Archive for December, 2015

An episode, bloody, of US history

2015-12-30

History seems an implacable pursuer – and that despite the best efforts of the very obliging ‘legacy’ media. This week an episode in the bloody history of the United States, one of extirpation and decimation and dehumanisation and dispossession, is commemorated.

Abby Zimet of Common Dreams recounts the event, Like Grass Before the Sickle An excerpt,

December 29 marks the 125th anniversary of the Wounded Knee massacre, when soldiers from the U.S. 7th Cavalry gunned down almost 300 cold, hungry, unarmed Lakota Sioux men, women and children who had come together for a Ghost Dance. For days, the bodies of Chief Big Foot (Spotted Elk) and his band lay frozen in the snow; they were eventually buried in a rough mass grave.

And that was just one of very many atrocities committed in the US, yet countless in other countries, where the role of the obliging media would be first to ignore the occurrence; if not, blame the victims; then rationalise the event – all a tragic mistake. Today’s NYT recollection of the 1890 massacre is instructive, and unsurprising.

A major consolation to the no longer small yet growing viewership of blogs and other digital media is that, unlike the many who rely on the corporate media, very few would have been credulous enough to accept the existence of the non-existent Muslim country of Agrabah, which their counterparts so fervently wanted to obliterate. Which answers the question, ‘What is propaganda?’

That myth of the benevolent and compassionate United States, all myth.

A Dickens of a time?

2015-12-25

No time better. And US economist Tim Taylor has been the guide.

That Christmas Carol of Charles Dickens, a customary seasonal read, not to mention the essential viewing of Alastair Sim’s portrayal of Ebenezer Scrooge. Both a now a tradition.

Those impelled to follow the commercial gospel of ‘Shop till you drop!’ may have had little time to contemplate the, if not religious, spiritual significance of the season. Such, in their frenetic pursuits, will have missed life, in its various forms of emptiness and despair, around them. Of course, for some these same unfortunates their own bill may soon come due.

Thus, today is better than any to do an accounting. And we go back in time. Charles Dickens would recount a stroll with a friend one winter’s night in London, A NIGHTLY SCENE IN LONDON. One telling excerpt,

Crouched against the wall of the Workhouse,
in the dark street, on the muddy pavement-
stones, with the rain raining upon them, were
five bundles of rags. They were motionless,
and had no resemblance to the human form.
Five great beehives, covered with ragsfive
dead bodies taken out of graves, tied neck
and heels, and covered with ragswould
have looked like those five bundles upon
which the rain rained down in the public
street.

What is this! ” said my companion. “What is this!”

Some miserable people shut out of the
Casual Ward, I think,” said I.

Times have since changed. Roads are paved. Smart phones abound. And the poverty and destitution, though not as dire, ignored by policy makers, is made invisible or the victims’ fault by a cooperative corporate media that ensure that their distractions make the problem disappear.

Kindness is no sign of weakness, of human frailty.

Whether weather or climate change

2015-12-16

It’s just a matter of time – so to speak. One seasonal, periodic, short-term; the other, long term. The experts at Nasa explain in NASA – What’s the Difference Between Weather and Climate? An excerpt that should invite further reading,

The difference between weather and climate is a measure of time. Weather is what conditions of the atmosphere are over a short period of time, and climate is how the atmosphere “behaves” over relatively long periods of time.

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COP21 and Spaceship Earth

2015-12-13

Droughts. Floods. Rising sea levels. El Niño, increasing in severity. Vulnerable populations, especially in low lying countries. And amid all the rapid advancement in knowledge and science? And who pays the cost for the failure of policy at the national and international levels on the part of the principal contributors, and not those of only just recently?

A look back. Of significance there was first the Industrial Revolution, and all that entailed. Later, much later, and with the ecological and environmental impact of pollution and unconstrained economic growth, there was Rachel Carson with her Silent Spring, first published in 1962. A few years later, there would come Joe Bain with Economics of the Coming Spaceship Earth in 1966. (more…)

El día internacional de derechos humanos

2015-12-10

Hoy se celebra el día internacional de DDHH. Estas imágenes cuentan el maltrato a personas en muchos paises del mundo. De TeleSUR, La humanidad reclama hoy el respeto a los DD.HH

A book of verse, some fresh air, some water?

2015-12-10

Essentials of life: air and water and nourishment (and social and physical activity). Given today’s precarious environment Omar Khayyam would certainly not disagree – once we keep as personal his other two recommendations.

It was ironic that on the day of the commencement of COP21 in Paris, 30Nov, China would have issued a smog, health hazard, alert for its capital, Beijing. While that and the ensuing ‘red’ alert occupy the headlines, The Guardian fills in some more disquieting details. As bad as it is, Beijing is not so bad, which says how bad it is. Where is the world’s most polluted city? The constant is the likelihood of severe health problems (and range of costs to individual, family and society) to those continually exposed to such hazards.  (more…)

Guaicaipuro

2015-12-08

Today in Venezuela there is national recognition and celebration of an indigenous patriot. TeleSUR does what very few media would do – show respect and relate history from the perspective of the ‘locals’.

Venezuela Celebrates Indigenous Resistance Leader Guaicaipuro


Venezuela, elections rigged?

2015-12-07

So the results are in. And as we were warned time and time again, by officials of the US, its corporate media, and the opposition groups (some 12 comprising MUD) in Venezuela that the ruling PSUV has for years been rigging elections in its favour. Clearly such did justify the US declaring that fearsome Venezuela a threat to its existence?

As the Guardian reports, Venezuela elections: socialists dealt a blow as opposition wins landslide

Venezuela’s opposition has won an overwhelming victory in parliamentary elections in the oil-rich nation, which is mired in economic turmoil and violent crime.

Candidates for the centre-right opposition seized a majority in the national assembly, with most of the results in, marking a major political shift in the country, which set out on a leftist path in 1999 under the late president Hugo Chavez and his project to make Venezuela a model of what he called “21st century socialism”.

The results were not even close for control of the Assembly. And the venal, the corrupt PSUV even refused, absolutely refused to question or complain of its defeat, una derrota aplastante. Clearly, something must be afoot. Ever suspicious minds would wonder at this bit of news from the Guardian, Opec bid to kill off US shale sends oil price down to near seven-year low

A barrel of benchmark Brent crude was changing hands at below $42 a barrel after the oil cartel Opec – heavily influenced by Saudi Arabia – decided late last week to continue flooding the global market with cheap oil.
With global demand weak, traders fear that Opec’s refusal [note: more a failure to agree] to cut production despite the financial pain it is causing its members’ economies will lead to an ever-deeper world glut of crude.

Losers’ revenge? And who would this winning coalition allow to handle foreign policy for Venezuela, the US embassy? And finance, the IMF? And PDVSA, ExxonMobil?

Which brings to mind this useful comparison and learning experience illustrated by Keane Bhatt in Jacobin, A Tale of Two Elections.

Even in defeat the much vilified PSUV has given a lesson in democracy to those countries that preach but practice it only by artful misdirection. Whether the myriad parties of the MUD coalition will reciprocate is the question. (Will there be a return of ‘DameDos’?) Nothing like change to focus the mind and strengthen resolve. Of course, the coffee-with-arepa tradition still goes on, and uninterrupted.

Venezuela, social progress against all odds

2015-12-06

As is known, Venezuela sits on one of the largest reserves of hydrocarbons in the world. Such wealth is not lost on those who seek to acquire it, by all means fair and foul. Nor was the purpose of the move by ExxonMobil into the Esequibo region of territory in dispute between Venezuela and Guyana not obvious.

To date such efforts have failed generally, and not because of no strenuous efforts to destabilise the government and damage the economy of the country – as damage there has been, other than from the massive crash in oil prices.

Today elections are being held for 167 parliamentary seats, and the government faces a strong challenge, due in large part to shortages and other inconveniences – even as many shortages were exposed as created through private sector failure to produce consumer goods or through contraband of subsidised products heading for Colombia, with one avenue being through Táchira. (more…)

The Mekong River: energy demand, economic development, environmental protection

2015-12-04

On Monday, 30 November, the CoP21 talks started in Paris. The expectation is that at its conclusion there would be a legally binding action plan agreed. A quandary for many developing countries has been the trade-off with generating energy for economic development and minimising damage to the ecology and living standards in the process.

Many countries have used their rivers and other water resources to generate electricity or to build dams to provide potable water. Doing so has entailed many risks and costs, with attempts at minimisation: ecological damage, population displacement and, at times, severe unintended consequences. Vietnam is one of the countries dependent on the many benefits of the Mekong River. Laos and Cambodia are others.And to be considered in the decision to exploit the benefits of the river, is how decisions by one can affect the others. A range of challenges, and benefits, is examined in a recent article in the Guardian, Mekong: a river rising

With an artful combination of audio-visual devices, the  presentation seeks to, and succeeds in, simplifying to a great extent a complex issue.

Again, another highly informative, yet conversational, read from the Guardian.