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It’s Not Just About Ukraine

By: Deena Stryker Tuesday April 22, 2014 8:14 am

Map of Poland 960-992

As the situation on Europe’s Eastern frontier degenerates predictably, awareness of the millennial violent history between Poles and Ukrainians is indispensable to any understanding. The phrase ‘they share a long history’ does not come close to elucidating what is happening today.

Actually, the phrase most often heard is that Ukrainians and Russians share a long history, and this illustrates the fact that even news analysts haven’t a clue as to what is motivating the protagonists in this drama. Americans who have spent time among Western Europeans notice the vastly greater awareness individuals have of their country’s past than they do. When it comes to Eastern Europe, you can safely double that.

As Ukrainians of East and West duke it out over their country’s future, a tortured debate in the Polish parliament has just culminated with a vote to qualify a World War II massacre of Poles by Ukrainians as ‘ethnic cleansing with genocidal elements.’ The massacre took place in Volyn in the summer of 1943, under the leadership of a Ukrainian fighting force under the Neo-Nazi Ukrainian Nationalist Stepan Bandera who is the hero of the Right Sector now in charge of security under the putsch government in Kiev.

This was not the yearly remembrance, which occurs in July, but was directly related to the current situation in Ukraine, in which the Polish government continues to play a double role that goes back hundreds of years: seeking to once again hold sway over its Eastern lands, backed by a globalizing West eager to exploit them and represented for the cause by the EU.

In its coverage of the vote, RT pointed out that a few years ago the then presidents of the two countries had declared the issue laid to rest, but that subsequently, the Ukrainian government had erected monuments to Bandera and his organization.

And yet, this relatively recent history does not explain Poland’s current role in the Ukrainian drama: it is related to the tug of war between Poles and Ukrainians for sovereignty over the lands that lie between the contemporary Russian and Polish borders that began in the tenth century. This applies also to the Baltics, which Washington says Putin might invade while he’s at it. The huge landmass to the east of the Vistula River has forever been in turmoil among diverse tribes, then principalities, then nations. I’m not going to detail that history here, it’s easily available on Wikipedia, starting with Kievan Rus and following the links.

Doing that will help explain why globalization’s plans for Ukraine are not going to be that easy to implement.

Earth Day Greenwash: API Front Group Iowa Energy Forum Sponsors Pro-Keystone XL Event

By: Steve Horn Tuesday April 22, 2014 4:30 pm

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

The political carnival that is the prelude to the Iowa caucuses has started over a year and a half early. At the center of it this time around: a game of political hot potato over the northern leg of TransCanada‘s Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

Official Portrait of General Jones

General James Jones has become an energy industry shill.

American Petroleum Institute (API) deployed one of its paid consultants — former Obama Administration National Security Advisor General James “Jim” Jones — to deliver an Earth Day address in the home state of the presidential caucuses at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.

James Jones used his time on the podium to promote the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, which another James — retired NASA climatologist James Hansen — once called a “fuse to the biggest carbon bomb on the planet.”

“General James Jones…will discuss the benefits of the pipeline initiative, including more jobs, less dependence on foreign oil, and cheaper energy costs for Americans,” explained an April 15 Drake University press release promoting the event.

Days after the Obama Administration decided to delay making a decision on Keystone XL North until after the 2014 mid-term elections, API went on the offensive, with Jones acting as the group’s surrogate.

API is using one of its numerous front groups that could factor most prominently during election season: the Iowa Energy Forum, chief sponsor and organizer of the event titled, “The Pipeline to National Security Discussion.”

Iowa Energy Forum is part of API’s broader astroturf campaign called “America’s Energy Forum,” the privacy policy on its website reveals. In tiny print at the bottom of the Iowa Energy Forum website, it also says, “Sponsored by American Petroleum Institute.”

API paid the powerful Des Moines-based public relations (PR) firm LS2group to help them promote the Earth Day event.

An April 17 press release published in Des Moines’ Business Record lists Matt Bierl of LS2group as the contact person. And a glance at the guest list for the Facebook event page for Drake University event shows eight of the 22 attendees work at LS2group.

LS2group and the 2012 Elections

Mark Twain once quipped, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”

In that vein, rewind back to 2012 and the activities by Iowa Energy Forum before the Iowa caucuses, with PR efforts overseen by LS2group.

Among other things, former Minnesota Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty — who ran for president in the 2012 GOP primaries — had two campaign advisers that wore two hats, Charles Larson Jr. and Karen Slifka. Both of them also worked for LS2group in the run-up to the Iowa caucuses, where they work full-time now.

Both Larson and Slifka denied they were coordinating Iowa Energy Forum’s agenda with the Pawlenty campaign in an interview with The Des Moines Register. But evidence suggests otherwise.

“An air-conditioned ‘igloo’ paid for by the Iowa Energy Forum will rise up from the straw poll campus in Ames next month, an attraction meant to woo Iowans’ affection with free treats, kids’ rides and displays about energy technology,” explained an article in The Des Moines Register. “The Republican Party of Iowa has received $100,000 from the organization.”

Drake Students Protest Event

In response to Jones’ jaunt to campus, Drake University students held a protest outside of his speaking engagement.

Over Easy: Yet Another Heartbreaking Inmate Death

By: Crane-Station Wednesday April 23, 2014 4:04 am

In a report titled Kentucky Inmate Starves to Death, the Associated Press (AP) reported on Monday that James Kenneth Embry, age 57, died of starvation at the state penitentiary in Eddyville, Kentucky, on January 16, 2014. There is an additional report with a timeline of events. The story is both shocking and heartbreaking and begs the question: How many more may there have been that we do not know about?

Kentucky State Penitentiary

Kentucky State Penitentiary complex in Eddyville, Kentucky, United States

Had the AP not acted on a tip and filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for the autopsy report and other documents, the public would not have known what happened. Egregious and horrific events like this are not supposed to happen in this country and without documentation no one would believe it. Indeed, this is the sort of story that a researcher might come across in a history book, or in PubMed, describing famine in a country experiencing conflict in combination with limited resources.

There is a common misconception about incarceration, that inmates have access to all of the best medical care in America, the best free food, warm, cozy comfortable beds to sleep in, really awesome dental care, totally amazing, free university education as well as a collection of graduate degrees, and a whole host of other cool amenities. All are false.

Dental care is nonexistent in the jails, where the vast majority of Kentucky nonviolent drug offenders serve their sentences. In prison, dental care consists of a counting of the teeth, or a pulling of all of the teeth. All educational materials are specifically banned in the many of the jails, and the only reading material allowed is certain types of religious material. In prison, there is vocational school; any education expenses beyond that come directly off the inmate’s books. Medications are all automatically stopped at arrest. One must move mountains to get any sort of mental health medications whatsoever. This often involves a gatekeeper process that many of the mentally ill simply cannot navigate.

It does not make sense that a mentally ill individual stressed by the harsh environment of jail or prison must act as one’s own medical advocate, leaping through hoop after hoop after hoop, begging for help, begging for medications, just begging…but that is how it is. Things spiral out of control, and often, the more the mentally ill inmate cries, yells, bangs his head, or spreads feces on the wall, the harsher he is punished. Inevitably comes “suicide watch.” Suicide watch is a euphemism for the hole, as is “medical watch.” These are punishment cells.

In other words, the caged mentally ill in America are not receiving any sort of adequate medical care. They are in many cases not receiving any medical care at all. Rather, they are being punished for a condition that they did not choose to have, and then, they are being blamed for it later on. For example, the Kentucky Medical Examiner listed “suicide” as the cause of death in James Kenneth Embry’s case, according to the AP report (please. see link). Mr. Embry was 6 feet tall, and he weighed 136 pounds.

For today’s post, you must refer to the references:

Kentucky Inmate Starves to Death LOUISVILLE, Ky. April 21, 2014 (AP) By BRETT BARROUQUERE Associated Press
(note- Many papers carried the AP story, including the Louisville Courier-Journal.)

NATIONAL NEWS Timeline of events in fatal prison hunger strike April 21 The Associated Press

Kentucky prison doctor fired after inmate starves to death Published time: April 22, 2014

Off-topic and unrelated:

BREAKING: The Georgia Legislature has passed a bill that the governor will sign into law, effective July, making this the official state bottle opener.

Georgia Governor To Sign ‘Unprecedented’ Gun Bill

And, as always, our Beloved Decorah Eagles!

Marxism is Coming Back?

By: cassiodorus

Recently in the mainstream media one now can read short essays (well, OK, they’re really Ideological Guides To What You’re Supposed To Think) on the idea that “Marxism” (to be distinguished here from marxism, which is “Marxism” without all of the straw man connotations) is now intellectually an Accepted Part of the Conversation. Well, sort of.

Elderly woman holding protest sign: If Karl Marx Was Alive He Would Say I Told You So'

If Marxism is back, then where was it hiding?

Much of this recent Marx vogue has to do with the publication of Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century, a book which compiles nearly seven hundred pages of evidence and several disavowals of Marx to show what the real marxists knew already: if you are rich and own capital, capital accumulation makes you richer.

To be fair, Marx himself stacked the deck in his analysis of capital accumulation: capital is itself defined as money designed to make more money. So of course capital accumulation makes you richer — it’s defined that way. However, Marx also walks us through the process of capital accumulation: the capitalists skim off the surplus produced by wage labor, and redeem this surplus as profit through sales. The capitalists watch the money roll in, while the workers must be satisfied with mere wages, which they use to buy back a portion of what they themselves produced. This really happens, folks.

This walking-through bit is the main difference between actual marxists and commentators upon “Marxism.” The rich have been getting richer since the inception of capitalism; yet the commentators upon “Marxism” conclude, time and time again, that the whole of Marx is constituted by his hubris about revolution in his (1847) propaganda work The Communist Manifesto – oh, but long analyses of the labor theory of value are so tedious! Much easier to simplify the whole of Marx to that one bold statement at the beginning of the Manifesto:

The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.

That way you don’t need to read the rest of Marx’s stuff, especially that tricky book Capital.

A recent manifestation of this “Marxism revival” talk is Ross Douthat’s recent column in the New York Times, titled “Marx Rises Again.” Douthat’s pattern is common to the genre: Mention the name “Marx,” then loudly dismiss the idea that history has anything to do with class struggle. Insist that Marx only came up because of some media event (in this case, the publication of Piketty’s book and the conversation around it). Promise that this subject will eventually go away.

I suppose the name “Marx” has to be mentioned at all because even the serious people have had to recognize that there’s something very marxist about the present moment — that in keeping the profit rate for the rich people high while fortunes for the rest of us decline, our economy has wandered into increasing crisis. All this has, all along, been very well described by those marxists doing serious work on the subject — Robert Brenner, David Harvey, and so on.

Ross Douthat is of course a prominent conservative — and that’s what’s amazing here: that a conservative of his pedigree would even bother to mention Marx, when it’s so much easier for conservatives to avoid writing about such a topic. A couple of Douthat quotes will reveal the unstable realities he’s trying to hide. Quote #1:

Even if the income and wealth distributions look more Victorian, that is, the 99 percent may still be doing well enough to be wary of any political movement that seems too radical, too utopian, too inclined to rock the boat.

I dunno, Ross. Occupy looked pretty big to me, and Occupy was designed by anarchists. Quote #2:

The taproot of agitation in 21st-century politics, this trend suggests, may indeed be a Marxian sense of everything solid melting into air. But what’s felt to be evaporating could turn out to be cultural identity — family and faith, sovereignty and community — much more than economic security.

Reassertions of “cultural identity” only appear to center the various agitations surfacing now and then around the world (if they indeed do that — Occupy was a primarily economic phenomenon) because “cultural identity” binds people together. What causes agitation, of course, is that people feel a need to agitate, and here if Douthat had bothered to examine why people were agitating, he might have found economic reasons in each instance.

Millenial Marxists & Inequality

Tuesday Watercooler

By: Kit OConnell Tuesday April 22, 2014 8:32 pm

 

Tonight’s music video is “The Guitar (The Lion Sleeps Tonight)” by They Might Be Giants, from the album Apollo 18.

A model of a T. Rex in a park, running and bent over

WHAT DID YOU SAY ABOUT MY ARMS?!

It’s hard to imagine a more terrifying beast than Tyrannosaurus Rex! Yet then there’s the whole case of those laughable little arms. Except that New Scientist reports, new details have emerged about the T. Rex’s powerful, flexible neck:

Tyrannosaurs, the family of big predatory dinosaurs that includes T. rex, had necks that were similar to those of modern birds. So by studying how birds feed, Eric Snively of the University of Wisconsin–La Crosse and his colleagues were able to reconstruct how T. rex went about making a kill.

Snively placed electrodes on the skin of a dozen birds from 10 different species, ranging from domestic chickens to bald eagles. That allowed him to identify the precise muscle movements underlying each stage of feeding. Snively found that the birds often raised their heads and fixed their vision on the prey before lowering their heads to attack. T. rex had most of the same muscles, suggesting it could perform the same movements. That would also include raising its head, thrusting it upwards and pulling back with its legs once it has taken a bite.

Many of the birds also shook their necks, and the main muscle involved was found in the necks of tyrannosaurs. ‘The shaking motion is the same as when a dog shakes off water,’ says Snively. ‘We think that the dinosaur would have used this motion to dislodge meat from a carcass.’

Their powerful necks could explain why tyrannosaurs had such small arms, says Snively. ‘Tyrannosaurs didn’t need big arms to hunt, because their powerful bites and hyper-bulldog necks did the job,’ he says. ‘From the shoulders forward, T. rex was like a whole killer whale: just bite, shake and twist.’ Tyrannosaur necks are also similar to crocodile necks. ‘We can think of them as striking like a bird, and shake-feeding like a crocodile,’ says Snively.

Via an article on I Fucking Love Science. Anyway, dinosaurs have gotten all weird since I was a kid.

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Individualism is the Opium of the Masses

By: Deena Stryker Monday April 21, 2014 1:16 pm
A 2014 Lexus sport model on display at a car show

“The latest lipstick or a $40,000 automobile, guaranteed to enhance one’s chances of making it.”

If you’re wondering why, as a progressive commentator wrote recently “the left contents itself with sending pathetic ‘take action!’” emails, think about a specific difference between the U.S. and the rest of the world: Following on the revolutionary European tradition, most polities readily take to the streets when their rulers take kleptocracy too far. In the United States, two traditions inhibit such action. The first is the opprobrium attached to so-called ‘mob rule’ as opposed to the ‘democratic’ way of doing things, ‘through the ballot box’ (never mind if big money is dictating what people think and therefore who they will vote for).

But there is another factor that surely plays just as important a role, and that is the cult of individualism. Ubiquitous advertising promises that certain products will contribute to ‘the full development’ of the consumer’s faculties — or gifts — or abilities. Whether it’s the latest lipstick or a $40,000 automobile, it’s guaranteed to ‘enhance’ one’s chances of ‘making it’ — conquering the most beautiful woman or just simply get a job. You have to demarcate yourself from the next guy by buying a ‘personalized’ variation of the latest model of whatever. This is the modern equivalent of ‘divide and conquer.’

While Marx’s ‘opium’ of the masses, religion, supports community, the opium of individualism does the opposite. How then to hope that Americans will ever ‘rise up’ against anything, or ‘storm’ anything, or ‘take back’ what has been stolen from them? You have to be inclined toward ‘community’ as in ‘common action’ as in ‘united we stand’ to do that.

Not only do Americans, at 5% of the world’s population, consume 70% of its resources, we are leaving it up to the other 95% to save us from the looming planetary disaster caused by CO2, while spending billions to discover another habitable planet for the 1% to escape to. As pointed out by Joel Kovel in Francis Goldin’s Imagine Living in a Socialist USA without eco-socialism there will be no future. And yet, instead of a nationwide progressive party that could steer government in that direction, we have a proliferation of separate groups each fighting for their own constituency, whether oil or prison pipelines, while the monster goes about business as usual. Until such a party exists, we will have only cries in the wilderness.

Todd Miller: The Creation of a Border Security State

By: Tom Engelhardt Saturday June 18, 2011 9:59 am

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

A border patrol SUV by a high tech border monitoring tower

The high tech world of the Border Patrol means less freedom for all.

Sometimes you really do need a map if you want to know where you are.  In 2008, the ACLU issued just such a map of this country and it’s like nothing ever seen before.  Titled “the Constitution-Free Zone of the United States,” it traces our country’s borders.  Maybe you’re already tuning out.  After all, you probably don’t think you live on or near such a border.  Well, think again.  As it happens, in our brave, new, post-9/11 world, as long as we’re talking “homeland security” or “war on terror,” anything can be redefined.  So why not a border?

Our borders have, conveniently enough, long been Constitution-free zones where more or less anything goes, including warrantless searches of various sorts.  In the twenty-first century, however, the border itself, north as well as south, has not only been increasingly up-armored, but redefined as a 100-mile-wide strip around the United States (and Alaska).  In other words — check that map again — our “borders” now cover an expanse in which nearly 200 million Americans, or two-thirds of the U.S. population, live.  Included are nine of the 10 largest metropolitan areas.  If you live in Florida, Maine, or Michigan, for example, no matter how far inland you may be, you are “on the border.”

Imagine that.  And then imagine what it means.  U.S. Customs and Border Protection, as Todd Miller points out today, is not only the largest law enforcement agency in the country you know next to nothing about, but the largest, flat and simple.  Now, its agents can act as if the Constitution has been put to bed up to 100 miles inland anywhere.  This, in turn, means — as the ACLU has written — that at new checkpoints and elsewhere in areas no American would once have considered borderlands, you can be stopped, interrogated, and searched “on an everyday basis with absolutely no suspicion of wrongdoing.”

Under the circumstances, it’s startling that, since the ACLU made its case back in 2008, this new American reality has gotten remarkably little attention.  So it’s lucky that TomDispatch regular Miller’s invaluable and gripping book, Border Patrol Nation: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Homeland Security, has just been published.  It’s an eye opener, and it’s about time that “border” issues stopped being left to those on the old-fashioned version of the border and immigration mavens.  It’s a subject that, by definition, now concerns at least two-thirds of us in a big way. Tom

They Are Watching You
The National Security State and the U.S.-Mexican Border
By Todd Miller

With the agility of a seasoned Border Patrol veteran, the woman rushed after the students. She caught up with them just before they entered the exhibition hall of the eighth annual Border Security Expo, reaching out and grabbing the nearest of them by the shoulder. Slightly out of breath, she said, “You can’t go in there, give me back your badges.”

The astonished students had barely caught a glimpse of the dazzling pavilion of science-fiction-style products in that exhibition hall at the Phoenix Convention Center. There, just beyond their view, more than 100 companies, including Raytheon, General Dynamics, and Verizon, were trying to sell the latest in futuristic border policing technology to anyone with the money to buy it.

The students from Northeastern Illinois University didn’t happen to fall into that category. An earnest manager at a nearby registration table insisted that, as they were not studying “border security,” they weren’t to be admitted.  I asked him how he knew just what they were studying.  His only answer was to assure me that next year no students would be allowed in at all.

Among the wonders those students would miss was a fake barrel cactus with a hollow interior (for the southern border) and similarly hollow tree stumps (for the northern border), all capable of being outfitted with surveillance cameras. “Anything that grows or exists in nature,” Kurt Lugwisen of TimberSpy told a local Phoenix television station, “we build it.”

Nor would those students get to see the miniature drone — “eyes in the sky” for Border Patrol agents — that fits conveniently into a backpack and can be deployed at will; nor would they be able to check out the “technology that might,” as one local Phoenix reporter warned, “freak you out.” She was talking about facial recognition systems, which in a border scenario would work this way: a person enters a border-crossing gate, where an image of his or her face is instantly checked against a massive facial image database (or the biometric data contained on a passport).”If we need to target on any specific gender or race because we’re trying to find a subject, we can set the parameters and the threshold to find that person,” Kevin Haskins of Cognitec (“the face recognition company”) proudly claimed.

Nor would they be able to observe the strange, two day-long convention hall dance between homeland security, its pockets bursting with their parents’ tax dollars, and private industry intent on creating the most massive apparatus of exclusion and surveillance that has ever existed along U.S. borders.

Gender Equity For Rural Haitian Women: Kettly Alexandre & The Peasant Movement Of Papay

By: Other Worlds Tuesday April 22, 2014 1:36 pm

Interviewed by Beverly Bell, Edited by Jessica Hsu

April 22, 2014

The Peasant Movement of Papay (MPP) is one of the largest small-farmer associations in Haiti with 70,000 members, of whom close to half are women. MPP was founded in 1973 to improve the living conditions of small farmers while working for social and economic justice. Here, Kettly Alexandre of the MPP Women’s Committee speaks to advances made over 40 years for women’s rights, equity, and an end to violence.

Three smiling Haitian women

A “Peasant Movement” is making Haiti safer for women.

Even though the road has been long, we are seeing successes. We are leading a huge battle and hoping for victory. Our approach in the Women’s Committee is to meet problems head-on to promote social justice – combating violence against women, advocating for gender equity, providing scholarships for women, promoting reforestation, and working for personal health. Our programs allow women to lift up their heads, and give peasants a viable future.

One of our largest programs is a safe house for women who’ve been victims of violence. We’re the only group in the Central Plateau that offers women a supervised safe house, which also includes medical assistance or referrals, psychological support groups, and legal support. We have organizers in different zones, and if they hear of an instance of violence against a woman, they identify the victim and send them to our centers. All victims are welcome.

One of the most personally satisfying stories involves a woman who was being beaten by her husband. She told him if he didn’t stop, she was going to go tell MPP. He stopped immediately.

Although many people say the violence is on the rise in the Central Plateau, it is not true. What’s changing is that more and more people are standing up and denouncing the violence that has always been present. Not very long ago, it was hard to find people to speak out against this type of violence. Often even the peasant women who are the victims of rape, beatings, etc. feel ashamed [to say anything].

Prior to the earthquake, our legal support helped women in about 50 court cases. Following the earthquake, we’ve been able to help almost 300 cases, with the assistance of a Canadian organization that helped train more women to support victims of violence. Of those 300, there’ve been about 100 rulings handed down; close to 50 men found guilty, with the women being compensated; and many others awaiting judgment behind bars. These are victories for women. It’s encouraging.

We sponsor radio broadcasts concerning violence against women. We also hold workshops with leaders of the community, including houngans [vodou priests], pastors, and priests, to build awareness around the problem so they can in turn make others aware. We invite police officers, judges and lawyers. Their reactions are all over the place. Some say, “Aha! You’re the ones who are making women think they have all this power!” But for every negative reaction, we see more positive reactions. These efforts have made it easier for women to come to our offices, report and act.

But even though we’re working diligently and have taken big strides in making the population aware of violence against women and its consequences, the authorities need to be involved. If we really want to eradicate the problem, it needs to be dealt with on a national level.

We also do a lot of advocacy that involves both men and women, not just in the area of violence against women, but also for gender equity and women’s rights. There’s a lot of respect for women in MPP. We involve a lot of people in discussions around these issues.

One of our biggest successes is that peasant women are no longer ashamed to identify as peasant woman. We’re putting value in our culture and saying proudly that we are farmers and producers.