Saturday, March 6, 2010

The moral dimension of things: Why are political leaders lying most of the time?

By Prof. Rodrigue Tremblay, Global Research

The New American Empire


"When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men living together in society, they create for themselves, in the course of time, a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it."  Frederic Bastiat (1801-1850), French economist

"Certain hierarchs of the Catholic Church in Latin America used prayer as an anesthesia to put the people to sleep. When they cannot dominate us with law, then comes prayer, and when they can't humiliate or dominate us with prayer, then comes the gun." Evo Morales, President of Bolivia (July 13, 2009)

"The single most important quality needed to resist evil is moral autonomy. Moral autonomy is possible only through reflection, self-determination and the courage not to cooperate." Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) German philosopher


Why do political leaders seem to be lying most of the time?

Why is uncontrolled greed so prevalent in corporate rooms?

Why do wicked men wage wars of aggression and become indifferent to the killing of innocent people?

Why does materialism seem to trump everything else?

Why do we have the uneasy feeling that our society is going in the wrong direction?

The very fact that we have to raise such questions may be a sign of the times.

Indeed, when the stench of moral decay becomes overwhelming, bad things inevitably follow. Historically, it can be shown that when the moral environment in a society is deteriorating, problems tend to pile up.

We are presently living in one of those times, characterized by deep and entrenched political corruption, by routine abuse of power and disregard for the rule of law in high places, and by unchecked greed, fraud and deception in the economic sphere. The results are all there to see: Severe and prolonged economic and financial crises, rising social inequalities and social injustice, increasing intolerance toward individual choices, the disregard for environmental decay, the rise of religious absolutism, a return to whimsical wars of aggression (or of pre-emptive wars), to blind terrorism and to the repugnant use of torture, and even to genocide and to blatant war crimes. These are all indicators that our civilization has lost its moral compass.

With all these throwbacks to an unpalatable past, it is not surprising there is a resurgence of interest nowadays for questions of morality and of ethics.


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Methane frozen beneath Arctic seabed destabilising, scientists warn

Huge quantities of methane below the Arctic seabed are showing signs of destabilising, according to research conducted in the East Siberian Sea.

Scientists aboard Russian icebreakers have discovered that methane is leaking from the sub-sea permafrost far faster than had been previously estimated, raising concerns that climatic tipping points may have been reached.

As a greenhouse gas, methane is 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide but emissions from subsea permafrost are not included in climate change prediction models.

“The sub-sea permafrost should act as a cap or seal, preventing leakage,” Natalia Shakhova, of the University of Alaska, told The Times. “Beneath it there is methane that has accumulated at high pressure. But the permafrost is losing its ability to be an impermeable cap.”

After water vapour and carbon dioxide, methane is the most significant of the gases that cause the atmosphere to retain heat. Levels have doubled since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution but 40 per cent of sources are natural, resulting from the decomposition of organic material in wetlands and other areas.

The permafrost that covers vast tracts of land in the far North is thawing, steadily adding methane to the atmosphere. The Arctic has warmed at about twice the rate of the rest of the planet. Climate scientists are concerned that as rising temperatures melt more permafrost, the added methane will raise temperatures further and so cause a wider thaw.

Dr Shakhova said: “The climatic consequences of this are hard to predict. This type of source has never been predicted by anyone and has not been included in climate models. We're going to keep studying this region and investigating why this is happening.

“Our concern is that the sub-sea permafrost has been showing signs of destabilisation already.”

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Vets to Congress: Rethink Afghanistan Now

The power of nonviolence by Ziad AbuZayyad

...There is a lesson to be learned here by us Palestinians: We cannot quash the Israeli repression machine with violence, because our violence will be used to justify and legitimize the brutality of the strong against the weak. Furthermore, Palestinians need to take into account the fact that they have allies on the Israeli side who share their rejection of the occupation and of discrimination; it is crucial to reinforce and nurture this relationship with them.

Disseminating a culture of passive resistance against the oppression and atrocities of the occupation is the most efficacious method for fighting it: It should be promulgated and its circle expanded. It must not remain restricted to pockets of protest here and there, but should become a generalized modus operandi that encompasses all points of contact with the occupation and the settlements, which are trying to gobble up the land and obliterate all features of Palestinian identity. It must be clearly said that nonviolence is morally superior to force...

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Departing U.N. envoy has strong words for Afghan government

The departing U.N. envoy to Afghanistan said Thursday that the nation's leaders must "clean up their own house" and warned that U.S.-led military operations must not jeopardize political efforts toward reconciliation with the Taliban.

At a news conference marking the end of his 18-month term, Kai Eide said there was hope for the nation but the world needed more resolve from President Hamid Karzai's government. He criticized Afghanistan for a lack of reform and the international community for "fast-ticking clocks" and unrealistic demands.

His overall assessment: "This year, of course, will be the most challenging that Afghanistan has faced since the fall of the Taliban. . . . It's a year where negative trends have to be reversed, or they will become irreversible."

Eide said he was encouraged by Karzai's invitation to the Taliban to attend a peace conference this year. That proposal comes as the militant group has been weakened by the arrests of leaders and the recent U.S.-led military sweep that pushed its fighters from a stronghold in the southern province of Helmand.

"I think it's high time that we get into this kind of a political process" of trying to negotiate with the Taliban, said Eide, a Norwegian diplomat. "It is now time to talk. I believe the reconciliation and peace process, whatever shape it takes, should get underway as soon as possible." He said the international strategy "has unfortunately been too much militarily driven." 

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Poor are the last to get aid amid class war in Concepción

Class war has broken out in the city that bore the brunt of the Chilean earthquake and tsunami and the wave of looting that followed. Aid has just arrived in Concepción but it is the rich who are being fed first.

“The first food deliveries were for the middle class, because the lower class had been stealing from the supermarkets,” said Carlos González Sánchez, the Cabinet chief of the municipal council.

“The focus of the looting was small bands of thieves from the poblaciones [poor neighbourhoods]. The curfew has had a good result. The situation is now under control.”

Nevertheless the poor must wait their turn. “On the first day 13,000 plastic shopping bags of supplies — rice, vegetables, oil, cereal, nappies, milk and coffee — were delivered to middle-class areas,” Mr Sánchez said.

At a small encampment on the side of the Bío-Bío River, five families are living in tents and shelters made of plastic sheeting “My roof fell down,” said María Elvengo Porter. “I cook with water from a swimming pool. The water has chlorine in it.”

Three flags hang over the camp: the Chilean one, a white flag — for peace — and a black flag made of a plastic bag. “It’s a cry for help from the Government,” Ms Porter said.

So far no help has arrived.

Two teenage boys demonstrated their home-made weapons — a blade shoved into a wooden pole, and a hoe. “We took food from the supermarkets, but only food, no TVs, just what we need,” Ms Porter said.

The situation is equally desperate in nearby Talcahuano, where 400 residents from the badly damaged, poor fishing community of Caleta el Morro have built an encampment on a hill. “The authorities don’t help,” Consuelo Neira, 58 said.

“Everything I had in life has gone,” said Eliana Capalan, in tears. “Help from the Government? Nothing.”

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Olympic Tent Village: Behind the scenes of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics



"Walking around the 2010 Winter Olympics, it is hard to miss the frenzy of consumption surrounding the entire event. Hour-long lines to spend hundreds of dollars on official Olympic gear, drunk people everywhere, trash and Starbucks cups piling up along the streets. People are in Vancouver from all over the world, and are spending a lot of money.

You can imagine my shock when I discovered the Olympic Tent Village on the Eastside of Vancouver, at Abbot and Hastings St. Here, the people had a different take on the Olympics. After spending 8 billion dollars on Olympics infrastructure, there was no net increase in low-income housing - as promised in the Olympics bid. Homelessness has actually TRIPLED since the Olympics bid. Condos are spreading like wildfire, and the homeless are being displaced without anywhere else to go. Rather than providing solutions, the government in British Columbia seem to be ignoring and exacerbating the problem.

And with the Olympics in town, the stark contrast between the haves and have-nots becomes even more visible. Drunk people walk by the camp yelling "get a job." A sign hanging from a condo nearby reads "Build resumes, not tents." People in Tent City have little; everyone around them seem to have plenty.

"Another tower went up where the homeless had their homes/Who will save our souls"
Tent City is organized by nearly 100 local organizations. It has three demands:

1.END HOMELESSNESS
2.STOP GENTRIFICATION
3.STOP THE CRIMINALIZATION OF POVERTY

This is a look into their story. It is by no means comprehensive, as the issue is far more complex than a 3-minute film can address. However, it is eye-opening. It is a different perspective, something that you do not hear covered in mainstream media. The Olympics is not always as noble as their branding/marketing suggests, and I think its important to keep the OOC honest about the impact the Games have on host cities. Walking around Vancouver, I was not convinced that this was a good thing for Canada - or its people."

African Socialist International (ASI) organizers preparing for training in Kenya amidst uneasy calm

 It has been a few days since we arrived here in Kenya. We have come to conduct training for the comrades who have taken upon their shoulders the responsibility to build the African Socialist International (ASI) in this area.
 
Things here in Kenya are relatively calm at the moment compared to the last time I was here. Last year, crisis and instability were thick in the air, and government repression was obvious.
 
At that time two student activists had just been assassinated in broad daylight a month or so before we arrived. The coalition government that had been formed off the back of the fraudulent elections that spawned widespread violence was shaky and struggling within itself.
 
Two ministers resigned within a few days of our arrival and another former minister had held a press conference saying the government was trying to kill him.
 
The instability and repression were extremely overt then, but that is not to say that they are not present now.
 
One can still walk down the street and see police troops carrying AK-47s and other automatic weapons.

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Israel trains US assassination squads in Iraq

Israeli advisers are helping train US special forces in aggressive counter-insurgency operations in Iraq, including the use of assassination squads against guerrilla leaders, US intelligence and military sources said yesterday.

The Israeli Defence Force (IDF) has sent urban warfare specialists to Fort Bragg in North Carolina, the home of US special forces, and according to two sources, Israeli military "consultants" have also visited Iraq.

US forces in Iraq's Sunni triangle have already begun to use tactics that echo Israeli operations in the occupied territories, sealing off centres of resistance with razor wire and razing buildings from where attacks have been launched against US troops.

But the secret war in Iraq is about to get much tougher, in the hope of suppressing the Ba'athist-led insurgency ahead of next November's presidential elections.

US special forces teams are already behind the lines inside Syria attempting to kill foreign jihadists before they cross the border, and a group focused on the "neutralisation" of guerrilla leaders is being set up, according to sources familiar with the operations.

"This is basically an assassination programme. That is what is being conceptualised here. This is a hunter-killer team," said a former senior US intelligence official, who added that he feared the new tactics and enhanced cooperation with Israel would only inflame a volatile situation in the Middle East.

"It is bonkers, insane. Here we are - we're already being compared to Sharon in the Arab world, and we've just confirmed it by bringing in the Israelis and setting up assassination teams."

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