of the strongest to sweep across the West Indies. Its intensity did not diminish from the time it broke into the Caribbean until the seventeenth, five days later, when it was moving up the Atlantic coast. All authorities on the tropical storms which have hit Puerto Rico agree that San Felipe was the most powerful in modern times. The strength of its winds as it passed through Puerto Rico is doubtful, because the cups of the anemometer were carried off with the fury of the high winds which lashed the island. The estimate of the velocity of these winds varied from 160 to 190 miles an hour over the period of three to four hours during which the storm was at its peak. San Felipe was accompanied by heavy rains. In the mountainous area of Adjuntas, where heavy rain can normally be expected, the questionable reading of 29.6 inches for a 48 hour period was recorded.

The loss of life and property in Puerto Rico was high. Over 300 persons lost their lives. Without the radio warnings, many more would have perished. Property damage was difficult to estimate. Calculations varied from $50 million to $85 million. The impoverished little island, ... was little prepared to meet such a catastrophe.

...from Mathews, Thomas G., Puerto Rican Politics and the New Deal, Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1960: pp. 1-2.

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Sunday, January 28, 2018

 

A Tale Of Two Islands, by Vijay Prashad


Yes, we've been through hell and back:
The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season was a hyperactive, deadly, and extremely destructive season, featuring 17 named storms, ranking alongside 1936 as the fifth-most active season since records began in 1851. The season also featured both the highest total accumulated cyclone energy (ACE) and the highest number of major hurricanes since 2005. All ten of the season's hurricanes occurred in a row, the greatest number of consecutive hurricanes in the satellite era, and tied for the greatest number of consecutive hurricanes ever observed in the Atlantic basin since records began in 1851.


But the point of this post is to contrast the approaches of two islands to the threats, and it's done effectively by Vijay Prashad. I'll let him "speak":
one island, a poor socialist state with infrastructure in grave need of modernisation, has slowly emerged out of the chaos caused by a hurricane’s wrath, while the other, a territory of the richest country in the world, cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel.


You should read the entire article for yourself. Here is just a piece:
While Cuban journalists and brigades fanned Cuba to provide information to the authorities about destruction and reconstruction, Puerto Rico went dark. Communications collapsed and information about the damage was not easily available. While in Cuba the authorities tried to get exact information of the damage done to each home, in Puerto Rico the numbers thrown about were the price tag for recovery—between $40 billion and $85 billion is the estimated insurance claims that will likely be triggered by the devastation. It says a great deal about the different approaches to disaster: one makes sure each person is tended to and the other worries about the cost of the recovery.


READ IT!

*****

Oh, and a footnote related to Puerto Rico's fiscal crisis.

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