Saturday, February 15, 2014


It's Theoretical Weekends (which I am considering moving to Monday and combining with Cultural Monday, since they seem to be converging).  

Often, but not always I use the term multitude.Yes, I picked up the term from Negri, but who knows whether we use it in the exact same way.  You can be the judge of that, if you really care.  Sometimes I say working people.  Sometimes I say working class. I don't necessarily mean the same thing and you have to be aware of the context of where these words are used. 

It is important to note neither Negri (nor myself) just throw out the word for no reason, or because we think it sounds cool, or post modern or something.  We use it because we believe that it fits more precisely into the epoch with which we all now live...into what Capital is now.

In the relatively short piece below from 2002 Negri attempts to explain his use of the term in a concise (for him especially) manner.

The following is from Generations on Line.

Multitude or Working Class

Antonio Negri speaks at the European Social Forum in Paris La Villette – Le Trabendo. November 14, 2002. Translation by Thomas Atzert.

We all agree to the fact that we want to fight capital and renew the world. But I think this ain’t conceivable as a poetical process. Because the name multitudeis not a poetical notion, but a class concept. When I talk about multitude as a class concept, I talk about the fact that workers today work in the same and in different ways compared to those they worked some centuries ago. The working class and its class composition are quite different in the distinct periods that followed each other since the beginning of the industrial age.

The organisation of labour has indeed damned changed from the 18th century ‘til now, as well as the political and technical class composition; and also the way the class builds up its class consciousness is extremely different. If we use the concept of working class and the concept of organisation of labour homogeneously and uniquely we’ll be mistaken profoundly.

I think that after ’68 and with the beginning of the neo-liberal counterrevolution the structure of organising labour and in consequence the organisation, the making of class composition has changed profoundly.
The factory stays no longer in the centre of value production. The value is created by putting to work the whole of society. We call multitude all the workers who are put to work inside society to create profit. We consider all the workers in the whole of society to be exploited, men, women, people who work in services, people who work in nursing, people who work in linguistic relations, people who work in the cultural field, in all of the social relations, and in so far as they are exploited we consider them part of the multitude, inasmuch as they are singularities. We see the multitude as a multiplicity of exploited singularities. The singularities are singularities of labour; anyone is working in different ways, and the singularity is the singularity of exploited labour.
To take notice of all this is of particular importance, we have to underline it because labour is becoming increasingly immaterial. This doesn’t mean that the realm of material labour wouldn’t expand, as material labour does evidently today, in the factories, in the sweat-shops, in the incredible workplaces where children work, work materially. All this is of extreme importance. But what is significant in the process of value creating productive labour is intellectual labour, networking labour, inventive labour, scientific labour. When Marx began to talk about industrial valorisation, it was in view of 100 or 200 factories, but the grand tendency was the one he claimed, and this path we have to follow. Just to add a second observation: The industrial working class never has produced value being a mass, value has always been produced because any worker added his/her particular contribution to the creation of value.
The problem is not to find a class coalition or to refer to relations connecting the working class and the movement of movements, the problem is to refer to the unique root of value, the unique quality of labour. It is the dignity of labour that allows us to propose alternative paths for life and society.
When we take for example the peasantry. Peasants have always been considered to be outside the working class, to be something that should become working class. This always has been complete rubbish because the peasants always worked, worked hard, worked on things, worked as singularities. Nowadays we find ourselves facing a peasant class in the countries that are becoming increasingly irrelevant for capitalist development, and inside this peasant class we find on one side to a great extend the organisation of industrial labour, on the other side we find the specificity of peasant labour, which is singular, which means a specific contact with nature, the making of good cheese, of good vine. It means finding this unique quality of labour, finding inside the diversity, inside the difference the common elements, that are, of course, joint elements of exploitation, but on the other side the specificity of the peasant’s capacity to relate oneself to the earth and to transform it, transform it into good cheese and good vine. Only in this way we can think of relations with the industrial working class, and not with workers’ aristocracy, that wouldn’t be mechanical.
On the other side let’s consider women’s labour. What is it? What has it always been under the domination of the patriarchate? It has been secret work, but a work of relating. Fundamentally. A work that always knew the place of the socks* in the house. The secret of so-called domestic labour is that it cannot be quantified. It is quality. A fundamental quality that has allowed the reproduction of the species, of workers’ species, of labour. How can we refer to this value, to this struggle? Not as coalition: Join the women – get lost, fuck off! But then? Nothing, if there ain’t this profound reason: inside labour we can find finesse, a capacity to get in contact, to create relations. Anyone of you who has worked, for instance, with computers knows precisely what finesse, what creating of relations means here. The production of value is production of abundant relations, it is linguistic production.
Multitude is first of all a class concept, then also a political concept. In so far as it is a class concept, multitude puts an end to the concept of working class as a simplistic concept, as a mass concept. From the point of view of politics the concept of multitude puts an end to the concept of people, of nation and of all that build by the state, providing it with a fundament of representation.

Friday, February 14, 2014


Its prison friday and my homey Billy Berkowitz has a piece that I'm stealing and putting here for you.

What he will be telling you about today is how the private probation and parole system has managed to update and revitalize the old, we thought it was gone, debtors prison industry.  Like the private prison industry, this one is built upon the incentive of getting as many people as possible charged and into its clutches.  One  really "cool" capitalist component is charging the people whose lives the system is intent on running (and ruining) to pay for the privilege...and then when they can't, well you guessed, its back to jail time.

Last September  Dispatches from the Culture Wars tells us:

...a Georgia county judge ruled that Sentinel Offender Service had illegally extended the sentence of Mantooth and potentially thousands of others who were required to pay the firm monthly probation fees, and was illegally ordering electronic monitoring for misdemeanor offenders — prohibited by state law — while charging probationers for their own monitoring.

Other named plaintiffs in the pair of cases were hauled off to jail and/or subjected to electronic monitoring for alleged probation violations six years after their probation had ended for minor offenses like possession of marijuana and no proof of insurance.

Sentinel Offender Services has become notorious for using every means available to extract funds from low-level offenders, motivated by profit rather than the public interest in supervising and rehabilitating these low-level offenders. Those in Columbia or Richmond counties who cannot pay fines associated with minor offenses like speeding or public intoxication are placed on private probation, which carries monthly fees of $34 to $44. They are also charged additional “start-up” fees, photo fees, and electronic monitoring fees. When they cannot afford to keep up with these fees, they end up in jail,unfamiliar with a state law that prohibits incarceration for inability to pay.

These privatized probation to prison operations generally involve offenders who have done next to nothing at all.  With privatized supervision the probationers has to report on a regular schedule and pay the company a monthly fee.  The fees paid by the probationers are what pays the staff.  As Alternet has reported:

 A report from the Criminal Justice Review explained that “Private agencies…rely on the probationer’s paying a supervision fee to remain solvent.” Solvency, however, is hardly a concern for many of these corporations, some of which have amassed tens of millions of dollars annually off the fees they charge probationers.

Want a real life story?  Try on this one from the Economist:

IN LATE 2010 police in Childersburg, Alabama ticketed both Kristy and Timothy Fugatt for driving with expired license tags. They were fined $148 each, plus another $198 for Mrs Fugatt, whose license had expired. They could not afford to pay, so they were placed on probation under the supervision of Judicial Correction Services (JCS), a private company that manages probationers for roughly 200 misdemeanor courts in the south-eastern United States.

JCS also charged each of them a $45 monthly service fee. When they fell behind on their payments, they were charged more fees and threatened with jail. In February 2012 they claim that a Childersburg policeman arrested them at their home, threatened them with a Taser, told them their children would be placed in state care and took them to prison. They were released only after relatives brought $900 to the Childersburg jail. (Robert McMichael, the head of JCS, refused to comment on any of these allegations.)

What I find amazing, and yet not, of course, is how despite actual laws against some of this crap, the companies go right on operating with relative impunity.  Sure a court here and there, a judge now and then makes a ruling against some particularly onerous activity of these companies.  They pay a fine or something, and then get right back to business.   

Before I turn this over to Bill, I want to leave you with some facts and figures about some of these companies as noted at Before it's News.

1. Sentinel Offender Services: Sentinel is the richest probation company in the country, bringing in $30 million in 2009. The company has faced a number of lawsuits alleging its employees demand onerous payments from poor probationers. The company also issues arrests warrants when probationers cannot pay, without legally mandated consideration for defendants’ financial situation. Sentinel has even extended the probationary sentences of thousands — illegally — in order to wrest more money from them.
A Georgia court recently ruled that the company would have to refund “perhaps thousands” of payments to former probationers who had the unfortunate luck to be supervised by a company that, as the ACLU reports, “links its probation officers’ performance evaluations to the amount of money collected from probationers.”

2. Judicial Correctional Services: This probationary company was founded by an Alabama circuit court to be operating “debtor’s prisons” in collusion with the local municipality of Harpersville, Alabama. In the event that a probationer couldn’t pay his court fees up front — which happens often in the fourth poorest state in the country — the court would turn the indigent person over to JCS.
People who couldn’t pay their monthly fees to the company were thrown in jail without a trial at the urging of JCS. The Harpersville court would then heap even more fines and fees on top of desperate defendants.
The circuit judge who ruled against Harpersville was so disturbed by the JCS-judiciary collusion that he accused the local court of “violating almost every safeguard afforded by the United States Constitution [and] the laws of the state of Alabama.” Despite the ruling, JCS continues to operate in 69 cities throughout four different states, and is looking to spread even further.

3. Detention Management Services: Although Sentinel officially bought out DMS some years ago, the company merits a mention for its role in expanding the probation syndicate in Georgia. Other states wanting to expand private probation will likely model their legislation on a bill that was propped up by DMS money.
The firm paid $75,000 in 2003 to Bobby Whitworth, chair of Georgia’s Board of Pardons and Paroles, to draft and lobby for legislation that expanded the power of probation companies by “transfer[ing] supervision of approximately 25,000 misdemeanants from the State Department of Corrections to the individual counties.” The transfer gave DMS and other probation companies more defendants to supervise, since only counties can contract out probationary services.
Whitworth was eventually jailed for receiving kickbacks, but the law he helped nurture still stands, and now a tight group of Georgian prison professionals are building up the probation business at a time of scarce funds for public services: “This [industry] is completely dominated by retired state probation people and wardens of state prisons,” Putnam County Sheriff Howard Sills told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “They created this industry for themselves.”
A new bill sitting in the Georgia legislature would grant probation firms even more power by allowing them to set probationers’ “tolling” periods, which means more freedom to suspend and resume sentences with court approval. It would also give private probation officers increased “immunity from liability.” The law stands on the shoulders of the earlier measure that sailed through the legislature thanks in part to DMS funding. 

4. Providence Community Corrections: PCC is the probation-providing subsidiary of Providence Service Corporation, whose website extols the “high-quality” of its “human social services [and] collaborative care services.”
PCC was the subject of a 2011 lawsuit by a Tennessee woman who claimed the company’s employees “harassed and intimidated” her into paying an excessive amount of fees to the company. A judge dismissed the case in 2012 for undisclosed reasons, but a PCC outfit in Georgia received some attention a year later when one of its employees was arrested on charges of embezzling probationers’ fees. According to a local judge, PCC had already raised some eyebrows for its reported low collection rate and high number of unclosed probation cases.
Other probation firms like Sentinel have come under legal scrutiny for keeping cases open beyond what was originally mandated by a judge, in order to prolong the “payment period” throughout which defendants must pay penalty fees that compound over time. 

The entire private prison, private probation, private injustice system is one finite example of just how Capital has invaded every aspect of our lives.  There is no more outside of Capital.  There is only inside.  The struggle against Capital (and all of its nefarious manifestations) must take place also in a social realm.  No more of this nonsense that the class struggle only occurs in the factory.  That thesis should have been put to rest long ago.  The factory is everywhere.  The class struggle is everywhere.

Anyway, looking for a growth industry with high returns, invest in prisons, parole and probation.  It's where its at in the US of A.

The following is from  Buzzflash or Truthout or both or they are the same...whatever.

Predatory Probation Privateers Prey on the Poor

CellJail(Photo: Andrew Bardwell)Last April, in a column titled Debtors Prisons, Once a 19th-Century Relic, Again Wreaking Havoc in US, I wrote: "The jailing of people unable to pay fines and court costs is no longer a relic of the 19th century American judicial system. Debtors' prisons are alive and well in one-third of the states in this country." Last week, I received a Press Release from the Ohio American Civil Liberties Union that appeared to strike a blow against this appalling phenomenon.
The release stated that "the Supreme Court of Ohio distributed a new 'bench card' to all of the state's judges, giving much needed instructions to avoid the unconstitutional practice of sending people to jail when they owe the court fines and are unable to pay. The Ohio Supreme Court's "bench card" was a definite blow to what had become the routine jailing in several states of people who were not able to pay fines imposed for a relatively minor crime committed."
Now, however, a new report by Human Rights Watch has revealed another way that poor people are being unduly financially burdened and, in many cases, imprisoned for not having enough money to pay their court-imposed fines. According to Profiting from Probation: America's 'Offender-Funded' Probation Industry, privately owned companies handling the probation of offenders are "routinely jailing probationers" for not being able to pay fees owed to those companies.
Private companies are Profiting from Probation
"Every year, US courts sentence several hundred thousand people to probation and place them under the supervision of for-profit companies for months or years at a time," Profiting from Probation points out. "They then require probationers to pay these companies for their services. Many of these offenders are only guilty of minor traffic violations like speeding or driving without proof of insurance. Others have shoplifted, been cited for public drunkenness, or committed other misdemeanor crimes. Many of these offenses carry no real threat of jail time in and of themselves, yet each month, courts issue thousands of arrest warrants for offenders who fail to make adequate payments towards fines and probation company fees."
Putting people in jail for failure to pay their private probation handlers is part of what is called the "'offender-funded' model of privatized probation that prevails in well over 1,000 courts across the US." "Offender funded" is exactly what it sounds like; "Courts in some US states charge offenders fees to help defray the costs of running a probation service."
Profiting from Probation is a 72-page report that is "based largely" on more than 75 interviews with people in Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi during the second half of 2013. "It shows how some company probation officers behave like abusive debt collectors. ... explains how some courts and probation companies combine to jail offenders who fall behind on payments they cannot afford to make, in spite of clear legal protections meant to prohibit this.... [and] argues that the fee structure of offender-funded probation is inherently discriminatory against poor offenders, and imposes the greatest financial burden on those who are least able to afford to pay."
Although it may be difficult to imagine in the twenty-first century, "the business of many private probation companies is built largely on the willingness of courts to discriminate against poor offenders who can only afford to pay their fines in installments over time."
Offenders caught in a catch-22
Offenders are caught in a catch 22: If they could afford to fully pay their fines, they wouldn't be sentenced to probation, and would subsequently not be subject to the costs of paying for probation supervision by private companies. Some offenders take years paying out these fees and wind up paying significantly more than the original fine.
For stealing a can of beer from a Georgia convenience store, Thomas Barrett pled guilty and was fined $200. Over time he discovered that he owed his probation company $1000, more money than he made in a month. In Mississippi, a middle-aged woman was fined $377 for driving without a valid license, and her company probation officer threatened to jail her because she owed the company $500 in unpaid supervision fees.
The report points out that financially strapped counties and municipalities have turned to private companies to run their probation programs. "Many courts have repurposed probation into a debt collection tool and are primarily interested in the services of probation companies as a means towards that end. In what is euphemistically referred to as "pay only" probation, people are sentenced to probation for just one reason: they don't have money and they need time to pay down their fines and court costs. Pay only probation is an extremely muscular form of debt collection masquerading as probation supervision, with all costs billed to the debtor. It is essentially a legal fiction and it is the cornerstone of many probation companies' business."
A growing predatory industry
Judicial Correction Services and Sentinel Offender Services are the two companies most often cited in the report and are, according to Human Rights Watch, "arguably the most significant industry players, and ...the two firms that have been most widely implicated in alleged abuses."
The Georgia-headquartered Judicial Correction Services (JCS) is, relatively speaking, "an industry giant." In 2011, it was acquired by Correctional Healthcare Companies, a "privately held corporation that also focuses on the provision of healthcare services to prisons and bills itself as a provider of 'integrated healthcare solutions' to the criminal justice system 'including inmate healthcare, outpatient treatment, mental health, behavioral programming and treatment case management services." In 2012, the private equity group GTCR acquired CHC.
By late last year, JCS was "operat[ing] in some 480 courts ... [in] Georgia, Alabama, Florida and Mississippi. ...At any given point in time JCS employees are supervising approximately 38,000 probationers."
Sentinel Offender Services "is a privately held California corporation whose physical presence is largely based in Georgia, [and] is largely controlled by its founder Bob Contestabile and his son Mark Contestabile, who heads up the company's east coast operations." According to the report, "Sentinel claims to operate in 48 US states, mostly providing GPS monitoring and other services for government clients. The company's offender-funded probation supervision business operates exclusively in Georgia. There, the company works with 80 courts and supervises between 23,000 and 35,000 offenders at any given point in time. Sentinel boasts that it has supervised more than 500,000 probationers since 1992.
"Sentinel also provides electronic monitoring and other services to government clients in California and elsewhere. It operates a monitoring center in Irvine, California that tracks offenders on various forms of electronic monitoring for Sentinel's government clients as well as its own probation business."
Over the past few years, any civil liberties organizations have been working to make debtors prisons truly a thing of the past. It is now time to shine the spotlight on predatory probation privateers that are preying on the poor.

Thursday, February 13, 2014


The real meaning of the Korean War. Stopping Communism reaching Kansas.
Growing up in Kansas, I breathed a sigh of relief to have been saved
from the horrors of communism.  

Then those dirty Reds got me anyway!

Why an article that has anything to do with the Korean War 2014?  Maybe it has to do with the messy State known as the Democratic People's Republic of Korea?  Well, a little, but not really so much.  Maybe I just ran into a piece related to it, that I find interesting. Uh, yeah, honestly that's it.  

In Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell wrote: “Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.”  There is some real truth in that, not total mind you, but some.  Still, we control the present and that is a fact.  We just need to continually remind ourselves of that fact.  An honest knowledge of the past doesn't hurt though.  

Meanwhile, back at the ranch.  The Korean War is a war that largely slips through history with little notice.  Considering the huge numbers of people who died and who were injured during that war, that fact seems strange.

As a kid I was pretty much assured by my teachers that the USA was totally in the right in that war and were always the good guys.  The North Koreans and the Chinese were boogeymen, uncivilized barbarians whose main goal seemed to be to torture, abuse, and brainwash everyone and everywhere.

MASH turned the Korean War into Vietnam, and while it was certainly a good TV show and a nice movie, it really told us nothing about the actual War fought on the Korean Peninsula or why it was fought or how it was fought.

My generation was much engulfed in the quagmire of Vietnam for a couple of decades so we, too, mostly forgot about Korea.

Justin Raimondo reminded us in an article last summer:

...whatever the US was fighting for, from 1950, when the war broke out, to 1953, when it ground to a halt, democracy hardly described the American cause.

We were fighting on behalf of Syngman Rhee, the US-educated-and-sponsored dictator of South Korea, whose vibrancy was demonstrated by the large-scale slaughter of his leftist political opponents. For 22 years, Rhee’s word was law, and many thousands of his political opponents were murdered: tens of thousands were jailed or driven into exile. Whatever measure of liberality has reigned on the Korean peninsula was in spite of Washington’s efforts and ongoing military presence. When the country finally rebelled against Rhee, and threw him out in the so-called April Revolution of 1960, he was ferried to safety in a CIA helicopter as crowds converged on the presidential palace.

Raimondo adds some uncomfortable truths here about so-called progressives then,

...the liberals came out in support of the war, with The Nation and The New Republic leading the charge: the antiwar Republicans were "isolationists" and their alliance with "legalists," sniffed TNR, revealed a natural affinity, while progressives were burdened with no such sentimental attachments to the Constitution. The editor of The Nation red-baited Col. Robert McCormick‘s fiercely conservative Chicago Tribune for being on the same side as the American Communist Party. What’s interesting is that the CP’s former fellow-travelers, such as Henry Wallace, Corliss Lamont, and the principals of the Progressive Party – which had run Wallace for President with fulsome Communist support – rallied behind Truman, reveling in the idea of a UN-sponsored war on behalf of "collective security." Obama, it seems, commands a similar ability to inspire the left to throw its vaunted antiwar credentials overboard.

In some ways, Korea was an early version of where we are today.  Empire declaring its right to control everything.  Then it was mostly the US State.  Today it is mostly global capital (with a lot of help from the USA State and its military).  China popping up to replace the Evil Empire (though in a new way) and the US military rushing to encircle it with missiles and bombs and boats and planes.

Maybe, we need to remember where all this led long ago and far away.

Maybe the USA needs to remember the huge role it played in creating the strange state on the northern part of the Korean Peninsula.  Maybe the USA needs to remember that the paranoia of that State and that government, and what even to me seems to be the lunacy of its leaders, didn't just pop up out of nowhere.

Maybe we just need to wonder why that war has remained such a secret for all these years.

Maybe we need to recognize that this "good" war was really just one more "bad" one.

Or maybe we just need to always remember that we what think happened quite likely didn't.

Hmmm...I don't know, but the piece below is from

'Good' and 'bad' war - and the struggle of memory against forgetting

Fifty years ago, E.P. Thompson's 'The Making of the English Working Class' rescued the study of history from the powerful. Kings and queens, landowners, industrialists, politicians and imperialists had owned much of the public memory. In 1980, Howard Zinn's 'A People's History of the United States' also demonstrated that the freedoms and rights we enjoy precariously - free expression, free association, the jury system, the rights of minorities - were the achievements of ordinary people, not the gift of elites.

Historians, like journalists, play their most honourable role when they myth-bust. Eduardo Galeano's 'The Open Veins of Latin America' (1971) achieved this for the people of a continent whose historical memory was colonised and mutated by the dominance of the United States.

The "good" world war of 1939-45 provides a bottomless ethical bath in which the west's "peacetime" conquests are cleansed. De-mystifying historical investigation stands in the way. Richard Overy's '1939: the countdown to war' (2009) is a devastating explanation of why that cataclysm was not inevitable.

We need such smokescreen-clearing now more than ever. The powerful would like us to believe that the likes of Thompson, Zinn and Galeano are no longer necessary: that we live, as Time magazine put it, "in an eternal present", in which reflection is limited to Facebook and historical narrative is the preserve of Hollywood. This is a confidence trick. In 'Nineteen Eighty-Four', George Orwell wrote: "Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past."

The people of Korea understand this well. The slaughter on their peninsula following the second world war is known as the "forgotten war", whose significance for all humanity has long been suppressed in military histories of cold war good versus evil.

I have just read 'The Korean War: A History by Bruce Cumings' (2010), professor of history at the University of Chicago. I first saw Cumings interviewed in Regis Tremblay's extraordinary film, 'The Ghosts of Jeju', which documents the uprising of the people of the southern Korean island of Jeju in 1948 and the campaign of the present-day islanders to stop the building of a base with American missiles aimed provocatively at China.

Like most Koreans, the farmers and fishing families protested the senseless division of their nation between north and south in 1945 - a line drawn along the 38th Parallel by an American official, Dean Rusk, who had "consulted a map around midnight on the day after we obliterated Nagasaki with an atomic bomb," wrote Cumings. The myth of a "good" Korea (the south) and a "bad" Korea (the north) was invented.

In fact, Korea, north and south, has a remarkable people's history of resistance to feudalism and foreign occupation, notably Japan's in the 20th century. When the Americans defeated Japan in 1945, they occupied Korea and often branded those who had resisted the Japanese as "commies". On Jeju island, as many as 60,000 people were massacred by militias supported, directed and, in some cases, commanded by American officers.

This and other unreported atrocities were a "forgotten" prelude to the Korean War (1950-53) in which more people were killed than Japanese died during all of world war two. Cumings' gives an astonishing tally of the degree of destruction of the cities of the north is astonishing: Pyongyang 75 per cent, Sariwon 95 per cent, Sinanju 100 per cent.  Great dams in the north were bombed in order to unleash internal tsunamis. "Anti-personnel" weapons, such as Napalm, were tested on civilians. Cumings' superb investigation helps us understand why today's North Korea seems so strange: an anachronism sustained by an enduring mentality of siege.

"The unhindered machinery of incendiary bombing was visited on the North for three years," he wrote, "yielding a wasteland and a surviving mole people who had learned to love the shelter of caves, mountains, tunnels and redoubts, a subterranean world that became the basis for reconstructing a country and a memento for building a fierce hatred through the ranks of the population. Their truth is not cold, antiquarian, ineffectual knowledge." Cumings quotes Virginia Wolf on how the trauma of this kind of war "confers memory."

The guerrilla leader Kim Il Sung had begun fighting the Japanese militarists in 1932.  Every characteristic attached to the regime he founded - "communist, rogue state, evil enemy" - derives from a ruthless, brutal, heroic resistance: first to Japan, then the United States, which threatened to nuke the rubble its bombers had left. Cumings exposes as propaganda the notion that Kim Il Sung, leader of the "bad" Korea, was a stooge of Moscow. In contrast, the regime that Washington invented in the south, the "good" Korea, was run largely by those who had collaborated with Japan and America.

The Korean War has an unrecognised distinction. It was in the smouldering ruins of the peninsula that the US turned itself into what Cumings calls "an archipelago of empire". When the Soviet Union collapsed in the 1990s, it was as if the whole planet was declared American - or else.

But there is China now. The base currently being built on Cheju island will face the Chinese metropolis of Shanghai, less than 300 miles away, and the industrial heartland of the only country whose economic power is likely to surpass that of the US. "China," says President Obama in a leaked briefing paper, "is our fast emerging strategic threat." By 2020, almost two thirds of all US naval forces in the world will be transferred to the Asia-Pacific region. In an arc extending from Australia to Japan and beyond, China will be ringed by US missiles and nuclear-weapons armed aircraft.  Will this threat to all of us be "forgotten", too? 


Tuesday, February 11, 2014


Ah, the Olympics.  I confess to enjoying the view, but unfortunately the Olympic view is  anything but helpful to the environment. The winter games, especially look beautiful, but think about it for a minute.  What happens when, as in Russia, they decide they just have to build a whole new city landscape to host them.  Try illegal landfills and trashed ecosystems.  Try jail...

Grist writes about the Sochi games:

Not only is this shaping up to be the most expensive Olympics in the history of the games, with $51 billion of new development, it is also arguably one of the most destructive. Five thousand acres of pristine forests have been felled, while wetlands that served as important stopovers for migrating birds have been filled in. Landslides and waste dumping threaten the watershed, which feeds into the Black Sea. Building within national parks in Russia used to be limited, but that regulation was reversed in order to make way for some games facilities, hotels, and roads. Some observers note that the Olympics have provided an opportunity for developers to cash in on what they hope will be a profitable tourist destination in the future.

The construction projects have also left local Sochi-ers in the lurch, facing frequent power shortages, land subsidence, flooding, and widespread pollution. 


The Winter Games have led to wrecked habitat, demolished forests polluted water reservoirs,destroyed wildlife populations and more.   The Mzymta, Sochi's largest river, which flows from a lake in a Caucasus reserve down to the Black Sea, has been profaned.  Even Yahoo Sports noticed:

A road and a railway were built along its undeveloped left bank, connecting Sochi's airport with Olympic skiing venues upstream.

Of the damage done to Sochi's wilderness, "the river is the biggest shame," said Igor Chestin, head of WWF in Russia.

The river is the spawning site of one-fifth of Russia's valuable Black Sea salmon.

"Its value as a fishery has been lost due to the change of the shape of the river, and years of pollution" since Sochi was picked as the 2014 Winter Olympics host in 2007, Chestin said. 

Eccorazzi picks it up:

In a interview with TIMESuren Gazaryan, a zoologist and member of the environmental campaign group, Environmental Watch of the North Caucasus (EWNC), said that “Sochiorganizers have failed on all their green promises.” Gazaryan explains, that the “construction process for the Games has been hugely damaging for the region. He and the ENWC have documented evidence of illegal waste dumping, construction that has blocked the migration routes of animals such as the brown bear, limited access to drinking water for locals and a generally decreased quality of life for many in the city of Sochi.”

The damage done to the Mzymta, Sochi’s largest river, which flows from a lake in a Caucasus reserve down to the Black Sea is “the biggest shame,” said Igor Chestin, head of the Russian chapter, of the World Wildlife Federation (WWF). The river was the spawning site of many Black Sea salmon, which have now disappeared, or died as a result of water contamination.

“The most dangerous and important part of the damage is the biodiversity lost in the area,” says Gazaryan. “Parts of the national park have been completely destroyed. This area was the most diverse in terms of plant and animal life in Russia.” Official reports by Sochi National Park show that brown bears, and various reptiles, can no longer be found in the area.

In an attempt to try and compensate for the destruction of the land, and the homes of its wildlife, Russia created an Ornithological Park, and planted 1.5 million new trees – three for every one that was cut down in the Sochi National Park, to make way for Olympic sites. Gazaryan says that much of the planting programme had been “pointless.” “The planting could never substitute for the loss of established forest, which is a complex ecosystem,” says Gazaryan. “[T]hese are ecosystems, not a Lego set that you can take apart and then rebuild somewhere else.”

“It’s a profanation,” said Vladimir Zubakin, president of the Russian Bird Union (RBUC), of the human made park. The wetlands were a paradise for up to 65 species of birds, but now the former wetlands lie buried under two metres (6.5 feet) of crushed rock. “They have been lost to the Olympic steamroller,” said Zubakin. “They say it looks pretty now, but birds actually prefer mud.”

I can't go on.

Russia is not interested in hearing about any of this. Well, let's not blame all of Russia, let's blame the Putin government and all of his Big Capital buddies.

The following is from Generation Progress.


The 2014 Winter Olympic Games began with fanfare and fireworks, but the impacts of two weeks of sports competitions will leave their mark for years to comeand not in an inspiring way.
In the bid for the Olympics, Russia had promised to put on a “zero waste” show and to use the greenest building techniques to date for construction, but these promises have already fallen harder than a ski-jumper missing the landing. Environmentalists, NGO’s, and human rights activists are compiling a picture of the real devastation caused by the Russian Winter Olympics.
First, Sochi is the location of a UNESCO World Heritage site and Sochi National Park, where 8,750 acres of land were cleared to make room for the Games. Olympic contractors promised to plant three trees for every one cut down in the national park, which came out to 1.5 million new trees. But environmentalists point out that planting new trees does not replace the ecosystem value, which contributed to the livelihoods of brown bears, reptiles, and the Black Sea salmon; all species that have suffered population loss or now regionally extinct.
Another ecosystem bulldozed over for Games venues was a sensitive wetlands, the winter home to the vulnerable Dalmatian pelican and other bird species. In its place, the government created the “Ornithological Park,” planted with trees and artificial ponds as a replacement home for the displaced faunanone of which can be found in the new park.
“The most dangerous and important part of the damage is the biodiversity lost in the area,” zoologist Suren Gazaryan told TIMEMagazine. “Parts of the national park have been completely destroyed. This area was the most diverse in terms of plant and animal life in Russia.”
Gazaryan is a member of the Environmental Watch of the North Caucasus (EWNC), an environmental activist group, who is now living in exile in Estonia to escape criminal charges for his human rights works.
Another EWNC activist, Yevgeny Vitishko, was planning to deliver an environmental impact report of the Winter Games but was jailed after being charged for swearing in public. EWNC members have been been charged and jailed consistently for random criminal charges.
The Sochi Olympics are a demonstration on how environmental and human rights issues easily intersect.
The Humans Rights Watch announced that the Olympic construction has cut off a Russian village from a fresh water source for more than five years, and a new road with no exit or entry ramps has completely cut the village off from public transportation.
“The Russian government is building the most expensive Olympics in history, but many Sochi residents have paid a very high personal price for these games,” Human Rights Watch’s Jane Buchanan said. “The authorities cut Akhshtyr’s villagers off from basic services and have done woefully little to restore them.”
EWNC and other environmental groups have also documented illegal waste dumping and construction blocking animal migration routes, and deforestation has increased the risk of avalanches, mudslides, and landslides on the mountain ridges.
Alexandra Branscombe is a reporter with Generation Progress. Follow her on Twitter @alibranscombe.