Shaktichakra, the wheel of energies

Culture and systems of knowledge, cultivation and food, population and consumption

Posts Tagged ‘America

The world’s rogue state vs Iran

leave a comment »

Update: On 2 November 2018, European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, along with the foreign relations and finance ministers of Germany, France, and the United Kingdom, issued a joint statement confirming their commitment to establish a ‘Special Purpose Vehicle’, such as a new system governing trade with Iran. Without such a channel, the renewed embargo against Iran by the rogue kleptocracy in power in the USA affects businesses in Europe.

This plan sees European investors and businesses being able to continue all legitimate business with Iran free from the threat of reprisal by the USA for violating its unilateral, completely illegal under international law, embargo. In the statement, European leaders also vowed to continue working with Russia and China.

On Monday 5 November, the American regime in Washington commenced its illegal embargo against Iran and with its usual cowboy bluster warned of ‘severe penalities’ against companies that continued to do business which their embargo wants to block.

More irritating, from the international point of view, is the vacuous threat by the Washington cowboys (US President Donald Trump and his top-tier psychopaths, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, National Security Adviser John Bolton and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin) that any company or individual violating the USA’s unilateral and illegal embargo may lose access to SWIFT global banking system which banks use to conduct international transactions. Even more absurd, the White House cowboys threatened SWIFT itself.

Update: The Treasury Secretary of the government of USA (equivalent to a finance minister) has said that his government is “in negotiations with Belgian-based financial messaging service SWIFT, that facilitates the bulk of the world’s cross-border money transactions, on disconnecting Iran from the network“.

[SWIFT is the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, is the financial network that provides high-value cross-border transfers for members across the world. It is based in Belgium, but its board includes executives from US banks. USA has a peculiar – unacceptable in multilateral and bilateral agreements, and illegal anywhere outside territorial USA – set of ‘laws’ that give the government of the USA permission to act against banks and regulators worldwide if they are seen to obstruct US foreign, defence or economic policy. SWIFT supports most interbank messages, connecting over 11,000 financial institutions in more than 200 countries and territories.]

The news agency report adds: “Washington has been pressuring SWIFT to cut Iran from the system as it did in 2012 before the nuclear deal. Although the United States does not hold a majority on SWIFT’s board of directors, the Trump administration could impose penalties on SWIFT unless it disconnects from Iran.”

In August, Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said the European Union is working to protect economic ties with Iran and keep payment channels open. Maas said Europe has started work on creating a system for money transfers that will be autonomous from the currently prevailing Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT).

IT IS A MEASURE OF THE PHANTASMAGORIA that rules international relations today, that a pretend-country – one which observes only the law of the gun within its borders and uses its remaining power to impose the same kind of primitive law without – with a pretend-government, has given itself the right to label another country a ‘rogue state’.

This pretend-country is the USA, and in its macabre language, a ‘rogue state’ is any country that neither bows to the USA nor submits to its diktats and intimidations, nor permits entry to the USA’s corporations and banks, nor uses the American dollar as its medium of international exchange. There are still in 2018 a number of countries or nation-states which are neither parliamentary as the Anglo-Americans prefer, nor democracies as the Western Europeans imagine themselves to be. This does not make them “rogue states”, for that label should properly be affixed to just the one pretend-country ruled by a pretend-government: the USA.

In the pretend-government of America’s child logic, it can countenance countries pursuing their interests only provided those interests either coincide with the interests of the American pretend-government or are permitted by it. Any transgression is considered by the pretend-government of USA as being outlaw behavior. To most other countries and territories and states (there are 193 in the United Nations) outlaw behaviour means the use by the country’s government and agencies of methods contrary to accepted standards of international behavior and contrary to international law, cheating or reneging, the use of violent methods when peaceful ones are available.

Using this measure – found in the views of a majority among 193 versus the barking insistence of one – the USA is the pre-eminent rogue state (assisted by an adjutant rogue state, the rather recently invented Kingdom of Saudi Arabia). The citizens of this pre-eminent rogue state have been brainwashed to consider it normal that their country’s military installations exist in staggering numbers in other countries, on other peoples’ land – there are now around 800 US bases in foreign countries. Seventy years after World War II and 62 years after the Korean War, there are still 174 US ‘base sites’ in Germany, 113 in Japan, and 83 in South Korea, according to the Pentagon while hundreds more dot the planet in around 80 countries, including Aruba and Australia, Bahrain and Bulgaria, Colombia, Kenya, and Qatar.

The Islamic Republic of Iran does not have a military base in the USA, nor in any country near the USA. On the other hand, the pretend-government of the USA maintains 12 military bases in Iraq, 8 in Kuwait, 6 in Afghanistan, 2 in Bahrain and 2 in Turkey, that is, all around Iran. This is how the pre-eminent rogue state threatens and seeks to intimidate other countries.

This is the background against which a remarkable joint editorial published on 15 October by the editors of four of Iran’s leading newspapers must be considered. The four newspapers – Iran, Hamshahri, Etelaat, and Sazandegi – decried the reimposition by the USA of what are called ‘sanctions’ (a misuse of the word that has become commonplace, the correct words should be embargo or blockade) as a violation of the ‘unalienable rights’ of the Iranian people to ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’, quoting in fact from the American Declaration of Independence which has long been consigned to ashes in the USA itself.

The joint editorial explained that the “access to medicine, drugs and medical equipments” offers “obvious proof” that it is “children, women and men” who are “actually targeted by blind sanctions.” The recession caused by sanctions will see “many job opportunities lost” in industry and agriculture, effects that will “subsequently provoke escalation of poverty among the households, and these households are just those who constitute Iranian people.”

The joint editorial has as its immediate reference point the abandoning by the USA in early May 2018 of the six-party Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) which was signed in 2015, granting Iran sanctions relief in exchange for the curbing of its nuclear activities:

“Whereas leaving JCPOA is a non-diplomatic immoral behavior, imposing tyrannical sanctions against a great nation will certainly be an antagonistic, discreditable measure. The US government claims that its sanctions are targeted on Iranian governance, not on Iranian people, while Iranian government believes that the sanction would come to no harm. However, we as the freethinker freestanding journalists with an attitude independent of any government believe that contrary to what governments claim, the US tyrannical sanctions have brought about destructive repercussions for the lives of millions of Iranian citizens who legitimately enjoy the right of life under optimal conditions.

“The US government obviously tells a lie when claiming that the sanctions are not imposed on the Iranian people. Indeed, the pressure and economic blockade of Iran have left harmful and in some cases, terrible impact on the life of Iranian people, not least the poor, entirely inconsistent with any reading of human rights. Difficulty in having access to medicine, drugs and medical equipments is an obvious proof for this statement that it is the people, children, women and men, who are actually targeted by blind sanctions, and so is when the price of goods are skyrocketed far beyond the purchasing power of ordinary people, and when the cost for health, education and even nutrition for the people are disproportionately increased, when many job opportunities are lost as the immediate effects of the sanctions on the industry and agriculture, all these subsequently provoke escalation of poverty among the households, and these households are just those who constitute Iranian people.”

Yesterday (16 Oct) the pretend-government of the USA blacklisted some 20 Iranian companies, including banks, steel mills, zinc mines, and manufacturers of cars, buses and tractors – on the spurious grounds that they support recruitment of child soldiers for Iran! As has been the practice of the pretend-government of the USA, it employs brazen lies to justify its intention to see destroyed those countries that do not pay it tribute. It lied about the so-called weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, it has lied repeatedly about the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian conflict, it has supplied Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in their genocidal war against Yemen, it has lied to its own citizens about the origin of the 11 September 2001 attacks in the USA.

Resisting the usual attempts at arm-twisting by the pretend-government of the USA, earlier this month, the International Court of Justice ordered the USA to lift the sanctions on humanitarian goods and civil aviation, saying that they endanger civilian lives. The US “must remove any impediments” to the free exportation of food and medicines to Iran and to the safety of civil aviation, the ICJ said, to no avail however. As pointed out by Iranian experts on international law, the American withdrawal from the JCPOA and the measures it has taken to defy its implementation, the re-imposition of embargos and blockades on Iran and its commercial partners in the world, are a material breach of its international obligations and responsibilities.

It is the pre-eminent rogue state of the world (and its adjutant rogue state) which is the towering threat to peaceful and mutually beneficial co-existence, shared security, amity and understanding, sustainable development and the removal of impediments to the betterment of humans and the environment. Iran must have all our support.

Written by makanaka

October 17, 2018 at 13:54

The poverty of suburban America

leave a comment »

The Brookings study said that poor residents in cities and suburban poor residents resemble one another demographically and economically. Similar shares of poor residents in cities and suburbs are working age, worked full- or part-time in the past year, held a bachelor’s degree, or lived in deep poverty (with incomes less than half the poverty line).

The Brookings study said that poor residents in cities and suburban poor residents resemble one another demographically and economically. Similar shares of poor residents in cities and suburbs are working age, worked full- or part-time in the past year, held a bachelor’s degree, or lived in deep poverty (with incomes less than half the poverty line).

During the decade 2000-10 in the USA, for the first time the number of poor people in major metropolitan suburbs surpassed the number in cities. Between 2000 and 2011, the poor population in suburbs grew by 64% — more than twice the rate of growth in cities (29%). By 2011, almost 16.4 million residents in suburbia lived below the poverty line, outstripping the poor population in cities by almost 3 million people.

These are some of the grim findings of ‘Confronting Suburban Poverty in America’, a report by the Brookings Institution, and the implications of this report and its contents are that much more significant for Brookings is conservative in its outlook and advocacy.

The Brookings study has explained that some of the rapid growth, over the last decade, of suburban poverty in America’s cities is a result of changing demographic trends. One factor proposed is that many impoverished workers and youth from the inner cities have been chased out by gentrification and the destruction of public housing over the preceding decades and were able to find relatively more affordable housing in the suburbs.

Another factor is the gutting of American manufacturing (the globalisation syndrome and the endless search by the capitalist class to exploit the lowest wage conditions to be found on the planet). This condition drove many to seek unskilled, low-wage work in the service industries (if those prisons of drudgery and mental sterility can be called ‘service’, for they are designed to reduce the mind and diminish the spirit).

During the 2000s in the USA, suburban poverty rose as regional economies declined, the housing market collapsed, jobs continued to sprawl outwards within metropolitan areas while job growth in lower-paying occupations was faster than middle-class job creation. Chart: Brookings

During the 2000s in the USA, suburban poverty rose as regional economies declined, the housing market collapsed, jobs continued to sprawl outwards within metropolitan areas while job growth in lower-paying occupations was faster than middle-class job creation. Chart: Brookings

Suburban poverty has grown steadily in the USA over the last decade, given a sharp impetus by the housing market plunge and subsequent economic crisis. According to the authors of the Brookings study, nearly 75% of home foreclosures have occurred in the suburbs of America. As the website of the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI) has pointed out, the steep fall in property values has had devastating effects for working and even middle class families: last year, a Federal Reserve report revealed that the median net worth of US families had plunged nearly 40 percent between 2007 and 2010.

Workers’ wages, which stagnated throughout 1980s and 1990s, have been under concerted attack through the financial crisis, even as the stock market has recovered and reached new heights. The growth of social misery revealed in the report explodes the myth – widely peddled over previous decades by whichsoever political grouping occupied the White House – that the population living in US suburbs is uniformly complacent and economically secure.

The study has shown that the biggest increase in suburban poverty has occurred in the South and Southwest of the USA. Poverty in the suburbs of Phoenix, Arizona rose by 134.2%; Las Vegas, Nevada by 139.3%; Austin, Texas by 142.5%; and Atlanta, Georgia by 158.9%. However, there were a number of other cities spread throughout the country, many in former industrial areas, which also saw increases in poverty of 100% or more, including Detroit, Michigan (114.7%), Minneapolis, Minnesota (127.9%), Boise, Idaho (129.7%), Denver, Colorado (138.2%), and Salt Lake City, Utah (141.7%).

Another bit of calm, comrade – Chavez undaunted

leave a comment »

The following is the full text of the message sent by president of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela Hugo Chavez Frias in response to the message sent by Prakash Karat, general secretary of the CPI(M) on August 8, 2011:

Hugo Chávez, sin cabello por efectos de la quimioterapia, pero con la Constitución Nacional en la mano. Photo: El Nacional / Prensa de Miraflores

I send you a fraternal and Bolivarian greeting, with the living testimony of my affection and friendship.
I deeply appreciate the numerous enthusiastic demonstrations of solidarity that I have received from the brotherly nations of Venezuela, as well as Heads  of State and governments of numerous countries of our America and around the world.
After completing the first cycle of medical treatment that I have been prescribed and having made a colossal effort to celebrate together with the Venezuela people the bicentennial of the declaration of independence, I returned to the warm city of La Havana with my daughters to continue, under the strict care of a team of high class doctors, the second phase of treatment to which I am subjected.
In this complicated and difficult crossroads at which life has placed me, I proceed the long way and difficult road of return, therefore I have the conviction that all the love, all the solidarity received in recent days is the most sublime energy that boosts and will boost my desire to win this new battle that life has thrown up.
When an event like this happens, in difficult moments, the company of friends and the timely words of encouragement they give you are more valued than ever. Throughout my life, no doubt, I have been repeating the mistake of neglecting my health and now I have to confront difficulties to continue the good march towards the future.
Attended by Cuban and Venezuelan doctors trained with the most advanced scientific knowledge which they have in hand, now I must pass through a slow and careful monitoring and treatment, which accepts no rush or pressure of any kind. My discipline to recover the health is, at this point rigorous.
The hours of meditation and inner search of the necessary potential will help me to come out of this adverse situation, I have rediscovered the wise and generous words of the great Peruvian poet Cesar Vallejo, especially the verse that invokes hope and patience.

Chávez cree que se desplomó la esperanza que para algunos significó Obama. Photo: European Pressphoto Agency

Another bit of calm, comrade;
A lot, immense, northern, complete
Fierce, small calm,
To the service less than every victory.

With the calmness recommended by the immortal Cesar Vallejo, that one serves under each victory, I have taken care of my health in a comprehensive and rigorous way. Thanks to the God of my fathers, to quote our Liberator Simon Bolivar, I can say that I am recovering physically, intellectually, morally and with a political strength that will allow me to confront with fortitude the challenges ahead.
Much work remains to be done to meet the immense commitment to solve the problems of the Venezuelan people to finally consolidate our country’s independence, long-awaited justice and equality. I remain in command of the Bolivarian government, with the support of a great team of ministers that is under the unconditional service of the highest interests of the country.
As you know, Venezuela celebrated in a great way the bicentennial of its independence, an event that obliges us to pick up the torch of our first liberators and to continue the struggle for independence, sovereignty and freedom of our people. Bolivar said: “I desire the formation in America of the greatest nation in the world, not so much as to its extension and wealth as to its glory and freedom.”
Friends around the world, I invite you to continue accompanying Venezuela with the same solidarity and respect of always, to keep together, scaling new heights and to build the better world we want. I reiterate my unconditional friendship, and my infinite affection for every interest and the concern expressed in recent days.
From the great nation, from my heart, from my whole soul, from my supreme hope, which is of a people, I say for now and always:
We will live and win!

Hugo Chavez
President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela

[From People’s Democracy, the organ of the CPI(M)]

Written by makanaka

August 20, 2011 at 13:18

Neither with the West nor against it, and not ‘Arab street’

with one comment

Map of the social uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East, for Le Monde Diplomatique by Philippe Rekacewicz

Map of the social uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East, for Le Monde Diplomatique by Philippe Rekacewicz

In the ever thoughtful Le Monde Diplomatique, senior commentators Alain Gresh and Serge Halimi consider aspects of ‘The New Arab Awakening’, which is the theme for the 2011 March edition.

“The fantasy that the Arabs are passive and unsuited to democracy has evaporated in weeks. Arabs have overthrown hated authoritarian regimes in Tunisia and Egypt” – Gresh has written in his commentary, ‘Neither with the West, nor against it’.

In Libya, they have fought a sclerotic regime in power for 42 years that has refused to listen to their demands, facing extraordinary violence, hundreds of deaths, untold injuries, mass exodus and generalised chaos. In Algeria, Morocco, Bahrain, Yemen, Jordan, Iraqi Kurdistan, the West Bank and Oman, Arabs have taken to the streets in vast numbers. This defiance has spread even to non-Arab Iran.

And where promises of reform have been made but were then found wanting, people have simply returned to the streets. In Egypt, protesters have demanded faster and further-reaching reform. In Tunisia, renewed demonstrations on 25-27 February led to five deaths but won a change of prime minister (Mohamed Ghannouchi stepped down in favour of Beji Caid-Essebsi). In Iraq, renewed protests led to a promise to sack unsatisfactory ministers. In Algeria, the 19-year emergency law was repealed amid continuing protests. The demands are growing throughout the region, and will not be silenced.

The revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, the uprising in Libya, and all the other popular movements that have shaken the region are not just about how people want to live and develop, but about regional politics. For the first time since the 1970s, geopolitics cannot be analysed without taking into account, at least in part, the aspirations of people who have retaken control of their destinies.

“Governments of very different shades find common ground in the same disinformation. Iran has claimed that the Arabs’ democratic revolt heralded an Islamic revival, inspired by the 1979 Iranian revolution” – Halimi has written, in ‘Could Iran be next?’

Israel repeated this claim, and pretended to be alarmed. But when the Iranian opposition gathered to celebrate the demonstrations in Cairo, the ruling theocracy opened fire on the crowd. The Israeli army does not massacre unarmed civilians – unless they are Palestinian (1,400 dead in Gaza two years ago) – but Binyamin Netanyahu does not welcome young Arabs’ demands for freedom any more than Iran does. Israel fears it might lose excellent partners in power, autocratic but pro-American. Its only recourse then would be to cry wolf against Iran.

But tensions with Israel and international sanctions enable the Iranian regime, emboldened by the weakening of regional rivals Egypt and Saudi Arabia, to play the nationalist card. It sees this as useful, since the 2009 Green Movement has not succumbed to ceaseless repression. The Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, hoped the vaccine of hanging and torture had eradicated the virus of opposition. Sadly for him, the Arab revolt and the humiliating contrast between a highly educated population and an archaic political system undermine the dubious legitimacy of his regime.

Rather than follow the Libyan example and order the air force to machinegun the crowd, the ruling elite has unleashed the murderous demands of its followers. When the opposition mustered its forces, 222 of the 290 members of the Iranian parliament called for Mehdi Karroubi and Mir Hossein Mousavi, former government dignitaries under house arrest for opposing the Supreme Leader, to be brought to trial.

‘Letters from America’

with 2 comments

Energy Bulletin, the peak oil + transition cultures + alternate economics online resource, has just posted my article, ‘Letters from America‘, in which an agriculture student from a small North Indian village writes home to his sister about the odd way of life he encounters during a stay in America. EB has described this as an updated Gulliver’s Travels. This is the first part:

Farm labour at work near Salinas, California

Farm labour at work near Salinas, California

Dear Pooja, Imagine how surprised I was to see farms here that are so big, they disappear over the horizon! Papaji would not have believed it and nor would our uncles. I first saw them from the plane, and as I couldn’t judge how high we were, I didn’t know how big they were.

This I saw in the state of California, which is quite dry, like in our North India during April, but of course it is much cooler. They grow many vegetables here, and many flowers too. I wondered how they had so much water, because where there are no farms and no houses, there is desert.

They told me the water comes from the mountains, which are quite far away (at times I can see them to the east, and there’s a sparkle to some of their summits that could even be snow). How much they must have spent to move the water here – there is an enormous aqueduct (like our canals, but so much longer) that sends the farmers water.

Vegetables and fruit shop, Chinatown, San Francisco

Vegetables and fruit shop, Chinatown, San Francisco

What bothers me is that they waste quite a lot of it. You may think I am joking, but I have seen water being sprinkled all over big farms from sprinklers, like the ones some of the rich farmers have in our district, only of course here there are many more and they shoot out the water for hours at a time. Imagine what we could do with so much water for our crops – I wonder what they pay for this water, whether the poorer farmers also get any (don’t ask me if there are any, I don’t know yet).

You would also be amazed by how much machinery they use. I could make out a plough and a tiller, but other things I did not understand at all, what they do or how they work. Papaji would have been very angry to see so much machinery for use on the farm. The other elders too.

Remember when Jagdeep-chacha bought his first tractor (yes I know he first rented it with three other farmers) how Papaji and the others argued with him. “Machines distress the earth, our hands and feet must be in contact with Mother Earth if we ask her for nourishment,” I remember them saying.

Range of breakfast cereals in Los Angeles store

Range of breakfast cereals in Los Angeles store

I used to see it as a natural kind of respect, and although – as I admitted to you but not to Ma and Papaji – I enjoyed riding on Jagdeep-chacha’s tractor when we went for fairs, I felt uncomfortable when that big heavy shiny noisy belching machine with huge tyres rumbled heavily across his fields. How could our soil bear such a monstrous weight, I would think, and what of all the thousands and thousands of little creatures that live in the soil and make it what it is, what would happen to them? Ma and Papaji and our brothers and sisters understood, but not everyone did.

But here, machines of all kinds are used on the soil. They dig, turn, roll, lift, crumble, bunch, furrow and level the soil. They treat the soil as it if was a kind of porous carpet that can be diced and shaped in any way they please. I find it very troubling, Pooja, that they do this. There is no respect.

Organic vegetable farm, Camarillo, California

Organic vegetable farm, Camarillo, California

The rows of vegetables look healthy and neat – beans, lima beans, oats, safflower, lettuce, what they call ‘salad’ which means a variety of greens. I don’t know how to react at times, there is so much of it. I was told the farms are in blocks of 100 acres, maybe more! Just imagine Pooja, where are we with our three and a half acres? But it’s not good to compare like that, as Papaji used to say, stick to what you know and can do and work on the land to the extent Mother Earth wants you to, without greed and without superiority. Still, this is so different it will take me some time to understand it. But it will be difficult.

The family I am staying with here in California are kind and explain whatever they can. Two days ago we talked about food and hunger, poor and rich. They told me that people in the state of California don’t know how poor other people are elsewhere in America. I said I did not know there were poor people in America, because the stories in our villages have always been of how easy it is to get rich here. But they explained to me that there are poor people, although what they mean by poor is quite different from what we and Ma and Papaji would understand.

Los Angeles urban built density

Los Angeles urban built density

“If someone has only one TV and one old car, that’s poor,” said my host, and I was so surprised by this he started laughing. When I told him what we mean by poor he became very serious. “This country wastes too much,” he said. And I agree.

Yesterday we went to a shopping centre to buy me some walking shoes – don’t worry I’m looking after my money very carefully, the shoes were cheap.

Outside the shop we bought the shoes from was a rubbish bin. You won’t believe it Pooja, there was a man with his arms in the bin, looking for food. He was taking out small packets and bags that people had thrown inside, and in these he had found something to eat. I looked inside the bin too, but could only see more plastic bags and paper packets and cups – this kind of man must have the experience to judge what contains food.

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) box, Camarillo, California

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) box, Camarillo, California

My host told me that every day, the average American “throws away about one-and-a-half pounds of food” (that means around 700 grams, they still use pounds here so I have to keep converting) and it is not that the food has gone bad. If lettuce has wilted only slightly, if a loaf of bread gets slightly hard because it has been left outside, even if an apple is a little discoloured through bad handling, they will throw it away! Yes I know you will say our city folk are wasteful too, but this amount of waste is different.

And yet I have heard of something they call ‘food stamps’ and ‘soup kitchens’, where the poor and homeless are fed. Ma would have been curious – these ‘food stamps’ and ‘soup kitchens’ are not managed by temple committees like at home but by small volunteer groups. I have been impressed by people willingly going to do such work: there is inequality and waste, that is true, but there is also concern and action.

Written by makanaka

June 26, 2010 at 01:12