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By: Other Worlds Tuesday September 30, 2014 12:49 pm

Adelita San Vicente Tello speaking at local celebration of Mexico’s first National Holiday of Native and Creole Seeds. Photo courtesy of Adelita San Vicente Tello.

By Adelita San Vicente Tello

September 30, 2014

Mexicans celebrated National Day of Maize yesterday, September 29, 2014, with demonstrations, marches, and expositions. Known as the Land of Maize, Mexico now imports one-third of this sacred icon and staple food, mostly from the US. A fierce battle is being waged over corn that is still grown in Mexico, with small farmers and seed sovereignty activists pitted against Monsanto and other GMO giants, the Mexican government, the US government, and the World Trade Organization.

Adelita San Vicente Tello is an agronomist with a master’s degree in rural development and a doctorate in agroecology. She is director of Seeds of Life (Semillas de Vida), a group promoting agro-biodiversity and protecting native corn. San Vicente is also a convener of the Mexico-wide food sovereignty coalition Without Corn, There Is No Country (Sin Maíz, No Hay País) and a member of the Union of Scientists Committed to Society (Unión de Científicos Comprometidos con la Sociedad).


Here we have an opportunity, which is that most corn is still produced by campesinos/as [small farmers]. They still use native seeds, and they use rainwater for sowing – even though they do it in soil that is very degraded and thus produces little. We consider this small-holder production to be an opportunity, because genetic reserves are stored in the native seeds. Traditional knowledge lies within them. This is really where the alternative lies for the food production model, especially when faced with the problem of climate change.

I work with an organization called Seeds of Life, which has an office in Mexico City but works throughout the country in Veracruz, Puebla, Jalisco, and Morelos. One thing we do is support the farmers in preserving their seeds by creating corn reserves. We call them reserves so as not to call them “banks”, the capitalist term. As the campesinos/as say, the best way to preserve seeds is to plant them in the earth. We also share information on the risks of the dominant food system, specifically GMOs, in order to elevate health and ecological awareness among consumers.

Seed exchanges are done at the regional level. Sometimes there is money exchanged in transactions between campesinos/as, but usually it’s a free exchange of native seeds. They always have a blessing of the seeds, a ritual combining traditions from the Christian religion and the indigenous religion, the latter of which is based on agricultural cycles.

The greed of transnational GMO and biofuel corporations has led to a dispute over corn. They want to rob all our global communities of this sacred grain.

Since the 1990s, the Mexican government has been waging an agrocide, trying to kill the countryside and its campesinos/as. Mexico has suffered grave consequences from the import model. In the 20 years since the North American Free Trade Agreement [NAFTA, signed between Mexico, Canada, and the US in 1994] was passed, 20% of the population has become hungry, 70% has become underweight, and more than 6 million citizens have emigrated. We import 42% of the food we eat.

Then, on January 1, 2008, matters got worse when the government completely opened up trade relations with the US and Canada, dropping remaining tariffs on basic foodstuffs of corn, beans, milk, and sugar.

For these reasons, in 2007 we decided to create a campaign in Mexico called Without Corn, There Is No Country. We’ve tried to weave together many different efforts into this network. We did this to draw the attention of the Mexican government to our food crisis, and to get them to understand the political importance of food. What we want is for the Mexican government to protect our native seeds, to give financial support to help their preservation, and to have the international institutions recognize this resource. Our motto is “Put Mexico in your Mouth.” We say: “Save the farms in order to save Mexico.”

We did so many things in this effort throughout 2007: we planted corn all over the city and sent out a call to others to sow corn seeds. We held a huge open-air market with farmers’ produce at the Zocalo, the central plaza in Mexico City. We held a large concert with young people, and organized a fast for food independence on the anniversaries of the beginning of independence and the revolution.

On midnight of January 1, 2008, farmers from Chihuahua symbolically closed down part of the border and we held a huge demonstration in Mexico City. We handed in almost 500,000 signatures to Congress demanding the right to food sovereignty. We presented forums and workshops, which gave us a national platform for very clear demands. Our central one was “Campesino/na foods for Mexico.”

What has been the government’s response? They continue to support Monsanto, Cargill, and other large transnational corporations. With the support of the government, Cargill built ethanol-producing plants in Mexico. So now Mexico imports corn, and uses its own corn and land to produce biofuels.

In 2009, the government gave the first permissions to experimentally plant GMO corn. In 2011, they gave out permissions to grow in a so-called pilot phase.

Even though the government hasn’t listened to us, we continued in our campaign. Since 2009 we’ve taken justice into our own hands. We carried out legal actions and large direct actions in defense of corn. We invited the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food to come visit. We delivered a letter to Obama on his visit to Mexico asking for a renegotiation of the Agricultural chapter of NAFTA. We began celebrating National Day of Corn. We got the right to food enshrined in the constitution in 2011.

We – including campesino/as organizations – kept bringing legal complaints against the government all the way to 2013, including a constitutional controversy with Municipality of Tepoztlan. But they always ruled against us in the courts.

Finally, we filed a class action lawsuit against GMO corn on July 5, 2013. The group of plaintiffs included 53 people, among them experts in the field, prominent personalities, and celebrities; 20 organizations of producers, indigenous peoples, beekeepers, environmentalists, and consumers; and one human rights group.

The lawsuit asked the court to declare the limits and restrictions established in the Biosecurity of Genetically Modified Organisms Law [LBOGM by its Spanish acronym] insufficient because there is scientific evidence of transgenic contamination of native corn in the states of Oaxaca, Sinaloa, Chihuahua, Veracruz, and Guanajuato. The inadequacy of the legal restrictions established in the LBOGM has infringed on many human rights, including the rights to a healthy environment; to preservation of biodiversity; to fair participation by the population; to a sustainable use of the biological diversity of native corn that will guarantee its access to future generations; to adequate, nutritious, and sufficient food; to cultural rights; and to health.

Along with the lawsuit, the petitioners requested a precautionary measure, requesting that GMO corn not be allowed within the country’s borders until the class action lawsuit has been definitively settled. [A judge’s ruling banning GMO corn came last October.] There have been more than 70 legal challenges from the companies and the government.

The Without Corn, There Is No Country campaign has gotten stronger. More organizations are joining together to struggle against mass dispossession of lands, dispossession caused by the government prioritizing land use for extraction of petroleum and shale gas over food production.

The defense of corn is not just to preserve our sacred plant. It is also fundamental to sustaining Mexico as a living genetic reserve of important varieties of fruits and vegetables that feed humanity. This great agro-biodiversity would never exist without the campesinos/as who, over centuries, have fed and nurtured a proud culture which is an example for many countries.

When all is said and done, we are children of corn. It’s our life, and we need to protect it.


Adapted from Adelita San Vicente Tello’s presentation to the Justice Begins with Seeds conference in Oakland in May, 2012, and updated in Mexico City in September, 2014.

Translated and edited by Beverly Bell.


Stupid Stuff on Steroids

By: williamboardman Tuesday September 30, 2014 11:22 am

 – Syria and Comic Book Thinking  –

American hysteria is a wondrous thing to behold. 

By William Boardman – Reader Supported News


                “This president needs to rise to the occasion

                           BEFORE WE ALL GET KILLED!”



Our hysteria is usually obvious in retrospect, whether the freak-out is over witches, labor unions, or communists. Hysteria is not always so easy to perceive as it happens or, in this case, as it is happening right now with ISIS-centric Islamophobia running rampant around the nation’s terror-drenched reptilian brain.


The collective rush to do “stupid stuff” kicked in with the mass-pavlovian response to cleverly-marketed, ISIS-produced infomercials featuring the beheading of two Americans (earlier beheadings of non-Americans failed to have the same effect). But killing Americans in the collective mind’s imaginary Islamistan hits the reflexively violent smack in the patriot-plexus and has them screaming for blood vengeance over an horrific but strategically meaningless bit of savagery. [Funny how the equally savage killing of other Americans with a chokehold in New York or a hail of bullets in Ferguson has so much less impact on rampant public moral outrage.]


That psychic selectivity over what savagery is objectionable and what is tolerable has a long American history, as illustrated by natives receiving blankets full of smallpox and all the other gifts of manifest destiny. Given the American pre-disposition for morally selective high dudgeon, the media manipulation of the mindset of the United States by slick snuff films begins to look savvy, strategic, and morbidly effective. From the perspective of ISIS, this bit of theatrical propaganda has succeeded beyond reasonable expectation: it has inflated the threatening image of ISIS from the reality a relatively small, regionally contained, regional band of pathological fundamentalists and their more numerous allies of convenience (which, from time to time, have included the U.S. and other NATO members).


In little more than a month, ISIS (aka ISIL, or IS, or Islamic State, or Islamic Caliphate) has changed little on the ground, while its image in American minds has morphed into a ginormous, imaginary monster capable of throwing a terrifying shadow of fear across the American continent thousands of miles away. This is not a rational perception, even though the president feeds into it (even if he knows better). This is panic, deeply rooted in comic book thinking.


Comic book thinking: never hard to find, but not always dominant


The Governor of Texas and other fear mongers, like Judicial Watch and Fox News, would have you believe there are agents of ISIS, the Islamic Caliphate, crossing the Rio Grande and making themselves at home in the American homeland undetected – except by these fearless watchdogs. They also cite a rightwing provocateur who crossed the Texas border in terrorist costume and may have gone undetected. Republican Senator John McCain fulminated in comic book style about this imaginary security breach.  The Homeland Security people say they detected him and knew he was a buffoon.


The Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee had hear more than enough by mid September. Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon of California used the 9/11 anniversary to imagine a worst case scenario: “I would much rather fight ISIL in Iraq and Syria today than fight them in Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Kurdistan tomorrow.” With considerably bloodier clarity and recklessness, the 76-year-old showed his tough willingness to send young soldiers to die in Iraq yet again, urging “our coalition to go all-in now, so that we do not risk having to use enormously more blood and treasure later.”


In an article about ISIS, the National Review published some articles of faith with headings like: “the growth of the Islamic State,” “the Success of the Islamic State,” and “the ascendancy of the Islamic State.” The writer made an intellectually dishonest anti-Obama/pro-Bush argument rooted in unreality in which he characterized President Obama as an Islamist apologist and an unreliable war maker. That may be just as well in a world where “the success of the Islamic State” and, even moreso, “the ascendancy of the Islamic State” are hobgoblin projections of comic book fear with no objective reality.


The success of Fox News is built on comic book thinking. For example, on September 17, Fox touted an “intelligence bulletin from the Central Florida Intelligence Exchange” warning, somewhat incoherently:


… that Islamic State fighters have increased calls for “lone wolves” to attack U.S. soldiers in America in recent months, citing one tweet that called for jihadists to find service members’ addresses online and then “show up and slaughter them.”


Reportedly Fox News coverage of the ISIS crisis has achieved ratings higher than CNN and MSNBC combined, where comic book thinking can sometimes be more nuanced. CNN resorts to unprovable fear-mongering to characterize ISIS as “the terror group that is striking fear into the hearts of leaders around the world,” which if true would say more about world leaders than about ISIS. In contrast, the BBC accurately describes ISIS as “the small but fanatical jihadist army now controlling large tracts of Syria and Iraq” ­– and then wonders, quite rationally, whether ISIS has the capability to govern an area roughly the size of Pennsylvania.


Peak hysteria so far comes from the Senator from South Carolina


“This president needs to rise to the occasion before we all get killed back here at home,” Republican Lindsey Graham claimed on September 14 on Fox News Sunday. This raw, politically-pointed hysteria was not new for Graham, who said more than a month earlier on the same Fox program: “If he does not go on the offensive against ISIS, ISIL, whatever you guys want to call it, they are coming here…. This is just not about Baghdad. This is just not about Syria. And if we do get attacked, then he will have committed a blunder for the ages.”


In the interim, the president announced from the Oval Office on September 10 that the country was going against ISIS [ISIL] with a limited offensive, as well as  unlimited and contradictory rhetoric:


“While we have not yet detected specific plotting against our homeland, ISIL leaders have threatened America and our allies…. Our objective is clear:  We will degrade, and ultimately destroy, ISIL through a comprehensive and sustained counterterrorism strategy…. we will hunt down terrorists who threaten our country, wherever they are.  That means I will not hesitate to take action…. If you threaten America, you will find no safe haven…. we will send an additional 475 servicemembers to Iraq… [but] we will not get dragged into another ground war in Iraq….” [emphasis added]


Extreme as it is in parts, the president’s declaration is nowhere near enough for Graham and his fellow warriors whose goal seems to include a large American occupation of uncertain duration in the Middle East. Graham said that ISIS [ISIL] is:


“… intending to come here…. There is no way in hell you can form an army on the ground to go into Syria, to destroy ISIL without a substantial American component. And to destroy ISIL, you have to kill or capture their leaders, take the territory they hold back, cut off their financing and destroy their capability to regenerate. This is a war we’re fighting…. This president needs to rise to the occasion before we all get killed back here at home.”


Both the president and the senator offer up comic book thinking. Hunting down terrorists wherever they are is a Bush-like boast detached from reality. Imaging an enemy powerful enough to kill 320 million Americans is silly even in a Hollywood apocalypse movie.


Delusional thinking isn’t really a good basis to build a war on


One of the benefits of delusional thinking is that it relieves the mind of the stress of contemplating an unpleasant and intractable reality. One of the drawbacks of delusional thinking is that it’s not likely to make that reality any better, and may well make it worse.


Take for example the truly comical bi-partisan vote in the House in favor of arming and training Syrian rebels, and it’s equally bi-partisan opposition. The 273 votes in favor included 114 Democrats, while the 156 in opposition included 71 Republicans (with three Republicans not voting). Only five states voted unanimously, all in favor (Alaska, Montana, Arkansas, and both Dakotas). This vote was to add an amendment of six micro-managing pages to the Continuing Appropriations Resolution, 2015 that would allow, but provide no funding for, the build-up of a Syrian opposition army from “appropriately vetted Syrian groups and individuals.”


The amendment ends with this admonition:


“Nothing in this section shall be construed to constitute a specific statutory authorization for the introduction of United States Armed Forces into hostilities or into situations wherein hostilities are clearly indicated by the circumstances.” [emphasis added]


On September 17, President Obama told a military audience:


“The American forces that have been deployed to Iraq do not and will not have a combat mission. I will not commit you and the rest of our armed forces to fighting another ground war in Iraq.” [emphasis added]


That congressional admonition, like the presidential assertion, is delusional to the extent that the United States is already at war in Iraq, where U.S. pilots are flying combat mission and an unknown number of special forces are engaged in hostilities and another 1,500 or so soldiers are guarding the embassy and carrying out other missions “wherein hostilities are clearly indicated by circumstances.” Iraq is a war zone and has been for more than eleven years. The ground war that started with the U.S. invasion of 2003 has not ended. “Another ground war in Iraq” is delusional or dishonest. Even though the U.S. has mostly withdrawn its military forces, the war in Iraq never ended in any meaningful sense.


By Congressional logic, the president has no statutory to send armed forces there, even though they are already there. The president has said he has all the authority he needs under the AUMFs, the Authorizations for the Use of Military Force passed in 2001 and 2002, open-ended war making authority Congress has chosen not to review. “We’re travelling on vapors,” said Illinois Senator Dick Durbin of the aging AUMFs on September 18. Then, like all his colleagues, he made no effort to change the situation.


Senator Manchin notices the empire’s lack of a wardrobe


Nothing the collective leadership of the United States – or its harshest critics – propose to do will likely change the political situation. Their comic book thinking based on false perceptions of reality makes the likelihood of a sensible course of action virtually nil.


West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin was reportedly prepared to shut down the government to prevent adoption of the House plan to arm Syrian rebels. In the end, he caved and the Senate supported the amendment to the continuing resolution 78-22, with bi-partisan votes for and against. Despite his opposition, even Manchin did not challenge the core perception dominating government and media. On the Senate floor, he solemnly affirmed that “we must defeat and destroy ISIS….  ISIS are barbaric terrorists with no respect for humanity and they deserve to die.”


He expressed support for airstrikes in Iraq, for humanitarian aid, for cutting off funding to ISIS, adding somewhat preposterously: “Doing these things has already helped prevent genocide….”


And then he questioned the conventional wisdom that it was up to the U.S. to take on ISIS and save the world: “this should be an Arab ground war and a U.S. air war…. important as it is to know your enemy, it is equally important to know our allies. And I am not confident that we know who are allies are…. As of today, we have only hints of military support from Arab countries, who themselves face a greater threat from ISIS than anyone else.”


This semi-dissent is important, but it only begins to explore the absurdity of the present American impulse to defend itself against an imaginary threat by saving countries unwilling to save themselves. Or maybe they don’t feel the need to be “saved.”  The coalition’s main partners now are the U.S., Australia, Germany, and those old colonial favorites in the Middle East, France and the United Kingdom. That’s one reality.


Consider the host of other realities our comic book thinkers avoid for the sake of a simplistic solution to a problem they’re unable to explain realistically:


  • IRAQ has a weak government that is unable to choose a defense minister or an internal security minister. Iraq has been in a multi-faceted state of civil war for about a decade, primarily Shia/Sunni. As a result Sunni Iraq has allied with ISIS to hold about a third of the country. Kurdistan is a quasi-independent state in another third of Iraq. And this fragmented Iraq is the base of American operations.


  • KURDS in Iraq, Turkey, and Iran comprise a wild card that has the potential for coalescing into its own disruptive state.


  • SYRIA’s multifaceted civil war has divided the country into a minimum of three mutually hostile, ill-defined areas: the government territory is the most stable, followed by the ISIS sector. Rebel territory is scattered and no one knows just how many militia-governments are in control of or disputing different areas. These represent the “Syrian rebels” the U.S. thinks will fight ISIS even though their rebellion is against the Assad government.


  • SYRIAN REBELS, appropriately vetted, may turn out to be as rare as unicorns. So far, Syrian rebels have been a reliable source of arms for ISIS. And Syrian rebels reportedly sold one of the beheaded American reporters to ISIS for cash. Like ISIS, Syrian rebels are predominantly Sunni.


  • TURKEY is supposed to be part of the burgeoning U.S. coalition, but so far Turkish commitment is limited to allowing the use of a NATO air base. Turkey has contributed to the rise of ISIS. Turkey doesn’t want to fight ISIS on the same side as the Kurds who want a piece of Turkey. Turkey doesn’t want to disrupt its economic ties to the ISIS region. Predominantly Sunni Turkey doesn’t want to fight the predominantly Sunni ISIS coalition, nor does it want to fight on the side of predominantly Shia Iraq or its predominantly Shia ally, Iran.


  • SAUDI ARABIA’s commitment to the coalition is a promise to offer bases for training. Saudi Arabia and Qatar are widely credited with years of sponsoring and building up ISIS. Both countries are predominantly Wahhabi, a stricter-than-Sunni version of Islam.  Saudi Arabia has little incentive to contribute significantly to any anti-ISIS coalition.


  • JORDAN is predominantly Sunni and is an advanced, humane nation, especially in comparison to most of its neighbors. Presently it is home for millions of refugees: from Palestine since 1948; from Iraq since the U.S. war of 2003; and from Syria, since the civil war began. Jordan provides some 50,000 peacekeeping troops to the United Nations. It has trained Iraqi security forces.


  • GULF COUNTRIES such as Kuwait, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates and Oman have offered the use of their air bases and air spaces, but little more. These Islamic states are all predominantly Sunni except Oman, which is Ibadi (predating Sunni and Shia).


The first step on the road to doing stupid stuff is framing the question in a way that allows for only one possible answer. For example, “This president needs to rise to the occasion before we all get killed.” If we’re all going to get killed if we don’t do something, how can we not do something?


But “before we all get killed” is entry level stupid stuff. And who is going to kill us? The standard estimate for ISIS strengths is 10,000 fighters or so, an unknown portion of whom are Iraqi Sunnis more interested in their homes in Iraq than some invented Islamic caliphate. For ISIS to approach being even a slightly credible threat, one needs to apply serious threat-inflation. Threat inflation happened recently when the Pentagon tripled the size of ISIS from maybe 10,000 fighters to maybe 30,000 fighters, with no basis offered for any estimate.  Even at 30,000, ISIS would be only a tenth the size of the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security, which some see as a greater threat.


If ISIS were any sort of genuine threat, or if our political and pontifical public figures were any sort of genuine leaders, wouldn’t someone have thought to make a point of it when ISIS took control of Fallujah, just 43 miles from Baghdad, in January 2014? Why did they wait till June to be surprised by ISIS taking Mosul from a fleeing Iraqi army?


No matter what perspective one takes considering ISIS, there’s none that escapes stupid stuff. And what stupid stuff could create millions more Islamic enemies of the United States? Plunging into the middle of the centuries-old, international  Sunni/Shia religious civil war should work.


Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.


Engelhardt: Entering the Intelligence Labyrinth

By: Tom Engelhardt Tuesday September 30, 2014 8:36 am

This article originally appeared at To receive TomDispatch in your inbox three times a week, click here.

Note for TomDispatch Readers: My new book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World (with an introduction by Glenn Greenwald), is now available everywhere.  If you’ve been a TomDispatch obsessive all these years, it’s your job to make it a success.  I’m counting on you!  If you want to support TomDispatch in an even bigger way, I’ll send you a signed, personalized copy of the book for a $100 donation to this site (which truly does help keep us alive). Check out the offer at our donation page.

About Shadow Government, Adam Hochschild, author most recently of To End All Wars, had this to say: “Tom Engelhardt is an iconoclast, but he also is the latest exemplar of a great American tradition. Like George Seldes and I.F. Stone before him, he has bypassed conventionally minded newspapers and magazines, and with his remarkable website and in books like this, found a way of addressing readers directly about the issues central to our time. Again and again, he goes to the heart of the matter, drawing on his awesomely wide reading, his knowledge of history, and his acute political radar system that uncovers small but deeply revealing nuggets of news and often makes me feel, enviously: how could I have missed that?”  And then there’s the book’s stunning cover photo (as well as the ones inside) by Trevor Paglen whose shots of the headquarters of our various intelligence services make you feel as if you’ve landed on another planet, which in a way you have. Tom]

Failure Is Success
How American Intelligence Works in the Twenty-First Century
By Tom Engelhardt

What are the odds? You put about $68 billion annually into a maze of 17 major intelligence outfits. You build them glorious headquarters.  You create a global surveillance state for the ages. You listen in on your citizenry and gather their communications in staggering quantities.  Your employees even morph into avatars and enter video-game landscapes, lest any Americans betray a penchant for evil deeds while in entertainment mode. You collect information on visits to porn sites just in case, one day, blackmail might be useful. You pass around naked photos of them just for… well, the salacious hell of it.  Your employees even use aspects of the system you’ve created to stalk former lovers and, within your arcane world, that act of “spycraft” gains its own name: LOVEINT.

Imagine There’re No Countries

By: David Swanson Tuesday September 30, 2014 8:01 am


A serious case has been made repeatedly by unknown scholars and globally celebrated geniuses for well over a century that a likely step toward abolishing war would be instituting some form of global government. Yet the peace movement barely mentions the idea, and its advocates as often as not appear rather naive about Western imperialism; certainly they are not central to or well integrated into the peace movement or even, as far as I can tell, into peace studies academia. (Here’s a link to one of the main advocacy groups for world government promoting a U.S. war on ISIS.)

All too often the case for world government is even made in this way: Global government would guarantee peace, while its absence guarantees war. The silliness of such assertions, I suspect, damages what may be an absolutely critical cause. Nobody knows what global government guarantees, because it’s never been tried. And if national and local governments and every other large human institution are any guide, global government could bring a million different things depending on how it’s done. The serious question should be whether there’s a way to do it that would make peace more likely, without serious risk of backfiring, and whether pursuing such a course is a more likely path to peace than others.

Does the absence of world government guarantee war? I haven’t seen any proof. Of 200 nations, 199 invest far less in war than the United States. Some have eliminated their militaries entirely. Costa Rica is not attacked because it lacks a military. The United States is attacked because of what its military does. Some nations go centuries without war, while others seemingly can’t go more than half an election cycle.  In their book One World Democracy, Jerry Tetalman and Byron Belitsos write that nations do not go to war because they are armed or inclined toward violence but because “they are hopelessly frustrated by the fact that they have no legislative or judicial forum in which their grievances can be heard and adjudicated.”

Can you, dear reader, recall a time when the U.S. public had a grievance with a foreign country, lamented the absence of a global court to adjudicate it, and demanded that Congress declare and the Pentagon wage a war?  How many pro-war marches have you been on, you lover of justice? When the Taliban offered to let a third country put Bin Laden on trial, was it the U.S. public that replied, “No way, we want a war,” or was it the President? When the U.S. Vice President met with oil company executives to plan the occupation of Iraq, do you think any of them mentioned their frustration at the weakness of international law and arbitration? When the U.S. President in 2013 could not get Congress or the public to accept a new war on Syria and finally agreed to negotiate the removal of chemical weapons without war, why was war the first choice rather than the second? When advocates of world government claim that democracies don’t wage war, or heavily armed nations are not more likely to wage war, or nations with cultures that celebrate war are not more likely to wage war, I think they hurt their cause.

When you start up a campaign to abolish the institution of war, you hear from all kinds of people who have the solution for you. And almost all of them have great ideas, but almost all of them think every other idea but their own is useless. So the solution is world government and nothing else, or a culture of peace and nothing else, or disarmament and nothing else, or ending racism and nothing else, or destroying capitalism and nothing else, or counter-recruitment and nothing else, or media reform and nothing else, or election campaign funding reform and nothing else, or creating peace in our hearts and radiating it outward and nothing else, etc. So those of us who find value in all of the above, have to encourage people to pick their favorite and get busy on it. But we also have to try to prioritize. So, again, the serious question is whether world government should be pursued and whether it should be a top priority or something that waits at the bottom of the list.

There are, of course, serious arguments that world government would make everything worse, that large government is inevitably dysfunctional and an absolutely large government would be dysfunctional absolutely.  Serious, if vague, arguments have been made in favor of making our goal “anarcracy” rather than world democracy. These arguments are overwhelmed in volume by paranoid pronouncements like the ones in this typical email I received:

Which Candidate for WI Governor Has a Plan that Relies More Heavily on ObamaCare?

By: WI Budget Project Tuesday September 30, 2014 7:19 am


A Scott Walker campaign ad that criticizes Mary Burke for her stance relating to the Affordable Care Act (aka the ACA or “Obamacare”) is based on a false premise. It incorrectly equates supporting the expansion of BadgerCare with supporting an expansion of “Obamacare.”

Although I don’t think one can say that either candidate for Wisconsin governor supports “expanding Obamacare,” I believe a strong case can be made that the current Governor’s plan relies more heavily on a key part of the Affordable Care Act. For reasons I’ll explain below, his changes to BadgerCare do more than Burke’s alternative to expand the reach of the core part of the ACA – the new federal Marketplace for health insurance and the substantial federal funding to subsidize Marketplace insurance plans.

One of the major problems with the ad is that implementing part of a federal law and taking advantage of federal funding is not the same thing as supporting expansion of that law. Ask any of the nine Republican Governors who have expanded their Medicaid programs and taken the federal funding, which is financing the full cost of covering newly eligible adults. I have no doubt that every one of them would argue very strongly and convincingly that their support for expanding their state Medicaid programs does not equate to supporting an expansion of “Obamacare.”

Even if you think that implementing a part of the ACA is in some way equivalent to supporting its expansion, there’s another substantial problem with applying that reasoning in this case. That problem is summed up by the headline for an MSNBC story that succinctly and accurately described the changes that the Governor incorporated into his last budget bill, “Scott Walker finds an alternative to Medicaid: Obamacare.”

Rather than expanding BadgerCare coverage for childless adults to 138% of the federal poverty level (FPL) and qualifying Wisconsin for full federal funding of newly eligible adults, the Governor’s budget cut in half the eligibility ceiling for parents – reducing it to 100% of the poverty level. His budget uses those savings to partially offset the cost of ending the BadgerCare waiting list for childless adults below 100% of the poverty level. The following table compares the Governor’s plan with prior Wisconsin law and the alternative endorsed by Burke.

Comparison of Alternative Approaches to BadgerCare and Marketplace Eligibility

Prior WI law

Governor’s budget

Burke proposal

BadgerCare eligibility for parents Up to 200% of FPL Up to 100% of FPL Up to 138% of FPL
BadgerCare eligibility for childless adults Up to 200% of FPL, but long waiting list Up to 100% of FPL, no waiting list Up to 138% of FPL, no waiting list
Eligibility for subsidized Marketplace coverage NA Adults between 100% and 400% of FPL Adults between 138% and 400% of FPL

The Governor justifies the decision to knock about 60,000 people out of BadgerCare on the basis of moving them into Marketplace insurance plans. As the MSNBC article put it, “To avoid expanding Medicaid, he is handing off Medicaid patients to another federal program.” As the table helps illustrate, the Governor’s plan puts more people into the “Obamacare” Marketplace, whereas the Burke plan is the closer of the two to prior Wisconsin law.

A recent PolitiFact article reviewed the claim in the Obamacare ad that Burke “supports Obamacare unequivocally and wants to expand it.” After stating that there is no evidence that Burke unequivocally supports the ACA, the PolitiFact article nevertheless calls the ad “half true” because it buys into the premise that expanding BadgerCare is equivalent to expanding ObamaCare.

I often disagree with PolitiFact ratings, but I usually think that they do a good job of laying out the relevant facts and making readers better informed about the subject of the disputed claim. However, in this instance there is absolutely no discussion of the reasons why many people, including nine GOP Governors, would vehemently disagree with the assessment that supporting an expansion of Medicaid (or BadgerCare) can be likened to expanding Obamacare, while making more people eligible for subsidized Marketplace coverage is not.

It’s very important for the public and policymakers to understand how Wisconsin’s BadgerCare choices relate to the ACA. Next year state lawmakers are going to have to figure out how to fill a $760 million hole in the budget for Medicaid and BadgerCare. And as they are grappling with that, some members of Congress will again be trying to repeal the ACA, including the funding that subsidizes Marketplace insurance plans. Thus, I was surprised and disappointed that PolitiFact failed to mention that Wisconsin is now relying on the Marketplace to provide insurance for thousands of parents previously covered in BadgerCare.


Over Easy: Shortwave Radio

By: cmaukonen Tuesday September 30, 2014 4:50 am

Radio News cover

Good morning Firedogs. Thought I would go into a bit of history on communicating thoughts, ideas and positions. There is something different about hearing a voice tell you something rather that reading words on a page. The impact can be quite different, which is probably one of the reasons that even in this day and age broadcasting still endures.

Long before cell phones and satellites and cable and the internet, if a country or group wanted your particular message to get out to the world, shotwave radio was the medium of choice. By international agreement these frequencies are divided up amongst various services.   Usually referred to by their wave length in meters. IE 31 meter band or 60 meter band or 25 meter band. For international broadcasting and marine and aviation and governmental and general utilities and amateur radio.

During the cold war years before satellite use, the shortwave bands or HF – High Frequency bands were hopping I can tell you. Nearly every country large and small had an international broadcast station, broadcasting in their native language as well as English and at least two additional languages. Such as Spanish and French. A number of the larger one broadcasting to some area 24 hours a day. With facilities in a number of countries around the globe, usually current or former colonies.  Each giving their version of The Truth™ AKA propaganda. And lets face it, all broadcasting is propaganda of one type or another.

For all official broadcasting there is of course the opposition, the clandestine radio or pirate radio stations. Those some of these proved to be not what they seemed. Such as Radio Swan or WNYW [Radio New York Worlwide], both of which were funded in whole or partially by the CIA. And both magically disappeared or were sold when this information came out. Of course the governments targeted have tried with very limited success to jam or remove them. Not all pirate radio was political in nature. Radio Caroline   and Radio North Sea International broadcast for years simply to give people an alternative music station. And many more have come and gone. Just a search of clandestine radio on google will bring up page after page dedicated to just this one aspect.

Nearly all of the big broadcasters though have been shut down. Even the Voice of Russia. Sill on the air though are China and Cuba and a lot of the smaller countries. Not to mention those whose intended audience is in their own country or adjacent countries. As well as a score of religious broadcasters. Piping out their messages to non believers and far right broadcasters piping out paranoia that can make FOX look positively tame.

Then there are the Numbers Stations®. Exactly what the name says, stations that come the air that either speak or send lists of number in morse code and that’s all. The current thought being that they are sending messages in a cryptic, probably one time use one way code. Not unlike the Nazi Enigma machine. Amateur and professional and government sleuths have been trying for years to break the codes and pinpoint the locations of these broadcasts but mostly to no avail. And unlike sending of the internet, they seem to be fairly secure.  To this day they can be heard and spark an interest.

So there you have it. And interesting past time. Have your say Firedogs on what ever subject comes to mind. As you can see, others have to world wide listeners.

And old educational video.


US Global Power in the 21st Century: Military or Economic Imperialism?

By: GREYDOG Tuesday September 30, 2014 2:42 am

By James Petras99GetSmart


Despite vast amounts of imperial data to the contrary, the great majority of writers on imperialism continue to describe and analyze US imperialism strictly in economic terms, as an expansion of “capital accumulation”, “accumulation on a world scale”.

In fact the major and minor US imperial wars have more to do with “capital dis-accumulation”, in the sense that trillion dollar flows have gone out from the US, hundreds of billions of dollars in profits from resource sites have been undermined, markets for exports have been severely weakened and exploitable productive labor has been uprooted.  At the same time US imperialist state ‘dis-accumulates capital’, multi-national corporations, especially in the extractive sector are expanding, “accumulating capital” throughout Latin America.

This new configuration of power, the conflicting and complementary nature of 21st century US imperialism, requires that we anchor our analysis in the real, existing behavior of imperial state and extractive capitalist policymakers.  The basic premise informing this essay is that there are two increasingly divergent forms of imperialism:  military driven intervention, occupation and domination; and economic expansion and exploitation of resources, markets and labor by invitation of the ‘host country’.

We will proceed by examining the choices of imperial strategy, in a historical – comparative framework and the alternatives which were selected or rejected.  Through an analysis of the practical decisions taken regarding ‘imperial expansion’ we can obtain insights into the real nature of US imperialism.  The study of imperial strategic choices, past and present, state and corporate, requires three levels of analysis: global, national and sectoral.

Global Strategies:  US Imperial State and the MNC

US imperial state invested trillions of dollars in military expenditures, hundreds of thousands of military personnel into wars in the Middle East (Iraq, Yemen, and Syria), North and East Africa (Libya, Somalia), South Asia (Afghanistan) and imposed sanctions on Iran costing the US hundreds of billions in “capital dis-accumulation”.

The US corporate elite, driven out of Iraq, Syria, Libya and elsewhere where US military imperialism was engaged, chose to invest in manufacturing in China and extractive sectorsthroughout Latin America.

In other words the US imperial state strategists either chose to expand in relatively backward areas (Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen) or imposed under-development by  destroying or sanctioning lucrative extractive economies (Iraq, Libya, Iran).

In contrast the MNC chose the most dynamic expanding zones where militarist imperialism was least engaged – China and Latin America.  In other words “capital did not follow the flag” – it avoided it.

Moreover, the zones where extractive capital was most successful in terms of access, profits and stability were those where their penetration was based on negotiated contracts between sovereign nations and CEO’s – economic imperialism by invitation.

In contrast in the priority areas of expansion chosen by imperial state strategists, entry and domination was by force, leading to the destruction of the means of production and the loss of access to the principle sites of extractive exploitation. 

MENA Mashup: Abbas, Bibi, and ISIS

By: CTuttle Monday September 29, 2014 5:30 pm

Seriously, why won’t Abu Mazen sign the Rome Statute…?

This is the question that is etched on everyone’s mind. If there is only one issue that Palestinians agree upon today it is the need for President Mahmoud Abbas to sign the Rome Statute. That would clear the way to file charges in the International Criminal Court (ICC) against Israeli officials for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity.

By stalling the process Abbas has committed three cardinal errors. First, he has enabled Israelis to escape punishment; second, he has undermined and squandered the international support for Palestinian rights; and third, he has failed to answer to the call of the ICC and the Assembly of States Parties (ASP) issued one year after Palestine became a non-member state of the UN…

In an obvious attempt to clear the air once and for all, the ICC’s Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda wrote on the Guardian’s Comment is Free pages an article headed “The truth about the ICC and Gaza”. She confirmed that “Palestine could now join the Rome Statute” after the UN General Assembly had formally recognised it as a non-member state on 29 November 2012.

As it stands, the onus is squarely upon Abbas personally. In a letter to the Paris-based legal firm Gilles Devers & Associes, which is acting on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, Bensouda said on 14 August, “In accordance with article 7 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (VCLT), only the Head of State, Head of Government and Minister of Foreign Affairs are considered lawful representatives of a State by virtue of their functions and without having to produce full powers, for the purpose of expressing a State’s consent to be bound by a treaty.”

Despite the overwhelming support among Palestinians, the Director-General of the human rights organisation Al Haq, Shawan Jabarin, explained that in the past the PA had deferred its signing of the Rome Statute because it was unwilling to anger Israel, America and some European countries. At other times it claimed that it was awaiting the agreement of the Palestinian factions, particularly Hamas. Abbas insisted that the resistance movement should give a written undertaking of support to approach the ICC, acknowledging that it bears full national and international responsibility for the consequences…

As Ali noted in the TRNN clip… PLO officials divided before Abbas UN speech

Talk surely is cheap, Abu Mazen…!