Information Landmine

"The Americans keep telling us how successful their system is. Then they remind us not to stray too far from our hotel at night." - An un-named EU trade representative quoted during international trade talks in Denver, Colorado, 1997.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Where Priorities Really Lie

Q. When, according to the actions of the current US government, do serious public safety issues merit official secrecy and the suppression of information?

A. When revealing how bad things really are would harm the commercial interests of big business, of course.

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Monday, October 22, 2007

And EVEN MORE Peak Oil!

Your correspondent has admittedly been on a bit of a Jim Kunstler/peak oil spree lately, but this is simply magnificent writing on an issue that will soon come to dominate 21st century life, economics, politics and society.

And he's also dead on the money in his assessment of Houston, Texas, arguably America's worst city and certainly it's fattest.

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Sieg Howdy!

The latest outrageous right-wing jingoistic hate-mongering campaign to hit the USA has begun, led by the usual suspects (Fox News, Coulter, Hannity, Horowitz, et al.). Happy Islamo-Fascism Awareness Week, readers!

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More Peak Oil

NEWS: Green Party in England & Wales



A newly published global oil supply report to be presented by the Energy Watch Group at the Foreign Press Association in London today will say that peak oil - the point when oil extraction reaches its highest point and then starts to decline - has already been reached. The report also warns that anticipated supply shortages could easily lead to 'disturbing scenes of mass unrest.'

The report claims that world oil production peaked last year, and that production will now start to decline at a rate of several percent per year. (1)

Green Party Principal Speaker Caroline Lucas, author of 'Fuelling a Food Crisis' which examines the dependence of the EU's food supplies on oil, said in response:

"The reality of peak oil has once again forced itself onto the agenda with this report and it is good to see people finally waking up to the issue.

“The peaking of global oil production, which according to the report took place in 2006, is not merely a question of oil prices, but one of food security. Since over 90 per cent of all our food products require oil, the imminent fall in production and consequent hike in prices will have a profound impact on food availability in the developed and the developing world.

“The UK government and the EU have ultimately failed to take the matter seriously, despite the fact that I raised the issue with the European Commission on several occasions. They must now act quickly, both with legislation and significant investment, to promote truly renewable sources of energy if our dependence on oil is to be reduced.”

Green Party Principal Speaker Derek Wall added:

"We live in an oil addicted society, continual dependency on petroleum is the road to catastrophe. Unless we start creating an energy effecient, ecological economy, our reliance on oil will lead to economic recession, ecological catastrophe and more imperialist wars for the black stuff.

"Already oil prices have increased from below 10 dollars a barrel in the 1990s to around 90 dollars, yet only the Green Party has been calling for real action for us to move to a post oil economy.

"We urgently need to radically alter the way in which we source our energy - and how much of it we consume.

"Cutting edge renewable energy technologies such as wind, wave and solar power, are the key to our future. But they are woefully underrated, and consequently underfunded.

"The only right response to this report is to massively invest in the fledgling renewables industry.

"The UK is better placed than anyone else in Europe to utilise these cheap, clean and modern sources of energy.

"Maximising our use of renewable power would not only reduce our carbon emissions, it could also save us from yet more oil wars."


Notes for Editors:



Sunday, October 21, 2007

Your Required Sunday Reading

Here at Information Landmine, we're always happy to find other bloggers out there promoting - and provoking - rational thought and useful debate. And this is certainly one of them, with this post in particular being one of our favourites.

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Saturday, October 20, 2007

That Shock Doctrine Review...

... those theoretically-possible-but-in-practice-unlikely individuals who've been paying that much attention to my posts will have noticed that I'm starting to look a little tardy on my promised Shock Doctrine review. Suffice it to say that I've got a lot on at the moment. I'm also finding it slightly hard going, which is in itself a somewhat damning indictment. Given the subject matter, this is the sort of stuff I'd usually devour. Sadly, I haven't really seen much to divert me from my first impression, which was that she was desperately forcing all the available facts into her slightly rickety framework of "shock therapy".

The basic idea is that, like 1950's shock therapists, free market fundamentalists subscribe to the idea that a sufficient amount of brutalising will leave their subjects, in this case national economies, sufficiently traumatised that they will be re-born as blissfully clean slates upon which a new and improved structure can then be erected. As a motif for dealing with the spread of "free" markets since the 80s, this is actually a pretty promising start, containing as it does a large dollop of existential truth - there does seem to have been a startling amount of violence involved in spreading "economic liberty". Starting with Pinochet and working on out, she chronicles all the usual suspects (Argentina, Russia, South Africa) and goes on into the present day, with particular attention paid to post-Tsunami Sri Lanka and, of course, the corporate feeding trough that is Iraq.

The point of all this is to explode the myth that all these polices were spread by the free choice of those they effected, presumably for the benefit of whichever lunatics there are out there that actually bought that one. The whole project of refuting that idea is a large part of the book's structure, which seems to me a shame. This is partly because it all seems a little pointless: I don't doubt that people exist who believe down to their core that corporate capitalism is everywhere introduced into economies by jolly armies of anticipatory consumers - I'm just not sure that many of them are going to find their way to reading copies of The Shock Doctrine. The more worrying problem, though, is that Klein's slavish adherence to her central thesis pushes her to the equally ludicrous mirror image conclusion that free market capitalism has at all times been forced through from above by shocking populations into submission.

This ends up with her suggesting some pretty silly things. Thatcher, for example, looks like a pretty convincing counter-case: psychotic free-market reforms and privatisation from a democratically elected government. Not a problem: Britain was shocked into a more maleable state, you see, by the violence of the Falklands war: "with a large enough political crisis to rally around, a limited version of shock therapy could be imposed in a democracy" (139-40) . The implicit analogy is to the much more sweeping powers that Bush used to privatise defence and homeland security after 9/11. In that case you can make a much more credible argument for the power shock, but the Thatcher example is pretty weak tea. Getting your supporters drunk on nationalism by beating up a foreign scape-goat and then using the political clout you've gained at home to bash your enemies may be unsavoury, but it's qualitatively different to ramming through your reforms while everyone's too stunned to know what's happening.

This sort of Procrustean approach damages her arguments at the micro-level too. Describing the torture programmes in Argentina, for example, she tells us that prisoners that were willing to betray their comrades "represented the ultimate triumph for their torturers" not because this represented a final 1984 style surrender, but because "they had succumbed to the cutthroat ethos at the heart of laissez-faire capitalism - 'looking out for number one'" (113). Again, this is a ridiculous over-reach for her otherwise quite sensible idea of capitalism introduced through violence - individual torturers, having all presumably read and inwardly digested Capitalism and Freedom, are apparently trying to fashion their victims into the rational economic actors it depicts. I don't know what real torturers do tell themselves to soothe their consciences, but somehow I doubt it's that they are in fact lecturers at the world's most violent business school.

This may all sound like nit-picking, but after the first couple of hundred pages of having Klein's totalising views thrust at you - CAPITALISM IS ALWAYS INTRODUCED THROUGH VIOLENCE, DEMOCRACY NEVER WANTS CAPITALISM - it starts to grate. Will Hutton wrote a great review in which he puts this point far better than I could:

"Nothing good can ever come from globalisation, which is just more capitalism. Democracy, however, is a halcyon world of political and economic co-operation, citizen voice and engagement, with a freely arrived- at assertion of the common interest in which most think along the same lines as, say, Naomi Klein. She and free-market economist Milton Friedman, whom she has in her sights, are mirror images of each other in the absolutist categories in which they think...

...The fact that the neocons were wedded to an economistic and wrong view of democracy does not mean that the left should be automatically against all forms of market and conceive of democracy as a surrogate for socialism.

Rather, democracy is shorthand for a network of painfully constructed institutions: a free press, free unions, an independent legal and judicial system, the rule of law, the capacity to whistleblow, audit trails, transparency of decision taking, political parties, constitutional checks and balances to hold executive government to account, local power and free elections."

And that's really the point - one which I assume every reasonable person already knows. Democracy and markets are both really hard things to make work. To function properly they require all the conventions and institutions that Hutton describes and more. Klein's tends to ignore this sort of nuanced analysis, preferring an approach where she can lay every conceivable sin at the doors of free marketeers, which, as Hutton points out, makes the whole thing seem rather confused. This is particularly apparent in her depiction of the free-market ideologues she criticises, who come across alternately as Machiavellian geniuses - effortlessly twisting the affairs of we lesser mortals to their nefarious ends - and bumbling idiots - unable to understand that their beloved "free society" can never exist outside of their delusions. So long as we understand that these folk are basically evil and - one more time - have nothing to do with democracy, Klein's happy to grind her axe any which way about exactly what sort of comic-book villains they may be.

And this sort of good vs. evil story-telling is probably the saddest bit for me. I remember reading No Logo shortly after the invasion of Iraq, and reading the afterword she'd added post-9/11, in which she railed against just that sort of thinking: "It's an idea we've heard from both sides since September 11, a return of the grand narrative: chosen me, evil empires, master plans and great battles. All are ferociously back in style... Thankfully, anti-corporate and pro-democracy campaigners are engaged in no such fire and brimstone crusades." Reading* The Shock Doctrine, I'm uncertain as to whether that's still true.

* I do emphasize that I've yet to finish it. I'm just stalled at the moment what with everything else, and thought I should try and get this out the way now.

Meet the new boss?

Think things will change substantially for the better if and when Hilary becomes President? Better think again. And then keep on thinking if you still have any doubts about what the priorities will be and who'll be pulling the strings behind the curtain.

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Saturday, October 13, 2007

Sad, but true to life...

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Carter the Unstoppable Sense Machine

Jimmy Carter proves once again why he is the most responsible and statesmanlike former US president of this author's lifetime. Go Mr. Peanut!

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007


On a rare personal note for this blog, your correspondent turns 40 today. In observance of this auspicious (and rather frightening) occasion, you can all have the day off work, school, etc. Tell 'em Steve told you it was okay.


Saturday, October 06, 2007

Courage and Cowardice

It's a shame that, with the exception of the Dixie Chicks and punks like Fat Mike and Jello Biafra that nobody in the mainstream listens to, it seems to have fallen to a previous generation of musicians to tell it like it is about our fascist regime:

One sign of hope, however, is that this stuff actually appeared on CBS and NBC, which wouldn't have happened a few years ago when the Bush regime was in its ascendancy. No doubt, though, it will still be labelled by the usual suspects as "a cowardly attack on America/the troops/the 'Commander-in-Chief'/etc.".

On another note, the great Alexei Sayle once remarked on the bitter irony that mainstream Hollywood's "courageous" stand against the Vietnam war, as evidenced by films like Apocalypse Now, Full Metal Jacket and Platoon, only happened years after the war itself had ended. Information Landmine expects a similar avalanche of films illustrating the pointless madness of the Iraq misadventure to begin appearing circa 2013. Stock up on the popcorn in a few years' time.

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