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Archive for February, 2012

 

In this talk medical doctor Gabor Mate discusses the physiochemical mechanisms that cause addiction and how those mechanisms come about. He rejects the idea that addiction is genetically inherited and stresses instead the importance of the living conditions of the first few years of a person’s life when the most crucial brain development happens with humans. Especially important here is the relationship with the caregiving parent whose absence or high stress levels can be extremely detrimental to the normal growth of the infant’s brain. Mate links the high level of addiction problems in modern society to the destruction of traditional communities and their child rearing methods by the industrial revolution. He’s talking in particular about the Canadian First Nations, but the same surely applies to the rest of us living in (post)industrial societies. Of course, it’s not just addiction that’s a modern phenomenon. Depression, which is closely related to addiction in many ways, has also reached epidemic levels only fairly recently. Regardless of what we conceive as the actual reasons behind these epidemics, I think it’s important to realise that mental “disorders” (for want of a better word) are always social phenomena at heart and that we should be looking at the society as a whole and not just the individual people when trying to solve these problems.

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This is a plea from a group of French intellectuals on behalf of the Greek people. The text is aimed at the French intelligentsia, but applies to other countries as well. I’d definitely like to see far more support from the academic class for the European people’s struggle against austerity. Silence is no longer acceptable; if you’re not with the people, you’re with the banksters. We are living in a time when anti-democratic forces are once again loose in Europe, and the time to fight back is now before it’s too late! The original text is here.

“At a time when one Greek youth out of two is unemployed. Where 25,000 homeless wander the streets of Athens. Where 30% of the population has fallen under the poverty line and where millions of families are forced to place their children in the care of someone else in order for them not to die of hunger or cold, where refugees and the new poor compete for trashcans at the public dump, the “saviors” of Greece, under the pretext that “Greece is not trying hard enough”, impose a new aid plan that doubles the lethal administered dose. A plan that abolishes the right to work and reduces the poor to the most extreme misery, at the same time as it makes the middle class disappear.

The goal is not about “saving” Greece. All economists worthy of this name agree on this point. It’s about gaining time in order to save the creditors at the same time it leads the country into deferred collapse. Above all it’s about making a laboratory of social change out of Greece that, in a second generation, will spread throughout all of Europe. The model experimented upon Greece is one where public social services, schools, hospitals, and dispensaries fall into ruin, where health becomes the privilege of the rich, and where vulnerable populations are doomed to a programmed elimination while those who work are condemned to the most extreme conditions of impoverishment and precarity.

But in order for this neo-liberalist offensive to achieve its ends, it is necessary to install a regime established an economy of the most basic democratic rights. Under the injunction of saviors, we see throughout Europe technocratic governments installing themselves with disregard for popular sovereignty. This is a turning point in the parliamentary system where we see the “representatives of the people” giving carte blanche to the experts and bankers, abdicating their supposed decisional power –A kind of parliamentary coup d’etat, which also uses an amplified arsenal against popular protest. Thus, when members have ratified the convention dictated by the troika (the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund), diametrically opposed to the mandate for which they had received power, without any democratic legitimacy, it will have committed to the future of the country for thirty or forty years.

Meanwhile the EU is preparing to establish an account which would be paid directly to aid Greece but only so that it is used for servicing the debt. The revenue of the country should be the “absolute priority” devoted to repay creditors, and, if necessary, paid directly to the account managed by the European Union. The agreement stipulates that any new bond issued under it shall be governed by English law, which involves material guarantees, so that disputes will be adjudicated by the courts of Luxembourg, having Greece waive in advance any rights to appeal against an entry determined by its creditors. To complete the picture, privatization is assigned to a fund managed by the troika, where the title deeds of public goods shall be placed.

In short, it is the widespread looting, characteristic of financial capitalism which here offers itself a really beautiful institutional consecration. To the extent that sellers and buyers sit on the same side of the table, we have no doubt that this enterprise of privatization is a real treat for the buyers. But all the measures taken so far have only dug Greece into deeper sovereign debt. With the help of rescuers who lend at exorbitant rates, it has literally exploded into free fall in approaching 170% of GDP, while in 2009 it represented more than 120%. It is likely that this cohort of rescuers – whenever presented as “final” – had no other purpose than to weaken further still the position of Greece so that, deprived of any opportunity to propose itself the terms of a restructuring, is reduced to yield to all its creditors under the blackmail of “the disaster or austerity.”

The worsening of the artificial and coercive debt problem was used as a weapon to attack an entire society. It is proper that we speak here of terms related to the military: we are indeed dealing with a war conducted by means of finance, politics and law, a class war against society as a whole. And the spoils that the financial class wrestles away from the “enemy”, are the social benefits and democratic rights, but ultimately it is the very possibility of a human life that is taken. The lives of those who do or do not consume enough in terms of profit maximization strategies, should be no longer be preserved.

Thus, the weakness of a country caught between speculation and endless devastating bailouts, is the backdoor through which a new social model erupts conforming to the requirements of neoliberal fundamentalism. A model destined for all Europe and maybe elsewhere. This is the real issue and why defending the Greek people can not be reduced to a gesture of solidarity or abstract humanity: the future of democracy and the fate of European nations are in question. Everywhere the “pressing necessity” of “painful but salutary” austerity will be presented to us as the means to escape the fate of Greece, while it really leads us right into the middle of it.

Up against this attack against society, faced with the destruction of the last pockets of democracy, we call our fellow citizens, our French and European friends to speak loudly. Do not leave the monopoly on speaking to the experts and politicians. Can we remain indifferent to the fact the German and French leaders in particular have requested Greece to be banned from elections? Does the systematic stigmatization and bashing of a European people not deserve a response? Is it possible not to raise ones voice against the institutional assassination of the Greek people? And can we remain silent in front of the establishment of a forced march towards a system that outlaws the very idea of social solidarity?

We are at the point of no return. It is urgent to fight the battle of numbers and the war of words to counter ultra-liberal rhetoric of fear and misinformation. There is urgent need to deconstruct the moral lessons that obscure the actual process at work in society. It becomes more than urgent to demystify the racist insistence on the ” Greek specificity ” that allegedly is the supposed national character of a people (laziness and cunning at will) the root cause of a crisis in global reality. What matters today is not the specifics, whether they are real or imaginary, but the common: the fate of a people that will affect all others.

Numerous technical solutions have been proposed to overcome the alternative of “either the destruction of the society or bankruptcy” (which we see today really means “and the destruction and bankruptcy” of the society). Everything must be brought to the table as food for thought for the construction of another Europe. But first you must report the crime, bring to light the situation in which the Greek people is because of “rescue packages” designed by and for speculators and creditors. When a movement of support is woven around the world, where Internet networks buzz with initiatives of solidarity, are French intellectuals the last to raise their voices for Greece? Without further delay, multiply articles, media appearances, debates, petitions, demonstrations. For any initiative is welcome, any initiative is urgent.

As for us, this is what we propose: quickly move towards the formation of a European community of intellectuals and artists in solidarity with the Greek people in resistance. If we can’t do this, then who will? If we don’t do this now, then when?

Vicky Skoumbi, Editor-in-Chief of the journal, “Alètheia”, Athens, Michel Surya, director of the journal «Lignes», Paris, Dimitris Vergetis, director of the journal, “Alètheia”, Athens. And : Daniel Alvara,Alain Badiou, Jean-Christophe Bailly, Etienne Balibar, Fernanda Bernardo, Barbara Cassin, Bruno Clément, Danielle Cohen-Levinas, Yannick Courtel, Claire Denis, Georges Didi-Huberman, Roberto Esposito, Francesca Isidori, Pierre-Philippe Jandin, Jérôme Lèbre, Jean-Clet Martin, Jean- Luc Nancy, Jacques Rancière, Judith Revel, Elisabeth Rigal, Jacob Rogozinski, Hugo Santiago, Beppe Sebaste, Michèle Sinapi, Enzo Traverso”

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In the latest news on ACTA, the European Commission has decided to refer the agreement to the European Court of Justice in order to “assess whether ACTA is incompatible – in any way – with the EU’s fundamental rights and freedoms, such as freedom of expression and information or data protection and the right to property in case of intellectual property.” Now one must not be fooled to think that the Commission actually cares about people’s “fundamental rights.” The Commission, which is not a democratic body elected by the European people, has been relentlessly pushing ACTA all the way through the process of negotiation and ratification without any consideration for the growing opposition from scholars and ordinary people alike. Recently, Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht sent a letter to the members of the European Parliament claiming that opposition to the treaty is “based on misinformation, or possibly even worse, on wilful misinterpretation of the content of the agreement” and warning the parliamentarians from jumping to conclusions “on basis of the number of emails received.” This is clearly a case of elitist propaganda trying to paint a picture of ignorant masses whose opinions are not worth considering.

The referral to the European Court of Justice should be seen as simply another step in this propaganda campaign. No doubt the questions will be framed so that the court will find the treaty “compatible with existing EU laws” and, therefore, not in conflict with people’s rights. Such a decision would give the pro-ACTA lobby a strong weapon to silence the opposition. The thing with ACTA is, however, that it’s been worded so loosely that it’s extremely difficult to assess what actual effects it will have on the civil society beforehand. The argument of the promoters of the agreement has all the time been that it “does not require changes in current legislation,” but that depends entirely on how the agreement will be interpreted in practice. What ACTA gives is an open charter for the copyright industry to use threats of trade sanctions to enforce tougher control measures, legal or extra-legal, whilst obstructing any intellectual property law reform that might constrain their power.

In related news, several copyright lobby groups have also approached the members of the European Parliament with a letter accusing opponents of ACTA of “attempts to silence the democratic process.” Preposterous claims like these are evidence of a systematic smearing campaign launched by the copyright industry against the European citizens who have stood up for their rights in recent weeks. Obviously, the copyright lobby isn’t prepared to give up on this lucrative treaty just yet. We should expect more propaganda and outright lies in the coming weeks as ACTA goes through several committees in the European Parliament. We need to counter this propaganda by continuing to raise awareness of the real repercussions of the treaty both amongst parliamentarians and the general public.

The coming Saturday, there will be another wave of anti-ACTA protests around Europe. A list of the protests and campaign material can be found here and a map here. See also the list of resources I compiled earlier here.

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This is a talk given by the founder of the Pirate Party Rick Falkvinge at the European Bitcoin Conference in Prague on November 26, 2011. Here Falkvinge maps the epic history of the people’s thirst for knowledge and communication versus the ruling classes’ attempts to control them. Starting from Greek mythology and the story of Prometheus, he goes through the medieval Catholic church before ending up with that Great Leveller, the Internet. The Internet has already brought such long-standing gatekeepers of information and communication as the traditional news media, the copyright industry and the postal service to their knees, and Falkvinge predicts that the banking establishment will be the next to go as cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin gain traction.

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Fire on the streets of Athens on February 12, 2012

 

The situation in Greece is getting critical. The government approved yet another austerity package last Sunday which sparked some of the most intense street protests during the ongoing crisis. Greece has reached a point where the politicians can’t even venture out from their offices without facing random people shouting abuse and hurling yoghurt at them. The Greek people seem to have lost any last hope they had that the crisis could be solved by the current political system. The only way the Greek ruling class will be able to push through its austerity agenda now is by brute force. A combination of a general feeling of hopelessness on the streets and harsh repression by the police is potentially highly explosive. One can only hope that should the situation escalate, its resolution will be as quick and as painless (relatively speaking) as that of the Argentina crisis of 2001, as Jerome Roos predicts.

Mike Whitney has deconstructed the “Memorandum of Understanding” inforced by the EU-ECB-IMF troika as a condition for the next tranche of the Greek bailout package here. From reading the memorandum it becomes clear that these austerity policies have nothing to do with helping the Greek economy back on its feet. Indeed, we’ve already seen years of these kinds of policies without any positive effects. Instead, the agreement is all about opening up every area of the Greek society to predatory capital. It’s about removing any barriers to capital accumulation, such as decent wages or even food security. This is no longer even the “fire sale” Greg Palast was writing about, but full on pillage and plunder of the kind that is more familiar from the Third World. Clearly the elite is fully aware that its time is running out, so it’s now simply grabbing anything it can get its hands on without any consideration for repercussions.

On a more positive note, people in other European countries seem to be finally waking up to the reality, as they should since it would be naive indeed to think that the vultures will be satisfied with just Greece. It’s only a matter of time before they’ll be coming for the rest of us, unless we do something about it now. That’s why it’s of foremost importance to stand with the Greek people and against the European elite, including the elites of our own countries who are perpetrating these destructive policies. We must not succumb to the divide-and-rule rhetoric pushed by the elites through mainstream media in Germany in particular. The people of Greece are on our side, not our national or European leaders.

On this Saturday, February 18, people will be demonstrating all around Europe in solidarity with the Greek people. A call out for this event in various languages can be found here:
http://realdemocracygr.wordpress.com/2012/02/15/saturday-18-international-solidarity/

A list of the scheduled events is found here:
https://n-1.cc/pg/pages/view/1173320

There’s also this appeal for solidarity with the people of Greece from the British Coalition of Resistance Against Cuts & Privatisation:
http://www.coalitionofresistance.org.uk/2012/02/sign-the-appeal-for-solidarity-with-the-people-of-greece/

You can also sign a petition for the abolition of Greece’s odious debt:
http://www.1millionsignatures.eu/

In case you can’t make it to the streets, you can still show your support via this photo blog:
http://weareallgreeks.tumblr.com/

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This is a talk by Toby Hemenway, one of the world’s leading permaculture experts, held at Duke University on February 12, 2010. Based on historical evidence, Hemenway argues that there is no way to do agriculture, as we know it today, in a sustainable fashion. Agriculture always means the destruction of the ecosystem, and thus also the destruction of the preconditions of its own continuity. The alternative Hemenway proposes is a food system based on horticulture, that is gardening, or tending what he calls food forests, natural ecosystems that are tweaked to produce more edible plants.

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ACTA protest in Slovenia

 

The power of the Internet community is manifesting itself again as several European countries have started backtracking on the ACTA ratification process. In the latest news, Germany has announced that it won’t be signing the treaty for the time being. Germany is one of the five EU countries yet to sign, and naturally as an economic superpower it holds the key to the whole ratification process within the EU. Earlier, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Latvia have also put the treaty on hold. If the EU drops out of ACTA, which is looking more and more likely by the day, that will probably mean death for the whole treaty as Rick Falkvinge points out.

Therefore, now is the time to give the treaty the final push over the cliff! Tomorrow, on Saturday, February 11, people will be marching against ACTA in hundreds of cities across Europe. On Facebook, almost 400 thousand people have already signed up for the protests. It’s particularly interesting to see Eastern Europeans taking the streets in such large numbers. In fact, Eastern Europe has been at the frontlines of the whole anti-ACTA movement from the beginning. In some countries, ACTA protests represent the largest street actions since the fall of communism. That just goes on to show what the freedom of the Internet means to the people in these countries where a free press is still a rather recent phenomenon. We who are living in the complacent West would be well adviced to take cue on how to stand up for our right to exchange information before it’s taken away from us.

List of the protests in Europe:
https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/lv?hl=en_US&hl=en_US&key=0AolqWqLcyaGadC1OS19vakFUY21ITjNHS1BxWU4wOVE&type=view&gid=0&f=true&sortcolid=-1&sortasc=true&rowsperpage=1000

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