Tuesday, December 25, 2012

P.S. on Africa

Yesterday's news on RT was that the U.S. is sending troops to 35 African countries, starting with Mali, and including  Libya, Sudan, Algeria and Niger in order to prepare for any advances from al-Qaeda linked groups. "Americans will also train and equip forces in Kenya and Somalia, .... to stand up to al-Shabab militants. Despite the troops being deployed to more than half of the countries in Africa', according to the AP the U.S. will try to minimize evidence of its footprint across the continent.

This is not about aid and assistance, but about minerals and arable land, and the new policy of training and equiping indigenous military forces to do our work for us.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

A Propos Egypt's Constitututional Referendum

France 24 recently reported on a book from Renaissance Capital that confirms my belief that Africa will continue on a rapid growth curve for the foreseeable future. Like all liberals, Charles Robertson affirms that although the transition from subsistence farming is always painful, with inequality comes an overall increase in well-being.

The coming decades will see if he’s right. For the time being, Africans displaced from ancestral lands by agro-business would disagree: The profits are not for them, and their resentment feeds political violence.  Had Europe and the United States engaged in peaceful relations with Africa over the last century, increasingly educated indigenous rulers might have been able to gradually steer a peaceful transition from medieval Islam to the modern Islam now trying to birth. Instead, colonial rule gave way to an American Middle East and African policy that conflicted with  unchanging religiously-inspired cultural traditions setting off a wave of Islamic resistance, starting with Al Queda.

The Egyptian referendum on a constitution drafted by the Muslim Brotherhood should be seen as part of an Islamic Reformation. This transition is made more difficult by the fight to the death between Christian and Muslim fundamentalisms, both equally retrograde. Is there a qualitative intellectual difference between the rapture and seventy-two virgins? Or between Mohamed’s flight to Jerusalem and Jesus’ resurrection?

It’s only a short step between the rapture and God wanting us to rule the world, and an equally short step from believing that God’s law trumps man’s to resisting man’s laws to the death. The Egyptian Constitution, with all its flaws, must be seen as a valid alternative to Boko Haram and other Salafist militias intent on imposing God's law exclusively.

Monday, December 10, 2012

A Ship is Turning

Today the big news for me is that Fareed Zakaria has been allowed to inform his listeners that the best countries to live in are those of Scandinavia!  And this was no passing remark.  The CNN talk show host used the United States’ low grades in everything from education to health care compared to other countries to explain that although Sweden, Denmark and Norway tax more than other developed countries, their citizens are better educated and have the highest standard of living in the world.  Departing from the decades-long dismissal of the northern welfare states as both unsustainable and too expensive, Zakaria admitted that taxes are high, but in return no one is left in need.  At a time when austerity is rampant elsewhere these countries would not consider putting limits on unemployment compensation or other supports to those in need.

The fact that a widely watched TV host can now provide these facts without being obligated to add a strong of negatives or condemnation is the equivalent of a ship initiating a one hundred and eighty degree turn. We know this can only be done gradually because ships are cumbersome, but hopefully, this ship represents a different second term for Obama.

An ever so slight change in Hillary Clinton’s and Obama’s tone vis a vis Israel following the UN decision to grant Palestine non-member observer status - which implies recognition - was con-demned by the U.S., however that condemnation was followed by an equally unmistakable condemnation of Israel for initiating building 3,000 new settlements which would cut the occupied West Bank in two, virtually foreclosing any possibility of a two-state solution.

Although mainstream television can talk of nothing but the fiscal cliff, the real news these days is that notwithstanding very scary contradictions, the American ship of state may at last be slowly beginning to turn toward the rest of the world.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

P.S. to Yesterday's Post

In my enumeration of future trends I failed to mention the one that partly underlies all the others, and that is the exponential increase in world population and the ever more authoritarian methods governments feel they must use to keep populations in line, given the conflicting aspirations of the two groups.

Populations benefit from new means of communication with which to meet the increased use of force by government, but the latter will inevitably win out.

This brings us to another major trend, that between centralization, technology and the rape of the earth and the decentralizing, earth friendly aspirations of Occupy and other grass roots movements around the world.

Rather than a clash of civilizations, we are witnessing a clash of cultures, as expressed in all the other trends.



Friday, December 7, 2012

It's All Clear Now

Sixty-seven years ago, when the first atomic bomb was dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima, a new world was born, which after a world war and a cold war is now fully matured: current newscasts tell us or imply that:

a) unemployed American youth end up either in jail or in the military;

b) in future the military will  rely ever less on humans and more on drones and droids;

c) increasingly, covert operations will rule the day, fomenting revolts mainly in the Middle East oil pit so that we can invade ‘to save lives’ and replace old dictators with new ones;

d) Europe will gradually become a Russian sphere of influence via oil and gas pipelines;

e) Islam will gradually replace Christianity as the dominant religion in Europe,

f) as brown people from the southern hemisphere gradually outnumber whites;

g) India and China will duke it out in the Asian Pacific seas,

h) as Latin American countries follow the lead of Ecuador and Bolivia, writing constitutions that reflect 21st century human and planetary rights.

i) The United States will continue to disregard international legal and human rights standards as well as the threat of catastrophic global warming in an increasingly futile effort to spread its domina-tion across Africa and the Middle East.

The pursuit of material goods goes hand in hand with violence and sexual vulgarity.  Although class antagonisms will never disappear, the fault lines of the twenty-first century will be less ideological and more cultural. Russia and China will continue to support a return to pre-counter-cultural morality, making common cause with Islam in that respect. (It is not clear whether India will ultimately do likewise, but this seems unlikely.)

The crisis in Egypt is largely a cultural one, in which a modernizing Islam faces opposition from a public ‘liberated’ from religious dogma but in thrall to the absolutism of ‘freedom’ epitomized by a First Amendment definition of free speech.  That freedom is contradicted by ever the increasing surveillance of our telephone and cyber conversations, adding another dimension to 21st century struggles: between a world in which the haves use hierarchical organization and technology to thwart aspirations for decentralization and solidarity among all living entities, including the planet.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

World Free for All

The bad news today on RT is of renewed chaos in Egypt, of Syrian rebels threatening to use chemical weapons, as an 8,000 man US troop carrier heads for the Syrian coast. The good news is that privately-owned U.S. prisons are the perfect answer to outsourcing. People the free market doesn’t have jobs for are locked up on the slightest charge, where, in privately-owned prisons they complete with third world factories making clothes and other items for big box stores and designers, raking in billions for their keepers.

For MSNBC and its sisters, the world is limited to the debate over the ‘fiscal cliff’. Maybe that’s because even as Mitch McConnell clings to the Republican hard line, stocks rise. The bad news is that Obama’s quest for middle class tax breaks is as elusive as King Arthur’s quest for the Holy Grail. The good news is that England’s future queen Kate got her morning sickness under control, and can be seen leaning weakly on William’s arm.

No less importantly, talks jointly sponsored with Norway between the FARC rebels and the Columbian government entered their second round in Havana, as North Korea prepares to launch a long-range rocket.

Luckily, NASA issued a statement affirming that contrary to Mayan predictions, the world is not going to end on December 21st ‘or any time this year”. So what’s not to like?  After all, Pearl Harbor was seventy-one years ago!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

RT Reads my Mind!

This morning, as usual, I got up and turned on the TV to RT’s hourly news. Seeing reports of violent clashes in Egypt following approval of President Morsi’s constitution, I think: “The US has got to have a hand in this.”  For days I had been guessing that it was probably not fortuitous that Morsi gave himself sweeping powers right after playing a major role in diffusing the Israeli threat to invade Gaza, after eight days of horrific bombing.  But I hadn’t completed the thought. Now I was hearing on RT that indeed that connection exists, and big time.

According to the commentator, Morsi’s Gaza intervention established his bona fides as a valuable partner in America’s quest for Middle East control: We have to abandon our erstwhile right-wing allies because the Arab street simply will not tolerate them any longer, but better they be replaced by the Muslim Brotherhood, the ‘con-servative’ Islamic party, than by the Salafists - or socialists. In any case, Morsi knew that the US would not intervene on the side of the Egyptian street if he gave himself sweeping powers.  The quid pro quo was seen today with Hillary Clinton taking the Israelis to task for announcing the building of 3,000 new homes in the occupied West Bank.

Let’s see if this scenario plays out.