By James Kunstler on 7 November 2011 for Kunstler.com -
Image above: A rally for Pigasus, the pig candidate for President from the Yippie party during the Chicago 1968 Democratic Convention demonstartions. From (http://darkjive.com/2009/10/28/2318/).
Portents of winter and the toothless chatter of flag-draped traitors vies with a fog of lies spread by Koch Brother messenger boys, Reagan nostalgia hucksters, suck-ups in office, Murdoch empire servelings, Banker PR catamites, and Jesus terrorists to occupy the national mind-space with a narcotic Jell-O of half-formed wish fulfillment scams. The nation is hostage to a confederacy of racketeers. Banking. Big Pharma. The Higher Ed / Loan nexus. GMO agri-biz. Fast food. Mandatory motoring. You name it. What a disgrace we are, and the worst of us are the least to know that.
[IB Publisher's note: This is the 3,000th article we've published in the Ea O Ka Aina blog format begun in December of 2008]
By Ann Jones on 3 November 2011 for Tom Dispatch -
Image above: CitiGroup name on their corporate headquarters in New York City. From (http://www.conspiracyplanet.com/channel.cfm?channelid=102&contentid=7810).
Where did I go wrong? Was it playing percussion with an Occupy Wall Street band in Times Square when I was in New York recently? Or was it when I returned to my peaceful new home in Oslo and deleted an email invitation to hear Newt Gingrich lecture Norwegians on the American election? (Yes, even here.)
I don’t know how it happened. Or even, really, what happened. Or what it means. So I’ve got no point -- only a lot of anxiety. I usually write about the problems of the world, but now I’ve got one of my own. They evidently think I’m a terrorist.
That is, someone in the U.S. government who specializes in finding terrorists seems to have found me and laid a heavy hand on my bank account. I think this is wrong, of course, but try to tell that to a faceless, acronymic government agency.
It all started with a series of messages from my bank: Citibank. Yeah, I know, I should have moved my money long ago, but in the distant past before Citibank became Citigroup, it was my friendly little neighborhood bank, and I guess I’m in a rut. Besides, I learned when I made plans to move to Norway that if your money is in a small bank, it has to be sent to a big bank like Citibank or Chase to wire it to you when you need it, which meant I was trapped anyway.
So the first thing I noticed was that one of those wires with money I needed never arrived. When I politely inquired, Citibank told me that the transaction hadn’t gone through. Why not? All my fault, they insisted, for not having provided complete information. Long story short: we went round and round for a couple of weeks, as I coughed up ever more morsels of previously unsolicited personal information. Only then did a bit of truth emerge.
The bank wasn’t actually holding up the delivery of the money. The funds had, in fact, left my account weeks before, along with a wire transfer fee. The responsible party was OFAC.
Oh what? I wondered. OFAC. It rhymes with Oh-Tack, but you’ve got to watch how you pronounce it. Speak carelessly and the name sounds like just what you might say upon learning that you’ve been sucked into the ultimate top-secret bureaucratic sinkhole. It turns out, the bank informs me, that OFAC is a division of the U.S. Treasury Department that “reviews” transactions.
“Why me?” I ask. As a long-time reporter I find it a strange question, as strange as finding myself working on a story about me.
By way of an answer, the bank refers me to an Internet link that calls up a 521-page report so densely typed it looks like wallpaper. Entitled “Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons,” it turns out to be a list of what seems to be every Muslim business and social organization on the planet. That’s when I Google OFAC, go to its site, and find out that the acronym stands for the Office of Foreign Assets Control.
Its mission description reads chillingly. It “administers and enforces economic and trade sanctions based on U.S. foreign policy and national security goals against targeted foreign countries and regimes, terrorists, international narcotics traffickers, those engaged in activities related to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and other threats to the national security, foreign policy or economy of the United States.” And it turns out to be a subsidiary of something much bigger that goes by the unnerving name of “Terrorism and Financial Intelligence.”
Off With Her Head
Whoa! Perhaps it doesn’t help, at this moment, that I’ve just been reading Top Secret America: The Rise of the New American Security State, the scary new book by Washington Post reporters Dana Priest and William M. Arkin about our multiple, overfed, overzealous, highly-classified intelligence agencies, staffed in significant part not by civil servants but by profit-making private contractors. Suddenly, I feel myself in the grip of the national post-9/11 paranoia that hatched all that new “security.” (And you, too, could find yourself in my shoes fast.)
I check OFAC’s list more carefully. It’s in a kind of alphabetical order, but with significant incomprehensible diversions -- and if my name is there, I sure can’t find it. Since I’ve spent most of the last decade working with international aid organizations as well as reporting from some of the more strife-ridden lands on the planet, including Afghanistan, the only thing I can imagine is that maybe all those odd visas in my fat passport raised a red flag somewhere in Washington.
Next, I search for the name of my Norwegian landlady. Did I say that the wired funds that never arrived were meant to pay her my rent? She’s in India, a volunteer health-care worker with Tibetan refugees, currently helping refurbish an orphanage for 144 kids. (What could be more suspicious than that?) I can’t find her name either. No Anns or Heidis at all, in fact, among the raft of Mohammads and Abduls.
Heidi is a Buddhist. I’m an atheist. Almost everybody on the list seems to be Muslim, including really dangerous-sounding guys like “Ahmed the Egyptian.” But I guess that to a truly committed and well-paid terrorist hunter, we must all look alike.
I’m desperate to get the rent to Heidi so she can cover her own expenses as a volunteer; an international organization pays for the children’s needs, but Heidi does the work. So I call the American Embassy in Oslo and speak to a nice young woman in the section devoted to “American Citizen Services.” I tell her about me and OFAC and Ahmed the Egyptian. She says, “I’ve never heard of such a thing. But there are so many of these intelligence offices now, I guess I’ll be hearing these stories more often.” (Maybe she’s been reading Top Secret America, too.)
She takes it up with her superiors and calls me back. The Embassy can’t help me, citizen or not, she says, because they don’t handle money matters and have nothing to do with the Treasury Department.
“What? The State Department doesn’t deal with the Treasury?”“No,” she says, “I guess not.”
Perhaps since I last paid attention the Treasury stopped being considered part of the government. Maybe it now belongs to Lockheed Martin.
At least the State Department has some compassion left in it. If I’m really destitute, she assures me, the Embassy might be able to give me a loan to pay for a plane ticket that would get my two cats and me back to the States. I guess it doesn’t occur to her that under the circumstances I might feel more secure in Norway.
Down the Rabbit Hole
Still, all I want to do is clear up this mess, so I put my head in the lion’s mouth and send an email directly to OFAC. I tell them that I’m in Norway for the year on a Fulbright grant as a researcher -- that is, as part of an international exchange program founded by a U.S. Senator and sponsored by the U.S. Government, or at least one part of the State Department part of it. Among my informal responsibilities, I add, is to be a goodwill ambassador for the United States, but I’m finding it really hard to explain to Norwegians that I can’t pay my rent because a bunch of terrorist-trackers in the pay of my government have made off with the money and left nothing behind but a list of Muslim names.
Remarkably quickly OFAC itself writes back, giving me the creepy feeling that it was lurking behind the door the whole time. It is sorry that I am “frustrated.” It will help me, but only if I supply a whole long list of information, mostly the same stuff I have already provided three times to the bank, the same information the bank later said wasn’t the issue after all. (Still later, the bank would say that I had given not too little information, but too much.) I send the requested tidbits back to “Dear OFAC Functionary or Machine as the case may be.”
Two days later comes another message from OFAC, this time signed by “Michael Z.” Like Afghans, or spies, he evidently has only one name, but my hopes that he might be an actual person inexplicably rise anyway -- only to sink again when he claims OFAC needs yet more information. All this so that Michael Z., presumed person, may help me “more effectively.” (More than what, I wonder?) He is, he insists, trying to locate my money with the help of my bank, which by the way is now blocking me from seeing information about my own account online.
It seems odd to me that this top-secret office of Financial Intelligence somehow can’t manage to lay hands on the money it snatched from me, but what do I know? I’m just a citizen.
Then -- are you ready for this? -- comes what should be a happy ending. A message from the bank tells me that the money has slipped through after all, and sure enough there it is at last in a Norwegian bank, only a month late. I won’t be evicted after all, and Heidi will make sure those Tibetan kids get some fresh fruit and brand new bright green curtains.
Still, this is not a cheery story. So I have to send my apologies to the long-dead Senator J. William Fulbright: I’m sorry indeed that certain changes in the spirit and operations of the United States have occurred since that day in 1948 when you launched your farsighted program of grants to encourage open international educational and cultural exchange. And I apologize that some of those changes may have temporarily cramped my style as a goodwill ambassador; I’ll try to get back on the job if I can just figure out what hit me.
Was this all simply a mistake? A technical glitch? An error at the bank? I’d like to think so, but what about that list of “Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons”? Why was I directed to that? And what about Michael Z., who presumably is some kind of intelligence analyst at OFAC and who, when last heard from, was still seeking information and trying to find the money?
Frankly, this month-long struggle has left me mighty tired and uneasy. Right now, Senator Fulbright, I’m lying low, down here at the bottom of the rabbit hole, trying to make sense of things. (I took a last look at the “Blocked Persons” list, and just this week it’s grown by another page.) So I want to tell you the truth, Senator, and I think that with your great interest in peaceable international relations, you just may understand. Strange as it may seem, since I’ve been hunkered down here in the rabbit hole, I’ve worked up some sympathy for Ahmed the Egyptian who, I have a sneaking feeling, could be down here, too. It’s hard to tell when you’re kept in the dark, but maybe he’s just another poor sap like me, snarled in the super-secret security machine.
• Ann Jones is in Norway under the auspices of the Fulbright Scholar Program, researching the Norwegian economic, social, and cultural arrangements that cause it to be named consistently by the United Nations as the best place to live on earth. A TomDispatch regular, she is the author of Kabul in Winter (2006) and War Is Not Over When It’s Over (2010).
Papandreou Wins Confidence Vote But Looks Set to Step DownCNN adds some more "clarity" to the ruling politicians' ambitious political plans for Greece (but against the people of Greece), and the ongoing negotiations with New Democracy opposition leader Samaras, who has so far refused to play his part in this Greek tragicomedy by demanding both Papandreou's resignation and snap elections for a new government within six weeks. Now it seems Papandreou has agreed to resign if a coalition government is formed, but Samaras refuses to be a part of any coalition until the resignation is put in writing, notarized and delivered to his doorstep, and only then will he be willing to discuss additional terms (i.e. when to hold elections). ." It is a first in the constitutional history of Greece; parliament expressing its confidence in the prime minister so that he can soon resign. … If the conservatives continue with their refusal to take part in any government of national unity, it would leave the Socialists with no choice but to form a shrunken coalition with the populist right and the economically liberal "Democratic Alliance" of former Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis – seen as a rather pointless exercise. The leftist opposition signaled that it was particularly upset about the vote. "They want us to express our support for a government that is not even there anymore," said leader of the moderate Left Alliance Alexis Tsipras – with many commentators agreeing that there's an element of truth in Tsipras' assessment of the situation. "
By Leo Azambuja on 4 October 2011 for the Garden Island -
[IB Editor's note: We told you so. Maybe now the TSA management will come to their senses on the dangers imposed by irradiating everyone (including themselves). See below for more.]
Image above: A hazardous materials team member on Thursday night at Lihu‘e Airport. From original article.
Mysterious emissions caused the Lihue Airport to shut down for a few hours Thursday evening and sent several Transportation Security Administration staff to Wilcox Memorial Hospital emergency room.
“Some sort of fumes affected 11 TSA personnel,” said Dan Meisenzahl, spokesman for the state Department of Transportation, adding that the cause of the incident is yet to be determined.
But at least one person who was working at the airport Thursday suspects the culprit was a radiation leak in one of the TSA screening booths.
“I was there all day, I can guarantee you there was no smell,” said an airport worker who asked not to be identified for fear of being terminated.
The worker said all TSA personnel who felt ill were working next to a TSA screening booth. He took several pictures of a hazardous materials response team examining the same booth with equipment that he was told was to measure radiation levels.
“It started around 2 p.m., when two girls were sent home,” said the worker, adding that the women were standing next to the same machine the HAZMAT team had allegedly tested for radiation.
After that, a domino effect ensued, he said, resulting in 11 workers being treated for sickness.
The worker was concerned that he, his co-workers and the thousands of passengers who went through the same booth Thursday could have been exposed to unsafe radiation levels.
Meisenzahl said Friday he had no idea about radiation testing.
On Thursday, Meisenzahl stated in a press release that the TSA workers at the main checkpoint experienced dizziness, nausea, headache, throwing up and a chemical taste in their mouths.
“The HAZMAT team of the Kaua‘i County Fire Department performed an extensive investigation and could not locate the cause,” he said Friday.
County spokeswoman Mary Daubert said the HAZMAT crew tested the center checkpoint for toxic and hazardous odors and substances and found none, and found no radiation.
Meisenzahl said all TSA personnel who got sick were treated at the scene by paramedics, who determined they were fine.
As a precaution, he said, TSA management urged all workers who got sick to go to the hospital for further tests.
“All but one agreed,” Meisenzahl said. “The doctors at the hospital also determined that they were all fine.”
He said on Friday that all machines were tested and are working properly. But concerning the workers, the only thing TSA was telling him was that the operations were back to normal. “So I assume that means all workers are back to their normal shift.”
Daubert said that after HAZMAT tested the area, it was deemed safe for workers and travelers to use.
Nothing similar has happened at any of Hawai‘i’s 15 airports, according to Meisenzahl. He had no information on the status of Mainland airports.
TSA spokesman Nico Mendez said the employees have been given a clean bill of health and TSA will continue to work with local officials to determine the cause of the incident.
“The health and welfare of our officers is paramount to the success of our agency and security of the airport,” he said.
The worker who spoke with The Garden Island said TSA staff always tells travelers to put down their cameras, prohibiting them from taking pictures at the airport.
“It makes you wonder what kind of stuff is going on there,” he said.
Meisenzahl said travelers are allowed to take pictures at the airport, but not of TSA equipment and checkpoints, per TSA policy.
Ea O Ka Aina: TSA Radiation Exposure 12/11/10
Ea O Ka Aina: Porno Scanner X-Ray danger 11/27/10
Ea O Ka AIna: TSA Humiliations 11/19/10
Ea O Ka Aina: Pushback Against TSA Security 11/17/10
Ea O Ka Aina: Resistance to Porno-Scanners Increases 11/15/10
Ea O Ka Aina: Don't Scan Me Bro 11/12/10
Ea O Ka Aina: National "Opt-Out" Day 11/11/10
Ea O Ka Aina: Pilots reject full body scanners 11/8/10
Island Breath: It's Fascism when it happens to you 5/14/08
Island Breath: Elephant Traps for Kauai? 12/1/07
There are various ways to ready oneself for the trip down the peak-oil curve, as well as for climate chaos. Most importantly, as I’ve indicated many times, is psychological readiness. If you are mentally prepared for a future radically different from the past you’ve known, you’re well on your way to thriving in the years ahead.
There are a couple general approaches one can pursue along the path of climate change and simultaneous collapses of the industrial economy and the living planet. You can hit the road, or you can mitigate in place. Either way, you’ll need to secure clean water and healthy food, maintain body temperature, and create and maintain a decent human community.
Either way, an adventure-filled life awaits. On the road, you’ll need quick wits, good interpersonal skills, and astonishing amounts of creativity, compassion, and courage. Ditto for mitigating in place. In this post, I’ll address the primary concerns associated with mitigating in place, with a particular focus on me and the mud hut (my favorite subject and my favorite location, respectively).
If you’re staying put, I suggest you pay attention to the 3 Rs of the future. No, not the educational ones from years gone by. And it’s far too late for the three Rs targeting reduced consumption in a nation build on consumption, two of which we have ignored because there is no financial profit in reducing and reusing. Recycling — the only one of these three relevant actions fascist Amerika promotes — is like an apology after a punch in the face (credit Mike Sliwa). We punch the planet in the face with every cultural act, and then we apologize by sorting plastic and aluminum into separate bins.
The three Rs of interest in this post are Relocalization, Redundancy and Reciprocity. We’re headed for a severely constrained future with respect to transport of materials and humans. The days of the 12,000-mile supply chain are nearly behind us. Forget about cheap plastic crap from China, expensive watches from Switzerland, and decent hand tools from the Sears Roebuck catalog: We’re going to have to make do with what we’ve got in the very local area. Before the supply chain breaks, we should work toward building a resilient set of living arrangements steeped in redundancy. After the supply chain breaks, it’ll be a little late to start digging a well and learning how to grow food.
Here at the Mud Hut, in Arizona, we pay serious attention to multiple sources of water (two solar pumps, hand pump, rainwater harvesting from two rooftops, and the nearby river), food (wildcrafting, orchard, gardens, goats for milk and cheese, eggs from ducks and chickens, and in the future, hunting relatively large-bodied animals), body temperature (well-insulated, passive-solar house, multiple awnings, proper clothing, and abundant water and firewood), and human community (abundance in this category exceeds my patience to explain again, but search the archives for a few hints).
I’ve no doubt we’re missing some things that will ease our lives in our post-carbon future. Some of these items will remain unknown, even to us, until it’s too late. I’m already missing a few things, even before the impending big crash leads to “lights out.” (As Dmitry Orlov uncharacteristically suggests, the day draws near. As “Tyler Durden” characteristically suggests, the day is near enough to be seen by a blind man.) And as I’ve mentioned a few hundred times, skyrocketing greenhouse gas emissions, along with wholesale destruction of the living planet, will seal our fate as a species unless we crash this luxury ship, and soon.
I know you’ve read this one before, but I’d love to have a solar ice-maker to cool our drinks and our bodies. But if the industrial economy reaches its overdue end within a few weeks, I won’t. And I suspect we’ll muddle through, until we don’t. I’d love to have more time to convince my human community to climb aboard the collapse train. But if the industrial economy reaches its overdue end within a few weeks, I won’t. And I suspect we’ll muddle through, until we don’t. I’d love to make a few more trips to discuss the dire nature of our predicaments with people who are aware and interested. But if the industrial economy reaches its overdue end within a few weeks, I won’t. And I suspect I’ll muddle through, although I’ll miss trips tentatively scheduled to Australia, New Zealand, Scotland, New England, and various places nearer the mud hut.
Closer to home, and closer to my heart, I’d love to have time for my parents — and the thousands of other winter immigrants descending on this area — to make the return trip to their northern homes. But if the industrial economy reaches its overdue end within a few weeks, or even within a few months, they won’t. And I have no idea how we’ll muddle through.
All things being equal,
1) I’d rather have the solar ice-maker in a community fully on-board with collapse.
All things being equal,
2) I’d rather make a multitude of excursions to exotic places.
All things being equal,
3) I’d rather my parents experience collapse in their own home.
But all things are not equal and, more than all these things,
4) I’d rather have a planet marked by much more abundance... and far fewer extinctions than we’re currently witnessing..
The judges' were unsparing. She was out of synch with the music, one said. The other consulted historical scriptures and discovered she got the lyrics wrong.
It's clear "Bhutan Star" is not just another low-budget knockoff of the "American Idol" juggernaut. This wildly popular show, which forces contestants to sing the nation's fading traditional songs, is Bhutan's most promising weapon in its fight to save its culture from being overrun by globalization.
Conservative grandparents, Buddhist monks, rebellious teens and almost everyone else with a TV gather every Saturday and Sunday to watch contestants belt out classical Buddhist compositions. Jaded youngsters have started humming folk tunes in the street.
"When young guys like us can sing this, (kids) think, 'Why not?'" said Tandin Dorji, a 24-year-old office worker and a contestant on the show.
Nestled in the high peaks between India and China, the "Land of the Thunder Dragon" long maintained an insular existence, with traditions nearly frozen in amber and no paved roads, phones or postal service until the 1960s.
Men wore the gho, a knee-length robe, with high black socks and elaborately decorated silk boots. Women wore the kira, a floor-length woven dress. They snacked on toasted rice and butter tea and listened to homegrown music. Even as young Bhutanese went abroad to study, and Bollywood movies colonized the nation's two theaters, its traditions dominated.
Then, in 1999, came TV, the Internet and what Education Minister Thakur Powdyel calls "the onslaught of global culture."
The changes to this slow-paced nation of 700,000 were lightning fast.
Kids now wear jeans and leather jackets and gel their hair into spikes. They eat Lay's potato chips, drink Pepsi and listen to infectious Korean pop songs they pass around on cassettes and thumb drives. Kinzang Dema, the granddaughter of a renowned classical singer, sees no shame in playing Justin Bieber's "Baby" from her cellphone speaker.
Sensing that guilt, Nidup Dorji, a popular 37-year-old writer, actor, composer and singer, wondered whether Bhutanese were ready to embrace their culture again, but with a modern twist.
He recorded a classical album in 2006 and was convinced it went blockbuster by Bhutan standards — selling 8,000 cassettes and 3,000 CDs — because he spiced it up with modern Spanish guitar and drums.
The next year he turned to TV.
He appropriated the format of "Idol," which he had seen on satellite TV. He then used Bhutan's pop genre known as rigsar to lure kids into watching the folk music called boedra and the more complex zhungdra, classical, high-pitched religious songs composed by Buddhist lamas and reminiscent of Chinese opera.
Each week, the contestants perform one rigsar song with a modern band on one side of the stage and one song of either boedra or zhungdra with a traditional band on the other playing the dramnyen lute, the yangchen dulcimer and the fiddle-like chiwang. There are two sets of judges as well.
Genteel criticism The series has the production quality of a junior high talent show held in a past-its-prime Vegas nightclub and broadcast on local public access television.
Some contestants start over, forget the words or sing seriously off-key. Most stand stock still, though a few slowly sway to the music.
Ugyen Tshomo's time ran out as she delivered a breathy, shaky performance and her mike was turned off. When she kept singing, it was turned back on.
The judges, while far more polite than those on "Idol," are brutal by the genteel standards of a country that measures its development by the homegrown calculation of Gross National Happiness.
One judge told a contestant she sang as if she had not had enough to eat. Another gave perplexing advice to former monk Tsheten G. Tashi, who forgot some lyrics and sang the rest far out of tune: "When two bulls fight, only one can win."
Tshering Lham sang a mournful lament in an ancient Tibetan dialect about a homesick princess who had to leave China to live with a king in Tibet.
Both judges give her six out of 10.
"You have a good voice, but you are not staying in tune," said Ugyen Tshering.
'The only entertainment we have' The show is run under a complex system that mixes judges' scores with cellphone text votes to whittle the 25 singers down, awards immunity to popular ones, lets judges save some voted off and throws two new "wild card" singers into the mix halfway through the season.
Though there are no weekly ratings, the show receives 70,000 to 80,000 text votes at 5 ngultrum (ten cents) a vote every week, Dorji said. It has sold thousands of cassettes and DVDs, inspired its own copycat show and been praised by the prime minister in Parliament for restoring Bhutan's dying musical heritage.
"It's the only entertainment we have in Bhutan," said 16-year-old Gyelwa Kuenzom. "We are learning from it, the traditional songs, it's really enjoyable."
Nearly all 900 monks in Tsheten Dorji's monastery watch the show.
"Wisdom is given by the words of some songs," the 29-year-old monk said.
"Bhutan Star" is only one part of an all-out scramble to protect the nation's culture.
Filmmaker Karma Tshering twisted another foreign import, the beauty pageant, to revive interest in old Bhutanese textiles. His Miss Bhutan contestants don't model swimsuits, but outfits from the 1800s borrowed from a museum as they answer questions on culture, language and traditional Buddhist manners.
The government, with its law requiring traditional dress in public widely flouted, has turned to the schools to win back the next generation, overhauling the curriculum to emphasize culture, religion and the environment, said Powdyel, the education minister.
Students now start the day with a two-minute exercise in Buddhist mindfulness, folding their hands in their laps, closing their eyes and clearing their heads of Facebook friends, Twitter messages and other distractions.
"What is modern is always more tempting and even more aggressive. It might not necessarily be more authentic and fulfilling," Powdyel said.
Preserving culture At Lung Tenzampa Middle Secondary School, principal Kinley Pem said it's working: Many children have traded in their Nike book bags for traditional woven ones. Those with long, gelled hair and blonde highlights acceded to haircuts that were not exactly forced on them, but were the result of intense pressure.
"We were happy that we could get them back to the culture," she said.
But Pem was ambivalent about TV. "The children, they learn a lot. They are very expressive, confident," she said, crediting foreign shows. On the other hand, "they want to be like the Koreans."
"Bhutan Star" is making at least a small dent in that, said Kheng Dema Wangchuk, 25, a contestant on an earlier season of the show who now plays in its classical band.
Audiences for his traditional gigs in local clubs have tripled as Bhutanese realize pop tunes are only popular for a month or two, while classical songs last for generations, he said.
Yet Dorji, the producer, constantly struggles with the delicate balance of bringing his audience back to its cultural roots while still keeping it entertained.
While crimson robed monks sat beside parents in traditional dress at a recent "Bhutan Star" concert at a packed amphitheater, at least half the crowd wore Western clothes as they listened to a cover version of Cee-Lo's U.S. pop hit "Forget You," playing from the speakers before the show.
And while the contestants wore traditional dress, they sang only modern rigsar music; Dorji said the crowd was in no mood for education.
"If we played classical music," he said, "this place would clear out."
By Staff on 3 November 2011 for the Energy Bulletin -
Image above: Detail of Occupy Oakland poster for November 2nd General Strike. Click to enlarge. From (http://rortybomb.wordpress.com/2011/11/01/an-interview-with-a-member-of-occupy-oakland-about-tomorrows-general-strike).
Vandals hijack Occupy Oakland protests
Justin Elliott, Salon
Thanks to a splinter group of protesters in Oakland last night, the news today is leading with imagery of burning barricades and headlines about property destruction.
The Times notes that this was a tiny portion of the thousands of Occupy protesters that marched in support of a general strike earlier in the day:
Tear gas hung over Oakland for the second time in two weeks after a small group of demonstrators faced off against police early Thursday following a peaceful march of thousands of Occupy Oakland protesters.
A roving group of about 100 mostly young men broke from the main group of protesters in a central plaza and roamed through downtown streets spraying graffiti, burning garbage and breaking windows. The police said some in the group briefly occupied a building on 16th Street near the port.... As I’ve previously written, protesters who destroy property or attack police are playing into the hands of the movement’s critics. Andrew Breitbart’s website is already trumpeting this video of a few “black bloc” types trying to break windows and a fence at a Whole Foods in Oakland, while others in the crowd try to convince them to stop:
(3 November 2011) This incident seems to be yet another example of the Black Bloc phenomenon. See Wikipedia for background. It's a tactic rejected by almost all the participants in demonstrations, including Marxists.
'No Violence!': 99 Percenters stop 'Black Bloc' vandals
Zaid Jilan, Think Progress
A common tactic by the American media during protest coverage is to focus on violent, sensationalist incidents. Yesterday, while thousands marched and went on strike in Oakland, a handful of “black bloc” demonstrators tried to vandalize a Whole Foods grocery store. Incensed by this behavior, a group of 99 Percenters surrounded the store and started yelling, “No violence!” The protesters succeeded in stopping the vandals from seriously damaging the store. Watch it:
Video above: Occupy Oakland members defend Lakeshore Drive Whole Foods from property damage from black bloc vandals. From (http://youtu.be/rWm2ZJbATHc).
Self-Policing: Another Part of the Occupy Story
Michael Shaw, Bag News Notes
Yes, there was a group of black-shirts in Oakland yesterday that vandalized a Whole Foods and smashed a bank window. We’ll have to see what the media does with that. The overall story, however, given the fact that the city largely removed its police from the action, is that the march and general strike was not only impressive in scale, but overwhelmingly peaceful.
As I mentioned in the previous post, I had the chance to spend some time in Zuccotti Park yesterday talking to members of the community there. One of the protesters spoke to me at length about camp rules, rule enforcement and self-policing, also pointing out people detailed to security who were otherwise regular “camp citizens.”
Not that you would notice it right off, but video from Oakland yesterday provides a good example of how the movement is employing peace-keeping and security as part of its very complex agenda.
Yes, there is Oakland Trib video showing the black-shirts apparently overcoming an Occupy security guy (yellow helmet), then wreaking their havoc. But then, there is also this video where the screen grabs above came from. What happens in this clip is that a group of protesters approach a Bank of America where they begin to violently bang on the window. The aggression is too much for the first Occupy security guy to handle, but very quickly and sure-handedly, a second Occupy security guy (the one with the green hat) steps in and takes control. In a second, these two guys, along with a woman, apparently affiliated with a local union, are calmly protecting the bank, the situation de-escalating so fast that, in the next instant, we see a girl standing where the rabble-rousers were eating a popscicle as the demonstrators rejoin the march.
I’m not saying there aren’t going to be incidents of violence as OWS tries to contain and control a growing movement, one which is attracting all types of disenfranchised people, including the 1% of bad actors looking for trouble. At the same time, I’m assuming Occupy — which is proving itself remarkably savvy at organization and “self-government” — will continue to improve their self-policing. Something that remains to be seen, however, is whether traditional media picks up on the fact. (2 November 2011)
‘Smart’ meters are new wireless utility meters being installed as part of the “smart” grid initiative, spearheaded by technology firms and backed by the Obama administration and the Department of Energy. Promises ranging from lower utility bills to enhanced renewable generation capacity have failed to materialize, with widespread reports of higher bills, privacy violations, fires and explosions, and commonly reported health impacts such as headaches, nausea, tinnitus, and heart problems associated with powerful wireless transmissions. Widely disparate political groups- from members of the Green Party to the Tea Party and Occupy protesters have attacked the program, and dozens of grassroots organizations have sprouted up over the past several months to fight what they call an undemocratic, unconstitutional and dangerous assault on people in their own homes and neighborhoods. Dozens of people have been detained or arrested for peaceful civil disobedience and even simply speaking out against deployments.
In California, more than 47 cities and counties have demanded a halt to installation, and a dozen local governments have passed laws prohibiting the controversial technology.  The ‘smart’ meter issue has further angered a public already seething at the utilities over repeated gas explosions, safety breaches at nuclear reactors, and an increasingly extortionate rate structure. Word of California’s ‘smart’ meter nightmare has spread across the country and around the world, prompting some utilities to place smart meter plans on hold, and recently Nevada’s PUC to call for investigations into the health effects and other smart meter problems.
Now in a dramatic turnaround that could signal the beginning of a widespread recall of wireless ‘smart’ meters, on October 28th PG&E re-installed a classic spinning disc analog meter on the home of Santa Cruz, CA resident Caitlin Phillips, who had been suffering headaches and other symptoms from her ‘smart’ meter. The move comes in response to verbal directives from the California Public Utilities Commission President Michael Peevey, who recently told members of the public that the utility “will provide for you to go back to the analog meter if that’s your choice.” The CPUC has been slow to respond to thousands of ordinary citizens reporting health effects from the new meters.
When a Wellington Energy installer (contracted with PG&E) came to install a smart meter at her home, Caitlin asked the installer to get off her property and not install, because of what a neighbor had told her about possible health damage and privacy violations. “When I returned home later, I discovered a smart meter on my house. That night I awoke to severe anxiety, headache, and buzzing in my teeth, and realized the new smart meter was on the other side of the wall from my bed.” Caitlin reported her experience to PG&E and the CPUC, who both declined to rectify the situation. When the symptoms persisted, Caitlin sought the assistance of the Scotts Valley based group Stop Smart Meters! who provided an analog meter and referred her to a professional who could help her remove her ‘smart’ meter. As soon as the analog was installed, Caitlin’s symptoms disappeared.
Frustrated and outraged about her treatment by the utility and the PUC, Caitlin travelled to San Francisco to speak at a commission meeting on Oct. 20th. About a week later, PG&E crews were at her house replacing her temporary analog meter with a brand new official PG&E analog meter. This is believed to be the first time PG&E have willingly replaced an analog meter on the home of someone suffering from health effects.
An “opt-out” proceeding overseen by an Administrative Law Judge is underway at the CA Public Utilities Commission, yet those suffering (in some cases severe) health impacts have been stuck in limbo as utilities refuse to remove the harmful meters upon request- until now.
“There are hundreds of thousands- if not millions- of people suffering in their homes from forced ‘smart’ meter radiation,” said Joshua Hart, Director of the grassroots organization Stop Smart Meters! “The utilities and PUC’s must respond promptly to all requests that analogs be returned. The alternative is that people will increasingly turn to independent professionals to remove unwanted ‘smart’ meters from their homes, a reasonable action we assert is within our legal rights. Protecting your family’s health is not tampering.”
PG&E and other utilities have also been responding to health complaints by replacing wireless ‘smart’ meters with digital meters that are “wireless-ready.” These digital meters have been associated with health problems from “dirty electricity” frequencies that pass into a home via the electrical wiring. These “trojan horse” meters have been roundly rejected by those who report continuing health impacts after installation. Susan Brinchman, Director of San Diego based Center for Electrosmog Prevention. said “At this point, the burden of responsibility is on the utilities to demonstrate that any new meter they want to install on our homes is safe. Communities have the right to retain analog meters at no extra charge. Period.”
 Full list of opposed local governments: http://stopsmartmeters.org/how-you-can-stop-smart-meters/sample-letter-to-local-government/ca-local-governments-on-board/
Next week, as Honolulu is engulfed in a veritable sea of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) delegates, corporate executives, CEOs, finance ministers, international media and the heads of state of the 21 member economies, a different international gathering called Moana Nui will take place (Nov 9-11) in which experts, activists, academics and thinkers from around the Asia Pacific will gather to discuss an alternative to the APEC model.
In this first of three articles examining just a few of the more than 30 participating Moana Nui speakers, two leading voices explain why they are highly critical about APEC and associated free trade agreements (FTAs).
Victor Menotti is executive director of the International Forum of Globalization (IFG), a San Francisco-based North-South research and educational institution that provides analysis and critiques of economic globalization. He is critical of the policies and practices of APEC, arguing that they are damaging to indigenous and traditional communities, fragile ecosystems and the resources within, and the environment as a whole.Corporate Rape and Pillage
He pulls no punches: “APEC is a corporate agenda. It’s about the industrial economy with policies that read as if they’re straight out of the WTO rule book. This is trade liberalization and getting governments, which are supposed to express the people’s will, out of the way of ‘economic freedom’ which is code for corporate rule. This is corporate rape and pillage,” Menotti says.
He calls APEC “primarily a business forum and its economic collaboration with a particular role for government,” adding, “It’s what we’ve seen since the Washington Consensus onwards.”
Menotti is not singling out APEC. He says the IMF (International Monetary Fund), the WTO (World Trade Organization) and similar bodies claim to pursue “economic integration” but the results are a disintegration of cultures, ecosystems, societies and social safety nets.” In more blunt terms, he calls APEC “colonization today in real time.”
APEC may claim it pursues the goals of peace and prosperity but, according to Menotti, it has the opposite effect.
for more of this article click here.
SUBHEAD: Description of an Alternative International Conference on Pacific Transitions
Pacific Peoples, Lands & Economies (http://moananui2011.org)
[ November 9-11, 2011 Honolulu, Hawaii]
CONVERGENCE or RESISTANCE
Asia, the Pacific Rim, the Pacific Islands
The Asia-Pacific region; nations of the Pacific rim which include Australia and the American and Asian nations, including Pacific Island nations are an increasing focus of geopolitical competition and economic stresses. Struggles for national sovereignty and cultural viability bring about rapidly expanding campaigns toward economic self-sufficiency.
These campaigns challenge the legacies of colonialism, continued militarism in the region, growing trade and development conflicts, and corresponding environmental degradations. Whose interests are advanced in these struggles? Whose views are served? What are the dominant economic interests in play? How do we take control of our future? Which is the best way forward—convergence or resistance?
Organized by a partnership of scholars, community and political activists and Hawaiian and Pacific Islander cultural practitioners, Moana Nui is intended to provide a voice and possible direction for the economies of Pacific Islands in the era of powerful transnational corporations, global industrial expansion and global climate change.
This conference will issue a challenge to Pacific Island nations and communities to look for cooperative ways to strengthen subsistence and to protect cultural properties and natural resources. The timing of this conference is intended to overlap the next meeting of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in Honolulu, and hopes to call public attention to the critical importance of maintaining sound and productive local economies in the Pacific Islands both for their own sake and food security in the world.
Invited speakers will include Native economists, farm and fishery practitioners, advocates for political and economic sovereignty, specialists in media, public education, environmental studies and law. The conference will be open to the public and the conveners will seek to facilitate the attendance of practitioners from other Pacific Islands.
All of the proceedings will be documented by video and a published collection of the presentations is anticipated.
We welcome the participation of all Pacific Island advocates and practitioners.
For those who are purchasing tickets to attend both Moana Nui and APEC Conference, note that APEC has changed their dates to Nov. 7-13..
Even if sustainability were not a critical issue, for anyone to have to pay to live on Earth is a ridiculous notion for a society to undertake. But this is our brilliant system, whereby people are conditioned to compete and buy into their own slavery. Abandoning nature in order to have to buy pieces of it as commodities is inefficiency and waste of the tallest order. Modern man is demonstrably stupid to rely on unnecessary slavery, whereas any animal smart enough to survive in the wild cannot be stupid and is no kind of slave.
One form of human enslavement is to tolerate massive pollution, such as the sum of greenhouse gas output from the technological giants China and the U.S. One can surmise that those of us who sit by and do not lift a finger lack a "survival gene" in our evolutionarily strange times.
Keith asked me, in the spirit of co-liberation for humanity and the species we have enslaved, to furnish a chapter to his upcoming book Underminers: A Practical Guide for Radical Change. Upon reading the introduction he wrote, I'm in support of the project. The following is what he got from me in early October of this year.]I like to think that critics of civilization are above all compassionate, nonviolent and realistic. So perhaps we can keep in mind that wishing for quick change to save the planet and throw off the shackles of capitalism and authoritarianism has to be weighed with today's vast dependence on industry. Yes, the economy will collapse and end most greenhouse gas emissions. But this is not to say everything will be just fine as soon as manufacturing and oil-powered transport stop. There will be severe repercussions to "lifelines" of energy, food and materials being cut or terminated.
As industrial civilization is built on exploiting nonrenewable "resources" (many of which should never have been tapped), and human population and consumption of manufactured materials are near peak, the unsustainability of unlimited industrialism should be obvious.
Whether the unsustainability is obvious or not, collapse can be sudden and rapid, as the house-of-cards economy built on cheap, ample petroleum can have the rug pulled out from under it by any break in the chain. Then the infrastructure fails once and for all, beginning the final rusting of the machinery of civilization on all levels.
One can say today, while we still enjoy vast quantities of food shipped great distances, "That's fine, the Earth needs a break." But population die-off has two versions: simple starvation that can be overcome after petrocollapse, or species extinction due to weakening of the gene pool and assaults from nuclear events, disease, and climate destabilization.
If we have simple starvation, and can survive the other assaults, then we can paint a picture of the world after industrial civilization that has a viable human presence. I am optimistic about it. A new culture borrowing heavily on traditional ways of various indigenous cultures, with some helpful influences from recent visionaries, will emerge from the rubble of petrocivilization. The breakdown of the previous global corporate culture and lack of cheap, fast travel will assure a larger world of innumerable autonomous bioregional nations and tribes.
Individually the end of industrial civilization and massive government means being free from jobs, i.e., working for others for their purposes to earn money to buy essentials that nature actually provides freely. This is unthinkable by many today, but they tend to distrust the masses' thinking for themselves and managing with self-rule and voluntary cooperation.
Along with rejecting the obvious failures and mistakes of the previous era of growth and "progress," the new culture will have to find harmony with nature. This cannot be done with the hierarchal, patriarchal, religious empire-building mindset that ravaged the planet starting with perhaps Sumer. Therefore the new culture will feature equality, justice, mutual aid, and will refrain from building surpluses for grandiose schemes of expansion or greed.
As to the nuts and bolts, or the lack of them, I wrote in January of 2007 in Culture Change Letter #150,
"one can visualize local crafts-people soon making due with scrap materials and some renewable resources. The individual's possessions will not be so voluminous and overbearing when the change comes. There will no longer be a great number of things used daily, because new stuff won't be available and cheaply shipped to everyone the way it once was. So, re-using finally becomes the rule of the day."
However, maximizing bicycles and bike-trailers may be a transition phenomenon that lasts only a century at best. This may not be so terrible: as we become less material oriented we become more spiritual. It can be argued that nature and spirit are really one. If a "primitive" and simple life for all sounds objectionable, tough shit. The question is "what is really ahead?", not what we feel we are entitled to as modern homo "sapiens." As part of the swing of the pendulum, spirituality identified with the Earth will return strongly, as people revere life in part by deploring the past era's trashing of the living world.
As certain regions will be damaged for centuries by past practices and the distortions of climate change, they cannot provide every essential food or material for sustaining the lives or happiness of the tribe or nation, if isolated. So trade will be perhaps essential. Without cheap oil, and in the absence of renewable fuels such as biofuels that still depend on mechanical systems involving high entropy, the low-tech, efficient mode of sailing will return to the fore. Already it is making itself attractive in a cost sense as the corporate global economy continues to pollute the atmosphere with disastrous bunker fuel and routine oil spills out of view of the news media and public consciousness.
People in temperate and arctic climes can live without coffee, chocolate, and other delicacies now shipped thousands of miles to addicts and bon vivants. But people prefer not to be deprived: if something can be done, it will be done. Additionally, a favorable environment here for producing olives, for example, can result in a reasonable surplus to trade for some grain from over there. Specialization is a questionable reliance, but sharing and assisting other communities will be carried out between peoples who, since the Great Collapse, will be evolving their bioregions into very diverse, unique cultures. The loss of languages and cultures will be remedied over time. Sailing will keep up the right level of communication, knowledge, and mutual aid, for the new reduced population size.
That's if we can survive the undoing of civilization and its toxic and radioactive consequences..