Foreign Policy In Focus reprints an excerpt from Chapter 5 in Maude Barlow's latest book, Blue Covenant The Global water crisis and the coming battle for the right to water:

“The three water crises – dwindling freshwater supplies, inequitable access to water and the corporate control of water – pose the greatest threat of our time to the planet and to our survival. Together with impending climate change from fossil fuel emissions, the water crises impose some life-or-death decisions on us all. Unless we collectively change our behaviour, we are heading toward a world of deepening conflict and potential wars over the dwindling supplies of freshwater – between nations, between rich and poor, between the public and the private interest, between rural and urban populations, and between the competing needs of the natural world and industrialized humans.”

At the moment, 215 major rivers and 300 groundwater basins and aquifers are shared by two or more countries, creating tensions over ownership and use of the precious waters they contain. Coming across this link I was immediately reminded by Fred Pearce’s piece in last November’s New Statesman

Pearce observes that in the last three decades, the global population has doubled and water consumption has increased threefold. - “largely because, tonne-for-tonne, modern ‘high-yielding’ crop varieties often need more water than the old crops” - sparking a real danger that quarrels over the most necessary of resources could erupt into violence.

Says Pearce: “A typical Westerner consumes, directly and through thirsty products like food, about a hundred times their own weight in water every day. That is why some of the great rivers of the world, such as the Nile, Indus, Yellow River and Colorado, no longer reach the sea in any appreciable volume. All their water is taken”

“Many parts of the world, notably the Middle East, are running out of water to feed themselves. In response, a vast global trade is emerging. Not in water itself, but in thirsty crops like grains and sugar and cotton. Effectively the UK imports 45 cubic kilometres of water every year embodied in such crops – much of it from poor and arid lands.

“Economists call this the ‘virtual water trade’. Many countries would starve without it. But as more and more countries run short of water, the trade will be disrupted. And the threat of wars over water will grow."

Focusing on the crisis in the Middle East, Pearce notes: Israel’s relations with its other neighbours are poisoned by its insistence on controlling the watershed of the River Jordan, its main source of water. The 1967 Six Day War was, according to former prime minister Ariel Sharon’s memoirs, fought as much for control of the River Jordan as for land. Israel hangs onto the Golan Heights less for military reasons than because it is where the river rises.”

A cursory reading of the broadsheets uncovers a constant “constant drip-drip of stories about water riots in Pakistan, Mexico, India, China, Indonesia and elsewhere. The world is awash too with disputes over international rivers that threaten to become full-blown wars as water shortages grow”.

Many a current water-fuelled dispute is the legacy of colonial rule argues Pearce: “The 1947 partitioning of India split control of the River Indus. Now India and Pakistan are at odds over a new Indian hydroelectric plant that, Pakistan claims, threatens its British-built irrigation schemes, which supply most of the country’s food. India’s control over the Ganges causes both floods and droughts in downstream Bangladesh.

“In Africa, Britain left behind a Nile treaty that gives all the waters of a river that flows through ten countries to the two most downstream: Egypt and Sudan. Egypt now threatens to wage war on anyone upstream -- such as Ethiopia - who takes so much as a pint pot of water from the river.”

Meanwhile, ongoing quarrels concern Chinese dams being built on the Mekong in Southeast Asia, and complex conflicts in central Asia, where upstream hydroelectric dams that keep the people of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan warm in winter disrupt water supplies for the huge cotton plantations of downstream Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.

Elsewhere the Iraqi and Syrian government are set to contest Turkish dams upstream on the Tigris and Euphrates and which threatens the water supply to millions

In a section of her book, Maude Barlow focuses on the how the water problem is becoming a major issue for US foreign policy planners, and which is worth quoting at length:

“Water has recently (and suddenly) become a key strategic security and foreign policy priority for the United States. In the wake of the terrorist attacks of 9-11, protection of U.S. waterways and drinking water supplies from terrorist attack became vitally important to the White House. When Congress created the Department of Homeland Security in 2002, it gave the department responsibility for securing the nation’s water infrastructure and allocated US$548 million in appropriations for security of water infrastructure facilities, funding that was increased in subsequent years. The Environmental Protection Agency created a National Homeland Security Research Center to develop the scientific foundations and tools to be used in the event of an attack on the nation’s water systems, and a Water Security Division was established to train water utility personnel on security issues. It also created a Water Information Sharing and Analysis Center for dissemination of alerts about potential threats to drinking water and, with the American Water Works Association, a rapid e-mail notification system for professionals called the Water Security Channel. Ever true to market economy ideology, the Department of Homeland Security’s mandate includes promoting public-private partnerships in protecting the nation’s water security.

“…Water is becoming as important a strategic issue as energy in Washington. In an August 2004 briefing note for the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, a think tank that focuses on the link between energy and security, Dr. Allan R. Hoffman, a senior analyst for the U.S. Department of Energy, declared that the energy security of the United States actually depends on the state of its water resources and warns of a growing water-security crisis worldwide. “Just as energy security became a national priority in the period following the Arab Oil Embargo of 1973–74, water security is destined to become a national and global priority in the decades ahead,” says Hoffman. He notes that central to addressing water security issues is finding the energy to extract water from underground aquifers, transport water through pipelines and canals, manage and treat water for reuse and desalinate brackish and sea water – all technologies now being promoted by U.S. government partnerships with American companies. He also points out that the U.S. energy interests in the Middle East could be threatened by water conflicts in the region: “Water conflicts add to the instability of a region on which the U.S. depends heavily for oil.

“Continuation or inflammation of these conflicts could subject U.S. energy supplies to blackmail again, as occurred in the 1970s.” Water shortages and global warning pose a “serious threat” to America’s national security, top retired military leaders told the president in an April 2007 report published by the national security think tank CNA Corporation. Six retired admirals and five retired generals warned of a future of rampant water wars into which the United States will be dragged. Erik Peterson, director of the Global Strategy Institute of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a research organization in Washington that calls itself a “strategic planning partner for the government,” says that the United States must make water a top priority in foreign policy. “There is a very, very critical dimension to all these global water problems here at home,” he told Voice of America News. “The first is that it’s in our national interest to see stability and security and economic development in key areas of the world, and water is a big factor with that whole set of challenges.” His centre has joined forces with ITT Industries, the giant water technology company; Proctor & Gamble, which has created a home water purifier called PUR and is working with the UN in a joint public-private venture in developing countries; Coca-Cola; and Sandia National Laboratories to launch a joint-research institute called Global Water Futures (GWF). Sandia, whose motto is “securing a peaceful and free world through technology” and that works to “maintain U.S. military and nuclear superiority,” is contracted out to weapons manufacturer Lockheed Martin by the U.S. government, to operate, thus linking water security to military security in a direct way.

“The mandate of Global Water Futures is twofold: to affect U.S. strategy and policy regarding the global water crisis and to develop the technology necessary to advance the solution. In a September 2005 report, Global Water Futures warned that the global water crisis is driving the world toward “a tipping point in human history,” and elaborated on the need for the United States to start taking water security more seriously: “In light of the global trends in water, it is clear that water quality and water management will affect almost every major U.S. strategic priority in every key region of the world. Addressing the world’s water needs will go well beyond humanitarian and economic development interests. . . . Policies focused on water in regions across the planet must be regarded as a critical element in U.S. national security strategy. Such policies should be part of a broader, comprehensive, and integrated U.S. strategy toward the global water challenges.”

“Innovations in policy and technology must be tightly linked, says the report, no doubt music to the ears of the corporations that sponsored it. GWF calls for closer innovation and cooperation between governments and the private sector and “redoubled” efforts to mobilize public-private partnerships in the development of technological solutions. And, in language that will be familiar to critics of the Bush administration who argue that the United States is not in Iraq to promote democracy, but rather to secure oil resources and make huge profits for American companies in the “rebuilding” effort, the report links upholding American values of democracy with the profit to be gained in the process: “Water issues are critical to U.S. national security and integral to upholding American values of humanitarianism and democratic development. Moreover, engagement with international water issues guarantees business opportunity for the U.S. private sector, which is well positioned to contribute to development and reap economic reward.” Listed among the U.S. government agencies engaged in water issues in the report is the Department of Commerce, which facilitates U.S. water businesses and market research, and improves U.S. competitiveness in the international water market.

The latter paragraph says much. There’s profits to be had! And note Coca-Cola’s ominous and timely entrance. What is of key importance to the main players here is less that clean and fresh water is available to humanity – they don’t give a fuck for human life, evidenced by US foreign policy since 1945 to say the least – but the amount of bloody profit the trade in water can generate. If they could not make a cent, they’d show no interest at all and sod the millions dying of thirst. If they’re thirsty they can always buy coca-cola.

In an age when we have the scientific and technological know how to enable us to solve almost all our problems, it is indeed an indictment on capitalism that so many humans, living on a planet, seven eighths of which is covered in water, have so little access to it; more, that a tiny minority wish to profit by controlling our access to it.

A sane, moneyless society, in which the artificial constraints of profit have been removed from production, in which the satisfying of human need is paramount, in which people have free access to the benefits of civilisation, humanity would address water shortages with the building of more reservoirs, water channels, water desalination plants, making obsolete all current processes that waste water.

Gulag America

Today, America crossed an ominous threshold. One of out every one hundred American adults is incarcerated. In jail. Behind bars. Right now. 1 of 100. This is unprecedented in American history, unprecedented anywhere.

The story is covered by the Associated press and comes via the Raw Story website:

“Using updated state-by-state data, the report said 2,319,258 adults were held in U.S. prisons or jails at the start of 2008 — one out of every 99.1 adults, and more than any other country in the world.

“According to the report, the inmate population increased last year in 36 states and the federal prison system.

“The largest percentage increase — 12 percent — was in Kentucky, where Gov. Steve Beshear highlighted the cost of corrections in his budget speech last month. He noted that the state's crime rate had increased only about 3 percent in the past 30 years, while the state's inmate population has increased by 600 percent.

“The Pew report was compiled by the Center on the State's Public Safety Performance Project, which is working directly with 13 states on developing programs to divert offenders from prison without jeopardizing public safety.

“The report said prison growth and higher incarceration rates do not reflect a parallel increase in crime or in the nation's overall population. Instead, it said, more people are behind bars mainly because of tough sentencing measures, such as "three-strikes" laws, that result in longer prison stays.

“‘For some groups, the incarceration numbers are especially startling,’” the report said. ‘While one in 30 men between the ages of 20 and 34 is behind bars, for black males in that age group the figure is one in nine.

“The nationwide figures, as of Jan. 1, include 1,596,127 people in state and federal prisons and 723,131 in local jails — a total 2,319,258 out of almost 230 million American adults.

“The report said the United States is the world's incarceration leader, far ahead of more populous China with 1.5 million people behind bars. It said the U.S. also is the leader in inmates per capita (750 per 100,000 people), ahead of Russia (628 per 100,000) and other former Soviet bloc nations which make up the rest of the Top 10.”

What's going on? We better start figuring it out because there is every indication that Bush & Friends want to push those numbers even higher (continued below video)

And why?

Privately owned jails and other profit motives.

See (below) how a for-profit business operates a new kind of prison that incarcerates infants and small children. Now. Today. Not a paranoid fantasy. A new growth industry for America.

Running prisons is now big business - and we know how big business operates...

1. Find corrupt politicians (not hard to do)

2. Pay them off or cut them in

3. Reap the rewards


Prototype for a nationwide concentration camp system

Did you know that the US federal government has not only set up but is also currently operating a prison that holds entire families - including infants, children and nursing and pregnant women?

It's located in Taylor, Texas and it's operated by Corrections Corporation of America, a privately owned corporation.

This short film by Matt Gossage and Lily Keber is one of the only public reports on this prison. Otherwise this subject has been entirely censored by the US news media.

For more on Hutto, click here.


UN ASKS FOR $500 MILLION TO SAVE THE WORLD'S STARVING - or just one thousandth of the cost of the war in Iraq

"There is food on shelves but people are priced out of the market. There is vulnerability in urban areas we have not seen before. There are food riots in countries where we have not seen them before." (Josette Sheeran, head of the World Food Programme, The Guardian, 26th February)

Class Warfare take up the story of the global food crisis where it left off yesterday. The UN has announced it wants $500 a year extra to deal with the crisis. And it is a crisis! $500 million may sound a lot…well, it is…But it only provides food aid to about 75 million people in 78 countries, less than one tenth of those in dire need of it. Moreover, the figure pales into significance when compared to the cost of the US invasion and occupation of Iraq, currently standing, as I write, at almost $498 billion. In other words the UN, hoping to save life, is asking for 1000th of what Washington has spent destroying life in Iraq.

Officials at the UN’s World Food Programme argue that increases in the global price of basic foods are caused by a ‘perfect storm’ of factors: a rise in demand for animal feed from increasingly prosperous populations in India and China who have found a penchant for new meat stuffs, the use of more land and agricultural produce for biofuels, and climate change. Little wonder that for many of the world’s impoverished, up to 80% of their income goes on food

The UN could have cited other factors, such as a system that produced for profit not need, a system that creates the artificial scarcity of commodities in order to maintain profits.

Needless to say, there have been food riots in Mozambique, Morocco, Yemen, Mexico, Guinea, Mauritania, Senegal and Uzbekistan. Pakistan has reintroduced rationing for the first time in two decades.

Other countries has moved to head off food-fuelled protest. Russia has responded to the crisis by freezing the price of milk, bread, eggs and cooking oil for six months. Thailand is also preparing a freeze on food staples. After protests around Indonesia, Jakarta has increased public food subsidies.

For its part, India has banned the export of rice except the high-quality basmati variety. Interesting that the better quality rice is destined for the shelves of wealthier countries – far too bloody good for your average Indian prole, especially where there are profits to be had. What, give them the good stuff? Nah, they’d only eat it!

Prospects for the future look bleak, with climatic change anticipated to have a heavy impact in coming decades, with the growing demand for biofuels expected to take more land away from food production and with the rising demand fore meat products. The latter factor is all the more insane when it is considered that it takes 10 kilos of feed to produce one kilo of meat.

Throughout Africa NGOs and top scientists are calling for a moratorium on new biofuels projects as millions of acres of prime agricultural land in sub-Saharan Africa are switched from food to fuel. The Food and Agriculture Organisation have reported that 100 million tons of cereals are being diverted to the production of biofuels each year, a figure excessively unacceptable on a continent that has a long history of producing cash crops to service foreign debt. In the US, 60 million tonnes of maize is produced for the biofuel industry. The figure might mean nothing but it is a figure that is more than double the entire UK cereal crop.

The WFP is holding an emergency meeting this coming Friday in the hope it can further address the problem. Needless to say there will be no levelling of criticism at capitalism or its insane production motives, nor a call for an end to a system that prioritises profit over human need. Once again, the mechanisms of capitalism will once again be asked to solve a problem they bloody well help create. I wonder if they'll consider, though, the fact that 78% of the world's starving live in countries that actually produce a food surplus?


UN predicts food aid rationing

The Financial Times has reported that the UN’s World Food Programme, charged with relieving hunger in underdeveloped countries, is drawing up plans to ration food aid in response to spiralling prices.

"The World Food Programme is holding crisis talks to decide what aid to halt if new donations do not arrive in the short term.

"Josette Sheeran, WFP executive director, told the Financial Times that the agency would look at ‘cutting the food rations or even the number or people reached' if donors did not provide more money. ‘Our ability to reach people is going down just as the needs go up,’ she said.

"WFP officials hope the cuts can be avoided, but warned that the agency’s budget requirements were rising by several million dollars a week because of climbing food prices."

Back in November, Josette Sheeran said (Guardian, 3rd November 2007):

"There are 854 million hungry people in the world and 4 million more join their ranks every year. We are facing the tightest food supplies in recent history. For the world's most vulnerable, food is simply being priced out of their reach."

One major factor, impacting food prices and mentioned elsewhere on this blog, is that pertaining to the growing of crops to supply the biofuels industry.

As Food First reports today on its home page.

“FACT: Ethanol is helping drive food prices out of control without lowering the price of gas – Corn planted for ethanol competes for farmland with corn for food production and with other food crops. This drives up the price of all food crops, especially those that contain corn products—which is most of our processed food. Meat is more expensive because our beef cattle eat corn, not grass. Food prices have increased by 25% over last year! Gas prices still went up by 80%...”

The insanity is that the UN is introducing rationed food aid programmes because it exists as part of a system in which the rationing of commodities is the order of the day. Indeed, rationing has been the order of the day since capitalists realised they could make huge profits by limiting supply.

Food shortages are very much rooted in a system that manipulates supply and demand to keep prices high. Stories are legion about farmers being paid to take land out of production, of governments stockpiling food, to keep prices low. I remember not so many years ago writing a lengthy letter to the local press screaming my anger at the EC’s decision (back then) to destroy 3 million tons of fruit and at the cost of £52 million, because, quite simply, too much had been produced and, it if it was allowed to enter the market, prices would have crashed. And now arable is being used for the biofuel matket!

And its nothing new. This has gone on for decades. John Steinbeck’s Pulitzer Prize winning The Grapes of Wrath (1939), set against t backdrop of the Great Depression, highlighted the issue in California, where tens of thousands of hungry, migrating farmers and their families, encountered mountains of rotting fruit, guarded by law enforcement officers instructed to shoot anyone who dared pick so much as a decomposing apple.

Organisations like Food First (Institute for Food and Development Technology –) are clear that the world today produces enough grain alone to provide every human being with 3,500 calories a day. “That's enough to make most people fat!” they assert. And this estimate does not take account of many other universally eaten foods—vegetables, beans, nuts, root crops, fruits, grass-fed meats, and fish. Indeed, if all foods are considered together, sufficient is available to provide at least 4.3 pounds of food per person a day. That includes two and half pounds of grain, beans and nuts, about a pound of fruits and vegetables, and nearly another pound of meat, milk and eggs. Put that on a platter in front of most people and ask term to eat it and the thought of it makes them quite nauseous. This much is asserted in a 2006 document entitled 12 Myths About Hunger (downloadable in pdf format).

The document further observes how “the problem is that many people are too poor to buy readily available food. Even most ‘hungry countries’ have enough food for all their people right now. Many are net exporters of food and other agricultural products.”

In other words, if you’re hungry in this world it is inevitably because you lack the purchasing power to buy food. The golden law of capitalism as ever comes into play – “can’t pay, can’t have”. Poor people simply do not constitute a market; no profit can be had for them. It is far simpler, and far more lucrative, to create an artificial shortage which maintains prices at a profitable level. And with biofuel crops entering the equation of late, the problem is only exacerbated.


And closer yet again to the full surveillance society

Yesterday BBC news online reported that the Home Office had rejected calls by the police to introduce a mandatory DNA database of all UK citizens, arguing that the suggestion “would raise significant practical and ethical issues.”

Already there are £4.5 million people in Britain on the DNA database. Since 2004, the data of everyone arrested for a recordable offence - all but the most minor offences - has remained on the system regardless of their age, the seriousness of their alleged offence, and whether or not they were prosecuted. In countless cases, if you go to court and you’re found totally innocent, they still have your damned DNA, a profile of your personal genetic make up.

Not enough, say the police who, to highlight there case, point to recent solved murders thanks to their DNA database. Right wing reactionaries have backed police calls for such a database, citing that hackneyed argument that if you’re doing sod all wrong, then you have nothing to worry about. Which misses the point by a mile.

There’s nothing radical at the moment in the government resisting police pressure for a DNA database. They simply realise its gonna be one helluva palaver to get DNA samples from almost 6o billion people, a lot of whom will kick off big time were they to be threatened with penalties for failing to comply, or coercion. They'll bide their time until they come up with a better way to get around this.

So if you’re thinking that here is the British government defending our civil liberties, forget it. They're still after their surveillance society. Yesterday’s Guardian, for instance, tells us that:

“Passengers travelling between EU countries or taking domestic flights would have to hand over a mass of personal information, including their mobile phone numbers and credit card details, as part of a new package of security measures being demanded by the British government. The data would be stored for 13 years and used to 'profile' suspects.”

One thing I did not know was that last summer the EU made a deal with the US Dept. of Homeland Security to provide Washington with 19 pieces of information on all passengers between Europe and the USA, inclusive of credit card details and mobile phone numbers. The bastards!

Not enough, says the British government, who want the system extended to sea and rail travel, to domestic flights and those between EU countries. And is the reactionary British government the only one in Europe to argue for this measure? Yes! Twenty-seven member states were questioned on whether the system should be extended for “more general public policy purposes”, aside from the alleged war on terror and crime, and only Britain put its thumbs up. Britain further wants the authority to exchange the information gleaned, your most personal details, with third parties outside the EU.

Things have hotted up since the ID Cards Act was passed two years ago this March. Throughout 2007, in many cities, Identity and Passport Service (IPS) interview centres were opened to question first-time applicants, such as teenagers, before giving them a passport.

Towards the end of last year we were informed that that post offices and travel agents are likely candidates for mass ID card applications and fingerprinting. The Financial Times reported: "The Post Office said it was looking very seriously at developing the ability to record data electronically at its 14,150 outlets", whilst the IPS said that, "outlets were likely to be used to help speed up the enrollment process to obtain new biometric passports and identity cards, providing services such as application checking and finger-printing."

In October of last year we learned that General Register Office (GRO) in England and Wales, charged with overseeing the recording of births, marriages, civil partnerships and deaths, will become part of the Identity and Passport Service (IPS) from 1 April 2008. This moves it from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) to become an Executive Agency of the Home Office. According to the IPS, “working as one organisation will allow us to explore the possibility of integrating passport, identity card and life event registration processes. This would reduce red tape and make life easier for people, as well as strengthen the integrity of our systems."

Under the Identity and Passport Service, the 285 registry offices in England and Wales that are owned and run by local authorities will be implicated in this change, plus the Home Office will carry out some registrations centrally and maintain the central record of registration data. So getting rid of 'red tape' really means the centralising of data originally collected for statistical purposes and policy-making for the population as a whole, which will now be used for tracking individuals as well.

And then you read today’s Mail on Sunday and wonder just what the fuck is going on!:

“Motorists will be targeted by a new generation of road cameras which work out how many people are in a car by measuring the amount of bodily fluid it contains.

“The latest snooping device on the nation's roads aims to penalise lone drivers who abuse car-sharing lanes, and is part of a Government effort to combat congestion at busy times.

“The cameras work by sending an infrared beam through the windscreen of vehicles which detects the unique make-up of blood and water content in human skin. “

Seemingly, some unscrupulous individuals have had mannequins in their passenger seats or photos in the windscreen. Interesting! How long before drivers cotton on to the idea that if the cops a have device that measures the amount of bodily fluid in a car, the simple way out is to still have the mannequin , but with eight pints of water inside of it? I ask you!!

Well, looks like this blog is gonna have a busy year keeping track of all the new legislation and moves to barcode us all. Sometime I bloody despair! They do it so slowly, so damned subtly, that the majority of people don’t realise what is going on. Little by little the workers are becoming acclimatised to the Big Brother Society, in which they will have your DNA, your fingerprints your credit card details… everything… everything will eventually be known about everyone.

They’re telling us all that we are not to be trusted, none of us, that we need to be surveilled constantly and that it is all in our own interests. As I’ve argued on here before, trust is a two-way thing, so why should we trust them one bloody inch? Lets chuck the whole damned spectacle back in their faces and destroy their damned system to boot.


Police State moves to the school bogs

School removes CCTV cameras from children's toilets after furious protest from parents

No sooner do I post a blog item about the police state moving into the classroom, than we come across news that the police state is moving into school toilets.

I had to read that headline above twice! This piece comes from the Daily Mail

But its true. Seemingly The cameras were installed at Lipson Community College in Plymouth, Devon, which has 1,400 pupils. And allegedly without the knowledge of staff and governors…which, as Chair of Governors at a local school, I find hard to fuggin believe for the simple reason that the school will have in place a definite policy authorising the Chair at least to countersign sign any contracts. And I know any contractor would have had to sign into the school, via the secretary’s office, to be issued with a visitor pass. This stuff is national school policy now. Surely then the matter would have been reported straight to the principal. It’s just utter bollocks that workmen could have entered a school to fit cameras, in the bloody bogs, too, without the governors or the head knowing in advance.

But here, we are told a member of staff was able to order the contract unsupervised.

The principal responded, when questioned: “Someone made an error…”

What!….an error!?! And no one is being reprimanded we are told.

What I find amazing is that the kids just didn’t climb up and smash the camera down. Rather, they either refused to use the toilets or stayed away from college and complained to their parents.

I can only suggest the widespread use of cameras in the UK – an estimated 4.5 million in Britain at the moment – has acclimatised kids to the surveillance society, resulting, in this instance, in kids not protesting en masse at school, or even showing the damned initiative to sabotage the bloody cameras themselves. Where the rebellious spirit that kids used to have? Where the class warriors of tomorrow?

And would any court in the land have dared challenge their right not to be surveilled whilst having a pee or a pooh, and condemned them for destroying the intrusive spy cams? I doubt it.

Socialist TV

A new blog site is in the making at Socialist TV

It's tag line states it is: "Televising the revolutionary case against capitalism and promoting the socialist case for the establishment of a global social system in which the earth's natural and industrial resources are commonly owned and democratically controlled, and in which each person has free access to the benefits of civilisation"

And its introducton states the site "aims to focus on film/video presentation of arguments for Socialism. If a video, not produced by socialists, nevertheless argues an aspect/s of the Socialist case, it will be used."

So far it contains 4 videos produced by members of the SPGB.


Howard Zinn on Human Nature and Aggression

Not a revolutionary socialist by far, here's Howard Zinn putting the boot into the idea that humans are naturally aggressive. He clearly articulates the idea that humans do not readily go to war, that workers have to be persuaded via massive propaganda campaigns and when that inducement fails then coercion, via the draft, is the only option. Zinn then argues that when human aggression does manifest itself, the cause is rooted in environmental factors.

An updated Zinn talk on the subject could well have cited the number of soldiers who desert, who commit suicide (in the US its reached epidemic proportions among Iraq War vets), and who suffer mental breakdown (The Pentagon recently repotrted that some 40% of front lien troops have mental health problems).



Kosovo’s declration of independence, whilst allegedly violating international law, quickly won the support of Washington. Unilateral western-supported independence mocks the 1999 UN Security Council Resolution 1244 which only permits Kosovo's self-government as a Serbian province; the resolution recognizes the "sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia;" only a new UN resolution in compliance with international law can change that legally.

Why the US haste in particular? Are there profits to be had…perhaps mineral wealth at stake here? No, I’m not being cynical – the history of US foreign policy this past 60 years has shown unequivocally that if the US starts taking an interest anywhere its corporate elite smells megabucks.

Global Research posits an answer in a piece entitled: Large Potential Albanian
Oil And Gas Discovery Underscores Kosovo's Importance and from which I quote:

On January 10, Swiss-based Manas Petroleum Corporation broke the news. Gustavson Associates LLC's Resource Evaluation identified large prospects of oil and gas reserves in Albania, close to Kosovo. They're in areas called blocks A, B, C, D and E, encompassing about 780,000 acres along the northwest to southeast "trending (geological) fold belt of northwestern Albania."

“Assigned estimates of the find (so far unproved) are up to 2.987 billion barrels of oil and 3.014 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. However, because of their depth, oil deposits may be capped with a layer of gas. If so, Gustavson calculates the potential to be 1.4 billion barrels of light oil and up to 15 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Further, if only gas is present, the discovery may be as much as 28 trillion cubic feet. In any case, if estimates prove out, it's a sizable find.

“..In December 2007, Albania's Council of Ministers allowed DWM Petroleum, AG, a Manas subsidiary, to assist in the exploration, development and production of Albania's oil and gas reserves in conjunction with the government's Agency of Natural Resources.

“This development further underscores Kosovo's importance and the cost that's meant for Serbia. Since the 1999 US-led NATO war, it's been all downhill for the nation, the region and its people:

- Kosovo is part of Serbia; at least it was; since 1999 it's been a Washington-NATO occupied colony stripped of its sovereignty in violation of international law;

- it's been run by three successive US-installed puppet Prime Ministers with known ties to organized crime and drugs trafficking;

- it's the home of one of America's largest military bases in the world, Camp Bondsteel; the province/country is more a US military base than a legitimate political entity;

- its part of Washington's regional strategic objective to control and transport Central Asia's vast oil and gas reserves to selected markets, primarily in the West.”

I can just see Tony Benn saying “told you so” as he emphatically taps out his pipe.. I remember him (maybe back in 1999) speaking in Trafalgar Square, when the Kosovo war was kicking off, arguing against Britain getting involved militarily, that this was a western imperialist war to get access to Kosovo’s oil. Maybe those pundits who slagged him off in the press are digging out their old articles from the time.

Over on Counterpunch, John V Whitbeck looks for the Palestinian link:

“The American and EU impatience to amputate a portion of a UN member state…. contrasts starkly with the unlimited patience of the U.S. and the EU when it comes to ending the 40-year-long belligerent occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (no portion of which any country recognizes as Israel's sovereign territory and as to which Israel has only even asserted sovereignty over a tiny portion, occupied East Jerusalem). Virtually every legal resident of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip seeks freedom -- and has for over 40 years. For doing so, they are punished, sanctioned, besieged, humiliated and, day after endless day, killed by those who claim to stand on the moral high ground.

“In American and EU eyes, a Kosovar declaration of independence from Serbian sovereignty should be recognized even if Serbia does not agree. However, their attitude was radically different when Palestine declared independence from Israeli occupation on November 15, 1988. Then the U.S. and the EU countries (which, in their own eyes, constitute the "international community", to the exclusion of most of mankind) were conspicuously absent when over 100 countries recognized the new State of Palestine, and their non-recognition made this declaration of independence purely "symbolic" in their own eyes and, unfortunately, in most Palestinian and other eyes as well.”

I’m not into nationalism, or supporting the right of small nations to self-determination, but the guy’s got a point.


The Trials of Henry Kissinger (video) – the making of a war criminal

"A fascinating, bombshell documentary that should shame Americans, regardless of whether or not ultimate blame finally lies with Kissinger. Should be required viewing for civics classes and would-be public servants alike." -- Brent Simon, Entertainment Today.

Granted, Kissinger is just a front man for powerful interests, but nevertheless he personally sanctioned millions of innocent deaths – all sacrificed on the altar of US corporatocracy. Did they arrest and charge him as a war criminal, with crimes against humanity? No, they gave him a Nobel Peace Prize…There again, they also nominated Bush for the same humanitarian award.

The very fact that Henry Kissinger was selected to head the commission to investigate the Sept. 11 attacks should make this documentary, `The Trials of Henry Kissinger,' required viewing for any student of politics

Based on a book by Christopher Hitchins, the film shows many former Kissinger supporters - including Nixon speech-writer, William Safire - calling the former National Security Advisor and Secretary of State secretive, a liar and even a war criminal.

Kissinger's Cold War schemes of bombing Cambodia, the genocidal invasion of East Timor by Indonesia and the coup and related atrocities in Chile are all well researched in this 80 minute film.

Amongst the many documentary interviewees is René Schneider Jr. His father, Gen. René Schneider, was head of the Chilean military when Allende was first elected. The general was killed during an attempt to kidnap him, as he was staunchly committed to the constitution, and would not bow to a coup against Allende. Evidence points to Kissinger directing that botched kidnapping.

Towards the end of the film, Schneider is asked if he planned to press charges against Kissinger for his role. His response was, `we are considering it.' The date when charges finally were first reported in the New York Times was Sept. 11, 2001. The $3 million civil suit against Kissinger quickly faded into the background in the wake of the terrorist attacks.


Cyber-police home in on Wikileaks

Wikileaks is a website running on modified MediaWiki software which allows whistleblowers to anonymously release government and corporate documents, allegedly without possible retribution. It claims that postings are untraceable by anyone attempting to do so. It was launched in December 2006 and, as of November 2007, had contained over 1.2 million documents. It provides mirrors which can be used during outages. (Wikipedia)

I’ve always believed the masterclass would perceive the internet to be too powerful a weapon in the hands of the oppressed majority, and that by hook or by crook they would close down sites that challenged their interests or, indeed, make an attempt to close down the internet system altogether. The internet is just too powerful a medium not to attract constant master class attention. In seconds you can access the most up-to-date information, disseminate it further, and contact thousands, millions at the press of a key. Out there in cyberspace are tens of millions of documents our masters would rather we did not have access to. Thousands are added everyday, shared, links posted, info downloaded. As an instrument of subversion the internet is unsurpassable. And one thing is sure, there are more sites, blog sites, forums, putting the boot into injustice, deceit and fraud than there are promoting it.

In the past, many reputable radical sites such as Znet and Counterpunch have been attacked, even by the FBI, only to reappear. Sites the world over have been hacked, closed down, only to resurface.

Counterpunch today alerts us to the plight of Wikileaks (this is the new site link). The role of the site its mission statement points out is to develop “an uncensorable system for untraceable mass document leaking and public analysis. Our primary interests are in Asia, the former Soviet bloc, Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, but we expect to be of assistance to peoples of all countries who wish to reveal unethical behaviour in their governments and corporations. We aim for maximum political impact.”

The site is the brainchild of a band of hardy journalists, the whistle-blowing variety. They have leaked documents, via Wikileak, such as The Secret Rules of Engagement in Iraq, the 2003 and 2004 Guantanamo Camp Delta Standard Operating Procedures, and evidence of serious banking fraud in Kenya that apparently swayed the Kenyan elections. The site has offended the Chinese government enough that they are attempting to censor it, as is the Thai military junta.

As you can imagine, it was not long before it attracted the attention of those with powerful interests to safeguard. Stephen Soldz, writing for Counterpunch reports:

“Today I received a message explaining that a California court has granted an injunction written and requested by lawyers for the Cayman Island's Bank Julius Baer. It seems that the bank is trying to keep the public from accessing documents that may reveal shady dealings. Wikileaks was only given a couple of hours notice "by email" and was not even represented at the hearing where a U.S. judge took such a drastic step attempting to totally shut down an important information outlet. The result was this totally unprecedented attempt to totally wipe out the existence of Wikileaks.

‘"Dynadot shall immediately clear and remove all DNS hosting records for the wikileaks.org domain name and prevent the domain name from resolving to the wikileaks.org website or any other website or server other than a blank park page, until further order of this Court."

“There have, of course, been previous attempts by the U.S. Government and others to block publication of particular documents, most famously in 1971 when the Nixon administration attempted to block publication by the New York Times of excerpts from the Pentagon Papers, leaked by Daniel Ellsberg. But trying to close down an entire site in this way is truly unprecedented. Not even the Nixon administration, when they sought to block publication of the Pentagon Papers, considered closing down the New York Times in response.

“If this injunction stands, it will set an incredible precedent for all of us who use the web to unveil misbehaviour by the rich and powerful. Fortunately, Wikileaks is fighting this unconstitutional attack on press freedom, aided by six pro bono attorneys in San Francisco. While Wikileaks has so far not issued any particular call for support, all who value freedom should stand ready to offer whatever support they need.”

The founders of Wikileaks, knowing that governments and institutions will go to extreme lengths to censor the truth, have created an extensive network of cover names from which one can access their materials or continue leaking the secrets of governments and the corrupt rich and powerful. Thus, everything is available at Wikileaks.be, among other names.

Let the leaks continue! But for how long is anyone’s guess. In the 21st Century global police state, with governments increasingly clamping down on collective and individual freedoms, I feel its only a matter of time before the bastards pull the plug on the whole damn internet system.


The Police State moves to the classroom

I once had an argument with the head of the local comp. She was arguing that my daughter had no trust in the staff and that this was unacceptable. I argued that trust was a two-way thing, that the staff had less trust in kids, abused their positions of authority and that she, as head, was in charge of an institution based on fear and coercion. Asked to elaborate, I told her that the kids are supervised ever minute of the deay, at break in the school yard, during lunch in the dinner hall, in the corridors, changing rooms and that staff even entered kids’ toilets to check on them; that kids are told what time to start school, what time to finish; that they are penalised for having faulty uniforms, not doing homework, coming in late, answering back. Their duty was to comply with authority, to know their place and to prepare them for the labour market. Kids did not come to school dressed in uniform, adhering to all the rules, because they wanted to, but because they and, more importantly their parents, feared the consequences if they were to do otherwise.

I could have added that schools require kids to prepare themselves for life in the police state, where mistrust of the lower elements was also the order of the day and where they would continually be required to acquiesce in their own oppression every day of the year, to submit to the whims of the master class, particularly in regards to social control, but that argument took place before they began fingerprinting kids and mooted spot searches and metal detectors in schools.

I should’ve guessed it wasn’t long coming, especially after they introduced a fingerprint scanning system in the local comp and without the consent of parents, whose kids were fingerprinted.

The Independent today informs us that schools will be very much preparing kids for life in the police state, where cops have increasing powers. An article on knife crime in schools commences:

“Parents will be told that they must allow their children to be searched at any time within school premises if they want to get them into the schools of their choice, under new plans to rid Britain's classrooms of the scourge of knives.

“The Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, will put the battle against illegal weapons at the top of her agenda when she unveils her Tackling Violence Action Plan tomorrow. The blueprint for tackling knife-related violence will include a radical move to give police hundreds of metal detectors to catch young people carrying hidden weapons in schools, clubs and pubs.

“The proposal to introduce "airport-style" security, particularly in schools identified as facing the greatest danger from the knife-crime epidemic, represents a remarkable U-turn for the Government, which had previously dismissed the idea as an overreaction.”

Back in January, The Independent reported that teachers had backed the introduction of metal detectors in schools.

“Although the initiative carries disturbing echoes of some US cities, where high-school pupils are routinely scanned for weapons, head teachers said it could help to tackle violence in high-crime areas

“Metal detectors are still relatively rare and hugely controversial in US schools, but they have been used, particularly in rougher inner-city neighbourhoods, for at least 20 years with some success.

“Reliable statistics are hard to gather, but studies down the years suggest that about 10 per cent of US schools use metal detectors – either the door-frame style commonly found in courts and other sensitive public buildings, or hand-held ones that school officials are able to use at their own discretion.

“The proportion is much higher in urban areas – particularly Chicago, which installed detectors in every middle and high school a few years ago.”

This is a disturbing vision of the future. Not only does your kid get to be fingerprinted at school, as now, his/her details stored and he/she having to have his/her dabs scanned before even getting a school meal (as mentioned in a previous posting on this blog), but they will face spot searches, yanked from class to be frisked by some over-zealous teacher, as well as having to go walk through metal detectors.

How long before kids are urged to report to staff on any subversive comment heard at home, being rewarded with a wee medal when they do?

If you’re gonna implement a full police state, what better way than to start with kids and acclimatise them to incessant surveillance from an early age!

Check out also Fingerprinting in schools


Spielberg's spiel/War Made Easy (film)

“African oil is of national strategic interest to us and it will increase and become more important as we go forward… We don’t foresee anything stopping the Chinese from increasing their equity participation in oil, and I think it probably would be problematic if they were the dominant player.” (Walter Kansteiner, US Assistant Secretary of State for Africa)

So world famous film director Steven Spielberg has resigned as artistic adviser to the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing because China has failed to use its influence to stop Sudan’s war in Darfur!

Said Spielberg, justifying his stance:China's economic, military and diplomatic ties to the government of Sudan continue to provide it with the opportunity and obligation to press for change,

What bollocks! What hypocrisy!

Could this be the same Spielberg who, speaking at a press conference in Rome back in September 2002 voiced support for Bush’s war against Iraq, alongside quick-witted scientologist Tom Cruise ? Yup, none other!

And what was Spielberg’s response to media questions as to his views on the nearing US invasion? He confidently replied: “Bush’s politics has been solid, grounded in reality, willing to uproot terrorism wherever it may be found."

Spielberg, fully aware that Iraq had been bombed back into the stone age in the first Gulf War, having fought a ten year proxy war for the US against Iran prior to that, and since the Gulf war of the early 90’s had suffered daily aerial bombardment, wanted another merciless bombardment of Iraq?

While he singles out China for attention, what about US complicity in the crisis in Darfur. Where the shot over the bows of the Bush administration?

The Independent last week, highlighted US connivance in the war in Darfur in a lengthy piece on Somalia.

The Indy points out how US General John Abizaid visited the Ethiopian prime minister, Meles Zenawi, in November, 2006 and that Ethiopia invaded Somalia the next month.


"The US provided key intelligence from spy satellites CIA agents travelled with the Ethiopian troops, helping direct operations US forces have carried out at least four attacks inside the country in the past 12 months."

Spielberg suddenly cares about refugees in Darfur? What about the 4 million Iraqi refugees? The 850,000 Somalia refugees, victims of a US-authored humanitarian catastrophe? He rants about China supplying Sudan with weapons, but where his criticism of the reactionary regimes the US arms? What about the recent $20 billion arms deal with Saudi-Arabia, one of the worst human rights abusers in the world?

One wonders whether Spielberg is simply an agent of US foreign policy. China may well be arming a reactionary regime, but its real crime is that at the moment it has the biggest stake in Sudanese oil.

Rant over!! Film next!

War Made Easy

War Made Easy exposes a 50-year pattern of government deception and media spin that has dragged the United States into one war after another from Vietnam to Iraq. Narrated by actor and activist Sean Penn, the film exhumes remarkable archival footage of official distortion and exaggeration from LBJ to George W. Bush, revealing in stunning detail how the American news media have uncritically disseminated the pro-war messages of successive presidential administrations.


Food for thought

Class war has been out of action for two days – fighting the battle on the local front...well, producing the second issue of my local community action group’s publication The Lukes Laner, writing, edition, laying out, doing graphics etc and placing it with a printer…and, as ever, attending incessant meetings and forums and making bureaucrats look incompetent. Amongst one of the projects we have got off the ground here, at last, is to provide a fresh fruit and vegetable outlet, operating from the CA one day a week. Basically you place an order (for a box of veg or fruit) and pick it up two days later. Good stuff too, cheaper than the supermarkets, largely grown locally, and just what is needed on a deprived housing estate suffering high levels of obesity; for if you want a fresh apple, a carrot, cabbage, then its a friggin' four mile round trip.

Still, been checking up on the blogs of fellow comrades. Darren, waxing lyrical over the cult of the personality made me smile inwardly. I always loved his tongue-in-cheek humour and miss the times we’d spend sleepless nights exchanging anecdotes, jokes and working together at No 52.

Alan’s blog had me scurrying to the fridge, looking for ingredients for a sarnie. He alerts us to two items on the issue of food that show the insanity of world food production under capitalism.

The first is the UN Report, telling us that 75% of the world’s crop varieties have vanished

The second refers to a piece on the Democracy Now site, where acclaimed author and journalist Michael Pollan argues that what most Americans are consuming today is not food but “edible food-like substances.

Says Pollan, speaking in a lengthy interview about the adulteration of food for no other reason than that there is profits to be had:

“…to understand the economics of the food industry, you can’t really make money selling things like, oh, oatmeal, you know, plain rolled oats. And if you go to the store, you can buy a pound of oats, organic oats, for seventy-nine cents. There’s no money in that, because it doesn’t have any brand identification. It’s a commodity, and the prices of commodity are constantly falling over time.

”So you make money by processing it, adding value to it. So you take those oats, and you turn them into Cheerios, and then you can charge four bucks for that seventy-nine cents—and actually even less than that, a few pennies of oats. And then after a few years, Cheerios become a commodity. You know, everyone’s ripping off your little circles. And so, you have to move to the next thing, which are like cereal bars. And now there’s cereal straws, you know, that your kids are supposed to suck milk through, and then they eat the straw. It’s made out of the cereal material. It’s extruded.

”… every level of further complication gives you some intellectual property, a product no one else has, and the ability to charge a whole lot more for these very cheap raw ingredients. And as you make the food more complicated, you need all these chemicals to make it last, to make it taste good, to make—and because, you know, food really isn’t designed to last a year on the shelf in a supermarket. And so, it takes a lot of chemistry to make that happen...

“… And we’ve known this for a hundred years, that if you eat this Western diet, which is defined basically as—I mean, we all know what the Western diet is, but to reiterate it, it’s lots of processed food, lots of refined grain and pure sugar, lots of red meat and processed meats, very little whole grains, very little fresh fruits and vegetables. That’s the Western diet—it’s the fast-food diet—that we know it leads to those diseases. About 80 percent of heart disease, at least as much Type II diabetes, 33 to 40 percent cancers all come out of eating that way, and we know this. And the odd thing is that it doesn’t seem to discomfort us that much.”

What a fucked up world we live in. Did you know that 78% the world’s starving people live in countries that actually produce a food surplus? And they’re starving because they have no purchasing power; they do not constitute a market. Can’t pay, can’t fucking have.