Monthly Archives: March 2012
Peace, Power and Pushback
Are humans hardwired for war or peace? Is war an aberration or the eternal norm. Has non-violent people-power pushback ever wrested lasting change from power elites? How are the current power holders responding to the current uprisings springing up all over the planet? As the U.S. makes war for the last remaining oil, Spain, Germany and China are forging ahead with alternative energy. Will this change the balance of power on the rocky road to a sustainable future?
These are the questions addressed by Brad Jacobson, John Nichols, Frances Fox Piven, Noam Chomsky, Grace Lee Boggs, Michael Klare and others in this edition. The take-home message: Resistance is Fertile.
Why War Isn’t Inevitable: A Science Writer Studies the Secret to Peaceful Societies
By Brad Jacobson, AlterNet
Posted on March 18, 2012, Printed on March 20, 2012
When President Obama accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, he expressed a well-worn notion about warfare: “[W]ar is sometimes necessary, and war is at some level an expression of human feelings.” Today, as the drumbeats for war with Iran once again reach bellicose heights, a timely new book argues that, contrary to conventional wisdom, waging war is not an innate part of human nature.
In The End of War, veteran science journalist John Horgan applies the scientific method to reach a unique conclusion: biologically speaking, we are just as likely to be peaceful as we are to be violent. So what keeps humans bound by a seemingly never-ending cycle of war?
In a phone interview with AlterNet from his home in New York’s Hudson Valley — situated within earshot of the mortars and howitzers at West Point Military Academy’s artillery range — Horgan dispelled multiple myths about the impetus for war, the combination of which, he believes, sustains the institution of war despite rational thought and an overwhelming human aversion to killing. A longtime Scientific American writer and director of the Center for Science Writings at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey, Horgan also charts a new course for rejecting the old paradigm of war’s inevitability and finally releasing mankind from its destructive grip.
Brad Jacobson: Was there an overriding factor that drove you to write this book?
John Horgan: Yeah, it was my discovery that started right after the U.S. invasion of Iraq: the vast majority of people, both American and people around the world, believe that war is a permanent part of the human condition. Read more.
John Nichols interviewed by Kris Welch on KPFA’s ‘Livingroom’
His new book is Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest, from Madison to Wall Street
[You can fast-forward through the opening 5-minute news summary and get right to the excellent interview.]
Strategic Directions for Occupy Wall Street: Foreclosing Banks, Defending Homes, Making History – Democracy Now March 20, 2012
Famed sociologist Frances Fox Piven and labor organizer Stephen Lerner discuss how Occupy Wall Street could grow into a major political movement that draws millions into the streets. “I’m absolutely convinced that Occupy is the beginning of another massive protest movement,” Fox Piven says. “Protest movements have a long life—10, 15 years—and they are what we have to rely on to take our country back.” Fox Piven is professor of political science and sociology at The Graduate Center, City University of New York, and author of “Challenging Authority: How Ordinary People Change America.” Lerner is a labor organizer who was the architect of the Justice for Janitors campaign and is on the executive board of the Service Employees International Union. He has been working with labor and community groups nationally on how to hold Wall Street accountable. “I think there’s never been a more exciting time in my 30 years of organizing to imagine building the kind of movement that can transform the country, that can really talk about redistributing wealth and power. And there’s never a better time to get involved,” Lerner says. We are also joined by Guardian reporter Ryan Devereaux, who has been reporting on Occupy Wall Street extensively.
Chomsky: Are We About to Get Embroiled in a Nightmare War With Iran?
As tensions escalate, there are eerie echoes of the run-up to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
March 13, 2012 | Alternet
The January/February issue of Foreign Affairs featured the article “Time to Attack Iran: Why a Strike Is the Least Bad Option,” by Matthew Kroenig, along with commentary about other ways to contain the Iranian threat.
The media resound with warnings about a likely Israeli attack on Iran while the U.S. hesitates, keeping open the option of aggression – thus again routinely violating the U.N. Charter, the foundation of international law. Read more.
A celebration & tribute to Grace Lee Boggs, philosopher-activist from Detroit, MI. Presented by the Chinese Progressive Association of San Francisco at the Chinese Culture Center, 750 Kearny St., 3rd Floor, San Francisco Chinatown on Saturday, March 3, 2012. Born in 1915, a daughter of Chinese immigrants, Grace received her B.A. from Barnard College (1935) and her Ph.D. in Philosophy from Bryn Mawr College (1940). She married black autoworker, James Boggs, and together they became actively and deeply involved in the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements in the 1960’s and ’70’s in the Detroit area. She authored and co-authored numerous books, including “The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century” and “American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs.”
Grace Lee Boggs: ‘We Need to Grow Our Souls’
Boggs: The “secret to visionary organizing” is a “combination of philosophy and activism”
Common Dreams staff – Published on Tuesday, March 13, 2012 by Common Dreams
At an event to celebrate the work of Grace Lee Boggs, the long-time activist says that “we need to grow our souls” and emphasizes that the “secret to visionary organizing” is “a combination of philosophy and activism.”
The Chinese Progressive Association in San Francisco held the event on March 3 titled Building the Next American Revolution: A Celebration and Tribute to Grace Lee Boggs. Read more.
5 Freedom-Killing Tactics Police Will Use to Crack Down on Protests in 2012
By Steven Rosenfeld, AlterNet
Posted on March 16, 2012, Printed on March 20, 2012
The First Amendment right to assemble and protest is going to get a black eye in 2012—as it has every time there has been an upsurge in America’s social justice movements.
Already in city after city, protesters and civil rights lawyers are troubled by proposed and newly enacted anti-protest rules, many of which are likely to be found unconstitutional if they have their day in court. In the meantime mayors, police and in some cases federal agencies are making detailed plans to thwart protests at local and national events.
In many cities, ordinances aimed at Occupy protesters are emerging to restrict protests and anything resembling camping on sidewalks, streets and parks. New fees are being drawn up to discourage large demonstrations. Anti-leafleting and postering rules are also muzzling people trying to spread the word about events. And all of that is being shepherded with a new pretext for using paramilitary tactics, replacing last year’s “health and safety” excuse for sweeping away Occupy sites with the rationale of protecting “national security” in a presidential election year. Read more.
POLICE STATE USA: New Obama Executive Order Seizes U.S. Infrastructure and Citizens for Military Preparedness Global Research
by Brandon Turbeville
In a stunning move, on March 16, 2012, Barack Obama signed an Executive Order stating that the President and his specifically designated Secretaries now have the authority to commandeer all domestic U.S. resources including food and water. The EO also states that the President and his Secretaries have the authority to seize all transportation, energy, and infrastructure inside the United States as well as forcibly induct/draft American citizens into the military. The EO also contains a vague reference in regards to harnessing American citizens to fulfill “labor requirements” for the purposes of national defense.
Not only that, but the authority claimed inside the EO does not only apply to National Emergencies and times of war. It also applies in peacetime. Read more.
Complete text of the Executive order.
Source: the White House, March 16, 2012
8 Creepy Spy Technologies That Can Be Hitched to Your Neighborhood Drones
America’s cities may soon be swarming with surveillance drones equipped with high-tech snooping tools.
March 13, 2012 | AlterNet / By Tana Ganeva
Last fall, the Montgomery County Sheriff’s department got together for a photo op showing off a new unmanned surveillance craft. The $300,000 drone did not have an auspicious debut. Minutes after take-off, the UAV lost touch with the control console and plummeted to earth, crashing into the police officers assembled for the launch. No one was hurt, because police were hanging out in their armored car (“the Bearcat”) another warzone weapon that has crept into the arsenals of local cops around the country (the Bearcat came out alright). Read more.
5 Countries That Could See an Uprising Next
Here are several places to look for social unrest, mass protests and perhaps even another Bastille Day.
March 14, 2012 | AlterNet / By Nicholas Pell
What a difference a year makes. It’s hard to believe that this time in 2011, the world was abuzz over the Arab Spring. Flying in the face of the “death of history” narrative, the Arab Spring shocked the world by overturning some of its most entrenched authoritarian governments. Soon after, Occupy Wall Street became the American protest movement, both inspired by actions in the Arab world, as well as urging young Arabs on to further action. It seems pretty safe to say that the 21st century will definitely be interesting times; the protest movements have little sign of letting up any time soon. Revolutions and uprisings spread like wildfire once they reach critical mass. Here are five places to look for social unrest, mass protests and perhaps even another Bastille Day. Read more.
Video: I Got Blasted by the Pentagon’s Pain Ray — Twice
Spencer Ackerman – Wired – Danger Room
…That reaction is among the reasons why the technicians at the Pentagon’s Joint Nonlethal Weapons Directorate consider the Active Denial System one of their most impressive weapons. But it’s a troubled system. Some of the Pain Ray’s woes are technical. Others are more fundamental.
Usually the Active Denial System is described as a “microwave” weapon. That’s not really correct. True, Pete and Ralph’s guts contain a gyrotron, the older brother of your microwave’s magnetron, through which energy passes through a magnetic field to become heat. But millimeter waves don’t penetrate nearly as deeply as microwaves — only 1/64th of an inch. Even though the weapon uses much, much more energy than a microwave, the Directorate has tried and failed to use it to cook a turkey.
That’s not all the Active Denial System has failed at.
The system’s gone through battery after battery of tests, including one that put an airman in the hospital. (The Directorate’s rejoinder: it’s tested the Pain Ray 11,000 times and only two people, including that airman, got hurt.) But its “attenuation” — that is, its potency — goes down when it’s raining, snowing or dusty, concedes one of its chief scientists, Diana Loree of the Air Force Research Laboratory, without specifying the degree of reduction. And that’s not its biggest design flaw.
Loree says the boot-up time on the Pain Ray is “sixteen hours.” So if the system is at a dead stop on a base and, say, the locals protest the burning of a Koran, guards at the entry points won’t be burning anyone. The Directorate says that in a realistic deployment, the Active Denial System will be kept in ready mode — that is, loudly humming as its fuel tanks power it, or hooked up to a base’s generator. But that makes it a gas guzzler, at a time when the military’s trying to reduce its expensive fuel costs….
…The system is effectively in limbo, as none of the services want to purchase it — and it hasn’t even been upgraded since 2010. It’s fundamentally the same Pain Ray that McChrystal returned to sender. Read more.
The military is packing a lot more heat.
As in, an ultra-sci-fi sizzler dubbed the Active Denial System, known in comic book parlance as a heat ray.
The military claims the device, mounted on a vehicle as far as a kilometre away, rains non-lethal electromagnetic waves at misbehaving crowds. The payload is apparently so unbearably intense — the equivalent of standing in front of an open furnace — crowds reverse course in a hurry.
As the Globe and Mail reports, the military is particularly proud of its latest crowd-busting cannon.
“You’re not gonna see it, you’re not gonna hear it, you’re not gonna smell it: you’re gonna feel it,” Marine Col. Tracy Taffola told reporters during the system’s public unveiling at a U.S. Marines base near Washington, D.C.
But is it safe? According to the military, the heat ray, or ADS, is its “safest non-lethal” option — essentially a strong suggestion to its target to run away immediately.
The military has a name for that too: ‘The goodbye effect’. Read more.
Michael Klare: The Race for What’s Left: The Global Scramble for the World’s Last Resources
Democracy Now interview – March 14, 2012
We look at rising fuel costs, one of the major issues raised by the Republican contenders in the 2012 presidential campaign. Since the beginning of the year, the average of price of a gallon of regular gasoline has jumped 16 percent to more than $3.80. Earlier this week, President Obama partially blamed his Republican rivals, saying one reason for the increase is rumors of war with Iran. Meanwhile, Republican candidates have used the spike in gas prices to attack President Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline and his stance on expanded domestic oil drilling. Our guest, Michael Klare, says oil prices are destined to remain high for a long time to come because most of the remaining oil on the planet is no longer easily accessible. Klare’s latest book is “The Race for What’s Left: The Global Scramble for the World’s Last Resources.”
China’s spending on renewable energy soars
World’s biggest polluter spends £4bn a year on wind and solar power generation in single region as it aims to cut fossil fuel use.
The remote, wind-blasted desert of northwestern Gansu could be the most unloved, environmentally abused corner of China. It is home to the country’s first oilfield and several of the coalmines and steel factories that have contributed to China’s notoriety as the planet’s biggest polluter and carbon dioxide emitter.
But in the past few years, the landscape has started to undergo a transformation as Gansu has moved to the frontline of government efforts to reinvent China’s economy with a massive investment in renewable energy.
The change is evident soon after driving across the plains from Jiuquan, an ancient garrison town on the Silk Road that is now a base for more than 50 energy companies.
Wind turbines, which were almost unknown five years ago, stretch into the distance, competing only with far mountains and new pylons for space on the horizon. Jiuquan alone now has the capacity to generate 6GW of wind energy – roughly equivalent to that of the whole UK. The plan is to more than triple that by 2015, when this area could become the biggest windfarm in the world.
This is the other side of China’s development. Although it is the world’s biggest CO2 emitter and notorious for building the equivalent of a 400MW coal-fired power station every three days, it is also erecting 36 wind turbines a day and building a robust new electricity grid to send this power thousands of miles across the country from the deserts of the west to the cities of the east. Read more.
Thousands of Anti-Nuclear Protesters Face Police in India, 200 Arrested
Green signal for nuclear power ‘is a red signal for our lives’
Published on Tuesday, March 20, 2012 by Common Dreams Common Dreams staff
After thousands gathered in Idinthikarai, Tamil Nadu, India on Monday to protest the vastly contested Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant there, police forces came out en masse to repress demonstrations. Over 200 protesters have been arrested including key anti-nuclear organizers.
Thousands of Koodankulam protesters have gathered in front of St Lourdes church (Photo: TEHELKA) Police initiated “operation Koodankulam” arresting protesters and blocking all entry points to the coastal villages surrounding the nuclear power plant.
Since the arrests, thousands have gathered on the grounds of St Lourdes Church in the area as several have begun a hunger strike. “We will continue our protest till we die,” said one protester. Read more.
Germany Embarks on Historic Alternative Energy Push
As it phases out nuclear power in wake of public outcry, Germany to make largest investment since World War II
Published on Monday, March 19, 2012 by Common Dreams – Common Dreams staff
Spurred by a public outcry following the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, Germany’s Prime Minister, Angela Merkel, announced last year that Germany would phase out all of its nuclear power plants. Now, with a looming 20% energy gap to fill, the European nation plans to follow on its early leadership in the green energy sector with an unprecedented investment in alternative and renewable sources, including wind and solar. Read more.
FUENTES DE ANDALUCIA, Spain — A unique thermosolar power station in southern Spain can shrug off cloudy days: energy stored when the sun shines lets it produce electricity even during the night.
The Gemasolar station, up and running since last May, stands out in the plains of Andalusia.
From the road between Seville and Cordoba, one can see its central tower lit up like a beacon by 2,600 solar mirrors, each 120 square metres (28,500 square feet), that surround it in an immense 195-hectare (480-acre) circle.
“It is the first station in the world that works 24 hours a day, a solar power station that works day and night!” said Santago Arias, technical director of Torresol Energy, which runs the station.
The mechanism is “very easy to explain,” he said: the panels reflect the suns rays on to the tower, transmitting energy at an intensity 1,000 times higher than that of the sun’s rays reaching the earth.
Energy is stored in a vat filled with molten salts at a temperature of more than 500 degrees C (930 F). Those salts are used to produce steam to turn the turbines and produce electricity.
It is the station’s capacity to store energy that makes Gemasolar so different because it allows the plant to transmit power during the night, relying on energy it has accumulated during the day. Read more.
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