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Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth
Updated: 2 hours 44 min ago

Precarious work and contemporary capitalism

Wed, 04/04/2018 - 17:25

via Monthly Review

by Jonathan White

There is understandably a lot of public discussion around the issue of what’s increasingly called precarious work. For some, this is evidence of the emergence of something qualitatively new in our economy. A fundamental shift has happened, the argument goes, toward a ‘gig economy’ in which a whole set of assumptions about the world of work need to be changed. Some, like Guy Standing, have pushed this further to argue that a new class is emerging out of the ruins of the post-war consensus economy: a ‘precariat’ composed of downwardly mobile professionals, migrant workers and residual ‘left- behind’ communities. This precariat is a new dangerous class who if they mobilise properly, can abolish themselves by winning the argument with the established classes for ‘basic income’.1

There are some major problems with this analysis. Let’s take for example the specificity of the precariat as a new class. Guy Standing argues that the precariat is ‘not part of the ‘working class’ or the ‘proletariat’. The latter terms suggest a society consisting mostly of workers in long-term, stable, fixed- hour jobs with established routes of advancement, subject to unionisation and collective agreements, with job titles their fathers and mothers would have understood, facing local employers whose names and features they were familiar with.’2

This is a caricature that does extreme violence to the actual historical development of the real working class. A properly historical analysis of the world of work in the history of capitalism would find that much of the precarious work discovered by current sociologists has been present from the inception of this particular mode of production. The female outworkers who finished cotton goods in the industrial revolution, the waves of agricultural workers who migrated into the cities during the 19th century, the dockers and matchwomen who unionised in the 1880s, all experienced extreme precariousness as part of their working-class lives. From this perspective, what needs to be explained is the relative lack of precariousness that characterised the world of work in the advanced capitalist countries of the second half of the twentieth century, a period that looks increasingly anomalous and exceptional with the passage of time.

The concept of the precariat operating in the gig economy doesn’t particularly help us today either. While it’s productive to identify insecurity and precariousness as a common experience in the world of work, the idea that this is a new class forming within a new type of economy obscures more than it reveals.

The experience of migrant workers travelling huge distances to work in informal economies is different from that of workers in creative industries or public service professionals who find themselves unable to reproduce the lives their parents enjoyed. The ultimate forces driving the trajectories of these people and giving them a shared sense of exclusion and precariousness might have a common root, but their whole social experience is structured so differently that it doesn’t help to flatten this out by making them members of a new class, crudely counter-posed to anyone in a relatively secure job drawing a salary.

Similarly, talk of a gig economy ignores the fact that the experience of most working adults in Britain is not structured by platform working, while it totally obscures the fact that the fastest growing section of the global working class is arguably working in forms of mass production that are supposed to have been historically transcended.

Yet the issue of precariousness should not be ignored. It has emerged because it does describe an important aspect of reality. We may need a better set of concepts for understanding this aspect of reality but it is undeniable that something is happening to workers, both in advanced capitalist countries and in the global South, something that is partially captured by the idea of that work has become more precarious and that employers treat workers more casually. As a labour movement, we need to understand what is happening because these workers need to be organised and need to build collective power. In Britain, organising precarious workers has become an issue for every union. Globally, the unorganised working class is huge and much of it is employed in sectors and working patterns that are understood to be ‘hard to organise’.

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Martin Luther King Jr Was a Radical. We Must Not Sterilize His Legacy

Wed, 04/04/2018 - 17:21

via Common Dreams

by Cornel West

The major threat of Martin Luther King Jr to us is a spiritual and moral one. King’s courageous and compassionate example shatters the dominant neoliberal soul-craft of smartness, money and bombs. His grand fight against poverty, militarism, materialism and racism undercuts the superficial lip service and pretentious posturing of so-called progressives as well as the candid contempt and proud prejudices of genuine reactionaries. King was neither perfect nor pure in his prophetic witness – but he was the real thing in sharp contrast to the market-driven semblances and simulacra of our day.

In this brief celebratory moment of King’s life and death we should be highly suspicious of those who sing his praises yet refuse to pay the cost of embodying King’s strong indictment of the US empire, capitalism and racism in their own lives.

We now expect the depressing spectacle every January of King’s “fans” giving us the sanitized versions of his life. We now come to the 50th anniversary of his assassination, and we once again are met with sterilized versions of his legacy. A radical man deeply hated and held in contempt is recast as if he was a universally loved moderate.

These neoliberal revisionists thrive on the spectacle of their smartness and the visibility of their mainstream status – yet rarely, if ever, have they said a mumbling word about what would have concerned King, such as US drone strikes, house raids, and torture sites, or raised their voices about escalating inequality, poverty or Wall Street domination under neoliberal administrations – be the president white or black.

The police killing of Stephon Clark in Sacramento may stir them but the imperial massacres in Yemen, Libya or Gaza leave them cold. Why? Because so many of King’s “fans” are afraid. Yet one of King’s favorite sayings was “I would rather be dead than afraid.” Why are they afraid? Because they fear for their careers in and acceptance by the neoliberal establishment. Yet King said angrily: “What you’re saying may get you a foundation grant, but it won’t get you into the Kingdom of Truth.”

The neoliberal soul craft of our day shuns integrity, honesty and courage, and rewards venality, hypocrisy and cowardice. To be successful is to forge a non-threatening image, sustain one’s brand, expand one’s pecuniary network – and maintain a distance from critiques of Wall Street, neoliberal leaders and especially the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands and peoples.

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Review: Wobblies of the World: A History of Globetrotting Troublemakers

Wed, 04/04/2018 - 14:29

via Labor Notes

by Eric Dirnbach

Despite the “World” in its name, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) has largely been viewed as an American or North American union. Indeed, the proposed name “Industrial Workers of America” was considered and rejected at its first convention.

Also, during its early years the union achieved a presence in 17 countries on every continent. That’s the topic of a fantastic new book, Wobblies of the World: A Global History of the IWW, which editors Peter Cole, David Struthers, and Kenyon Zimmer call the first global history of the union.

This book places the Wobblies—the famous nickname for IWW members—amid a web of radical workers, unions, and movements around the world. What may be most interesting to 21st century labor activists are the fundamental issues it raises about labor movement structure and operation, centralization, autonomy, worker militancy, and politics.


First, a quick review of the union’s better-known history: The IWW was founded in 1905 as a revolutionary union in opposition to the mainstream union practices of the American Federation of Labor. Open to all workers regardless of race, ethnicity, nationality, or gender, it was part of a global upsurge of syndicalism—a major tendency on the global left in the years before the Russian Revolution and the growth of authoritarian Communism.

Syndicalism prioritizes militant direct action by workers to win immediate gains on the shop floor. This organizing, the theory goes, would lead ultimately to general strikes where workers will seize control of industry and usher in a post-capitalist society. Indeed, a famous IWW song mocks the notion that workers should be content with the famous line, “You’ll get pie in the sky when you die.” The Wobblies wanted their pie now—and actually, they wanted the whole bakery.

The IWW grew dramatically over its first 15 years, reaching 100,000 members before suffering severe repression by the U.S. government during World War I. The union survived and still exists to this day, though it never recaptured its former glory.

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A radical proposal to keep your personal data safe

Wed, 04/04/2018 - 12:44

via The Guardian

by Richard Stallman

Journalists have been asking me whether the revulsion against the abuse of Facebook data could be a turning point for the campaign to recover privacy. That could happen, if the public makes its campaign broader and deeper.

Broader, meaning extending to all surveillance systems, not just Facebook. Deeper, meaning to advance from regulating the use of data to regulating the accumulation of data. Because surveillance is so pervasive, restoring privacy is necessarily a big change, and requires powerful measures.

The surveillance imposed on us today far exceeds that of the Soviet Union. For freedom and democracy’s sake, we need to eliminate most of it. There are so many ways to use data to hurt people that the only safe database is the one that was never collected. Thus, instead of the EU’s approach of mainly regulating how personal data may be used (in its General Data Protection Regulation or GDPR), I propose a law to stop systems from collecting personal data.

The robust way to do that, the way that can’t be set aside at the whim of a government, is to require systems to be built so as not to collect data about a person. The basic principle is that a system must be designed not to collect certain data, if its basic function can be carried out without that data.

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Canada’s climate gap twice as big as claimed – 59 million tonne carbon snafu

Wed, 04/04/2018 - 05:08

via National Observer

By Barry Saxifrage

Canada’s proposed climate plan doesn’t even get halfway to its goal because of problems buying offsets from the U.S.. In fact, the gap between proposed policy and Canada’s Paris commitment is twice as big as advertised.

The Trudeau government says its proposed climate policies will get Canada to within 66 million tonnes of our 2030 climate target. That’s already a big gap, but the federal accounting also assumes we can subtract a huge chunk of Canada’s emissions and pay to add them to the U.S. ledger through carbon credits — something the Americans haven’t agreed to do.

Canada obviously can’t assign our emissions to an unwilling nation. The Paris Accord is clear on this. Without this unapproved transfer of our emissions to the United States, Canada’s climate gap nearly doubles.

If the U.S. does pull out of the Paris agreement, as President Trump has vowed, then the offsets would clearly not be valid.

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Chelsea Manning: ‘The objective is to do something’

Wed, 04/04/2018 - 02:53

via John Hopkins University

By Saralyn Cruickshank

Prominent Black Lives Matter activist DeRay Mckesson wasted no time before addressing the controversy surrounding Chelsea Manning during her visit to Johns Hopkins University on Tuesday night.

“There are lot of people who feel strongly about you—and that’s an understatement,” said Mckesson, who moderated the talk as part of the Foreign Affairs Symposium. “They either feel that you’re a hero, or a traitor. How do you think about that?”

Manning wasted no time responding.

“I don’t. I stick to being myself because that’s what I’m good at,” she said. “Words like hero, or criminal, or traitor—they just feel like words someone else uses.”

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The Movements of Movements – A Review

Sat, 03/31/2018 - 15:47

By Rabin Chakraborty
March 16th, 2018

The book titled – “The Movements of Movements -Part-1: What makes us move?” is about worldwide people’s movement as well as of the people who are involved in those movements. It is a compilation of essays, edited by Sri Jai Sen, and written by people who are either actively involved in the movements or are close associates of the movements.

In his excellent introductory note, the editor gives a broad outline of the book by stating that – “This book is about people in movement; it is about women and men who feel moved to do something about the world around them and about the social and political movements for justice and liberation that they form.

…In a way, it is more than this. It is an attempt to present (and to see and to hear and to feel) the extraordinary drama of the flow of social movement taking place across the world in our times, that we are so privileged to be a part of or to be witness to, perhaps more than ever before in history”.

The editor invites readers “to consider this book as a space where movements themselves are speaking to each other, and where they can perhaps grow through their interactions, learning from their exchanges. Through this we all—including those of us in movement—can perhaps move towards a fuller understanding of the deeper meanings of movement and of their potentials and limitations, individually and collectively, and of the worlds of movement around us”.

Movements are taking place everywhere -in Asia, in Africa, in North America, in South America, in Europe, in Australia. There is surge of movements at the moment. In this connection the editor quotes the famous historian Eric Hobsbawm as – “our world today could well be said to be going through an Age of Movement, including birthing new movement that is increasingly independent of traditional social and political institutions (such as unions and political parties) and/or that is forging new institutions, and that is daily taking new shapes and struggling to rebuild the world in new ways”.

People revolt and they revolt for varied reasons. Revolts and movements are happening across the globe of refugees and migrants, impelled by war, economic devastation, and now also the impacts of climate change; movements among indigenous peoples; movements among peoples of varied sexualities towards gaining and defending their freedoms; movements challenging the arrogance and criminality of ‘development’ and of neoliberalism; movements challenging authoritarian­ism and the increasingly authoritarian and profoundly anti-democratic tendencies in supposedly democratic societies under neoliberalism; movements against war; movements among structurally oppressed peoples such as the Dalits of South; movements of faith, especially among peoples who believe that values integral to their beliefs are being corrupted and/or overwhelmed; and continuing movements among women fighting for equality, justice, and respect. The list is long.

A whole set of new movements world saw during the last decade. They include the movements that toppled dictatorial regimes in Tunisia and then Egypt (2011); the Occupy movement in North America and then across Europe (2011); the indignados movement in Spain (2011); the massive rebellion against EU-imposed austerity programmes in Greece and the anti-corruption movement in India (both also in 2011); the massive students’ protest against fee hikes in Quebec, Canada (2012); the growing assertion by indigenous peoples across Turtle Island (‘North America’) (2012), including the Defenders of the Land and the Idle No More movements; democratisation movements across Africa; movements that have rocked Turkey, Brazil, and Romania (2013) and Hong Kong (2014). All this, aside from the countless continuing, sustained, even if less publicised move­ments all over the world by social movements, student organisations, trade unions, and political formations, and locally among ordinary peoples everywhere.

We may not be fully aware of the details of these movements. The book like this opens up the window to hitherto unknown movements with its intricacies and about the people connected to them. There are altogether 26 pieces of essays including the ‘Introduction’ and the ‘Afterword’. The essays are divided in three Sections. The first section titled as ‘Invocations’ contains a poem by Shailja Patel and the introduction – ‘The Movements of movements: An Introduction and an Exploration’ by the editor.

The second section titled as ‘Movementscapes’ contains 7 essays giving the sketches of certain key features of the landscape of contemporary movement in the world from 1968 till about 2010 written by people belonging to different movements from various parts of the world. Some of them are from indigenous people and some from the settlers. The intention is to get fundamentally —and structurally—different views of the landscape they inhabit and see. It is the same world but seen through different eyes and different experiences.

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An interview with Richard Gilman-Opalsky co-editor of Against Capital in the Twenty-First Century

Wed, 03/28/2018 - 22:17

via Temple University Press

Against Capital in the Twenty-First Century addresses present impasses in imagining a world ungoverned by capital, a world of different possibilities, both desirable and practical. It is a collection of rival visions and heterodox analysis that can be read as an alternative to the whole liberal litany of administered economies, tax policy recommendations, and half-measures. The history of government failures to reverse the most dangerous capitalist tendencies is as old as capitalism itself. We aim to think beyond those failures and dangers. Media outlets interested in a critique of the Left from the farther Left (as opposed to from the Right), should get in touch for media events. 

We chatted with co-editor Richard Gilman-Opalsky about his book.

What was the impetus that prompted you and John to compile this book? You describe it as a “contrary accompaniment” to Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century.
There were two general impetuses for this book. First, we were (and remain) dumbfounded by a stunning lack of imagination on so much of the Left, which often seems to have accepted a position of acquiescence, especially on the question of capitalism. That positon is perhaps best exemplified in Thomas Piketty’s 2014 book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Piketty shows that capitalism has generated, does generate, and will continue to generate unacceptable inequality. And yet, he strangely concludes that we must accept that there are no alternatives beyond the same old litany of failed tax initiatives aimed to re-regulate a near-totally liberated capital (Piketty’s refurbished brand of this is the global tax on capital). But we do not accept that we have to accept the unacceptable in perpetuity. So, we wanted a “contrary accompaniment” to Piketty’s book. Since one did not already exist, we created it.

Second, John [Asimakopoulos, co-editor] and I share an interdisciplinary commitment to thinking against sectarian currents which have long divided the radical milieus of Marxism, anarchism, critical social theory, feminism, and other currents. So, we wanted our volume to embody and reflect some of the real diversity of thought that is out there, which we consider necessary to the task of working against capital in the twenty-first century.

What were your criteria in selecting the contributors/contributions for the volume? They seem to both work in concert and create a conversation about critical thinking on capital(ism), anticapitalism, and inequality.
We used three basic criteria in compiling the volume: First, we wanted a diverse range of theorists, activists, and artists who offered a deep—if not total—critique of capitalism. Second, we sought contributions that were not interested in any resuscitation of the top-down politics of Leftist statism, which we both feel (and argue in our introduction) should be left buried in the graveyards of the twentieth century. Third, we wanted to include some of the rich diversity mentioned above, so in addition to contributors from many academic disciplines and practices, we also took care to include contributions from Black radical and feminist writers. Contributions by Frantz Fanon, Raya Dunayevskaya, Silvia Federici, Selma James, CLR James, Alicia Garza, KRS One, Isabelle Stengers, Marina Sitrin, and Angela Mitropoulos are part of that diversity.

Readers will notice that the book is full of philosophical and political disagreement too. We don’t claim to agree with everything in the book ourselves. Our overarching criterion was that everything in this volume should be a critical part of any conversation about how to confront and abolish a world organized by the logic of capital, about how we can bring an end to the reign of a world governed by money. If you’re interested in that conversation, we want this book to participate in it.

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Vulnerability and extinction risk of migratory species from different regions and ecosystems worldwide

Wed, 03/28/2018 - 20:12

via Science Daily

Forty million miles of major roads crisscross the Earth’s continents — enough to circle the planet 1,600 times. For humans, these thoroughfares are a boon, enabling them to move with ease from place to place. But for migrating animals who are also hemmed in by dams, rivers, shipping lanes, urban development and agriculture, they create another barrier.

As human development and activities continue to expand, scientists have grown increasingly concerned about such migrators, especially those that trek long distances. These animal travelers cover hundreds to thousands of kilometers annually, yet very little is known about how their movements are faring across the globe.

To expand the scientific knowledge base, a team of UC Santa Barbara scientists set out to estimate the vulnerability and extinction risk of migratory birds, mammals and fishes from different regions and ecosystems around the world. They did so using the existing literature and information from two large databases: the Living Planet Index and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. The group’s analysis now appears in a special edition of Philosophical Transactions B titled “Collective Movement Ecology.”

“As expected, we found that the vulnerability of migratory animals varied depending on the regional, environmental, behavioral and taxonomic context of the species,” explained lead author Molly Hardesty-Moore, a graduate student in UCSB’s Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology. “Our results offer both an opportunity and a roadmap for mounting strategic interventions if we want to preserve this ecologically and economically important phenomenon.”

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Latin American Indigenous People Fight New Plunder of Their Resources

Wed, 03/28/2018 - 18:16

via Toward Freedom

by Fabiana Frayssinet

(IPS) – Indigenous communities in Latin America, who have suffered the plunder of their natural resources since colonial times, are reliving that phenomenon again as mega infrastructure are jeopardising their habitat and their very survival.

On the island of Assunção in Northeast Brazil, the village of the Truká indigenous people was split in two when the flow of the São Francisco River was diverted.

“The Truká people have always been from this region. We are an ancient people in this territory. We have always lived on the riverbank fishing, hunting, planting crops. We did not need a canal,” lamented Claudia Truká, leader of the village in the municipality of Cabrobó, in the state of Pernambuco.

The transfer, officially called the São Francisco River Integration Project, seeks to capture the river’s water through 713 km of canals, aqueducts, reservoirs, tunnels and pumping systems.

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Destruction of nature as dangerous as climate change, scientists warn

Wed, 03/28/2018 - 18:11

via The Guardian

Human destruction of nature is rapidly eroding the world’s capacity to provide food, water and security to billions of people, according to the most comprehensive biodiversity study in more than a decade.

Such is the rate of decline that the risks posed by biodiversity loss should be considered on the same scale as those of climate change, noted the authors of the UN-backed report, which was released in Medellin, Colombia on Friday.

Among the standout findings are that exploitable fisheries in the world’s most populous region – the Asia-Pacific – are on course to decline to zero by 2048; that freshwater availability in the Americas has halved since the 1950s and that 42% of land species in Europe have declined in the past decade.

Underscoring the grim trends, this report was released in the week that the decimation of French bird populations was revealed, as well as the death of the last male northern white rhinoceros, leaving the species only two females from extinction.

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Cambridge Analytica style tactics are already being used by anti-choice groups in Ireland

Wed, 03/28/2018 - 04:47


by Andrew N Flood

We’ve seen a number of Irish journalists wondering if Cambridge Analytica style tactics could be part of repeal referendum. In fact they already are and have been for over a year – we are going to demonstrate this in what follows.

But first its useful to understand that Cambridge Analytica is not just a for profit company but also an ideological tool for the hard right and far right. It’s owned by the billionaire Mercer family who also funded the far-right site Breitbart. Journalists already understand that Robert Murdoch buys newspapers for influence over elections as much as to make profit out of them. He’s credited with making sure the Tories got elected in the UK and playing a major role in elections elsewhere through running scare stories on election Day. Cambridge Analytica and similar are the same sort of ‘duel investment’ but in the social media world.

To return to Ireland. March 8th 2017 saw #Strike4Repeal take place in Dublin, 1000s of people took part in a day of civil disobedience demanding a referendum to Repeal the 8th amendment. Very quickly after the day a professionally made video where ambush interviews were conducted on mostly young people to make them look clueless appeared all over Irish facebook – a lot of money was spent pushing it. What do we mean by ‘ambush’, well here’s how two people interviewed described the experience

A: “As a person who had a microphone shoved near their group I can testify that this video is preposterous. My friend was asked a question (not shown) and then her answer was cut short. It turns out that the only people not willing to participate in sensible debate are the video makers. I didn’t sign a release form for my image to be put out, nor did my friends or anyone else in the video. Unethical and ludicrous”

B: “I saw a group of young protestors being interrogated on camera by the alt-right – I got blindsided. At first the questions seemed normal, then escalated into ‘should a woman abort a child if she doesn’t like its gender?’ rapid fire queries”

A crew of two posh sounding young English men came to Dublin to shoot this ambush video but they were not working alone. They clearly had local anti-choice contacts but they revealed on Twitter they were funded from North America. Shortly after the video was circulated the crew became officially part of Canadian alt-right Youtube channel called the Rebel – its funded by an oil industry billionaire. Perhaps the Rebel spent 100,000 promoting this video online, perhaps the funding was from elsewhere in America, we don’t know and there is no way of finding out unless Facebook reveals this.

This is the video – It appeared on ‘FlipsideIreland’ a Facebook page that was was set up for this purpose and has almost no other content. This is a ‘dark ad’ tactic familiar from the Cambridge Analytica coverage of the sort of method that was used in the Kenyan election. The Strike4Repeal ambush video has a million views, 100,000 euro minimum in paid-for reach. Who paid?

We do know a little bit about how that reach was obtained. We tracked the ad and we saw that they were paying to reach people & friends of people who followed the National Ploughing Championship page. Some 87,000 people in rural Ireland follow that page so its probably quite an effective audience to target. We’d take that as a demonstration that ad placement was advised by local anti-choice campaigners. The National Ploughing Championship page is a great way of reaching rural Ireland but not something a Canadian or Brit would know about

Facebook could tell journalists who paid – and they should ask. Save 8 should certainly be asked which of their campaigners was advising this group even before the campaign was even set up.

We said the video crew moved on to work for The Rebel – they were in fact the crew for hate preacher Tommy Robinson. After the alt-right Finsbury park van attack in 2017 in which one person was killed and 8 injured the then UK counter-terrorism police chief said said there was “no doubt” that far-right material posted online by Tommy Robinson drove Osborne to target Muslims. In fact the Srike4Repeal ambush video crew fell out with the Rebel in the rows that swept that Youtube station after coverage of the far-right rally in Charlottesville last August. There was another far right vehicle attack there which killed one women and wounded many. None of this sounds very ‘pro-life’ does it but it’s going to get worse as we dig deeper.

As journalists should already be aware there are deep links between the anti-choice movement in Ireland and the far right here and elsewhere. Infamous British far-right personality Nick Griffin even tweeted in support of the Save 8 rally falsely claiming “Massive #pro-life rally in #Dublin 100,000 (out of total population of only 4.8 million) marched to defend the 8th Amendment & the unborn children of #Ireland who #GeorgeSoros & the liberal elite want to” blah blah blah.

But here is a video of another Irish based anti-choice campaigner welcoming the Brevik murders back in 2011 … He was photographed on the 2012 Rally for Life

Fast forward to the last couple of weeks and we have an alt-right student distributing placards with the (obscure) fascist BUF logo on them on the Dublin International Women’s Day march. A far-right page publishes a video with these logos at about 2am and then next morning anti-choice Save 8 spokesperson McGuirk finds the video online & tweets it out. He’s immediately told it’s a far right smear but refuses to delete or correct his initial tweet suggesting pro-choice people were marching with fascist signs.

This isn’t the first such video McGurk discovers, there were two more, one targetting a sex worker, the other an extract from a young black migrant women ‘on a rant’ on the day the terrible news about ‘Migrant X’ emerged.

We suspect these videos will appear again in the last week of the campaign but this time with a massive paid reach pushing them out from some obscure new page that no one has a clue who is funding – journalists need to consider how they will cover this.
Back to Cambridge Analytica – the Save 8 campaign has already admitted a connection through a company called Kanto. From a piece published in The Times (Ireland edition) “Mr Borwick has also worked with Cambridge Analytica, a data-mining company owned by Robert Mercer, a reclusive right-wing billionaire who bankrolled the Trump campaign and several “alt-right” operations including Breitbart News”

If you watched last night’s C4 expose you’ll have seen Cambridge Analytica CEO saying “we’re used to operating through different vehicles, in the shadows, and I look forward to building a very long-term and secretive relationship with you.” Another staff member told the undercover team “if we are working then we can set up fake IDs and websites, we can be students doing research projects attached to a university, we can be tourists, there’s so many options we can look at.”

So far only The Times (Irish edition) has made any effort to cover the dirty tricks that have already emerged. Even pro-choice journalists on the Irish papers seems far more motivated to write opinion pieces on campaign messaging than to expose this. Which is what happened with both Trump & Brexit – mainstream media mostly ignored the available evidence of a vast dark ads campaign, allowing these ads to do their work without a cost to those behind them.

Lets end with a key point from the Channel 4 undercover video of Cambridge Analytica where they explain. “we just put information into the bloodstream of the internet.. & then watch it grow, give it a little push every now and again… like a remote control. It has to happen without anyone thinking, ‘that’s propaganda’, because .. the next question is, ‘who’s put that out?'”

The next question as they say is indeed “who put that out”?

In the Ruins of the Present

Sat, 03/24/2018 - 04:17

via Tricontinental

In the Ruins of the Present traces the challenges posed by globalization and what these challenges produce for our society. The first attempt to address the problems of globalization was neo-liberalism. It failed. Next came cruel populism, which expresses itself in narrow, hateful terms. It will also fail. The Left is weak – decomposed by globalization. The need of the hour is for the Left to recompose itself, to become a vital force for a fragile humanity.

US President Donald Trump threatens to annihilate
North Korea, Iran and Venezuela. This is the new Axis
of Evil, a concept his predecessor George W. Bush
used in 2002 but that then did not include Venezuela.
It included Iraq, which the United States bombed
in 2003 as part of its illegal invasion of the country.
Since then, the US has also destroyed Libya and other
countries that include Haiti, now substantially under
US and UN occupation. Like a wounded dragon,
the United States whips its tail across the planet
and breathes fire on people – destroying countries,
vanquishing its enemies. Its wounds are not fatal, but
strategic. The United States still possesses the most powerful military in the world and is capable of
destroying any country by aerial bombardment
and by the use of weapons of mass destruction.
But it uses this power in ways that do not always
benefit its ambitions. Because the United States
is the most powerful country in the world does
not make it godlike; it has its own errors, which
are to be carefully tracked by those who favour
humanity over submission.

There is iron in the soul of imperialism. It uses
its immense military power against human beings
and then – conveniently – forgets the human cost
of suffering that follows. There has never been any
accountability for the use of nuclear weapons on
Japan in 1945 nor for the hideous bombardment of
Korea in the 1950s nor the massive bombardment
of Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s nor indeed the
endless war on Afghanistan and the destruction
of Iraq and Libya. The iron is so lodged in the soul
that there is barely any concern when the United
States drops a massive bomb on Afghanistan. The
local authorities – pushed by the United States
and the Afghan government – declined to allow
journalists into the site on the grounds of security.
When the people around the bombsite spoke,
their words were chilling. ‘The earth felt like a
boat in a storm’, said Mohammed Shahzad. ‘It felt
like heaven was falling’. Achin’s mayor – Naveed
Shinwari – reflected, ‘There is no doubt that
ISIS was brutal, and that they have committed
atrocities against our people. But I don’t see why
the bomb was dropped. It terrorised our people.
My relatives thought the end of the world had

This feels like the era of annihilation, when the
world seems poised at the brink of capitalist-
induced planetary climate chaos and of nuclear

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‘Subvertising’ hackers are using street ads to protest

Sat, 03/24/2018 - 04:06

via CNN

Commuters in London were recently given a glimpse of Harry Potter as he had never been seen before.

Movie posters in bus stops across the capital showed the boy wizard with his familiar wand and John Lennon spectacles. But this Harry Potter was black, and so were his co-stars. The tag line read: “If you’re surprised, it means you don’t see enough black actors in major roles.” The vision came courtesy of Legally Black, a group of students aiming to highlight the lack of black representation in popular culture. The posters were covertly installed by activists wearing high-vis jackets to pass as workers, using utility keys to access the advertising panels. Read more

Ferlinghetti speaks out at 99, his voice as vital as ever

Fri, 03/23/2018 - 03:45

via San Francisco Chronicle

By John McMurtrie

Lawrence Ferlinghetti co-founded City Lights 65 years ago, in 1953.

“I’m there in spirit all the time,” he says of the beloved, world-famous bookstore on Columbus Avenue in North Beach.

How about in reality? How often is he at the shop?

“As a poet,” he says with a laugh, “I don’t deal in reality.”

Yes, Ferlinghetti has scaled back his involvement with City Lights, where he shares an office with former City Lights Publishers editor Nancy Peters, co-owner of the store. But the celebrated bookseller, publisher and former San Francisco poet laureate nevertheless maintains an active lifestyle — and life of the mind — that anyone far younger would envy.

Not bad for someone who, on Saturday, March 24, will turn 99.

On a recent rainy afternoon, Ferlinghetti warmly welcomed an interviewer at his second-floor apartment on a country-quiet street in North Beach. He was heading out of town the following day for a two-week stay with friends in Santa Cruz.

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Thinking Clearly about the White Working Class

Fri, 03/23/2018 - 02:40

via Monthly Review

by Michael D. Yates

David Gilbert, Looking at the U.S. White Working Class Historically (Montreal: Kersplebedeb, 2017), 97 pages, $10.00, paperback.

David Gilbert is a worthy heir to Antonio Gramsci. Like the Sardinian radical, he has kept abreast, from a prison cell, of world events and written about them with considerable clarity. He has been an activist among his fellow prisoners and has maintained a lively correspondence with militants beyond the walls. In this timely book, a new edition of his 1984 volume Looking at the White Working Class Historically, Gilbert addresses a subject that could not be more relevant—the white working class in the United States. Conventional wisdom has it that white workers propelled Donald Trump into the Oval Office, and liberals and even some leftists seem to think that the only hope for a resurrection of progressive politics is to bring white workers back into the fold of the Democratic Party. What has been missing from these accounts is a historical perspective, one that looks at things from the standpoint of material reality.

Gilbert sets the stage for his analysis in the preface to the 1984 edition, reprinted in the new volume. Obviously, the phrase “white working class” indicates that the workers in question are part of the working class, and, as such, of a much larger class worldwide, a mass of potential agents for the overthrow of the capitalism that oppresses them. However, they are also “white,” and, given the racist history of the United States, part of an oppressor nation that has subjugated, tortured, and murdered black, indigenous, and other nonwhite people for centuries. Gilbert states forcefully that “Historically, we must admit that the identity with the oppressor nation has been primary” (1). There have been exceptions, mainly in interracial efforts to improve wages and conditions in the workplace. Unfortunately, some scholars, such as Adolph Reed Jr., in an effort to deny that race remains a factor that cannot be subsumed by class, sometimes overstate the class solidarity of black and white workers.1 We could go back to the eighteenth century and note, as have historians Marcus Rediker and Peter Linebaugh, that there were numerous multiracial uprisings in North America, the Caribbean, and the United Kingdom (particularly London).2 However, the Irish and other ethnic groups who allied themselves with free blacks and slaves, soon enough became “white” as they were assimilated into the dominant white culture, and were often satisfied with the small blandishments given them by merchants and capitalists.

Gilbert goes on to delineate the responses of white leftists to this reality. Some have simply failed to address white racism. (Once, I met some members of a left-wing party who had taken employment in a Pennsylvania coal mine, presumably to help radicalize the miners. Given the blatant racism in the area, I asked them if they had ever confronted, in a comradely manner, any racist remark made by a fellow miner. They said, oh no, we could not do that—and had no response when I wondered how racism could ever be combated if no one made an issue of it, even in a union setting.)

Other white radicals have recognized the leading role played by black radicals in the labor and national liberation movements and stood in solidarity with these, but, by the same token, they have too often “fallen into an elitist or perhaps defeatist view that dismisses the possibility of organizing significant numbers of white people, particularly working-class whites” (2).

From these initial remarks, further developed in the book’s introduction, Gilbert launches into his own analysis of the white working class. He begins with a brief examination of the remarkable rise of Donald Trump to president of the United States. Here too, history is his focus. Besides noting that most voters with annual income below $30,000, a group that is disproportionately nonwhite, cast ballots against Trump, while poorer whites voted for Trump, he points to the racist, sexist, and imperialist history of the United States as deciding underlying factors in the rise of Trump. All of this is true, though he misses the votes of the petit and rich bourgeoisie as key to Trump’s victory. Class was important, too.

Here and throughout the book, Gilbert stresses the power and interrelation of imperialism, racism, and patriarchy in shaping both history and consciousness, pointing to the effects of systemic crisis in determining historical events: “A stable imperialism prefers to rule by keeping the population passive, with large sectors at home placated by relative prosperity. But when the system is in crisis, those running the economy often resort to diverting anger by scapegoating the racial ‘other.’ The sectors of the population who buy into that get the ‘satisfaction’ of stomping on their ‘inferiors,’ which is a lot easier than confronting the mega-powerful ruling class” (11).

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Noam Chomsky on the Populist Groundswell, U.S. Elections, the Future of Humanity, and More

Fri, 03/23/2018 - 02:35

via Institute for New Economic Thinking

By Lynn Parramore

Lynn Parramore: You’ve been looking at politics and international relations for quite a long time. Over the decades, what are the continuities in these areas that stand out in your view?

Noam Chomsky: Well the continuities are the message of the Athenians to Melos: “the powerful do what they wish and the weak suffer what they must” [from Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War”]. It’s often disguised in humanitarian terms. The modalities and the context change. The situations change but the message stays the same.

LP: What do you see as the most significant changes?

NC: There are some steps towards imposing constraints and limits on state violence. For the most part, they come from inside. So for example, if you look at the United States and the kinds of actions that John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson could carry out in Vietnam, they were possible because of almost complete lack of public attention.

I don’t know if you know, but as late as 1966 in Boston we could barely have an anti-war action because it would be violently broken up with the support of the press and so on. By then, South Vietnam had been practically destroyed. The war had expanded to other areas of Indochina. The Reagan administration, at the very beginning, tried to duplicate what Kennedy had done in 1961 with regard to Central America. So they had a white paper more or less modeled on Kennedy’s white paper that said the Communists are taking over. It was the usual steps, the propaganda, but it collapsed quickly. In the case of the Kennedy white paper, it took years before it was exposed as mostly fraudulent, but the Wall Street Journal, of all places, exposed the Reagan white paper in six months. There were protests by church groups and popular organizations and they had to kind of back off. What happened was bad enough but it was nothing like Indochina.

Iraq was the first time in the history of imperialism that there were massive protests before the war was even officially launched. It’s claimed by people that it failed, but I don’t think so. I mean, they never began to do the kinds of things that they could have done. There were no B-52 raids on heavily populated areas or chemical warfare of the kind they did in Indochina. By and large the constraints come from inside, and they understood that. By the time you got to the first Bush administration, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, they came out with a national defense policy and strategic policy. What they basically said is that we’re going to have wars against what they called much weaker enemies and these have to be carried out quickly and decisively or else there will be embarrassment—a way of saying that popular reaction is going to set in. And that’s the way it’s been. It’s not pretty, but it’s some kind of constraint.

There are increasingly conditions in international law, like the Rome Treaty [the 1957 treaty that established the European Economic Community] and so on, but great powers just ignore them if they can get away with it, and getting away with it means ignoring the constraints of other states, which, in the case of, say, the U.S., don’t amount to much. Or internal constraints from changes inside the society, which have put in conditions of some significance, I think.

It’s almost unimaginable now that the U.S. could carry out the kind of war it did in Indochina, which is something recognized by elite opinion. A typical example is Mark Bowden’s op-ed in the New York Times the other day about [Walter] Cronkite and how he changed everything. Well, what did Cronkite say? He said, it doesn’t look as if we’re going to win. That’s the criticism of the war. That’s the way it was perceived at the time, and that’s the way it’s still perceived by intellectual elites. But if you look at public opinion—which doesn’t really get investigated much so it’s not too clear what it means, but it’s interesting—the Chicago Council on Global Affairs was running polls on all sorts of issues in the 70s and 80s, and when the Vietnam War ended in 1975, about 70 percent of the population described the war as fundamentally wrong and immoral, not a mistake. That stayed pretty steady for several years until they stop asking the question. The director of the study, John Rielly, interpreted that as meaning too many American were being killed. Maybe. There’s another possible interpretation of “fundamentally wrong and immoral,” which is that the U.S. was carrying out a crime against humanity. But it was never investigated because there’s too much cognitive dissonance. Elite intellectuals can’t perceive that possibility.

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A Q&A with Noam Chomsky

Fri, 03/23/2018 - 02:11

via New Internationalist

What do you see as the consequences of Trump’s climate change denial for future generations?

It’s not just Trump. It’s the entire Republican leadership. In the 2016 primaries, every Republican candidate either denied that which is happening or said ‘maybe it is but we shouldn’t do anything about it’. It is an astonishing fact that the most powerful state in human history, the ‘leader of the Free World’, is standing alone in the world in not just refusing to deal with this truly existential crisis but is in fact dedicated with considerable passion to escalating the race to disaster. And it’s no less shocking that all this passes with little comment. The Republican organization is also labouring to turn the US itself into a disaster area by removing controls on toxic chemicals and pursuing other destructive policies – all part of the unleashing of its most savage component to serve their constituency of extreme wealth and corporate power, whatever the impact on others. A truly shocking spectacle. How much damage they can do to the environment is not clear because other factors, even market forces, are countering their dedication to destruction. But it will not be slight. Effective actions require mobilization and serious commitment at every level, from international co-operation to individual choices.

What are your thoughts on Trump’s rhetoric towards North Korea [NK]? What would be a wise foreign policy to adopt towards NK?

The goal should be to encourage people to think for themselves

Trump’s rhetoric is scandalous and is shocking the world. It’s astonishing that a political leader can stand up at the UN and declare that he might decide to kill 25 million people. A sane way to approach the issue is well-known. Accept the principle of the ‘double freeze’ strongly advocated by China, with Russian support and indications of North Korean acquiescence: NK freezes its weapons programmes and the US calls off the threatening military operations at the NK border, including flights by nuclear-capable bombers; appalling actions in themselves given the history and, if anyone cares, a violation of the UN Charter’s basic principle barring the ‘threat’ of force in international affairs. This could open the way to negotiations on further matters and the actual history, not the propaganda version, suggests that they might achieve considerable success. It’s recognized that the NK leadership is seeking economic development, though it will not give up its deterrent as long as the threat of US attack remains.

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How Cambridge Analytica ties together Brexit, Trump, and climate science denial

Thu, 03/22/2018 - 18:46

via The Ecologist

by Mat Hope

It has been a heck of a few days in the spotlight for Cambridge Analytica — a ‘political consultancy’ that confesses it likes to operate in the shadows.

Revelations continue to emerge about its practices, including allegations of illegal use of Facebook data and corrupting foreign elections.

While the company denies any illegal behaviour, what we do know is that it has been behind seismic political shocks on both sides of the Atlantic: Brexit, and the election of Donald Trump.

Science denial

Tied to those major political upheavals is a climate science denial agenda that seeks to slash regulation, and line the pockets of those with a vested interest in fossil fuels.

The map below shows how Cambridge Analytica lies at the heart of a network of operatives pushing climate science denial in the name of Brexit and Trump.

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