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Bush & Brezhnev: Separated at Birth?

By Curtis Lang on Jun 1, 2006

How America is Losing The Great Game

Welcome to the June 1, 2006 edition of the Satya Center newsletter. Warm greetings from your Editor, Curtis Lang.

This newsletter focuses on new articles at Satya Center and on important news stories from around the world offering unusual insights into the immense waves of change engulfing our planet at this time of cultural, economic, religious, political and environmental transformation.

How America is Losing The Great Game

Perhaps the most important issue facing humanity today is the peak oil crisis, which has political, social, economic, cultural, technological and environmental implications so vast that many people, including America’s elected officials, simply refuse to deal with the reality of the situation.

The simple fact is that the world has only a limited supply of easily retrievable, easily refinable oil, and that our globalized 21st century economy is now expanding so rapidly that we can no longer provide cheap fuel for our present system of industrial agriculture and our current air and automotive based transportation infrastructure.

The strategic importance of the world’s oil fields has long been a pre-eminent policy issue among military analysts around the world. The major military campaigns and imperial ambitions of the major powers engaged in the Three World Wars of the Twentieth Century revolved around control of world oil supplies and supply lines.

As America ascended to its current position of global hegemon during these Three World Wars, the American “way of life” has been synonymous with cheap energy to sustain its suburban lifestyle, its global industrial agricultural system, its worldwide war machine, and the dominance of its global corporations, which all depend upon massive utilization of cheap energy resources to support their far-flung globalized supply lines.

Since the 1970s, when the OPEC nations unveiled their “oil weapon” and the Club of Rome predicted a future of booming population growth and looming shortages of natural resources, the facts have been readily available for those who chose to seek them out.

American oil companies reached their peak of domestic oil production in the 1970s, as predicted by the geologist King Hubbert, who created what is now known as peak oil theory. Hubbert predicted that we would reach peak oil production worldwide around this time, and that the future could only bring the end of cheap oil and the culture that depends upon it.

Since the Seventies, America has relied more and more heavily on imported oil, and since that time, America’s military presence and covert wars have impacted oil-producing countries around the world.

Any threat to cheap oil has rightly been seen by a succession of American Presidents as a threat to America’s Global Empire. Prior to the ascension of George Bush the Younger, America’s proxies, allies and pawns dominated the Middle East, the primary source of cheap oil, and American oil companies had their way North and South, East and West, certain that their interests would be bolstered and protected by American military might and America’s covert warriors. Regime change was effected around the world to insure the continuation of the cheap-oil lubricated Pax Americana.

Americans now burn 20+ million barrels of oil per day, and 12 million barrels of that amount are imported from 70 foreign countries, as crude oil and various refined products, but the American economic miracle has stalled for all but the wealthiest, most privileged twenty percent of Americans.

Meanwhile, economic growth in Korea, China, India and Japan is exploding, and the Asian powers collectively seek to insure the oil supplies necessary to continue fueling their drive to lift billions of impoverished Asians into an American Twentieth Century lifestyle. Their rapidly rising energy requirements combined with America’s energy profligacy are creating global energy demand that simply cannot be met with today’s existing supplies of easy-to-refine oil, today’s oil technologies and today’s worship of the consumption society.

Over the last forty years, numerous countries have realized the increasing value of their oil reserves and have nationalized their oil infrastructure. Mexico, Middle Eastern oil producers, Ecuador, Brazil and Venezuela have all taken control of their oil resources away from multi-national oil companies during this period.

All this constitutes a threat to US hegemony, but for America, the worst by far is soon to come. America’s dependence on foreign oil will soon prove its undoing.

Readers of this newsletter know that Russia, Iran, Japan, Venezuela and China are creating new energy partnerships and new pipelines are being built to provide Middle Eastern and Caspian Sea oil and natural gas to Asian powers at the expense of American interests.

Vladimir Putin, who wrote his graduate school thesis on the creation of a Russian natural gas company, is now creating a multi-national energy conglomerate with geo-strategic influence and has armed Russia with a potent oil weapon.

George Bush the Younger’s ill-fated war in Iraq has created a much more volatile Middle East, and turned public opinion in that region firmly against US interests.

Control of OPEC, long firmly in the hands of Saudi Arabian royalty, the Bush family’s personal friends and allies, is in danger of passing to the socialist oilman least beloved of George Bush the Younger – Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez.

Bush’s CIA has engineered at least one or two or three failed Venezuelan coup attempts so far, but Chavez has succeeded in consolidating South American political systems and public opinion behind a decidedly left-wing agenda and ideology.

On the energy front, Chavez had been as busy as Vladimir Putin, building an international energy conglomerate with partners in South America, Asia and in-between that constitutes the greatest immediate threat to Saudi-American energy hegemony.

Recently, as oil prices topped $70 a barrel, Chavez offered to sell over one trillion barrels of Venezuelan heavy crude oil for a guaranteed price of $50 a barrel, over the next 200 years, under one condition – that these reserves be counted as part of Venezuela’s official OPEC oil reserves. This accounting shift would give Chavez control of OPEC, which apportions power in its councils according to official oil reserves.

This new accounting procedure would make Venezuela officially the world’s 21st century swing oil producer eclipsing Saudi Arabia as the country with the ability to determine global oil prices by a mere turn of a valve. Many energy experts, including Bush advisor Matt Simmons, believe that Saudi reserves are overstated and that Saudi ability to produce more oil to meet growing demand is vastly overstated.

The US Energy Department agrees that Chavez holds the trump cards. The DOE believes Venezuela holds 90% of the world’s super-heavy tar oil reserves - an estimated total of 1,360,000,000,000 (1.36 trillion) barrels. This amounts to more oil than King Hubbert believed existed under the ground on the entirety of planet Earth when he made his peak oil predictions in the Seventies.

With prices soaring above $70 a barrel and set to go higher on global markets, Venezuelan heavy oil at $50 a barrel is quite economical. It would be no problem to take the extra time and money to refine this extra-heavy oil and deliver it to global markets at competitive prices. New refineries and supply lines have to built, but the future of oil is really in the hands of the Venezuelan strongman with the red beret.

America, meanwhile, has entered a free-market version of the Brezhnev era, the final era before Gorbachev admitted that the Soviet Emperor wore no clothes. Savvy global analysts are beginning to see the parallels between the endtime of the Soviet Empire and the waning years of Bush’s Imperial America.

Bush & Brezhnev: Separated at Birth?

In the USSR a Utopian economic ideology, socialist communism, was deified and the Soviet Empire's leaders conceived an ambitious plan to coerce the rest of the world into accepting their social and economic system at the point of a gun. World revolution, supported by the Red Army, was to spread the benefits of Soviet communist style military socialism and Soviet democracy to all other countries.

However, socialism in the USSR was a fraud. By the time of Brezhnev, the country was not communitarian in spirit or everyday economic functionality. It was in fact a militaristic, despotic dictatorship with two very distinct classes -- Communist Party members and everyone else. Economically, the country was organized around a simple principle -- what's good for the political bureaucracy and the military is good for the USSR. The needs of the people were subservient to the needs of the Politburo, the Army and the Secret Police, who controlled the Empire through fear and a system of secret prisons known as gulags.

The USSR was a military Empire and simultaneously a Utopian representative democracy. During the Russian Revolution, local workers organized themselves into councils called "soviets" and these "soviets" elected representatives for regional "soviets". These regional soviets elected representatives for higher councils, on up to the Supreme Soviet. Elections were a farce, however, completely controlled by Communist Party bureaucrats who had transformed the soviets into a single party dominated patronage and surveillance system by the time of Brezhnev.

The Empire of Cowboy Capitalism

In a strking parallel to the Soviet Union during the Brezhnev era, America’s existing social, political, and economic systems appear to be dominant, immovable and totally geared toward preserving the status quo for those in power.

Just as in Brezhnev’s USSR, America’s economic system, based on an aggressive Utopian ideology out of touch with the real world, provides increasing rewards only for the privileged few.

Over the last twenty-five years in the US, a Utopian economic ideology, free-market laissez-faire capitalism, has been deified as the guiding principle for all segments of society and all forms of social interaction.
However, free markets in America are a fraud. All major economic segments, including banking and finance, health care, insurance, agriculture, military contracting, oil and energy, utilities, publishing and media, advertising, automobiles, and the rest are dominated by comfortable oligopolies.

A small group of transnational corporations controls the "free market" for their own benefit. These oligopolies control the government agencies charged with regulating their behavior so they can socialize and externalize costs and privatize profits as much as possible.

America has developed a militarized society slavishly devoted to exporting its inflexible economic ideology of fundamentalist free market Utopianism to the rest of the world. Just as the Communists sought to export their Utopia at gunpoint around the world, America now promises to export American style "free market society" and “democracy” through a series of Imperial wars.

America promises to use all its military and economic power to force its own brand of Utopian corporate capitalism on societies everywhere on Earth. American spies, military commanders and diplomats work ceaselessly through a network of hundreds of military bases and through international banking organizations such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization to consolidate corporate control of all societies around the world. All this is done in pursuit of a failed Utopia promised to appear as if by magic when societies agree to follow a set of worn-out neo-liberal economic formulas discredited through bitter experience wherever in the world they have been applied.

The American Empire's current President, George Bush the Younger, also aspires to spread American "democracy" around the world, using all the tools at his disposal, primarily the largest military machine in world history.

To facilitate the spread of American style democracy, Bush the Younger espouses a doctrine of pre-emptive warfare, which is synonymous with Imperial wars of aggression designed to displace governments disliked by America and install governments that will be subservient to American interests and serve at the pleasure of the American President.

However, as in the Soviet Union, democracy in America under Bush the Younger is a fraud as well. Not just in the sense that both parties are controlled by big business interests and see their primary purpose as promotion of policies that will maintain the status quo dominance of American corporate oligopolies and American global hegemony.

George Bush the Younger stole the 2004 election from John Kerry. This is not a conspiracy theory, but rather an increasingly provable proposition, as further study and analysis continues to support the stolen election hypothesis. The fact that the Democratic Party has not contested the stolen election points to a fundamental failure of democracy in America.



In a recent Rolling Stone article by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., laying out the growing mountain of evidence indicating massive voter fraud, Kennedy charges that the Republican Party engaged in massive, nationwide voter fraud in what appears to be a systematic way, similar to the type of manipulation common in Third World and Soviet dictatorships.

Kennedy also blames the American media for the 2004 election debacle. Over the last two decades the American news media have come all but completely under the control of a small media oligopoly. Kennedy points out that at the time of the 2004 election, exit polls showing Kerry victorious were dismissed by a compliant American media, reduced to their current role of propaganda machine for the Republican Party.

Kennedy points out that exit polls are considered so accurate that the US government and the American media often use them to provide evidence of voter fraud in Third World countries -- and to demand that fraudulently elected officials step down.

"What is most anomalous about the irregularities in 2004 was their decidedly partisan bent: Almost without exception they hurt John Kerry and benefited George Bush," Kennedy explains. "After carefully examining the evidence, I've become convinced that the president's party mounted a massive, coordinated campaign to subvert the will of the people in 2004. Across the country, Republican election officials and party stalwarts employed a wide range of illegal and unethical tactics to fix the election. A review of the available data reveals that in Ohio alone, at least 357,000 voters, the overwhelming majority of them Democratic, were prevented from casting ballots or did not have their votes counted in 2004 -- more than enough to shift the results of an election decided by 118,601 votes. (See Ohio's Missing Votes) In what may be the single most astounding fact from the election, one in every four Ohio citizens who registered to vote in 2004 showed up at the polls only to discover that they were not listed on the rolls, thanks to GOP efforts to stem the unprecedented flood of Democrats eager to cast ballots. And that doesn?t even take into account the troubling evidence of outright fraud, which indicates that upwards of 80,000 votes for Kerry were counted instead for Bush. That alone is a swing of more than 160,000 votes -- enough to have put John Kerry in the White House."

''It was terrible,'' says Sen. Christopher Dodd, who helped craft reforms in 2002 that were supposed to prevent such electoral abuses. ''People waiting in line for twelve hours to cast their ballots, people not being allowed to vote because they were in the wrong precinct -- it was an outrage. In Ohio, you had a secretary of state who was determined to guarantee a Republican outcome. I'm terribly disheartened.''

"Indeed, the extent of the GOP's effort to rig the vote shocked even the most experienced observers of American elections," Kennedy continues. '''Ohio was as dirty an election as America has ever seen,' Lou Harris, the father of modern political polling, told me. 'You look at the turnout and votes in individual precincts, compared to the historic patterns in those counties, and you can tell where the discrepancies are. They stand out like a sore thumb.'"

Cracks in the Imperial Facade

Despite their disputed success in the 2004 elections, Bush the Younger and his Republican compadres have the lowest approval ratings of any administration in the last fifty years.

The disconnect between America's political, corporate and media elite and the common people is so great that parallels with Brezhnev's Soviet Union are no longer far-fetched. In Brezhnev's time, the Soviet elite refused to face reality about the limits of Soviet power. The economic health of the country was sacrificed on the altar of the military-industrial complex.

The ruble became a global joke. Environmental concerns and provision for basic necessities of the people were luxuries the Soviet elite felt they could no longer afford. Today, the American elite refuses to face reality about a number of critical problems facing the Imperium.

The end of cheap oil is coming. Global warming is upon us. Families and the nation are deeply in debt. The dollar is sliding amid talk of a more truly multi-currency global monetary system. America's health care system is broken. Social Security is under attack by the government itself. America is waging war on its own elders. Rising inequality is creating a two-class society similar to the sharply divided societies of the Soviet Union or Latin American Banana Republics.

Evidence of American incompetence is mounting everywhere one looks, and although America appears to be the invincible world hegemon, there are disturbing parallels between America's current position and the waning days of the Soviet Empire.

Under Brezhnev, the Soviet Union waged a diastrous war in Afghanistan that undermined Soviet pretensions to military invulnerability, cast the Soviet army as a an Imperial aggressor, and set the world's billions of Muslims against Soviet rule everywhere.

Under Bush, America is waging a disastrous war in Afghanistan and Iraq that is undermining American pretensions to military invulnerability, casting the American army as an Imperial aggressor, and setting the world's billions of Muslims against American interests everywhere.

In Brezhnev’s USSR, technology in the service of ideology produced monsters of inefficient design and engineering debacles on a regular basis.

America’s worship of technology divorced from social consequences is producing monsters such as the levees that broke in New Orleans, the technologies of surveillance and control that threaten human rights and the freedom of speech and the Internet, junk food, industrial agriculture, genetically modified foods, the Hummer and other SUVs that require American troops to oppress and invade oil producing countries to support obsolete engineering solutions that exacerbate the global energy, political and economic crises.

Brezhnev’s USSR relied on an oppressive political establishment, secret police, a militarized society, and a fossilized ideology dedicated to world domination to uphold communist rule. In America, the unholy ménage a trois between America’s fundamentalist Christian conservative political movement, the US military establishment and the Republican party threatens to undermine the institutions of American democracy and the foundations of American intellectual leadership -- allegations of rigged elections, attacks on basic scientific methodologies, increasingly overt police state tactics applied wholesale at home and abroad, contempt for human rights and international treaties and bloody culture civil wars escalate year by year.

The Soviets built the Berlin Wall, and the American Minutemen, with the help of a rabidly nationalistic and xenophobic Congress, are now in the initial stages of building a Great Wall around America, sealing the US off from the dire threats posed by Mexican immigrant laborers and Canadian tourists without portfolio.

America is moving further and further out of the global mainstream of 21st century culture, politics, economic theory and science. Increased reliance on military solutions to all international issues exacerbates this trend. The American failure to pacify Afghanistan and Iraq has been a most visible demonstration of the sharp limits to America’s ability to project power globally. The Iranian government and the Shiite fundamentalist movement across the Middle East are the only winners in these “wars against” terror so far.

As world energy demand continues to spike, America is becoming increasingly dependent upon unstable global energy supply lines originating in countries that are increasingly alienated, even hostile, to America’s hegemonic project.

More to the point, there is an evolving, ascending new constellation of energy power-brokers in Asia, the Middle East and South America who are united in their desire to cut American oil companies out of their business dealings and minimize American military interference in their backyards. They have much to gain from mutually supportive trade in oil, natural gas, and advanced weaponry.

Thus America’s sharp turn to the right during the reign of the autocratic cowboy, George Bush the Younger, will certainly make it increasingly difficult for America to import energy from the rest of the world on favorable terms of trade as the 21st century energy crisis unfolds.

This is the most important geo-strategic trend of the decade, and the trend most under-reported in the American media, which increasingly resembles the Brezhnev-era Soviet propaganda machine – ubiquitous, ideologically pure, aggressive and inquisitorial, but totally distrusted by the vast majority of citizens.

You can be sure that SatyaCenter.com will continue to bring you the news you won’t find in the American media.

Top Satya Center Stories of the Week

Peak oil analyst Richard Heinberg, author of “The Party’s Over: Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies,” presents Satya Center readers with a new article, “Energy Politics and the Decline of the American Empire”.

“With the decline of Washington’s ‘full-spectrum dominance’, and control of global energy resources, we are seeing the emergence of countervailing power blocs, primarily in Asia but also in South America,” reports Heinberg. “This is the end of an era.”

In this week’s remarkable piece, Heinberg provides an overview of the emerging new powers around the world, and a concise analysis of their strengths and weaknesses. Finally, he presents a series of insights detailing how the ongoing decline of the American Empire is progressing. This is a must read for all those interested in the global geo-strategic picture.

In “Immigrants’ Rights: The New Revolution”, renowned astrologer and political commentator Maya del Mar provides some acute insights into the astrological and sociological trends fueling the current confrontations about immigration in America, and offers some predictions about the future course of this sharply contested political debate, which threatens to restructure the very idea of what it means to be an “American”.

“Immigrants have been demonstrating by the hundreds of thousands all over the United States ever since the huge pro-immigrant march in Chicago on March 10,” Maya explains. “And they are still marching. . .The birth of a national immigrants' rights movement was triggered by the first of a two-year series of eclipses in Virgo and Pisces,” Maya explains. “Recent mass demonstrations are just the beginning of a long political process.”

Maya’s thoughtful article explains the economic, political and social implications of this “long process” and looks to astrological trends to shed some much-needed light on the road ahead.

Internationally recognized scientist and environmental advocate Dr. Mae-Wan Ho’s provides two new Satya Center articles this week. The first article asks the question “What Can You Believe About Bird Flu?

“Anyone following the streamers of headlines on bird flu in the popular media will be thoroughly bewildered,” says Dr. Ho. “Experts and politicians have been telling us that a bird flu pandemic is bound to happen; all it takes is for the deadly H5N1 Asian strain of bird flu that kills more than half of its human victims to mutate so it can pass from human to human instead of from infected chickens to humans. That could happen at any time; a state of emergency is declared, and drugs and vaccines are being stockpiled around the world; all to the benefit of the pharmaceutical industry.”

Is a bird flu pandemic imminent?” asks Dr. Ho. “Evidence points to intensive poultry farming as the incubator for deadly bird flu viruses -- globalised trade in live birds and poultry products are the main routes of disease transmission.”

Read the article to get all the science left out of the mainstream media’s propaganda barrage.

In her other new article, “Fowl Play: What’s Behind the Phony Bird Flu Scare?”, Dr. Ho challenges the conventional wisdom underlying the news reports we’ve been reading that blame wild migratory birds and free-range chicken farms for bird flu.

“There is no evidence that wild migrating birds mixing with backyard flocks spreads bird flu,” contends Dr. Ho. “Transnational factory farms and the globalised trade in poultry products are to blame.”

Dr. Ho’s article examines the epidemiological and genetic evidence in her quest to pinpoint the origins of this threatening flu, and analyzes the effects of the scare on the world’s poultry industry. This is a must read article for anyone who eats poultry or is concerned about global environmental issues.

New Additions to the Satya Center Crystal Gallery

Jane and I have been busy gathering new tools for lightworkers over the last month or two, and we are taking a break from gardening now and then to post some of the best of what we’ve found.

There are some very interesting and unique new Lemurian healing crystals, Tibetan and Chinese scepters from the Himalayas, an assortment of startlingly beautiful new jewelry cut according to specifications of sacred geometry to maximize their metaphysical benefits, and more.

Check out the “New Inventory” and send us an email  if we can help you find something special or help you in any way.

Breaking News Headlines 24/7 at Satya Center

Read breaking news stories updated 24/7 from Pacific News Service . Tune in to Satya Center’s 24/7 environmental news headlines and listen to environmental news radio from Environmental News Network at ENN EarthNews.

Top Stories From Around the Web

Please enjoy these excerpts with links to major stories about crucial global issues gathered around the web. All these stories are feature length, and contain invaluable information and deep analysis of today’s most important cultural, political, environmental and economic developments. You won’t find this type of writing (often) in the mainstream media. But when you do, it’ll be excerpted here! Please click on the links, because so much more is available in the original pieces.

May 05, 2006
It's Not About Oil
By Boris Kagarlitsky

The oil prices have once again gone up, exceeding the $70 per barrel margin. In the earlier years analysts would have talked about "another psychologically important barrier". Now this is no longer the case, as price increase is of no surprise for anyone. However, in Russia, the petrodollar flow produces controversial and neurotic reaction. On the one hand, everything seems fine. On the other hand, the things are getting scary. What is waiting ahead? Everyone gets a feeling that the end of the "oil era" is just around the corner.

. . . The crisis is not about the exhausted resources, but about the inability to use them efficiently in the given circumstances. This means that maintaining economic growth, using old methods, is not going to work. The increasing inefficiency gives rise to constant appreciation of the key resources, which is viewed as another evidence of their "disastrous shortage". By the way, the same thing happened in the USSR by the end of the Brezhnev époque, when the country, having abundant natural resources, practically lacked everything. The end to this was put by the Soviet system collapse, as we all know very well. Now a phenomenon of the similar kind is taking place on the world scale.

The sensation of the oil era ending provokes search of new alternative energy sources. However worried we are about the global warming and ecological disasters, considerable investments into the research programs are being made only when the prices on the "black gold" go off scale. The options then are plenty - from artificially produced oil and synthetic fuel to alcohol engines and solar energy, not to mention that the majority of these methods have been known for decades (the very first oil crisis of the 1970s has called forth many innovations). But the fact is: new technologies not only failed to increase efficiency of global energy sector, they even failed to compete successfully with the oil and bring down its share in the world energy balance. And it's not about them being expensive or underdeveloped. The earliest steam machines were no good either, but this couldn't stop the industrial revolution from moving ahead. It is about the system, which will use the alternative energy as ineffectively as the oil has been wasted. It is about the consumer society, which will never have sufficient resources for its never ending expansion. Even if we have the entire Universe at our disposal, it will change nothing. According to the scientists, the space surrounding our planet is already full of orbital litter.

AsiaTimes Online
May 20, 2006
The accumulation of the wretched
by Pepe Escobar

SAO PAULO - Pentagon planners must have loved what happened in South America's premier hypercity in the past few days; as urban warfare goes, it was more illuminating than Baghdad or Gaza. The leaders of the First Capital Command (PCC, for Primeiro Comando da Capital) - a super-gang involved in drug and arms trafficking, kidnappings, bank robberies and extortion and controlling most of Sao Paulo's overcrowded and notoriously corrupt prisons - declared war against Brazil's wealthiest state.

From inside their prison cells, using US$150 mobile phones, they ordered motorcyclist "bin Ladens" - warriors indebted to the PCC, heavily armed with guns, shotguns, hand grenades, machine-guns and Molotov cocktails - to conduct a violent orgy: spraying police cars with bullets, hurling grenades at police stations, attacking officers in their homes and after-hours hangouts, torching dozens of buses (after passengers had been ordered off), and robbing banks. Almost 100 people were killed in three days. On Monday, the PCC managed single-handedly virtually to paralyze Sao Paulo, the third-largest of the world's hypercities (those with more than 19 million people).

Mike Davis, one of the United States' premier urban theorists and analysts of urban hell, author of City of Quartz and Dead Cities, should have been watching Sao Paulo's civil war first-hand; this is everything the future predicted in his remarkable new book is all about, the slums of the world's mega-cities rebelling against the state. We're heading toward a world where "cities will account for virtually all future world population growth, which is expected to peak at about 10 billion in 2050".

As Davis points out with glee, "Eighty percent of [Karl] Marx's industrial proletariat now lives in China or somewhere outside of Western Europe and the US." Most are ready to explode. This accumulation of the wretched has been enhanced by "policies of agricultural deregulation and financial discipline enforced by the IMF [International Monetary Fund] and World Bank" that spawned "an exodus of surplus rural labor to urban slums even as cities ceased to be job machines". So this "over-urbanization" was driven "by the reproduction of poverty, not by the supply of jobs".

This is one of the unexpected tracks down which a neo-liberal world order is shunting the future. Davis proves his point by quoting an array of United Nations data, from the 16.4% annual growth rate of Sao Paulo favelas (slums) in the 1990s to the 200,000 floaters (unregistered rural workers) who arrive annually in Beijing or the 500,000 who migrate annually to Delhi (of these, 80% end up in slums). Davis dedicates a whole chapter - "SAPing the Third World" - to examining the dire consequences of the dreaded, one-size-fits-all, IMF-imposed "structural adjustment programs" (SAPs).

Abandon all hope those who dream about the glamorously high-tech cities of the future. They will be largely constructed of "crude brick, straw, recycled plastic, cement blocks and scrap wood. Instead of cities of light soaring toward heaven, much of the urban 21st century squats in squalor, surrounded by pollution, excrement, and decay". To see it live, right now, one just has to drive by Kolkata, Mumbai, Manila, Jakarta, Cairo, Changing or Sao Paulo.

According to UN-HABITAT figures, most places with the world's largest percentages of slum-dwellers are in Asia: Afghanistan (98.5%) and Nepal (92%). Mumbai holds the dubious record of being the slum capital of the world - as many as 12 million squatters - followed by Mexico City and Dhaka and then Lagos, Cairo, Karachi, Kinshasa-Brazzaville, Sao Paulo, Shanghai and Delhi.

Exclusion, of course, is the norm, as this correspondent, who has lived and worked in many a teeming, vast, messy hypercity in the developing world, can attest. Mumbai is a classic case, as Davis quotes research according to which the rich own 90% of the land, while the poor are overcrowded in the remaining 10%. "These polarized patterns of land use and population density recapitulate older logics of imperial control and racial dominance. Throughout the Third World, post-colonial cities have inherited and greedily reproduced the physical footprints of segregated colonial cities ... despite the rhetoric of national liberation and social justice."

May 30, 2006
The Four Fundamentalisms and the Threat to Sustainable Democracy
[A version of this talk was delivered to the Brisbane Social Forum, Australia, May 21, 2006.]
by Robert Jensen

The most important words anyone said to me in the weeks immediately after September 11, 2001, came from my friend James Koplin. While acknowledging the significance of that day, he said, simply: “I was in a profound state of grief about the world before 9/11, and nothing that happened on that day has significantly changed what the world looks like to me.”

Because Jim is a bit older and considerably smarter than I, it took me some time to catch up to him, but eventually I recognized his insight. He was warning me that even we lefties -- trained to keep an eye on systems and structures of power rather than obsessing about individual politicians and single events -- were missing the point if we accepted the conventional wisdom that 9/11 “changed everything,” as the saying went then. He was right, and today I want to talk about four fundamentalisms loose in the world and the long-term crisis to which they point.

Before we head there, a note on the short-term crisis: I have been involved in U.S. organizing against the so-called “war on terror,” which has provided cover for the attempts to expand and deepen U.S. control over the strategically crucial resources of Central Asia and the Middle East, part of a global strategy that the Bush administration openly acknowledges is aimed at unchallengeable U.S domination of the world. For U.S. planners, that “world” includes not only the land and seas -- and, of course, the resources beneath them -- but space above as well. It is our world to arrange and dispose of as they see fit, in support of our “blessed lifestyle.” Other nations can have a place in that world as long as they are willing to assume the role that the United States determines appropriate. The vision of U.S. policymakers is of a world very ordered, by them.

This description of U.S. policy is no caricature. Anyone who doubts my summary can simply read the National Security Strategy document released in 2002 http://www.whitehouse.gov/nsc/nss/2002/ and the 2006 update http://www.whitehouse.gov/nsc/nss/2006/, and review post-World War II U.S. history http://www.zmag.org/crisescurevts/interventions.htm. Read and review, but only if you don’t mind waking up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat of fear. But as scary as these paranoid, power-mad policymakers’ delusions may be, Jim was talking about a feeling beyond that fear -- a grief that is much broader and goes much deeper.

Opposing the war-of-the-moment -- and going beyond that to challenge the whole imperial project -- is important. But also important is the work of thinking through the nature of the larger forces that leave us in this grief-stricken position. We need to go beyond Bush. We should recognize the seriousness of the threat that this particular gang of thieves and thugs poses and resist their policies, but not mistake them for the core of the problem.

Liberty Over Safety
By Robert Parry
May 19, 2006

Until now, every generation of Americans has traded safety for liberty. From the Lexington Green to the Normandy beaches, from the Sons of Liberty to the Freedom Riders, it has been part of the American narrative that risks are taken to expand freedom, not freedoms sacrificed to avoid risk.

The Founders challenged the most powerful military on earth, the British army, all the while knowing that defeat would send them to the gallows. The American colonists spurned their relative comfort as British subjects for a chance to be citizens of a Republic dedicated to the vision that some rights are “unalienable” and that no man should be king.

Since then, despite some ups and downs, the course of the American nation has been to advance those ideals and broaden those freedoms.

Only in this generation – only on our watch – has the march reversed.

Instead of swapping safety for liberty, this generation – traumatized by the 9/11 attacks and under the leadership of George W. Bush – has chosen to trade liberties for safety.

Instead of Patrick Henry’s stirring Revolutionary War cry of “give me liberty or give me death,” this era has Sen. Pat Roberts’s instant-classic _expression of self over nation. “You have no civil liberties if you are dead,” the Kansas Republican explained on May 18 before the Senate Intelligence Committee, which he chairs.

Roberts’s dictum echoed through the mainstream media where it was embraced as a pithy _expression of homespun common sense. But the commentators missed how Roberts’s preference for life over liberty was the antithesis of Henry’s option of liberty or death.

If Roberts is right, the Minutemen who died at Lexington Green and at Bunker Hill had no liberty; the African-Americans who enlisted in the Union Army and died in Civil War battles had no liberty; the GIs who died on the Normandy beaches or Marines who died at Iwo Jima had no liberty; Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights heroes who gave their lives had no liberty.

If Sen. Roberts is right, they had no liberties because they died in the fight for liberty. In Roberts’s view – which apparently is the dominant opinion of the Bush administration and many of its supporters – personal safety for the individual tops the principles of freedom for the nation.

June 5, 2006 Issue
Copyright © 2006 The American Conservative
Iran: Gulf War III?
Attacking the Islamic Republic would mean steep costs and uncertain victory.
by Charles V. Peña

If gas breaking the $3/gallon barrier could dominate the evening news and send Congress into a frenzy, imagine Americans’ horror if oil, now $75/barrel, suddenly tops $200. Neither our political will nor our wallets are prepared, but a few stalled SUVs may be the least of our concerns if the U.S. makes good on its threats against Iran.

The blueprint for a pre-emptive strike against Iran’s nuclear program is based on Israel’s strike against Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor in June 1981. But this would not be Osirak redux. Unlike Osirak, attacking Iran’s nuclear program would require striking multiple targets. The three main targets would likely be Bushehr, which is a complex of light-water reactors where spent fuel rods could be diverted to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons; the previously secret Natanz nuclear facility, believed to be used for uranium enrichment that could be used for nuclear weapons; and Arak, which is the site of two planned heavy-water reactors that could produce plutonium for nuclear weapons. But a decapitating strike against Iran’s nuclear program would involve more than just three targets. According to GlobalSecurity.org, “there are perhaps two dozen suspected nuclear facilities in Iran.”

In a war game run for The Atlantic in the fall of 2004, retired Air Force Col. Sam Gardiner identified 14 locations for Iran’s nuclear-related facilities but developed a pre-emptive strike target list of 125 nuclear, chemical, and biological facilities with approximately 300 aim points—20 of which would require penetrating weapons or bunker busters. The main cause of all the additional aim points is the need to suppress Iran’s air defenses, including advanced Russian S-300 and S-400 surface-to-air missiles.

. . . A covert reactor would be a difficult undertaking for the Iranians but cannot be ruled out. A secret uranium-enrichment facility is a more likely possibility. After all, it was two years before the Natanz facility was revealed and then only because it was disclosed by the National Council of the Resistance of Iran, not because it was discovered by U.S. intelligence. We also know that many of Iran’s nuclear facilities, like the Tehran research reactor, are located in urban areas, so civilian casualties are almost a certainty. If the U.S. resorts to tactical nuclear weapons, as Hersh suggests it might—and President Bush has said that option has not been taken off the table—a Defense Department-sponsored report by the National Academy of Sciences stated that they could “kill up to a million people or more if used in heavily populated areas.” Finally, it is hard to imagine that any government would sit idly by after being bombed on a relatively massive scale: 300 aim points would require at least two weapons each for reliability and to assure a high probability of kill.

, , , If Iran’s ballistic missile sites were not taken out in the initial strike, Tehran would have some 500 Shehab ballistic missiles at its disposal for retaliation. The shorter-range Shehab-1 and -2 missiles, variants of the Russian Scud missile, are capable of reaching U.S. targets in the Gulf, including Iraq, where some 130,000 American soldiers are currently stationed. The longer range Shehab-3 missile, based on the North Korean Nodong missile, could reach Israel—and Iran has made clear that this will be an early target: “We have announced that wherever America does something evil, the first place that we target will be Israel,” Revolutionary Guards Commander Mohammad-Ebrahim Dehqani said last week. Like the V-2 missiles used by Germany against Britain during World War II, the Shehab missiles would be most effective against civilian populations rather than military targets due to their relative inaccuracy. How well U.S. forces in the Gulf region and the Israelis could withstand an onslaught of Iranian Shehab missiles would depend on the effectiveness of U.S. Patriot and Israeli Arrow missile-defense systems. To date, the Patriot has not lived up to its expectations against Iraqi Scud missiles. On paper, the Arrow has better performance than Patriot PAC-3—greater speed and higher altitude—but it has not proved itself in combat. Moreover, relying on missile-defense systems to blunt Iranian retaliation fails to account for the possibility that Iran’s Shehab missiles could be armed with chemical warheads.

Iran could also retaliate by sowing further chaos in already unstable Iraq. In a February 2006 threat assessment presented to the Senate Select Committee On Intelligence, National Intelligence Director John Negroponte stated, “Iran provides guidance and training to select Iraqi Shia political groups and weapons and training to Shia militant groups to enable anti-Coalition attacks. Tehran has been responsible for at least some of the increasing lethality of anti-Coalition attacks by providing Shia militants with the capability to build IEDs [improvised explosive devices] with explosively formed projectiles.” But we have yet to feel their full fury. He added, “Tehran’s intentions to inflict pain on the United States in Iraq have been constrained by its caution to avoid giving Washington an excuse to attack it.” If the United States attacked Iran, Tehran is prepared to step up its activities in Iraq, including covertly deploying elements of its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

And Iranian retaliation need not be limited to military action. Iranian oil production is fourth in the world and second to Saudi Arabia in the Gulf—nearly 4 million barrels a day.

UK Guardian
The fall of the house of finance
Ann Pettifor
May 22, 2006 12:45 PM

Things are not looking too good in the house that Big Brother finance built. As Larry Elliott wrote in Saturday's Guardian, financial markets are gyrating. Interest rates in both the US and UK look set to rise (painful for the over-borrowed, such as first-time buyers, students, General Motors, the NHS, Man United etc.)

The dollar is volatile and likely to fall further, if not "plummet" (painful for US hedge fund managers who have borrowed other people's money in non-dollar currencies in order to gamble with it: for every notch the dollar falls, the cost of repaying those billions rises.) Daredevils on stock markets (including pension fund managers?) are likely to make losses, and speculators in commodities are taking a hit.

But then, what would you expect from the unregulated house built by finance? As a sector, its players are careless of the interests of what can broadly be defined as industry, labour and the ecosystem (not their problem, guv), but most of all, they are careless of the interests of the poor and poor nations.

UK Independent
Published on Monday, May 15, 2006 by the Independent / UK
West's Failure over Climate Change 'Will Kill 182m Africans'
by Philip Thornton

The poorest people in the world will be the chief victims of the West's failure to tackle global warning, with millions of Africans forecast to die by the end of the century, Christian Aid says in a report out today.

The potential ravages of climate change are so severe that they could nullify the efforts to end the legacy of poverty and disease across developing countries, the charity says.

The report highlights the fact that, despite hand-wringing in the West about the threat to its coastlines from rising temperatures, it is the poorest who are likely to suffer most. It estimates that a "staggering" 182 million people in sub-Saharan Africa could die of disease directly attributable to climate change by 2100. Many millions more face death and devastation from climate-induced floods, famine, drought and conflict.

May 15, 2006
by Bruce Schneier
Who Owns Your Computer?
This essay originally appeared on Wired.com.

When technology serves its owners, it is liberating. When it is
designed to serve others, over the owner's objection, it is oppressive.
There's a battle raging on your computer right now -- one that pits you
against worms and viruses, Trojans, spyware, automatic update features and digital rights management technologies. It's the battle to
determine who owns your computer.

You own your computer, of course. You bought it. You paid for it. But
how much control do you really have over what happens on your machine? Technically you might have bought the hardware and software, but you have less control over what it's doing behind the scenes.

Using the hacker sense of the term, your computer is "owned" by other people.

It used to be that only malicious hackers were trying to own your
computers. Whether through worms, viruses, Trojans or other means, they would try to install some kind of remote-control program onto your system. Then they'd use your computers to sniff passwords, make fraudulent bank transactions, send spam, initiate phishing attacks and so on. Estimates are that somewhere between hundreds of thousands and millions of computers are members of remotely controlled "bot" networks. Owned.

Now, things are not so simple. There are all sorts of interests vying
for control of your computer. There are media companies that want to
control what you can do with the music and videos they sell you. There
are companies that use software as a conduit to collect marketing
information, deliver advertising or do whatever it is their real owners
require. And there are software companies that are trying to make money by pleasing not only their customers, but other companies they ally themselves with. All these companies want to own your computer.

Meditation Moment

"Why do you expect miracles, and why are you so convinced they would change the way you live? No, you would quickly forget and return to your prosaic life.

In the past there were initiates who worked wonders. Those who witnessed them were of course
impressed for a while, but it did not stop them from amusing themselves, committing crimes or even burning the person who performed these miracles.

Jesus worked miracles before an awe-struck crowd, and yet not long after they had received him triumphantly in Jerusalem, shouting: ‘Hosanna to the son of David!’ this same crowd cried out: ‘Crucify him!’ Miracles often serve only to entertain the public.

You must seek true miracles in the rising sun, in a flower as it
opens, in the smile of a child, or in the human being as the
Creator conceived him. But it is the transformation of the human
heart that is the greatest miracle, because it is the most
difficult to perform."

-- Omraam Mikhaël Aïvanhov