Thursday, July 28, 2011

The American Debt Ceiling Debate: A Symptom of Class Warfare

WHAT IS THE DEBT CEILING?

The United States public debt limit stands at US$14.3 trillion dollars. This was an increase from US$12.394 trillion by the Democratically-controlled Congress on 12 February 2010. This US$14.3 trillion represents the most amount of money that the Unites States government can borrow without receiving additional authorisation from the Congress. Under US law, when the national debt reaches a certain limit or ceiling, the Congress must authorise the raising of the debt to a higher limit in order for the government to continue to borrow more money. The United States’ actual accrued debt exceeded the US$14.3 trillion mark in May 2011. The current debt as of 27 July 2011 is US14,349,973,387.96.

The United States Department of the Treasury (equivalent to a Ministry of Finance) is authorised by Congress to issue such debt as is needed to fund government operations (per each federal budget) as long as the total debt does not exceed the statutory ceiling. Since 1979, the House of Representatives without debate has automatically raised the debt ceiling when passing a budget, except when the House votes to waive or repeal this rule. During the profligate military spending of the Reagan administration 1981-1988, the debt ceiling was raised 18 times. George W. Bush raised the debt ceiling seven times in order to fight against peoples of Afghanistan and Iraq. Article I Section 8 of the United States Constitution gives the Congress the sole power to borrow money on the credit of the United States. More importantly, the 14th amendment of the US Constitution states simply that, ‘The validity of the public debt of the United States…..shall not be questioned.’

The Obama administration wants to raise the debt ceiling to US$16 trillion. When the US economy went into a recession in 2008, as a result of the financial crisis on Wall Street and the subsequent bailout it received, President Obama attempted to assist the real economy by increasing fiscal spending to help maintain levels of domestic demand. These acts coupled with formal inclusion (in the budget) of the US$10 billion per month that the US government is spending on two wars have increased the debt. These expenditures along with the maintenance of the tax cuts enacted by President Bush are the primary reasons why President Obama’s administration has sought an increase in the debt ceiling. However, for the first time in decades the conservative forces of the US are using this debt ceiling debate to create a false sense of fiscal crisis and thus, use the false fiscal crisis to pursue their desire to force greater cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. These are entitlement programmes for the majority of the population, particular for the poor and elderly. Read more

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Magnus Malan and Crimes Against Humanity in Africa


General Magnus Malan, the chief architect of the total onslaught of the apartheid military, passed away on 18 July 2011. This total onslaught strategy was the idea that South Africa was threatened by a communist conspiracy and that the South African apartheid state must respond with economic, political, ideological, psychological and military tools to defend capitalism and white supremacy. Malan was minister of defence for 11 years, 1980–1991, and it was under his tenure that the apartheid war machine spread death and destruction across Africa. Under his tenure as minister of defence this illegal state decided to weaponise biology. The results are still being felt across Africa today with the ramifications of the biological warfare project that was called Project Coast. Malan’s life and death should remind young people that the fight for freedom must be protracted and that the economic, military and political defeat of apartheid is still a task to be completed. Africans may occupy positions of political power in South Africa but the economic legacies of apartheid are very much flourishing.

Internationally, the crimes of the Nazis are condemned. German society no longer celebrates Hitler and the Nazis as great leaders, but in South Africa the publishing houses and think-tanks that were nourished and financed by Magnus Malan thrive and distort history. Many of these think-tanks have changed their names, but not their basic philosophy. Yet the people of South Africa have tried to transcend the ideation system of revenge and bitterness. The people have attempted to draw on the principles of Ubuntu I practise. Hiding behind the new philosophy of Ubuntu, the war criminals of South Africa have sought to rehabilitate themselves as servants of the South African state and as fighters against communism. The central place of the military in the processes of accumulation and enrichment has been taken over by sections of the African National Congress (ANC). Younger South Africans must work harder to completely understand the real consequences of apartheid and to remember that one cannot dismantle the system with the same ideas that built a system.

APARTHEID AS A CRIME AGAINST HUMANITY
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Magnus Malan was born into white privilege in South Africa in 1930 when the ideas of Hitler and white supremacy had not yet taken over the leadership of the organisation that was to later become the National Party. By the end of the Second World War, the National Party had completely absorbed the ideas and principles of Nazism and codified these ideas into a series of laws and forms of organising society that still cripple South Africa to this day. Operating through a secretive organisation called the Afrikaner Broederbond, some of the adherents of the National Party had been interned during Second World War because of their overt support for Adolf Hitler and the ideas of the Nazis. Read more

Thursday, July 14, 2011

South Sudan and the Meaning of Independence


WELCOME PEOPLE OF SOUTH SUDAN TO THE COMITY OF NATIONS

On 9 July 2011, the people of the Republic of South Sudan raised their flag in Juba to symbolize the declaration of political independence. This ascension to independence was one more step in the peace process that is supposed to bring the peoples of the Sudan from war to peace. This peace came after the second civil war. The first civil war which began a year before the independence of Sudan lasted from 1955 to1972. In 2005, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed after 23 years of war (1982-2005). This agreement stipulated that after six years there should be a referendum where the people of South Sudan would make a decision whether they would remain part of the Sudan or become an independent state.

A referendum was held in January 2011 and South Sudanese voted overwhelmingly for independence. The present political leaders of the Sudan Peoples' Liberation Movement (SPLM) had campaigned for independence as the option. One other option would have been for the leaders in the Sudan to fight for transformation for all people of the Sudan and to become a force to beat back the conservative fundamentalists in the northern part of the Sudan. We respect the choice of the leaders of South Sudan and this new state will be welcomed to be the 54th member of the African Union and the 193rd member of the United Nations. With more than 2.5 million persons perishing in the last war that lasted for 23 years, the people paid a very high price for this independence and serious engagement will be needed by the pan African community along with all progressive persons to ensure that the sacrifices for independence would not be in vain.

PAN-AFRICANISTS, AFRICAN UNITY AND SECCESSION OF STATES

In welcoming the Republic of South Sudan to membership of the African Union, our branch of the Pan-African movement does not in any way diminish the call for the urgency of the unity of all the peoples of Africa. With each passing day and the crisis of capitalism, rampant militarism and imperialist military interventions, gradual implosion of the dollar, regional trade blocs and challenges of global warming, it is clearer that only a democratic and united people of Africa can negotiate with the new emerging powers to ensure that Africans can have the space for transformation, peace, and social reconstruction.

Commenting on this question of South Sudan before the referendum, I highlighted our most recent experience in Africa of an emerging state that was carved out of an existing state, the case of Eritrea. Twenty years after independence, the peoples of Eritrea are now fighting against the government that was supposed to be a leading force for liberation. Eritrea and Ethiopia have fought wars senselessly over strips of land, mainly Badme. Both societies have diverted scarce resources to military projects instead of concentrating on the health and wellbeing of the people. Read more

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Peace and Justice Movement and the NATO Bombing of Libya: The Need for Clarity on the AU Roadmap for Peace











MISSED OPPORTUNITY

On 26 June 2011 there was a community meeting in our home town of Syracuse to oppose the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) bombing of Libya. This meeting was the last stop of the Eyewitness Libya tour featuring Cynthia McKinney. McKinney, (former US congresswoman from Georgia and presidential candidate for the Green Party) was on a tour of the United States to draw attention to the illegal bombing of NATO in Libya and the terror being unleashed against innocent people in the name of protecting civilians. The other speakers at this community event were Akbar Mohammed of the Nation of Islam and Derek Ford, a local organiser for Answer. Answer is one faction of the US peace and justice movement that has been opposed to US militarism, organising under the banner of ‘Act now to end war and oppose racism’. The event to oppose the NATO bombing was held at the Alibrandi Center of Syracuse University and co-sponsored by the Pan African Community of Central New York (PACCNY).

The meeting represented a missed opportunity. While the platform opposed the NATO bombing in Libya, there was a lack of clarity on what the meeting stood for, especially in relation to the equivocation of Cynthia McKinney over the character of the Gaddafi regime in Libya. In the face of the reality where there is no moral or political support in the world for the present NATO bombing, the peace and justice movement must be clear about not only what they are against, but what they are for. It is up to the peace movement to clarify the paths to peace and to push for an end to the military campaign of the West. The West has lost credibility with the stalemate after more than 100 days of bombing. It is now clear that there is no military solution and only the African Union roadmap for a ceasefire provides a framework for an end to the illegal bombing. Read More

Friday, July 1, 2011

Science, the Future, and the Revolutionary Moment: A Review of Michio Kaku’s "Physics of the Future"

Review of Michio Kaku’s "Physics of the Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives by the Year 2100."


We are still in the early stages of the 21st century, yet with every passing day, humans are confronted with rapid transformations in the fields of genetics, robotics, information technology, cognitive sciences and nanotechnology. We are promised longevity and trips to space even while harnessing the power of the sun with the potential for unlimited energy for everyone on earth. The transformations in high-energy physics, bio-molecular medicine and quantum computing have revolutionary potentialities to change social relations among humans and between humans and the universe. The question of how these technologies will further revolutionise the current century is the subject of a new book by Michio Kaku, ‘Physics of the Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives by the Year 2100’. This book attempts to convey to the lay person the most up to date directions in the fields of science and technology. In separate chapters, Kaku examines the future of computers, artificial intelligence, medicine, nanotechnology, energy and space travel over the next one hundred years. In each chapter he splits the future into three sections – the Near Future (Present to 2030), the Mid-Century (2030 to 2070) and the Far Future (2070 to 2100) – and he discusses the development and impact of science in each futuristic period. My critique of the book stems from the need to voice what is missing in the book: a note of reminder to Western scientists that while they seek to dominate nature and harness its full power, there are still billions of humans who live without the basic necessities of life. Scientists, like Michio Kaku, who are ensconced in laboratories in Europe and North America fail to understand that while neoliberal and corporate support for research may foster an economic environment conducive to a particular type of technological innovation, this same neo-liberal capitalism also accelerates inequality, poverty, and ecological degradation for the majority of humans on the planet.

WHO IS MICHIO KAKU?

Michio Kaku is a Japanese-American physicist who explores the terrain of the fourth dimension (usually referring to time) in physics. As a high school youth, he attended the National Science Fair with a home-made atom smasher he built in his parents' garage. Because of his creativity he was spotted as a promising physicist by Edward Teller, known by some as ‘the father of the atom bomb.’

Edward Teller was one of the most famous scientists of the twentieth century who was associated with the Manhattan project, the collaborative effort of the West that led to the development of the atom bomb. Hungarian-born theoretical physicist Teller is also credited for passing on the scientific information on how to build a nuclear bomb to the Israelis. Teller was co-founder of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, one of the numerous scientific labs across the world that was placed in the service of the United States military and consumed billions of dollars from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

Kaku is a descendant of Japanese immigrants to the US, and his parents were interned in a concentration camp in California during the Second World War. After being mentored by the ultra-conservative physicist Edward Teller, Kaku wrote a very critical book critiquing the United States’ plans for nuclear war entitled, ‘To Win a Nuclear War: The Pentagon's Secret War Plan’. This was a public break with his mentor and the physicists associated with the military-industrial complex. For decades, Michio Kaku consciously associated himself with the progressive media. As a presenter on WBAI Pacifica Radio in New York City, he has been popularizing the ideas of theoretical physics. Kaku is currently the Henry Semat Professor of Theoretical Physics at the City College of the City University of New York. He is co-founder of string field theory in physics and is the author of 10 books and over 70 scientific articles in physics journals. His latest bestseller, ‘Physics of the Future: How Science will Change Daily Life by 2100’, became number seven on The New York Times Bestseller List just a few weeks after publication.

PHYSICS OF THE FUTURE

In the first chapter of ‘Physics of the Future’, Kaku predicts that computer power will increase to the point where computers, similar to the fates of electricity, paper, and water will, ‘disappear into the fabric of our lives, and computer chips will be planted in the walls of buildings.’ In Chapter 2, ‘Future of Artificial Intelligence: Rise of the Machines,’ Kaku discusses robotic body parts, modular robots, unemployment caused by robots, surrogates and avatars, and reverse engineering of the brain. Kaku shares the perspective of many in Silicon Valley who believe that emerging technologies are qualitatively unique in the capacity to manipulate human beings at the genetic level thereby potentially altering ‘human nature’ or even changing the meaning of life itself. It is in chapter 3 on the ‘Future of Medicine’ that Kaku imagines a future, ‘where surgery is completely replaced by molecular machines moving through the bloodstream, guided by magnets, honing in on a diseased organ, and then releasing medicines or performing surgery. This would make cutting the skin totally obsolete. Or magnets could guide these nano machines to the heart in order to remove a blockage of the arteries.’ Read more