VIDEO: THE KINGDOM OF SURVIVAL + What collapsing (american) empire looks like

What collapsing (american) empire looks like

As we enter our ninth year of the War in Afghanistan with an escalated force, and continue to occupy Iraq indefinitely, and feed an endlessly growing Surveillance State, reports are emerging of the Deficit Commission hard at work planning how to cut Social Security, Medicare, and now even to freeze military pay.  But a new New York Times article today illustrates as vividly as anything else what a collapsing empire looks like, as it profiles just a few of the budget cuts which cities around the country are being forced to make.  This is a sampling of what one finds:

Plenty of businesses and governments furloughed workers this year, but Hawaii went further — it furloughed its schoolchildren. Public schools across the state closed on 17 Fridays during the past school year to save money, giving students the shortest academic year in the nation.

Many transit systems have cut service to make ends meet, but Clayton County, Ga., a suburb of Atlanta, decided to cut all the way, and shut down its entire public bus system. Its last buses ran on March 31, stranding 8,400 daily riders.

Even public safety has not been immune to the budget ax. In Colorado Springs, the downturn will be remembered, quite literally, as a dark age: the city switched off a third of its 24,512 streetlights to save money on electricity, while trimming its police force and auctioning off its police helicopters.

There are some lovely photos accompanying the article, including one showing what a darkened street in Colorado looks like as a result of not being able to afford street lights.  Read the article to revel in the details of this widespread misery.  Meanwhile, the tiniest sliver of the wealthiest — the ones who caused these problems in the first place — continues to thrive.  Let’s recall what former IMF Chief Economist Simon Johnson said last year in The Atlantic about what happens in under-developed and developing countries when an elite-caused financial crisis ensues:

Squeezing the oligarchs, though, is seldom the strategy of choice among emerging-market governments. Quite the contrary: at the outset of the crisis, the oligarchs are usually among the first to get extra help from the government, such as preferential access to foreign currency, or maybe a nice tax break, or — here’s a classic Kremlin bailout technique — the assumption of private debt obligations by the government. Under duress, generosity toward old friends takes many innovative forms. Meanwhile, needing to squeeze someone, most emerging-market governments look first to ordinary working folk — at least until the riots grow too large.

The real question is whether the American public is too apathetic and trained into submission for that to ever happen.

UPDATE:  It’s probably also worth noting this Wall St. Journal article from last month — with a subheadline warning:  “Back to Stone Age” — which describes how “paved roads, historical emblems of American achievement, are being torn up across rural America and replaced with gravel or other rough surfaces as counties struggle with tight budgets and dwindling state and federal revenue.”  Utah is seriously considering eliminating the 12th grade, or making it optional.  And it was announced this week that “Camden [New Jersey] is preparing to permanently shut its library system by the end of the year, potentially leaving residents of the impoverished city among the few in the United States unable to borrow a library book free.”

Does anyone doubt that once a society ceases to be able to afford schools, public transit, paved roads, libraries and street lights — or once it chooses not to be able to afford those things in pursuit of imperial priorities and the maintenance of a vast Surveillance and National Security State — that a very serious problem has arisen, that things have gone seriously awry, that imperial collapse, by definition, is an imminent inevitability?  Anyway, I just wanted to leave everyone with some light and cheerful thoughts as we head into the weekend.

Ref: Salon

NO WE CAN´T – Barack Obama’s speech disappoints and fuels frustration at Copenhagen

US president offers no further commitment on reducing emissions or on finance to poor countries. Barack Obama stepped into the chaotic final hours of the Copenhagen summit today saying he was convinced the world could act “boldly and decisively” on climate change.

But his speech offered no indication America was ready to embrace bold measures, after world leaders had been working desperately against the clock to try to paper over an agreement to prevent two years of wasted effort — and a 10-day meeting — from ending in total collapse.

Obama, who had been skittish about coming to Copenhagen at all unless it could be cast as a foreign policy success, looked visibly frustrated as he appeared before world leaders.

He offered no further commitments on reducing emissions or on finance to poor countries beyond Hillary Clinton’s announcement yesterday that America would support a $100bn global fund to help developing nations adapt to climate change.

He did not even press the Senate to move ahead on climate change legislation, which environmental organisations have been urging for months.

The president did say America would follow through on his administration’s clean energy agenda, and that it would live up to its pledges to the international community.

“We have charted our course, we have made our commitments, and we will do what we say,” Obama said.

But in the absence of any evidence of that commitment the words rang hollow and there was a palpable sense of disappointment in the audience.

Instead, he warned African states and low island nations who have been resisting what they see as a weak agreement that the later alternative — no agreement — was far worse.

“We know the fault lines because we’ve been imprisoned by them for years. But here is the bottom line: we can embrace this accord, take a substantial step forward, and continue to refine it and build upon its foundation,” he said.

“Or we can again choose delay, falling back into the same divisions that have stood in the way of action for years. And we will be back having the same stale arguments month after month, year after year – all while the danger of climate change grows until it is irreversible.”

He also took a dig at China, drawing attention to its status as the world’s biggest emitter and reinforcing America’s hardline on the issue of accountability for greenhouse gas emissions.

The lacklustre speech proved a huge frustration to a summit that had been looking to Obama to use his stature on the world stage – and his special following among African leaders – to try to come to an ambitious deal.

The president was drawn into the chaos within minutes of his arrival at Copenhagen, ditching his schedule to take part in a meeting of major industrialised and rapidly emerging economies.

Responding to Obama’s speech, a British official said: “Gordon Brown is committed to doing all he can and will stay until the very last minute to secure a deal… but others also need to show the same level of commitment. The prospects of a deal are not great.”

Tim Jones, a spokesman for the World Development Movement, said: “The president said he came to act, but showed little evidence of doing so. He showed no awareness of the inequality and injustice of climate change. If America has really made its choice, it is a choice that condemns hundreds of millions of people to climate change disaster.”

Friends of the Earth said in a statement, “Obama has deeply disappointed not only those listening to his speech at the UN talks, he has disappointed the whole world.”

The World Wildlife Fund said Obama had let down the international community by failing to commit to pushing for action in Congress: “The only way the world can be sure the US is standing behind its commitments is for the president to clearly state that climate change will be his next top legislative priority.”

The extent of crisis in the talks has taken leaders by surprise. The Brazilian leader, Lula da Silva, told the conference that the all-night negotiating sessions took him back to his days as a trade union leader negotiating with his bosses.

Ref: Guardian

Saving the River Jordan – Israel/Palestine (zionism)

It’s said the next war in the Middle East will be over water. Already agricultural development is killing the River Jordan. But saving the river for all nations could be an impetus for co-operation.

“It’s amazing what we’ve done to destroy a river that’s holy to half of humanity”, laments environmentalist Gidon Bromberg. Raw sewage and agricultural waste have turned sections of this once pristine river into a putrid trickle. The river takes it’s first hit in the deserts of Northern Israel, where farmers like Jid Shoshani drain its water for irrigation. “It’s madness to be growing tropical fruits in the middle of the desert”, fumes Gidon. This water should be naturally replenished by the Yarmouk river. But water from the Yarmouk is siphoned off by farmers in Syria and Jordan. By the time the River Jordan reaches the Dead Sea, it has been pumped full of raw sewage and waste. Only 10% of the water that used to flow from the Jordan now makes it to the Dead Sea. As a result, the sea level is falling by one metre a year. “It makes me feel very bad”, confides engineer Eli Raz.

Only if Palestinians, Israelis, Syrians and Jordanians work together can the river and Dead Sea be saved.

Produced by ABC Australia

More about the water crisis in Israel/Palestine

VIDEO: Israel’s Water Crisis the PROPAGANDA >< REALITY VERSION

Water and environment in Israel – THE PROPAGANDA VERSION

Israel faces its worst water crisis in 80 years. – THE REALITY

Israel’s water challenge – THE REALITY

Israel’s Water Crisis – the ZIONIST VERSION

Thinking the unthinkable

So, everything was possible after all. Governments could take radical action in the financial sector. The constraints of the European stability pact could be forgotten. Central banks could kowtow to governments and stimulate the economy. Tax havens could be blacklisted. Everything was possible because the banks had to be rescued.

For 30 years, any suggestion that the liberal order might be amended to improve the living conditions of ordinary people, for example, met with the same stock responses: the Berlin wall has gone, didn’t you notice?; that’s all ancient history; globalisation is the order of the day now; the coffers are empty; the markets won’t stand it.

And for 30 years, “reform” went ahead – in reverse. This was the conservative revolution, handing over increasingly substantial and lucrative swathes of national assets to the money men, privatising public services and transforming them into cash machines to “create added value” for shareholders. This was liberalisation, with cuts in wages and social security, forcing tens of millions of people to borrow in order to maintain their purchasing power, and “invest” with brokers and insurance agents in order to cover the cost of education, healthcare and pensions.

Falling wages and social security cutbacks naturally led to financial excesses. Creating risks encouraged people to take steps to protect themselves. Speculation boomed, fuelled by the ideology of market forces, and housing became a prime target for investment. Attitudes changed, people became more selfish, more calculating, less public-spirited. The 2008 crash is not just a technical hitch that can be put right by “learning lessons” or “putting a stop to abuses”. The whole system has broken down.

The would-be repair men are already at work, hoping to restore it, plaster over the cracks, give it a fresh coat of paint, all ready to commit yet another offence against society. The wiseacres who now pretend to be disgusted with the reckless results of liberalism are the very ones who provided all the incentives – budgetary, regulatory, fiscal and ideological – for the ensuing spending spree. They should feel disqualified, but they know an army of politicians and journalists are eager to do a whitewash job.

So we have Gordon Brown, whose first act as Chancellor of the Exchequer was to “liberate” the Bank of England, José Manuel Barroso, president of a European Commission obsessed with “competition”, and Nicolas Sarkozy, who invented the “fiscal shield”, introduced Sunday working and privatised the post office: all, it seems, busy “rebuilding capitalism”.

Their effrontery marks a strange hiatus. What has happened to the left? As for the official left, it just wants to turn the page as quickly as possible on a “crisis” for which it is jointly responsible. This is the left that went along with liberalisation, Democratic president Bill Clinton deregulating the financial sector, François Mitterrand ending index-linked wages, Lionel Jospin and Dominique Strauss-Kahn privatising public services, Gerhard Schröder axing unemployment benefit.
So be it. But what about the other left? Will it be content, at a time like this, to dust off its most unambitious projects, the serviceable but terribly timid plans for the Tobin tax, an increase in 
the minimum wage, a “new Bretton Woods Agreement”, wind farms? In the Keynesian era, the liberal right thought the unthinkable and took advantage of a major crisis to impose it. Friedrich Hayek, intellectual godfather of the movement that spawned Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, stated the case in 1949: “The main lesson which the true liberal must learn from the success of 
the socialists is that it was their courage to be 
Utopian which… is daily making possible what only 
recently seemed utterly remote.”

So will someone now call free trade into question, free trade which is the very heart of the system (1)? “Utopian”? But everything is possible when it comes to banks

Ref: Le Monde