Tuesday, May 28, 2013

France's Yellow-Cake-Walk

You have to be watching the French news channel in English, France 24, to become aware of what is really going on in the African country of Niger (not to be confused with oil-rich Nigeria).

Remember when the Bush administration was telling us about evidence that Saddam Hussein had purchased yellow cake in Niger, which meant he was trying to build an atomic weapon?  Maybe we were told that ‘yellow cake’ refers to uranium, but I do not remember that.  In any case, 'Niger' was just an obscure country that was momentarily in the news.

The other day I learned from one of the French channel’s regular updates on the country’s campaign against the terrorist gorup AQIM in neighboring Mali, that Niger has the biggest deposits of uranium in the world. So that what may appear as merely just another French effort to maintain its influence in its former African colonies, is supported by the United States, so far with only a handful of military providing ‘liaison support’ to its troops and those of the UN-backed African ECOWAS.

Expect Mali and Niger to be on the international radar permanently, henceforth. The French effort is no more a cake-walk than are ours, as religion  becomes a new factor in the ‘Third World’s’ determination to preserve its assets.


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Bitcoin, etc.

Most people haven’t heard of the new electronic currency called bitcoin, but I’ve been aware of it for about a year, and according to a discussion today on RT’s ‘Crosstalk’, a number of real people around the world are using this currency successfully.

I will not even try to understand how it works, but according to one of Peter Lavelle’s guests, you can download a program that will allow you to start using it in five minutes.  As usual, what is important for me is the ‘gist’ of this story.

The gist is that we’re moving toward a decentralized world, in which libertarians and anarchists may actually be converging. Talk of commonalities between Tea Partiers and Occupiers has always seemed to me a stretch, because the former aspire to be part of the 1% while the latter worry about the 99%. But decentralization coupled with electronic currencies that are independent of the banking system, may constitute a small chink in the wall that separates these two worldviews.

- As the globalized economy totters, bringing down the most developed countries, people can no longer count on socialist-leaning governments as the vehicle for human solidarity.

- When students realize that an expensive education does not lead to well-paying jobs, they will increasingly follow the thirty and forty-somethings who are abandoning their city lives and moving to the country.  Recently RT reported on a growing trend in Greece, and today it was the turn of Portugal.  It is a trend that is likely to grow, as economies falter. While the individuals featured did not join communes, but started small businesses, the number of communities committed to a simpler life-style is also growing across Europe and the United States, and many earn a living by teaching others do-it-yourself technologies, whether it’s how to make soap or permaculture.

- The nanny state that in some countries has become invasive in its effort to ensure the well-being of the many, is ill-adapted to isolated communities, which in turn may constitute the only societal form that, in an overpopulated world, can render it superfluous.

As I’ve written before, I am convinced that the 1%, having decided that the planet cannot be saved, are concentrating their money and energies on creating the means to escape, no longer even feigning concern for the 99%.  Yesterday Amy Goodman interviewed an Australian scientist about trends in climate engineering, and recently Newsweek ran a long article about space colonization under the title ‘Can Humans Survive?.The%20Sixth%20Mass%20Extinction%20Is%20Upon%20Us.%20Can%20Humans%20Survive%3F%20%20Newsweek%20and%20The%20Daily%20Beast.webarchive. A private company is recruiting volunteers for training in space colonization, picking up from government programs that have been in existence for at least the last decade.

The picture - or gist - that emerges from all of this is of a planet where life - and not just human life - is endangered by both climatic degradation and warfare,  to which some are responding by seeking a saner lifestyle, while others prepare to abandon ship. Bitcoin, the end of reliance on higher education and a retreat from or a greening of cities are all ways in which the many seek to save the planet while the few get ready to take their toys elsewhere. The clash of civilizations with the Muslim world, the death of ‘liberal democracy’ and the growth of the military state at home and abroad are mere details in the planetary transformation that is under way.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The D.C/ Sochi Relay

When was the last time the leaders of the world’s major players succeeded each other in Washington over a critical situation?  You probably can’t remember and neither can I.

Since World War II, Washington has been the uncontested locus of world diplomacy (though the U.N. meets in New York....).  Every sitting American President has been photographed in the Oval Office dispensing American advice - but more often orders - to his counterparts around the globe.

Recently, America’s foremost critics of U.S. foreign policies and domestic power have stepped up their public pronouncements, identifying the United States as a police state and challenging the Obama administration in court. However they do not appear to have noticed a sea change: it is now President Putin who receives his peers one after the other in search of a solution to the Syrian crisis. This shift is not due to Russia’s power along, but rather a function of the rise of the BRICS: Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa, an alliance whose clout the mainstream media refuses to acknowledge.  Its members have different types of governments, but they agree on the need to curb aggression and save the planet from a climate  meltdown. Crises in China’s back yard will see Peking in the forefront. As the country geographically closest to the Middle-Eastern crisis, it is Russia that takes the lead.

In the last two weeks, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, British Prime Minister David Cameron, U.N. Secretary Ban Ki Moon have journeyed  in turn to Sochi, a resort on the Black Sea, to meet with Vladimir Putin. The last time anything remotely similar happened was in February, 1945 when the Big Three (Britain, the U.S. and the Soviet Union) meet at Yalta, another Black Sea resort, to discuss the future of soon to be liberated Europe.

The Yalta Conference would go down in history as the event that sealed the fate of Eastern Europe, leading to a Cold War that lasted until 1991, when the Soviet Union imploded, Eastern Europe having emerged from behind the ‘Iron Curtain’ starting in 1989.

At the time of ‘Yalta’ no one could have imagined the world would witness a period even more violent than the Second World War, in which not one, but many rulers would resort to the methods ‘copyrighted’ by the Nazis, but that is the situation we’re now living. The Russian President has an even bigger job on his hands than did Roosevelt and Truman, because in 1945 the world’s population was only 2 billion, whereas now it is more than 7 billion. About half that number are fighting to maintain a way of life organized around religion (Being), while the other half relentlessly pursues their resources in order to further a way of life organized around consumption (Having), which they want no part of.

There are also small groups of individuals in the ‘modern’ world who recognize they are riding on a runaway train, as Morris Berman put it in his recent work ‘Why America Failed’. Led by intellectuals like Berman and Chris Hedges, they can protest till the cows come home, their efforts will be in vain. For the arrow of time is irreversible, and the only thing that puts its forward movement on a different trajectory is a significant increase in the flow of energy through the system. In political terms, that flow of energy is called revolution, and no existential impasse has ended without it.

P.S. For a detailed discussion of the applicability of systems theory to politics, see A Taoist Politics: The Case for Sacredness