Archive for December, 2009

Jonathan Pilger’s excellent New Statesman piece on Obama’s war in Pakistan & 7 new military bases in Colombia

Saturday, December 19th, 2009

Jonathan Pilger is an outstanding journalist who, like Amy Goodman, Greg Palast, and Naomi Klein, works to bring popular attention to the reality of what our politicians are doing in our names.

War is peace. Ignorance is strength

15 Oct 2009

In his latest column for the New Statesman, John Pilger draws on George Orwell’s inspiration to describe the Call of Obama: "attractive to liberal sensibilities, if not to the Afghan children he kills".

Barack Obama, winner of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize, is planning another war to add to his impressive record. In Afghanistan, his agents routinely extinguish wedding parties, farmers and construction workers with weapons such as the innovative Hellfire missile, which sucks the air out of your lungs. According to the UN, 338,000 Afghan infants are dying under the Obama-led alliance, which permits only $29 per head annually to be spent on medical care.

Within weeks of his inauguration, Obama started a new war in Pakistan, causing more than a million people to flee their homes. In threatening Iran – which his secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, said she was prepared to “obliterate” – Obama lied that the Iranians were covering up a “secret nuclear facility”, knowing that it had already been reported to the International Atomic Energy Authority. In colluding with the only nuclear-armed power in the Middle East, he bribed the Palestinian Authority to suppress a UN judgment that Israel had committed crimes against humanity in its assault on Gaza – crimes made possible with US weapons whose shipment Obama secretly approved before his inauguration.

At home, the man of peace has approved a military budget exceeding that of any year since the end of the Second World War while presiding over a new kind of domestic repression. During the recent G20 meeting in Pittsburgh, hosted by Obama, militarised police attacked peaceful protesters with something called the Long-Range Acoustic Device, not seen before on US streets. Mounted in the turret of a small tank, it blasted a piercing noise as tear gas and pepper gas were fired indiscriminately. It is part of a new arsenal of “crowd-control munitions” supplied by military contractors such as Ray­theon. In Obama’s Pentagon-controlled “national security state”, the concentration camp at Guantanamo Bay, which he promised to close, remains open, and “rendition”, secret assassinations and torture continue.

The Nobel Peace Prize-winner’s latest war is largely secret. On 15 July, Washington finalised a deal with Colombia that gives the US seven giant military bases. “The idea,” reported the Associated Press, “is to make Colombia a regional hub for Pentagon operations… nearly half the continent can be covered by a C-17 [military transport] without refuelling”, which “helps achieve the regional engagement strategy”.

Translated, this means Obama is planning a “rollback” of the independence and democracy that the people of Bolivia, Venezuela, Ecuador and Paraguay have achieved against the odds, along with a historic regional co-operation that rejects the notion of a US “sphere of influence”. The Colombian regime, which backs death squads and has the continent’s worst human rights record, has received US military support second in scale only to Israel. Britain provides military training. Guided by US military satellites, Colombian paramilitaries now infiltrate Venezuela with the goal of overthrowing the democratic government of Hugo Chávez, which George W Bush failed to do in 2002.

Obama’s war on peace and democracy in Latin America follows a style he has demonstrated since the coup against the democratic president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, in June. Zelaya had increased the minimum wage, granted subsidies to small farmers, cut back interest rates and reduced poverty. He planned to break a US pharmaceutical monopoly and manufacture cheap generic drugs. Although Obama has called for Zelaya’s reinstatement, he refuses to condemn the coup-makers and to recall the US ambassador or the US troops who train the Honduran forces determined to crush a popular resistance. Zelaya has been repeatedly refused a meeting with Obama, who has approved an IMF loan of $164m to the illegal regime. The message is clear and familiar: thugs can act with impunity on behalf of the US.

Obama, the smooth operator from Chicago via Harvard, was enlisted to restore what he calls “leadership” throughout the world. The Nobel Prize committee’s decision is the kind of cloying reverse racism that has beatified the man for no reason other than he is a member of a minority and attractive to liberal sensibilities, if not to the Afghan children he kills. This is the Call of Obama. It is not unlike a dog whistle: inaudible to most, irresistible to the besotted and boneheaded. “When Obama walks into a room,” gushed George Clooney, “you want to follow him somewhere, anywhere.”

The great voice of black liberation Frantz Fanon understood this. In The Wretched of the Earth, he described the “intermediary [whose] mission has nothing to do with transforming the nation: it consists, prosaically, of being the transmission line between the nation and a capitalism, rampant though camouflaged”. Because political debate has become so debased in our media monoculture – Blair or Brown; Brown or Cameron – race, gender and class can be used as seductive tools of propaganda and diversion. In Obama’s case, what matters, as Fanon pointed out in an earlier era, is not the intermediary’s “historic” elevation, but the class he serves. After all, Bush’s inner circle was probably the most multiracial in presidential history. There was Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, Clarence Thomas, all dutifully serving an extreme and dangerous power.

Britain has seen its own Obama-like mysticism. The day after Blair was elected in 1997, the Observer predicted that he would create “new worldwide rules on human rights” while the Guardian rejoiced at the “breathless pace [as] the floodgates of change burst open”. When Obama was elected last November, Denis MacShane MP, a devotee of Blair’s bloodbaths, unwittingly warned us: “I shut my eyes when I listen to this guy and it could be Tony. He is doing the same thing that we did in 1997.”

The average American consumes 34 Gigabytes of content per day and Americans overall consume 3.6 Zettabytes annually…

Friday, December 11th, 2009

This is from a report created by UC San Diego’s Global Information Industry Center and reported on in the NY Times recently.

Executive Summary
In 2008, Americans consumed information for about 1.3 trillion hours, an average of almost 12 hours per day. Consumption totaled 3.6 zettabytes and 10,845 trillion words, corresponding to 100,500 words and 34 gigabytes for an average person on an average day. A zettabyte is 10 to the 21st power bytes, a million million gigabytes. These estimates are from an analysis of more than 20 different sources of information, from very old (newspapers and books) to very new (portable computer games, satellite radio, and Internet video). Information at work is not included.

We defined "information" as flows of data delivered to people and we measured the bytes, words, and hours of consumer information. Video sources (moving pictures) dominate bytes of information, with 1.3 zettabytes from television and approximately 2 zettabytes of computer games. If hours or words are used as the measurement, information sources are more widely distributed, with substantial amounts from radio, Internet browsing, and others. All of our results are estimates.

Previous studies of information have reported much lower quantities. Two previous How Much Information? studies, by Peter Lyman and Hal Varian in 2000 and 2003, analyzed the quantity of original content created, rather than what was consumed. A more recent study measured consumption, but estimated that only .3 zettabytes were consumed worldwide in 2007.

Hours of information consumption grew at 2.6 percent per year from 1980 to 2008, due to a combination of population growth and increasing hours per capita, from 7.4 to 11.8. More surprising is that information consumption in bytes increased at only 5.4 percent per year. Yet the capacity to process data has been driven by Moore’s Law, rising at least 30 percent per year. One reason for the slow growth in bytes is that color TV changed little over that period. High-definition TV is increasing the number of bytes in TV programs, but slowly.

The traditional media of radio and TV still dominate our consumption per day, with a total of 60 percent of the hours. In total, more than three-quarters of U.S. households’ information time is spent with non-computer sources.

Despite this, computers have had major effects on some aspects of information consumption. In the past, information consumption was overwhelmingly passive, with telephone being the only interactive medium. Thanks to computers, a full third of words and more than half of bytes are now received interactively.Reading, which was in decline due to the growth of television, tripled from 1980 to 2008, because it is the overwhelmingly preferred way to receive words on the Internet.

You can access the full report here.

A 3D animation I did recently…”sentient squiggles”

Friday, December 11th, 2009

 

Maybe not the best name, but hey, it’s free to view…

Lady GaGa and the Queen of England, no, really…

Friday, December 11th, 2009

image

What can you really say that the picture itself doesn’t?

Elizabeth Warren’s excellent article: “America without a middle class”—you need to read this

Thursday, December 3rd, 2009

If you haven’t already read this Huffington Post article, read it—a great post about how we are being betrayed economically by the Kleptocracy that runs the United States…whenever you think that our system works well, look at these statistics and the trends that Warren cites over the last 30+ years.

Can you imagine an America without a strong middle class? If you can, would it still be America as we know it?

Today, one in five Americans is unemployed, underemployed or just plain out of work. One in nine families can’t make the minimum payment on their credit cards. One in eight mortgages is in default or foreclosure. One in eight Americans is on food stamps. More than 120,000 families are filing for bankruptcy every month. The economic crisis has wiped more than $5 trillion from pensions and savings, has left family balance sheets upside down, and threatens to put ten million homeowners out on the street.

Families have survived the ups and downs of economic booms and busts for a long time, but the fall-behind during the busts has gotten worse while the surge-ahead during the booms has stalled out. In the boom of the 1960s, for example, median family income jumped by 33% (adjusted for inflation). But the boom of the 2000s resulted in an almost-imperceptible 1.6% increase for the typical family. While Wall Street executives and others who owned lots of stock celebrated how good the recovery was for them, middle class families were left empty-handed.

The insanity of sending 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan when 49,000,000 Americans can’t get enough to eat every day…

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

Much to my (and I hope many others’) chagrin and disappointment, President Obama has indicated he will be sending 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan. Prior to the announcement, the Obama administration’s fiscal 2010 budget for the Pentagon, released in May, asked for $65 billion for Afghanistan and $61 billion for Iraq.  According to the Wall Street Journal, the additional 30,000 troops would cost an additional $15-30 Billion a year.  This means that the total war budget—exclusive of weapons development and military operations outside of the war zones—for 2010 will be between $140 and $155 Billion.  The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have already cost the United States taxpayers close to $1 Trillion dollars.

Of course, the insanity of this is staggering on many levels not the least being the most basic one: you can’t eradicate terrorism or the possibility of terrorism no matter how many troops you send over to Iraq and Afghanistan.  Terrorist groups can form at any time in any place if there are people who have the will to action—the Oklahoma Federal Building was destroyed by American terrorists.  If we kill all of the current generation of adults who might commit acts of terrorism (unlikely no matter how much we spend or how many troops we send over) , there are still future generations who can grow up to become terrorists either in Afghanistan and Iraq or other countries where we’re not presently engaged in military action. And, in fact, there are empirical studies that show that by killing many Iraqis and Afghans, we are actually increasing the likelihood of terrorist groups forming and doing violence to United States citizens.

Moreover, the country that has shown the greatest ideological/religious hostility towards the U.S. is Saudi Arabia—but for many reasons (virtually all economic), we don’t even try to wage war against militant Wahabi sect members, despite the majority of the terrorists who caused the tragedies of 9/11 being Saudis and the architects of this attack being Saudis.

And, if as I (and many others) suspect, that the real and most obvious reason for the U.S. military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan has to do with the control of oil and natural gas resources, why is it that, since the war began, the price of oil has actually risen and that oil companies have made record profits? 

But even if the buildup of troops and the war itself actually made sense, there is still the issue of the U.S. economy and the impact of the downturn on our citizens.  How can we or the government (in prior years, I might have been tempted to write ‘OUR’ government, but the government is no longer OF the people, BY the people, or FOR the people—it’s of the corporation, by the corporation, and for the corporation), in good conscience, spend hundreds of billions of dollars a year waging a war when 1 in 6 of our own citizens are either starving or are chronically malnourished?  Is the threat of a bomb being detonated worse than almost 17 million children going to bed hungry every night, not to mention the 50,000,000 Americans who can’t afford proper health care?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service (USDA) reported today that 49 million Americans, including nearly 17 million children, are food insecure. The 2009 report on Household Food Insecurity in the United States paints an alarming picture of the pervasiveness of hunger in our nation. 

This is an increase of 36 percent over the numbers released one year by the USDA, which found that 36.2 million American were at risk of hunger.“It is tragic that so many people in this nation of plenty don’t have access to adequate amounts of nutritious food,” said Vicki Escarra, president and CEO of Feeding America.  “Although these new numbers are staggering, it should be noted that these numbers reflect the state of the nation one year ago, in 2008.  Since then, the economy has significantly weakened, and there are likely many more people struggling with hunger than this report states.

We need to let the politicians (again, not OUR politicians because they don’t work for us—they work for Wall Street, the HMOs, and for the Oil Companies) know that this is ridiculous and unconscionable—the richest country in the world shouldn’t tolerate around 1/6th of its population being chronically malnourished.