Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Great Unraveling

We’re back to the arrow of time again: cnce the energy in a system begins to accelerate, for whatever reason, it cannot decelerate, but pushes relentlessly forward toward a bifurcation point.

That is what is happening in front of our very eyes on the world stage: since the end of the Second World War, the United States has moved toward ever-greater supremacy over the other countries of the world.  For decades there was little appetite among its allies to counter its expansion, whether through manufactures, trade or finance.  There were benefits for the ruling classes that to a greater or lesser degree trickled down to the rest of fast-growing societies, so the ruling classes looked the other way at the  occasional abuse.

Over the last decade they have become ever more uncomfortable with America’s wars of aggression, limiting their participation to the minimum they could get away with and still benefit from handouts.  Then came Wikileaks, and Private Bradley Manning and what appear to be trumped-up sexual charges against Julian Assange (which noone seems to have investigated in Sweden where they were put forth), and America’s allies could only mutter disapproval at the methods being used against these whistle-blowers.

The Snowden saga has become a bifurcation point: it matters not where heultimately finds sactuary, for his latest revelations show that the United States crossed a red line from which it cannot turn back: spying on its allies to a degree hitherto unknown in international relations.

There are many, for sure, among the governing elites of the world who have been waiting for this moment, some without even being aware of it. For the first time in sixty years, the United States has become fair game, and the domestic advantages to stepping back from its orbit are too great in this time of austerity to overcome any remaining scruples.

We are witnessing the start of a great unraveling.




Tuesday, June 25, 2013

It's Not About Terrorists, It's About Us!

All the hype about Edward Snowden’s revelations misses the essential: the monumental amount of data being collected manifestly did not enable the government to avoid the Boston terrorist attack, and we have only the government’s word that it saved us from others.

The only conceivable use that haystack of data could be put to is to identify and round up every progressive in the country the day the government comes out of the closet as a fascist dictatorship.

By then it will be too late.

The Germans remember the Stasi and want no part of our project. And the Brazilians and the Turks, whose economies are growing, are motivated to come out by the thousands and even the hundreds of thousands when money isn’t providing a sane life.  That's because they have had access to progressive history and progressive writers for generations, while Americans have accepted the pap that passes for information in this country while following the latest soap, scandal or sports event on television.

Note that Brazilians have a passion for football, but it doesn’t prevent them from understanding the real game of life.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

It's Not About Islam, It's About Money!

How long must we wait before the media begins to connect the dots?

- After twelve years of war supposedly against Al Qaeda, ithe U.S. is getting ready to sit down with the Taliban, who, by offering hospitality to Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, made 9/11 possible;

- The US has supported its right-wing Gulf allies, starting with Saudi Arabia, in their efforts to funnel arms and fighters to Syria, for the purpose of toppling the only left-wing, secular government in the Arab world.

- Assad is accused of murdering his own people, while neither Bahrein, which is home to the US Sixth Fleet, nor Yemen, another close US ally, receives the slightest reprimand for violently repressing mass demonstrations, arresting doctors who assist victims of government violence, and jailing journalists.

Now consider this: Like Syria today, Iraq was governed by the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party until we invaded.  In the Iraq/Iran war (1980-1988), we sided with Iraq against the Revolutionary government of Iran, either because our diplomats didn’t have a clue about the Ba’ath Party, or because a decision was made to first eliminate Iran, then go after Iraq.

It seems clear to me that the struggle that began early in the last century, and which appeared to end with the demise of the Soviet Union, has continued by the United States. That is the struggle between the many and the few, now known as the 1% and the 99%.

It is a struggle that no longer simply opposes trade unions to bosses, but now would make every human activity a cash cow for someone. It pits a military/financial/-industrial complex, feebly represented by government, against the survival of a growing world population and the planet that sustains it.

The neo-conservatives who effectively run the United States, are determined to eliminate every vestige of democratic socialism, whether it be the European Union’s welfare states, Assad’s Arab socialism, Iran’s revolutionary ayatollah’s, or anyone other regime in which economic rights are as important as civil rights.

To that end, Washington has taken the gigantic step of throwing its weight behind Salafist fighters in Syria, together with the retrograde Gulf States, Turkey and Israel - which went from a socialist project to a country whose lower class struggles to make ends meet.  The mealy-mouthed excuse that the important thing is to get rid of Assad, hoping that ‘moderate’ Islamists will ultimately prevail over the others is not about saving the Syrian people, it’s about shoring up world capitalism. The United States prefers conservative - ven Salafist - Muslims, to progressive Judeo-Christians.

Increasingly arrayed against this project are a majority of the world’s governments, shepherded by Russia and China. Washington plays down the fact that the Moscow/Peking alliance is stronger than it was during the Cold War, as illustrated by the arrival of Edward Snowden in Moscow from Hong Kong, which is no longer a British colony, but a Chinese administrative region.

Snowden is rumored to have been offered asylum in a country in Latin America, America’s former back yard.


Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Brazilian/Turkish Connection

President Obama’s spying program may be no match for a less reported phenomenon: the lightening spread of revolutionary memes across the world.

Focusing on identifying plots by individuals or specific organizations to carry out attacks against civilian populations, this vast, unconstitutional program leaves spontaneous demonstrations unhindered. Looking for needles in haystacks, it can’t see the forest for the trees.

In a few short years social media has disseminated memes - defined as ideas, behaviors or styles that spread from person to person within a culture - beyond individual nations and cultures, across oceans and continents, to be taken up by societies that until now had been in different time warps.

While Obama and Xi focus on cyber spying, their citizens - and those of Brazil and Turkey, at the moment - are adopting identical strategies and tactics to transform their worlds.  Brazil’s president, a former guerrilla, may have seen in international games a quick fix for her country’s poor, but those poor know that similar initiatives have led to austerity in other countries and are not duped by the siren songs of international finance, just as the Turkish people want no part of big business real estate projects.

The American media does not allow its viewers to identify the Anonymous masks among Brazilian crowds protesting a government that prioritizes international games over social spending. Similarly, few Americans are as yet aware of the French or Russian English languages channels that would allow them to see what the rest of the world sees and hear their governments’ take on events.

The workers of the world (now called simply ‘the 99%’) don’t need guns to bring down their rulers, though these latter dispose of ever more sophisti-cated weapons. Intellectuals may lament the leveling of culture, but this turns out to have an up-side: nourished on the same soaps, Turks and Brazilians, who superficially couldn’t be more different, reach the same conclusions about what they do not want and use the same technology that made ‘reality tv’ possible to fashion a different reality.


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Obama's Latest Fairy Tale

Obama’s appearance at the Brandenburg Gate in East Berlin to commemorate the anniversary of the 1948 Berlin Air Lift was a masterpiece of double-speak.

He used the event that marked the start of the division of Europe into East and West to tout openness, freedom, tolerance and opportunity, noting that Europeans no longer need fallout shelters (although Israelis are building them fast and calling on this audience to care about other things than personal comfort.

Noting that the world is connected as never before, Obama failed to acknowledge that he spies on its inhabitants. In a telling juxtaposition he said: “Heroes call on us to be vigilant in safeguarding own freedom”, at a time when most listeners consider whistleblowers as heroes while his government hounds them.

Citing the agony of empty stomachs he failed to connect them to the growth of agribusiness, saying we had to ‘invest in agriculture’  to teach people to farm, as if their land were not being exploited by international companies.

The key to Obama’s obfuscation lies in the word 'opportunity’.  This is what consistently sets American policy apart from that of the rest of the world.  The idea of economic rights is defended south, east and west, while America recognizes only the write to compete, or struggle for economic security.

In line with this fundamental dichotomy, the main purpose of Obama’s speech, when you trim away the rhetoric, was obviously to promote an Euro-American trade pact that Europeans rightly regard with suspicion.  It’s as if the colossal financial debacle that has forced European governments to go from welfare state policies to austerity never happened, and as if was not instigated - whether deliberately or not - by the global financial mafia centered in New York.

The truth is that the antagonism that brought Kennedy to Berlin in 1963 has not dissipated: the only change is that a larger part of the world favors social-democratic policies, leaving the American president that so many had put their hopes in spouting empty rhetoric.

P.S. Only 4,000 turned out to hear Obama this time, versus 200,000 when he was a candidate.  I anticipate stiff resistance to the trade deal, which will emphasize... financial partnerships.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Brazilians Reject Roman Circus

As the G8 wraps up and police continue their crackdown on Turkish anti-consumption activists, eight Brazilian cities are seeing massive demonstrations against the rising cost of transportation and the money being spent by the government to host a football championship and the 2016 Olympics.

Like, Greeks, Brits, Americans, Brazilians want their taxes spent on better health care, infrastructure and eduction.

They don’t want to be bought off, like ancient Romans, with circuses.


Saturday, June 15, 2013

More on European Islamists from Belgium

A Belgian televised debate confirms that some politicians are willing to countenance support for Al Qaeda as a lesser evil than socialism.

The debate pitted a Belgian born activist of Turkish origin among others against the Belgian Interior Minister, and focused on the worries of parents of Belgian youth leaving to fight with the rebels in Syria. As such it relates to what I wrote yesterday about the inevitable Islamization of Europe.

Bahar Kimyongur’s Turkish parents, who immigrated to Belgium as laborers, were from Hatay province, an area disputed with Syria and inhabited by many members of the Alouite sect of Shi’a Islam. In 2006 he was condemned in Belgium under anti-terrorist legislation for having translated into French documents drafted by an extreme left Turkish organization considered as terrorist by the Turkish government. Kimyongur’s case went through several appeals at various levels, including the highest, of the Belgian justice system, which finally exonerated him. It is eerily similar to what is going on in the United States with respect to ‘aiding the enemy’ anti-free speech legislation.

The crux of the debate over Belgian volunteers going to fight against Syria’a Alouite government

was whether the Minister was making reasonable attempts to get the Turkish government to find these young men, believed to have entered Syria through Turkey’s Hatay province. Kimyongur essentially accuses the minister of being more interested in not seeking help from Turkey’s Islamist government, which could find these Belgian youths, because they are, after all, fighting the Alawi government allied with Shi’a Iran.

This situation would appear to confirm the difference between the political orientation of Sunnis and Shi’as in today’s Muslim world.  Although Arab socialism has been espoused by leaders from both sects (Nasser and Saddam Hussein were both Sunnis), currently the progressive tendency is located in the Shi’a governments of Iran, Syria and post-invasion Iraq, where Shi’as constitute a majority.

The Islamist threat hanging over Europe emanates not from Iran and Syria, neither of which are proselytizing, but from Sunni Saudi Arabia and the Gulf monarchies, financiers of the Syrian rebellion.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Anti-Capitalist Muslims and Others

Yesterday on RT in a comment by an English-language newspaper editor in Istanbul I heard the term ‘anti-capitalist Muslims’ for the first time.The day before that a commentator used the term ‘cultural Muslims’.

These terms reveal to know-nothing Westerners the complexity of the Muslim world at a time when the West’s future depends in part on understanding it.

In an interview about European citizens joining the fight against Assad in Syria, RT today raised the specter of these fundamentalists coming back to their home countries to practice their fighting or terrorist skills.

Of late I have become convinced that Europe - which is after all a peninsula of the Eurasian continent - will eventually become a majority Muslim area, and these comments would tend to confirm that opinion.  There are many kinds of Islam, its practitioners are gradually making their way there from Africa and the Middle East, as the welfare state crumbles under an American-based financial assault, leaving Europeans vulnerable to competition for benefits from new arrivals.

According to former Canadian diplomat Peter Dale Scott, American foreign policy is in fact devoted to realizing a goal enunciated in the nineties, which is to effectuate regime change in Middle Eastern countries allied to Russia: Iraq, Iran, Libya, and Syria. Now it so happens that until the U.S. intervened, these four countries were all in one way or another ‘anti-capitalist’.

Although access to oil has been a major reason for America’s recent aggressions, I strongly suspect that ideology plays a key role: Syria, after all, has no oil, and the explanation that it is an ally of oil-rich Iran and Russia simply doesn’t convince me: it this were true, we would have to invade dozens of countries.

What is undeniable is that the United States has played a key role in the European financial catastrophe that now threatens its status as the poster-child for the welfare state.

Is it far-fetched to suggest that the basic thrust of American foreign policy is to ensure that welfare states as well as those practicing ‘Arab socialism’ whether under the Ba’ath Party or a Shi’ite theocratic regime, come to an end?

Bashar al-Assad is accused of ‘killing his own people’, and I have no doubt that he has been as ruthless in defending his power as anyone.  What we need to realize is that by aiding the rebels we are siding with religious extremists against a secular regime where women are not veiled but enjoy equal rights with men, and the government considers itself responsible for health and education.

Following President Obama’s decision to arm the rebels, and after months of speculation as to whether this or that policy might favor Islamists, one is forced to entertain the thought that the United States definitely prefers fundamentalist/capitalists to progressive Muslims.  Hence our support for Turkey's Erdogan, who has been turning his country into a capitalist showcase, even if his police overdo it.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

How to Provoke a Revolution

Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey doesn't seem to have noticed that with 50% of the vote you cannot impose your will on the other 50% if they really care.  The arrow of time is irreversible, and the term 'Arab Spring' or 'Turkish Summer'  is a euphemism.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

In Turkey and California, the Arrow of Time, Again

Nothing better illustrates the scientific truth that the arrow of time is irreversible than the early stages of a revolt: when the public energy flowing through a political system accelerates beyond a certain point, and is met by an accelerating flow of energy by the system’s controlling elements, nothing can prevent the situation from continuing to a point at which it bifurcates to a new state. This process is known as revolution. Those of the Arab Spring have had mixed results, and the one in Turkey will have its own trajectory, but all have followed the same pattern in which the energies of the two sides have continued relentlessly in their forward motions.

Observers wonder why Prime Minister Erdogan persists in his plans to destroy a beloved park in order to build a shopping mall when confronted with massive public opposition. Evidently he has not understood that it is precisely the goal of ‘development’ and ‘progress’ that is being rejected. Turkey’s unique location between Europe and the Arab world has made it the first Muslim country to which a heretofore mainly Western minority rejection of consumerism and the rule of finance has spread. It’s dazzling history has only stren-gthened opposition to the commercial aspect of modernity, unexpectedly uniting it with a growing rejection of authoritarian rule among cultural Muslims.

Read Orhan Pamuk’s celebrated novel Snow for background on the religious/secular tension that has infused Turkish society for the last hundred years. Better than news reports it explains why the fact that Erdogan has been maintained in power by democratic elections does not protect him from popular rejection of authoritarian rule.

The Turkish Summer also has broader international implications than the revolts in Egypt, Tunisia, or Libya because Turkey has been embroiled in the Syrian uprising, which is spilling over into Lebanon, and both these countries have borders with Israel, a Turkish ally.

On a related note, President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping, meeting in California failed to agree on much aside from policies toward North Korea. But a world in which public energy, with the help of the internet, increasingly poses a threat to state power, undoubtedly helped the two leaders to keep their own antagonistic energies in check.


Friday, June 7, 2013

Philadelphia, Bangladesh

Yesterday an old building that was being demo-lished in downtown Philadelphia collapsed onto another building, killing six people and injuring fourteen. Today the local Inquirer tells us that several neighbors had alerted the city that things didn’t seem to be going right with the demolition, but the city did nothing. It turns out that the con-tractor hired by the building’s owner was not even required to provide proof of insurance!  Christian prayers for the bodies found by the rescue crew were of no more help than Muslim prayers by rescuers in the Dhaka building collapse.

A few years ago Ariana Huffington wrote a book called Third World America, and since then one report after another has declared the United States’ infrastructure to be in pitiful shape.  Philadelphia is rarely in the news, but when it is, it’s usually because it increasingly resembles a third world country like Bangladesh in terms of responsibility in the part of officials and business.

P.S. When I went to look up the spelling of Dhaka, the Philly building collapse was listed on Google right under the one in Bangladesh......

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Turkey's Coming of Age

In 1989, my book Une autre Europe, un autre Monde was published in France. It foresaw the reunification of Europe, the dissolution of the Soviet Union and a future in which Turkey would play the role of bridge between Christian Europe and the Muslim world.

On the first two items, the book was recog-nized as highly prescient. But the third did not turn out as expected: I imagined the Middle East following the example of the European Union, which was soon to adopt the Treaty of Maastricht that eventually led to the creation of the Euro. Although the Israeli/Palestinian conflict was con-stantly in the news, we were more than a decade away from the first manifestations of jihad, as opposed to intifada.

As it turns out, twenty-four years later, Tur-key is indeed playing a role that is closely linked to its geographic location, but it is not the one I envisioned. Since 1987 it has been involved in negotiations to join the European Union, however faced with resistance to its human right record, in 2002 it gave itself an Islamic government.  This represented a break with almost a century of strictly secular rule willed by the founder of the modern state after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

The Justice and Development Party that has ruled Turkey since 2002 has invested heavily in development, as if to persuade its citizens that an Islamist Party can deliver the goods as well as the secular European Union. However, that policy has produced a generation of young adults who are right up there with European youth when it comes to aspirations, life styles, and political awareness. A sign shown on RT today says ‘The revolution will not be televised, it will be tweeted’, and inter-viewees complain that after six days of anti-government demonstrations, most Turkish media has pretended nothing is amiss. According to one demonstrator, CNN, ever ready to accommodate power, has been showing a documentary about penguins!

Put OccupyGezi together with the back to back Bloccupy protest in Frankfurt, Germany, where several thousand demonstrated against the financial troika hobbling the European Union and you’ve got real news: the country that straddles Europe and Asia (via the Bosphorus Straits) has turned out not to be an example of modernizing Islam that its neighbors can follow, but of the difficulty for a country to shed a secular past in favor of a religious regime. Or of adopting US style ‘democracy’, i.e., the ballot box and ‘progress’ combined with brutal repression against those who want to replace that package with participatory democracy, less consumption and saving the planet.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Response to Charles Krauthammer's Latest Rant

Charles Krauthammer is right to point out that the war against terrorism is metastasizing, as revolt spreads through Africa as well as the Gulf, not to mention Syria. But he is dead wrong when he affirms that America’s inability to shape events is due to a power vacuum under Obama.

A President who personally oversees a kill list whose implementation also eliminates innocent civilians can hardly be called powerless - or do-vish. But years of depicting Democrats as soft on war have left Republican commentators unable to recognize that it no longer matters what Demo-crats and Republicans do or fail to do. Americans are not victims of a power vacuum at home, but - if we really want to stick with the label ‘victims’ - of new foci of power in places where we never imagined it could exist.

Our failure to conceive of American power ever waning (although we have so many enemies!) has led to an inability to recognize the evidence that it already has. Describing statesmen such as John Kerry, France’s Laurent Fabius and Ban ki-Moon who have travelled to Sochi to meet with Vladimir Putin over the Syria crisis as going ‘on bended knee’ shows that spokesmen for American might are reduced to belittling the actions of foreigner leaders because they cannot admit, much less approve of the fact that any leader could believe that war is not the answer in a nuclearized world. Or more tellingly, that the center of power to which other leaders travel is no longer Washing-ton or Camp David, but Moscow or Sochi.

Although Krauthammer continues to be featured on major American op-ed pages, his is a voice from the same past tagged in a new poll by Republican college students. The findings show just how out of touch the Republican party is with educated young voters, all the more so that they are Latinos or other minorities.

Finally, an article posted today by the Cana-dian writer Michel Chossudovsky takes off from an admission by Hillary Clinton that the U.S. created Al Quada to affirm that in essence this was no accident, but a deliberate policy that continues to this day. When we support Sunni extremists fight-ing to overthrow Assad in Syria, it’s not because they are the lesser of two evils and we hope they will morph into obedient client. Chossudovsky believes it’s all about a gas pipeline that would compete with one we’re backing.  If that’s the case it confirms my own belief that the United States systematically supports politically conservative re-gimes wherever they may be, who are committed to the defense of the 1%.

The countries that have been targeted for regime change are presented as possessing wea-pons of mass destruction, but their real weapons have been left-leaning secularism: Saddam Hus-sein, Muammar Gaddafi and Bashar al Assad are or were all committed to some form of socialism. (Gaddafi was famous for his Little Green Book, inspired by Mao Tse Tung’s Little Red Book, which outlined solutions for overcoming inequality.) The Arab socialist party, the Ba’ath, has been in power in both Iraq and Syria since its founding in 1947, meaning that the successive regimes have actually been secular, with modern education systems and     women’s rights. (As for Gaddafi, the West joked about his female military guard.)

So regime is not about saving foreigners from their abusive leaders, it’s still about the same thing the Cold War was about: the determination to press forward with the transformation of the world into a playground for its wealthy minorities of all religions and nationalities.




Monday, June 3, 2013

When Present is Past

Bradley Manning’s trial starts today.  A run-down of the government’s accusations reads like a modern-day Alice in Wonderland scenario: Bin Laden somehow benefitted from copies of Manning’s leaks, for example the infamous film of flyers deliberately shooting civilians on the ground, including those who came to rescue the victims, which included two children.

The accusation of ‘aiding the enemy’ usually refers to actions that enable the enemy to win rather than lose a battle, or that provide him with valuable intelligence for future battles. None of the documents Manning leaked are said to fit those definitions. However the cold-blooded picking off of civilians - one of which is carrying a camera - certainly will have inspired new jihadists.

To say that Manning’s actions benefitted the enemy is to say that during the present time of his leaks he was somehow contributing to past deci-sions by jihadists that led to the events or deci-sions that he was leaking. Manning, not the United States government, is responsible for attacks that took place after his leaks.

The enemy would have known just how cold-blooded and vicious American decisions are.


Saturday, June 1, 2013

Turkish Summer

The angry demonstrations in Turkey over the destruction of a central Istanbul park to make way for a shopping mall are not just about the love of green spaces. They show that in the Muslim world, almost any situation can spark revolt. Suddenly, an array of irritants coalesce, their nature depending on the society.  In Turkey they include casualties resulting from the spillover    of the Syrian civil war, which exacerbate the Sunni/Shi’a tensions that typify the Muslim world.

As Turkey  burnishes its modern economic credentials, ironically, and In part thanks to the internet, its civil society is increasingly defined by the myriad components of Occupy Movement: power to the people, rejection of consumerism, determination to save the planet from a climate meltdown, and when necessary, fierce resistance to the forces of law and order.

The Turkish domestic riots and the fighting in Syria which involves foreign volunteers represent-ing every political and religious hue, are two faces of a twenty-first century paradigm that combines the defining moment of the French Revolution, when ‘the people’ first decided they had had enough - and the Communist Manifesto’s slogan ‘Workers of the World, Unite!” However, today’s youth are inclined to reject government, finance and industry in favor of anarchist-inspired commu-nity, as illustrated by the worldwide demonstra-tions against Monsanto that took place this week and the second day of protests in Frankfurt against the European Central Bank.