Food Riots, Spies, Duopoly, and Media Shunning of a “Third Party”

Since I gave up hope, I feel better.

More than any time in history, mankind now faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness, the other to total extinction. Let us pray that we have the wisdom to choose correctly.
— Woody Allen

Food riots, in dozens of countries, in the 21st century. Is this what we envisioned during the post-World War Two, moon-landing 20th century as humankind’s glorious future? It’s not the end of the world, but you can almost see it from here.

American writer Henry Miller (1891-1980) once asserted that the role of the artist was to “inoculate the world with disillusionment”. So just in case you — for whatever weird reason — cling to the belief/hope that the United States can be a positive force in ending or slowing down the new jump in world hunger, here are some disillusioning facts of life.

On December 14, 1981 a resolution was proposed in the United Nations General Assembly which declared that “education, work, health care, proper nourishment, national development are human rights”. Notice the “proper nourishment”. The resolution was approved by a vote of 135-1. The United States cast the only “No” vote.

A year later, December 18, 1982, an identical resolution was proposed in the General Assembly. It was approved by a vote of 131-1. The United States cast the only “No” vote.

The following year, December 16, 1983, the resolution was again put forth, a common practice at the United Nations. This time it was approved by a vote of 132-1. There’s no need to tell you who cast the sole “No” vote.

These votes took place under the Reagan administration.

Under the Clinton administration, in 1996, a United Nations-sponsored World Food Summit affirmed the “right of everyone to have access to safe and nutritious food”. The United States took issue with this, insisting that it does not recognize a “right to food”. Washington instead championed free trade as the key to ending the poverty at the root of hunger, and expressed fears that recognition of a “right to food” could lead to lawsuits from poor nations seeking aid and special trade provisions.1

The situation of course did not improve under the administration of George W. Bush. In 2002, in Rome, world leaders at another U.N.-sponsored World Food Summit again approved a declaration that everyone had the right to “safe and nutritious food”. The United States continued to oppose the clause, again fearing it would leave them open to future legal claims by famine-stricken countries.2

Along with petitioning American leaders to become decent human beings we should be trying to revive the population control movement. Birth rates must be radically curbed. All else being equal, a markedly reduced population count would have a markedly beneficial effect upon global warming and food and water availability (not to mention finding a parking spot and lots of other advantages). People, after all, are not eating more. There are simply more/too many people. Some favor limiting families to two children. Others argue in favor of one child per family. Still others, who spend a major part of each day digesting the awful news of the world, are calling for a limit of zero. (The Chinese government recently announced that the country would have about 400 million more people if it wasn’t for its limit of one or two children per couple.3)

And as long as we’re fighting for hopeless causes, let’s throw in the demand that corporations involved in driving the cost of oil through the roof — and dragging food costs with it — must either immediately exhibit a conspicuous social conscience or risk being nationalized, their executives taken away in orange jumpsuits, handcuffs, and leg shackles. The same for other corporations and politicians involved in championing the replacement of food crops with biofuel crops or exploiting any of the other steps along the food-chain system which puts bloated income ahead of putting food in people’s mouths. We’re not speaking here of weather phenomena beyond the control of man, we’re speaking of men making decisions, based not on people’s needs but on pseudo-scientific, amoral mechanisms like supply and demand, commodity exchanges, grain futures, selling short, selling long, and other forms of speculation, all fed and multiplied by the proverbial herd mentality — a system governed by only two things: fear and greed; not a rational way to feed a world of human beings.

The Wall Street Journal reports that grain-processing giant Archer-Daniels-Midland Co. said its quarterly profits “jumped 42%, including a sevenfold increase in net income in its unit that stores, transports and trades grains such as wheat, corn and soybeans. … Some observers think financial speculation has helped push up prices as wealthy investors in the past year have flooded the agriculture commodity markets in search of better returns.”4 At the same time, the French Agriculture Minister warned European Union officials against “too much trust in the free market. We must not leave the vital issue of feeding people to the mercy of market laws and international speculation.”5

It should be noted that the price of gasoline in the United States increases on a regular basis, but there’s no shortage of supply. There are no lines of cars waiting at gas stations. And demand has been falling as financially-strapped drivers cut back on car use.

Intelligence agents without borders

When Andreas Papandreou assumed his ministerial duties in 1964 in the Greek government led by his father George Papandreou, he was shocked to discover an intelligence service out of control, a shadow government with powers beyond the authority of the nation’s nominal leaders, a service more loyal to the CIA than to the Papandreou government. This was a fact of life for many countries in the world during the Cold War, when the CIA could dazzle a foreign secret service with devices of technical wizardry, classes in spycraft, vital intelligence, unlimited money, and American mystique and propaganda. Many of the world’s intelligence agencies have long provided the CIA with information about their own government and citizens. The nature of much of this information has been such that if a private citizen were to pass it to a foreign power he could be charged with treason.6

Leftist Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa declared in April that Ecuador’s intelligence systems were “totally infiltrated and subjugated to the CIA,” and accused senior Ecuadoran military officials of sharing intelligence with Colombia, the Bush administration’s top (if not only) ally in Latin America. The previous month missiles had been fired into a camp of the Colombian FARC rebels situated in Ecuador near the Colombian border, killing about 25. One of those killed was Franklin Aisalla, an Ecuadorean operative for the group. It turned out that Ecuadorean intelligence officials had been tracking Aisalla, a fact that was not shared with the president, but apparently with Colombian forces and their American military advisers. “I, the president of the republic, found out about these operations by reading the newspaper,” a visibly indignant Correa said. “This is not something we can tolerate.” He added that he planned to restructure the intelligence agencies so he would have greater direct control over them.7

The FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) is routinely referred to in the world media as “Marxist”, but that designation has not been appropriate for many years. The FARC has long been basically a criminal organization — kidnapings for ransom, kidnapings for no apparent reason, selling protection services to businesses, trafficking in drugs, fighting the Colombian Army to be free to continue their criminal ways or to revenge their comrades’ deaths. But Washington, proceeding from its declared ideology of “If you ain’t with us, you’re against us; in fact, if you ain’t with us you’re a terrorist”, has designated FARC as a terrorist group. Every stated definition of “terrorist”, from the FBI to the United Nations to the US criminal code makes it plain that terrorism is essentially a political act. This should, logically, exclude FARC from that category but, in actuality, has no effect on Washington’s thinking. And now the Bush administration is threatening to add Venezuela to its list of “nations that support terrorism”, following a claim by Colombia that it had captured a computer belonging to FARC after the attack on the group’s campsite in Ecuador. A file allegedly found on the alleged computer, we are told, suggests that the Venezuelan government had channeled $300 million to FARC, and that FARC had appeared interested in acquiring 110 pounds of uranium.8 What next? Chavez had met with Osama bin Laden at the campsite?

Amongst the FARC members killed in the Colombian attack on Ecuador were several involved in negotiations to free Ingrid Betancourt, a former Colombian presidential candidate who also holds French citizenship and is gravely ill. The French government and Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez have been very active in trying to win Betancourt’s freedom. Individuals collaborating with Chavez have twice this year escorted a total of six hostages freed by the FARC into freedom, including four former Colombian legislators. The prestige thus acquired by Chavez has of course not made Washington ideologues happy. If Chavez should have a role in the freeing of Betancourt — the FARC’s most prominent prisoner — his prestige would jump yet higher. The raid on the FARC camp has put an end to the Betancourt negotiations, at least for the near future.

The raid bore the fingerprints of the US military/CIA — a Predator drone aircraft dropped “smart bombs” after pinpointing the spot by monitoring a satellite phone call between a FARC leader and Chavez. A Colombian Defense Ministry official admitted that the United States had provided his government with intelligence used in the attack, but denied that Washington had provided the weapons.9 The New York Times observed that “The predawn operation bears remarkable similarities to one carried out in late January by the United States in Pakistan.”7

So what do we have here? Washington has removed a couple of dozen terrorists (or “terrorists”) from the ranks of the living without any kind of judicial process. Ingrid Betancourt continues her imprisonment, now in its sixth year, but another of Hugo Chavez’s evil-commie plans has been thwarted. And the CIA — as with its torture renditions — has once again demonstrated its awesome power: anyone, anywhere, anytime, anything, all laws domestic and international be damned, no lie too big.

“After such knowledge, what forgiveness?” — T.S. Eliot

Barack Obama’s pastor, Jeremiah Wright, held a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington on April 28, during which he was asked about his earlier statement that the US government had invented the HIV virus, which causes AIDS, “as a means of genocide against people of color”.

Wright did not offer any kind of evidence to support his claim. Even more important, the claim makes little sense. Why would the US government want to wipe out people of color? Undoubtedly, many government officials, past and present, have been racists, but the capitalist system at home and its imperialist brother abroad have no overarching ideological or realpolitik need for such a genocide. During the seven decades of the Cold War, the American power elite was much more interested in a genocide of “communists”, of whatever color, wherever they might be found. Many weapons which might further this purpose were researched, including, apparently, an HIV-like virus. Consider this: On June 9, 1969, Dr. Donald M. MacArthur, Deputy Director, Research and Engineering, Department of Defense, testified before Congress:

Within the next 5 to 10 years, it would probably be possible to make a new infective microorganism which could differ in certain important aspects from any known disease-causing organisms. Most important of these is that it might be refractory [resistant] to the immunological and therapeutic processes upon which we depend to maintain our relative freedom from infectious disease.10

Whether the United States actually developed such a microorganism and what it did with it has not been reported. AIDS was first identified by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 1981. It’s certainly possible that the disease arose as a result of Defense Department experiments, and then spread as an unintended consequence.

If you think that our leaders, as wicked as they are, would not stoop to any kind of biological or chemical warfare against people, consider that in 1984 an anti-Castro Cuban exile, on trial in a New York court, testified that in the latter part of 1980 a ship traveled from Florida to Cuba with “a mission to carry some germs to introduce them in Cuba to be used against the Soviets and against the Cuban economy, to begin what was called chemical war, which later on produced results that were not what we had expected, because we thought that it was going to be used against the Soviet forces, and it was used against our own people, and with that we did not agree.”11

It’s not clear from the testimony whether the Cuban man thought that the germs would somehow be able to confine their actions to only Russians. This was but one of many instances where the CIA or Defense Department used biological or chemical weapons against Cuba and other countries, including in the United States against Americans, at times with fatal consequences.12

Breaking the media barrier

“You take that framework of people feeling locked out, shut out, marginalized, disrespected, and you go from Iraq to Palestine to Israel, from Enron to Wall Street, from Katrina to the bungling of the Bush administration, to the complicity of the Democrats in not stopping him on the war, stopping him on the tax cuts … If the Democrats can’t landslide the Republicans this year, they ought to just wrap up, close down, emerge in a different form. You think the American people are going to vote for a pro-war John McCain who almost gives an indication he’s the candidate of perpetual war, perpetual intervention overseas?”

Thus spaketh Ralph Nader as he announced his presidential candidacy to a national audience on NBC’s Meet the Press in February. The next day his words appeared in the Washington Post, Kansas City Star, Associated Press, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, International Herald Tribune, and numerous other publications, news agencies, and websites around the world. And other parts of his interview were also repeated, like this in the Washington Post: “Let’s get over it and try to have a diverse, multiple-choice, multiple-party democracy, the way they have in Western Europe and Canada.”

This is why Ralph Nader runs for office. To get our views a hearing in the mainstream media (which we often, justifiably, look down upon but are forced to make use of), and offer Americans an alternative to the tweedledumb and tweedledumber political parties and their cookie-cutter candidates with their status-quo-long-live-the-empire souls. Is Nader’s campaign not eminently worthwhile? But as always, he faces formidable obstacles, amongst which is what H. L. Mencken once observed: “The men the American people admire most extravagantly are the most daring liars; the men they detest most violently are those who try to tell them the truth.”

Here are a couple of campaigns to contribute time and money to:

Ralph Nader — http://www.votenader.org/
Cindy Sheehan, running for Congress in San Francisco against Nancy “Impeachment is off the table” Pelosi — http://www.cindyforcongress.org/

“Building a new world” conference

May 22-25, Radford University, Radford, Virginia, 5-hour drive from Washington, DC. Cindy Sheehan, Kathy Kelly, Michael Parenti, David Swanson, Gareth Porter, William Blum, Medea Benjamin, Gary Corseri, Mike Whitney, Kevin Zeese, Robert Jensen, and others. Room and board available at reasonable rates.

  1. Washington Post, November 18, 1996. []
  2. Reuters news agency, June 10, 2002. []
  3. Washington Post, March 3, 2008. []
  4. “Grain Companies’ Profits Soar As Global Food Crisis Mounts”, Wall Street Journal, April 30, 2008, p.1. []
  5. Washington Post, April 27, 2008, p.13. []
  6. William Blum, Killing Hope, pages 217-8. []
  7. New York Times, April 21, 2008. [] []
  8. New York Times, March 4, 2008. []
  9. Agence France Presse, March 24, 2008 []
  10. Hearings before the House Subcommittee of the Committee on Appropriations, “Department of Defense Appropriations for 1970.” []
  11. Testimony of Eduardo Victor Arocena Perez, on trial in Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York, transcript of September 10, 1984, pp. 2187-89. []
  12. William Blum, Rogue State, chapters 14 and 15. []
William Blum is the author of: Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War 2, Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower, West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir, Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire. He can be reached at: bblum6@aol.com. Read other articles by William, or visit William's website.

19 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Chris Crass said on May 2nd, 2008 at 10:26am #

    Hey, wait a minute! You cited yourself as a source! Twice!
    I find myself fighting my predisposition towards believing you.

  2. John Wilkinson said on May 2nd, 2008 at 11:54am #

    “based not on people’s needs but on pseudo-scientific, amoral mechanisms like supply and demand, commodity exchanges, grain futures, selling short, selling long, and other forms of speculation, all fed and multiplied by the proverbial herd mentality — a system governed by only two things: fear and greed; not a rational way to feed a world of human beings”.

    So, what do you propose in lieu of commodity exchanges for setting the prices and quantities of food commodities, like grain, corn, etc.? We are talking zillions of tons. Should a farmer from Texas drive his wheat to a supermarket or a bread-maker in New York City, to see what price it will fetch there? Or maybe you have in mind the Soviet style planning and price setting. That worked out pretty well, didn’t it — famine in the Ukraine, the bread basket of the USSR, importing millions of tons of grain from the US every year, where we had the commodity exchanges.

    Just love it when people dream of things they know nothing about.

  3. John Wilkinson said on May 2nd, 2008 at 12:03pm #

    “The men the American people admire most extravagantly are the most daring liars; the men they detest most violently are those who try to tell them the truth.”

    And then you mention Nader in the latter category. Maybe he told the truth 40 years ago. I know that he lies and shamelessly, for the same reason the others do. The reason I know is when he talks about things I know a thing or two about, like energy choices and others. Pure demagoguery, pure fear mongering. But it’s easy with the americans and esp. leftists — neither can find their own ass on the map of the world, and feeling good is paramount to both.

    But never mind the facts, let’s have the Ralph love fest, he’s the messiah. He’ll deliver us. This is part of a piece that’s supposed to enlighten us on something.

    And yes, good catch Chris — circular logic to prove one’s point. Anything to win, that’s the amurikan way.

  4. John Wilkinson said on May 2nd, 2008 at 12:08pm #

    As for the HIV-AIDS thing being unbelievable, have you heard of the Tuskegee experiments that preceded the epidemic? Pretty much the same thing. Not that there’s any proof, but it sure as hell is plausible, like the other possibilities mentioned.

  5. John Wilkinson said on May 2nd, 2008 at 12:12pm #

    “Since I gave up hope, I feel better.”

    I am sure you do, Bill. It’s been pretty rewarding for you. Hopelessness is the thing that keeps on giving — for some.

  6. evie said on May 2nd, 2008 at 12:26pm #

    “The men the American people admire most extravagantly are the most daring liars; the men they detest most violently are those who try to tell them the truth.”

    Hoo ha. Using that frame of reference GWB must be trying to tell me the truth b/c I so detest the little twerp.

    Obviously, it’s hard for some to admit that Nader simply evokes nothing from most folks. Ralph’s biggest obstacle is himself. He’s like an unmanned drone flying with F-18 Hornets.

  7. TS Draegeth said on May 2nd, 2008 at 4:52pm #

    Really, what is everyone’s problem with Nader? That he hasn’t yet been successful in unseating the elite?

  8. Don Hawkins said on May 2nd, 2008 at 5:05pm #

    As we approach the 2008 elections, two paths lie before us. One leads to greater reliance on imported fuels, increased militarization of our foreign fuel dependency and prolonged struggle with other powers for control over the world’s remaining supplies of fossil fuels. The other leads toward diminished reliance on petroleum as a main source of our fuel, the rapid development of energy alternatives, a reduced US military profile abroad and cooperation with China in the development of innovative energy options. Rarely has a policy choice been as stark or as momentous for the future of our country. By Michael T. Klare The Nation

  9. hp said on May 2nd, 2008 at 8:47pm #

    TS, Nader is Lebanese. Case closed. He’s not a Zionist puppet. Neither is McKinney. ALL the others are. Why make things harder than they are?
    I know, I know, a Zionist under every rock..
    Too bad it’s true.
    Actually, things wouldn’t be so bad if the vipers stayed under those rocks where they belong, but alas they don’t.
    All over Europe as well.
    The Russians ran a bunch of the so-called oligarch carpet bagging bastards back to that organized crime syndicate known as Israel, and voila,’
    all of a sudden they’re running in the black.
    Will miracles never cease?

    Nader is perfectly acceptable, or could be, to 90% of Americans. He easily could be, with a little national and international ‘good press’ via TV and print. Positive coverage. Repeated over and over and over and over and over. Like they do for the miscreants in power now.
    The rub, the matter, the crux of the apostrophe is the 10% who run the presses and the TVs.
    The manipulative mind control and outright systematic lying, combined with the endless repetition, has been tweaked and perfected to a level approaching magic.

    Why else do you have all that junk in your garage, in your house, bristling with electronics, a half dozen ‘medical prescriptions,’ thousands of dollars of debt, all the while believing lies which are scientifically, philosophically and mathematically impossible to be true?

    The battle, opportunity, chance is already over if a person or a nation refuses to see and hear the truth which is right before their eyes every lying hour of every lying day. A lie by omission is still a lie, especially in this society of cheaters and the cheated.
    Want some good news?
    Turn on the TV..

  10. Sandra said on May 2nd, 2008 at 8:52pm #

    how about the idea of empowerment for women in the Global South. Where women are less oppressed, the population issue can be addressed. But of course I see no way that this world can get pass the misogyny and the permanent violence/ exploitation of women, but it’s a thought.

  11. Don Hawkins said on May 3rd, 2008 at 4:50am #

    Climate change experts say its further evidence of the link between global warming and changes in rainfall.

    Centre for Climate Law and Policy associate director Andrew McIntosh says that there is going to be a significant reduction in south-east Australian rainfall.

    “There’s going to be change in the rainfall patterns that Australia is going to experience in general, but I suppose the main point is that these sorts of changes have occurred with a 0.8 degree increase in temperatures,” he said.

    “Now we’ve got to speculate about what is going to occur with increases of two degrees and more, so triple what we’re currently experiencing, and I would imagine that that’s going to cause quite severe changes in rainfall.”

    That is Australia and what about China in just two years? The States drought is already a problem. I did hear one man say today hope we have good weather for crops this summer. Anyway have you noticed all the planing in just this country for the coming years, you haven’t that is because there are no plans. I did hear our President talk and he was explaining how free trade works in that down home way, just different. I still think a good idea to have some people in charge, thinkers would be good. Thinkers who can make hard choices. Drill, drill drill No, No, No. Rapid development of energy alternatives and focus on the rapid part.

  12. Don Hawkins said on May 3rd, 2008 at 8:03am #

    By Jeremy Leggett
    The Guardian UK

    Friday 02 May 2008

    Just as the need for renewables becomes critical, the oil giants signal an alarming retreat.
    This week the shape of the global energy crisis came into its sharpest focus yet. The world needs renewable energy fast, but as BP and Shell announced record profits, they also demonstrated that they are in essence retreating from renewables, perhaps with the exception of biofuels. They intend to focus their record billions on expanding production of what remains of traditional oil and gas, plus tar sands and liquid fuels from coal – ruinous in their effect on the climate.

    The oil giants are recarbonising, wilfully choosing to forget both global warming imperatives and the need for renewables in national security terms. Shell pulled out of the biggest offshore UK windfarm yesterday and BP is losing interest in solar and investing in the tar sands – having once refused to do so on ethical grounds because of the greenhouse gas emitted in processing.

    The European oil giants are behaving in this way in part because ExxonMobil became the most profitable of the big players while turning its back on the climate issue and pouring scorn on renewables investment. BP and Shell can no longer resist the calls of investors who demand short-term Exxon-type performance, whatever the final cost.

    Others think differently. In New York, members of the Rockefeller clan – descendants of Exxon’s founder – called yesterday for radical reform of the company because they can no longer stomach its irresponsible attitude towards the climate. They want a board that will invest in renewables. Meanwhile, in London, a big asset management house took out newspaper ads spoofing a death announcement for fossil fuels and one for the birth of renewables, in which its alternative energy fund will invest.

    This fund, and others like it, are investing in renewables because they enjoy some of the fastest growing markets in the world. This growth is driven in large measure by feed-in tariffs – to encourage the use of renewables. Thirty-three Labour MPs rebelled this week against the government’s energy bill because it ignores the feed-in mechanism. The UK government persists with its discredited renewables obligation, a measure that has seen the renewables mix in UK primary energy sit for several years now at just 2%.

    Meanwhile, North Sea oil and gas are depleting rapidly. BP and Shell know there are no more rich oilfields to be discovered there. They are being forced to invest much further afield in the search for the huge fields they so badly need.

    As domestic oil and gas production collapses, the UK will be forced to look increasingly to imports. Britain imports only 5% of its energy now, but that is likely to rise to 50% in five years, much of it gas. The government appears to think this is fine, pointing to the growth of domestic infrastructure for liquefied natural gas and pipelines from Norway and the Netherlands. But this week we learned that the UK is the last priority for Norwegian exports. As the Grangemouth strikers wonder what to do next, we smell in that drama just how fragile the whole energy edifice is.

    Those who hoped Opec would come to the rescue also received a blow this week. The cartel said it wouldn’t lift production, even if oil rises to $200 a barrel. Meanwhile, fuelled by $120 oil, the economies of the producers are booming, sucking up ever more of the oil and gas we will need. As for nuclear, it cannot produce a single unit of electricity for at least 10 years – far too late to help with a gas shortfall and largely irrelevant to oil, anyway.

    We need renewables today like we needed tanks and planes in 1929. Those who ignore this may soon face accusations of betrayal from a population staring energy famine in the face.
    Drill, drill drill No, No, No. Rapid development of energy alternatives and focus on the rapid part.
    Tuff times ahead there is still time.

  13. r jackowski said on May 3rd, 2008 at 8:27am #

    I love Blum almost as much as I love Nader. And yes, since I replaced my ‘HOPE’ with bitterness, I feel much better.

  14. Edwin Pell said on May 3rd, 2008 at 11:01am #

    As I commented yesterday but the post was removed:
    In the 70s we were reading “Limits To Growth” and think how awful the 21st century would be. And yes it is. I went on to suggest a stop to immigration due to exceeding the carrying capacity of the US. A tariff on imports set high enough to bring manufacturing back to America, and several other items I do not recall at this point.

  15. Chris Crass said on May 3rd, 2008 at 5:08pm #

    “A tariff on imports set high enough to bring manufacturing back to America”
    What world of fantasy economics do you live in? How’s the weather there?

  16. Giorgio said on May 3rd, 2008 at 6:09pm #

    “inoculate the world with disillusionment”. ????

    Correction: Didn’t Miller say, instead,

    ‘ejaculate the world with delusions’?

  17. Andy Robbins said on May 4th, 2008 at 5:42pm #

    This article would have been better to have stayed focused on the food policy/biofuels as genocide theme. It’s the most pressing current issue and perhaps something we could affect with a large enough popular protest. Clearly a civilization that burns food supply has lost it’s collective mind. The FARC,CIA, Wright and Nader stories are mere sideshows at best.

    I don’t think the problem is so much overpopulation as much as distribution of population and organization of economy. The supercapitalism/freemarket ideology across the globe assumes, by it’s very nature, unlimited growth and unlimited resources. Obviously not a possible economics in a real and finite world but it serves the elites at the top of the socioeconomic “foodchain”.

    Oil is the lifeblood, enabler and root cause of the “non-negotiable” way of life we in North America have and others envy and seek. Yes oil companies are making record profits and a good portion of that is due to subsidies. However, the root cause of the run up in oil is one of the natural limits that supercapitalism does not account for: Peak Oil. A quick skim of the facts tells the tale. Mexico’s annual output has decreased due to the fact that the output of it’s Cantarell field, the second largest in the world, declined 15% last year. Russia’s output for last month was the lowest in 18 months. Both VP Dick Cheney and Sec State Rice have visited Riyadh recently and that usually means they’re asking/ordering more oil output. The problem is the Ghawar (the largest in the world) oil field is like Cantarell and in decline. The Saudis are already producing as much as they can to take advantage of record prices. That covers 3 of the world’s top oil exporters. So like some sort of desperate junkie we will be foregoing meals to feed our addiction. Lucky for us North Americans most of those meals belong to other people on the otherside of the world. The solution is perfect for the politicians. It makes the farm lobby/agribusiness corporations happy. They can sell it to the public as a step to reducing climate change(even in the face of the fact that more CO2 is released) and they can point to job creation. Also totally ignoring the fact that the corn to ethanol process results in a negative energy returned on energy invested. This sort of senseless false economics is only possible under the politico-corporate oligopoly that has resulted in a White House administration that is comprised in good part by former oil executives.

    The Amish had it right. Small communities living self sufficiently in relative harmony with nature and using resources sustainably is the best way all around. This sort of small holder farming was and still is how much of the world lives. However in many places policies of the World Bank, IMF and WTO have devastated the small holder farming communities. In other cases, small holders have been forced to adopt the GMOs of a few monstrous agribusinesses. Many times these species are maladapted to the particular climates that they’re forced into. These policies, the speculators of course, bans on rice exports by net producers, corn ethanol/biofuels mandates and to a lesser extent climate change are responsible for the current food crisis. Even though grain stockpiles are at 30 year lows; supply is not the primary problem in this case.

    Unfortunately the climate change genie is out of the bottle. With half of all available oil burnt and the portion of CO2 in the atmosphere increased by approximately 25 percent since before the Industrial Revolution; the inertia of current changes and systemic feedback are far beyond anything we could have predicted or imagined. Oil will become economically unfeasible long before we actually run out. Global problems call for global solutions. Maybe through some semblance of a world government. Some of our most prominent thinkers including Albert Einstein have foreseen this as humanity’s most possible, likely, peaceful outcome. Not that we want the world singing Internationale but that we need more cooperation and action then our governments are doing. We need true capitalism and true free trade and the fairest, most efficient way that can be accomplished is locally. More transparent and osmotic borders would allow for people from resource poor to resource rich areas, from stagnant, unsustainable urban centres to sustainable small communities. A revolution starts from the bottom up. The handful of countries striving for energy independent economies, Transition Towns, local currencies and the 100km diet are all manifestations of this local future. Humanity will eventually be forced back to these smaller economies and communities because the fuel that enables the global transport system will eventually run out. It would be prudent and prescient if we could pull together as humankind and make the transition to a post oil world in a peaceful and organized manner. Unfortunately another truth about revolutions is that they are, messy and tend to result, from, extreme natural and/or economic catastrophe. Hope was all that was left at the bottom of Pandora’s box and without hope we drown in a sea of bitterness.

  18. Andy Robbins said on May 5th, 2008 at 10:13am #

    Sorry, about that 2nd to last sentence. My space bar and apostrophe keys stick sometimes. Guess that’s what I get for using a 15 year old keyboard. Anyway here’s another thought on hope.

    “Hope has two beautiful daughters. Their names are anger and courage; anger at the way things are, and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are.”
    -St. Augustine

  19. Jerry said on May 5th, 2008 at 3:28pm #

    In my work as a substance abuse therapist, I’ve been showing a movie regularly for my “Detox matinee” . In the beginning, a guy throws his girlfriend down a flight of stairs, breaking her wrist. And, throughout the movie, she keeps returning to him only to be hurt again. Meanwhile, there’s another fellow who really cares about her welfare, whom she considers to be nothing more than a casual friend. The first is a co-dependent relationship; the second a tragically missed opportunity.
    When I listen to Ralph Nader’s positions, I hear at least a glimmer of hope and the possibility of a better future. When I hear the republicrat contenders, I sense that I’m being set up to get thrown down the stairs yet again.
    The psychology of why abused people keep returning to their tormenters is fascinating, but getting them to see the truth about their situations can be frustrating and disheartening. They steadfastly insist things are going to improve THIS time, while in reality we know the abuse will only get worse.
    Couldn’t we all, just for once, try to give the guy who really seems to care about us a chance? Even if Nader does not or cannot get elected, at least we TRIED something different, for God’s sake!