Saturday, January 05, 2013

The Ape's Hiatus - Gorilla Radio Off for a Couple Weeks

Gorilla Radio Blog will be holidaying for the next couple weeks

It's an excellent time to catch up on our archive of this years best stories, and many more features. Remember:

You can check out the radio show catalogue at under the GR tab.

While you're there, peruse the 12 thousand or so articles posted over the last six years.

Hasta la Vista


Cancelled: 2nd Large Offshore Earthquake Tsunami Warnings for BC Coast

The earthquake happened along the same fault line as the one that struck off B.C.'s Haida Gwaii last October, but in a section that has not seen this kind of strong seismic activity for a few hundred years, says CBC meterologist and seismologist Johanna Wagstaffe.The earthquake happened along the same fault line as the one that struck off B.C.'s Haida Gwaii last October, but in a section that has not seen this kind of strong seismic activity for a few hundred years, says CBC meterologist and seismologist Johanna Wagstaffe.

B.C. tsunami warning cancelled after strong quake

7.5-magnitude tremor rattles coastlines of central B.C., southern Alaska

by CBC

A powerful earthquake sparked a tsunami warning along the coastlines of southern Alaska and British Columbia, but the alert was cancelled when no damaging waves were generated.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake had a preliminary reading of 7.5 and struck at 12:50 a.m. PT (11:50 p.m. local time Friday), about 102 kilometres west of Craig, Alaska and some 300 kilometres west-northwest of Prince Rupert, B.C.

The Alaska Tsunami Warning Center had issued a tsunami warning for the southern coast of Alaska, stretching for 765 kilometres to the northern tip of Vancouver Island — but the centre cancelled the warning a few hours later.

CBC meteorologist Joanna Wagstaffe said a small tsunami wave was generated off Port Alexander, Alaska. In addition, at least two strong aftershocks measuring 4.5 and 4.7 were reported after the initial quake.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Idle No More Grows, as Harper's "New" Canadian Government Strategizes Response

Indigenous Peoples in Canada Launch Blockades and Actions in Support of Chief's Hunger Strike


Hunger strike by Chief Theresa Spence against new government legislation and long term denial of indigenous rights sparks nation wide movement

Shooting Shame: Capitalism's Dead-Enders Fight Back

Late Stage Capitalism and the Shame Haunted Life: You Can't Kill Trauma With A Gun

by Phil Rockstroh

"Memory believes before knowing remembers." - William Faulkner

In an era of corporate-state colonization of both landscape and mental real estate, when the face of one's true oppressors is, more often than not, hidden from view, thus inflicting feelings of anxiety borne of powerlessness over the criteria of one's life and the course of one's fate, often, to retain a sense of control, people will tend to displace their anger and shame. Firearms provide the illusion of being able to locate and bead down on a given target. (How often does a person without wealth, power, and influence have any contact with -- or even a glimpse of -- the financial and political elite whose decisions dictate the, day by day, criteria of one's existence?)

Beginning in childhood, carrying the noxious notions of the adult world, the viral seeds of mental enslavement to shame and the concomitant attempt to protect ego-integrity through psychological displacement are spread child to child.

All too often, internalized shame robs a child of his innate identity before it has a chance to jell. This is one, among multiple social factors, by which the collective mindset of capitalist/consumer state forcefully usurps an individual's mind and holds it in torment.

Therefore, it is imperative for an individual, marooned in the shame-haunted miasma of the capitalist/consumer paradigm, to reclaim his/her own name. Even if the process entails (as it as played out in my own story) a descent into the underworld of memory and a confrontation with the ghosts therein.

A personal encounter with the raging ghosts of memory: Late autumn. 1965. Atlanta, Georgia.

At my back, as I stepped from the yellow school bus, and hurried in the direction of the small, two story apartment building, a seething cacophony of taunts and insults seemed to buffet me forward. Marc Leftcoff had sneered that the apartment complex where my family dwelled was, "The Projects" -- that he proclaimed to be "a roach nest for losers, unemployed rednecks and divorced hussies -- only a place white niggers would live."

(And no, I didn't grow-up in a Quentin Tarantino movie. People, even children, spoke like that in those days.)

Months earlier, on my first day of school -- after our family had moved from Birmingham to Atlanta, where my sister's and my new school district included white, laboring class families (often shattered and reconfigured by divorce and second and third marriages) and neighborhoods of affluent, upper middle class Jewish families -- I was debriefed by Josh Corbin.

"So," he clicked, his tongue producing a percussive, supercilious sound by creating a vacuum at the top of his mouth. "Are you upper-class, upper-middle class (like we are) just plain middle class, lower-middle class, or poor (he emitted that clicking sound at the word, poor). You look poor. What is that you have on -- Kmart Specials (click). My clothes come from Saks in New York. My Mother and I buy them there when we visit our relatives in New York City, three or four times a year."

I had no idea what he was talking about. But, I detected, through the mind-diminishing haze of my naivety, a discernible menace in his tone.

"You should really have your parents buy you some presentable clothes: What's the matter, can't they afford to buy you anything decent?"

I scanned his outfit. A little alligator seemed to be smirking at me from his shirt. Why did this kid have shiny dimes glinting from the surface of his oxblood loafers? ("Why insert pennies when you can afford dimes," Corbin was inclined to boast?)

And what was the meaning of that clicking sound that he kept making with his mouth?

Later, I apprehended the sound pertained to the fact that I, and my family, had been labeled, "White Trash."

Of course, I was ignorant of the social implications of the term, but, nevertheless, an image formed in my mind: My family had been dismissed as tossed-away refuse, reeking like garbage in the Georgia sun, weightless as windblown litter. Inconsequential: our existence, only a foul odor, fleetingly detected, and deserving, when noticed at all, of the contempt of society's betters.

My heart felt as though it had been ripped into tatters in a windstorm of shame. It seemed as though all I knew about myself had been negated.

This is how shame works on a person. Internalized shame seems to commandeer a person's DNA and replicate itself into the cellular structure of his being.

In the thrall of internalized shame, one is gripped by the compulsion to hide his face from the world. One's own thoughts and feeling seem a foul pestilence from which to flee. Thus, a person will come to believe that the only way to absolve oneself of one's inherent reek (Marc Leftcoff claimed he had seen my father shirtless and announced to our classmates that he "stunk like a rutting nigger") was to become someone else to have a family blessed with money and nice things to have a smug alligator gazing upon life from Saks Fifth Avenue-procured shirts, and have dimes glinting unto creation from the tops of one's polished loafers.  This is one, among multiple means, that the capitalist/consumer state forcefully usurps one's mind and holds it in torment.

After school, buffeted by these sessions of shaming, I would take refuge in the wooded areas near my home.  There, sheltered among the pines, popular trees, and ancient oaks of the Georgia Piedmont, I would seek solace in books and my own wild imaginings.

I recall writing a story in my loose leaf notebook involving a lonely, bullied boy, who, shaken by shame and humiliation, played hooky from school.

Hiding out in a section of woods near his school, he was bitten, while exploring a deep ravine, by a venomous copperhead snake camouflaged by a carpet of pines straw. The incident was witnessed by a grizzled hermit/wizard who dwelled in a secret cave in the woods. The boy is revived by an elixir of anti-venom of the wizard's devising that had the unattended side effect of bestowing the boy with the ability to bring inanimate objects to life which, the boy, much to the distress and consternation of the old wizard, utilizes to transform the Izod alligators adorning his school yard tormentor's clothing into agents of vengeance that devour the offending parties.

Anger dwells as deep as the pain leveled by being shamed and humiliated. From road rage, to internet trolling, to the compulsion to humiliate women in certain forms of porn, to right-wing radio ranters, to violent video games, to gun-sown episodes of mass murder -- the shame-besieged psyche of the American male, in vain, attempts to mitigate a psychologically devastating sense of powerlessness.

The actual progenitors of his torment reside in the ghostly domain of personal memory as well as are veiled from view by a class-stratified economic system that serves as an analog of childhood humiliation.

But such prodigious amounts of pain do not remain buried. In the current day U.S., there are multiple factors that bar access to collective memory: the heap of fragmented images constituting the mass media multi-scape and its attendant 24 hour news cycle; suburban atomization and urban alienation; a cultural refusal to confront the true nature of the nation's history, other than through hagiography, because to face our past would serve to bring us to a rude awakening regarding where we stand at present.

Cue: Existential dread. We are approaching the endgame of (global) capitalism; the system is headed straight to the landfill (its own creation) of history (that is, if global, late stage capitalism doesn't bury the human species first by means of ecocide). Therefore, it is imperative, as we move towards the future, that we straddle the past, as we become attuned to the lamentation of the ghosts of memory, personal and collective. 

Otherwise, the unhinged among us, psychically bearing the things we bury, literalize our denial, even by acts of murdering the living (even school children) in a futile attempt to kill the raging ghosts of memory deferred.

There has been a deadly legacy wrought by social structures that inflict shame and thus sows seeds of inarticulate rage. By the malefic vehicle of these tormented individuals, who are lashing out like a wounded animal, we can apprehend much about the death-besotted trajectory of U.S. culture.

Deep emotional scars can warp libido; thus, in our age of corporate state hyper-authoritarianism, obsessive materialism, and neo-puritan pathology, all too many people have become terrified of their own passion, from sweat plangent lust to incandescent enthusiasm, right down to even accepting the shadows and perfumes borne of an inner life, and have withdrawn into forms of self-exile, such as addiction, alienation, depression, compulsive materialism, and narcissistic striving.

We are convinced we know our own mind…that the decisions we make are based on logic and the wisdom gathered from experience. We believe our night-borne dreams and seemingly random, daylight imaginings are furtive shadows, inconsequential to the choices we make moment by moment as we navigate the linear timescape of our days.

Yet, what if you were visited by a rude angel who revealed to you how your mind had been usurped -- the moments of your day harnessed for agendas not your own; your life had been waylaid by interlopers (e.g., Madison Avenue, family legacies, social pressures) who you do not remember granting entrance into your mind?

What kind of a tale of horror is this, you would demand? How did it come to this? Angel, you would cry out, what kind of a cruel joke is this? Why me?

And the angel would simply flash you eternity's impersonal grin and tell you it is not personal. You have done the very human thing of gathering thoughts and beliefs like a bower bird gathers shiny objects. You have mistaken the bauble-stippled nest of found material for the honey-hive of your soul.

In contrast, passion arrives as a surging flood; the caress of silver moonlight on dark water; a golden fire blazing through one's blood. But its purpose does not end there i.e., in a fleeting incandescence of the soul. The energies of a fast moving wildfire must be transmuted into the persistence inherent to a stalwart heart -- the maintenance of an interior hearth.

Those who evince passion will suffer. Worse, those who demur will suffer confinement in a cold, protective lock-up of their own construction. The union of passion and suffering, with much patience and persistence, transforms winged passion into a deep-dwelling compassion. Luminous angels are drawn earthward to weep.

Life beckons, but all too many ignore the call or defer adherence until it is too late…Too often people confuse a sense of purpose with an obsession for seeking safety; they long for purity, and fear the sublime awkwardness that allows you to lose your balance and fall into your essential self.

By embodying the latter, you have entered a realm that exist beyond success and failure, because when you venture into the heart of creation, you venture deep into your own being. The more passion you evince in life the deeper you inhabit your own humanity.

The only failure in life comes to be when you dismiss destiny's invitation to dance.

The death-besotted, collective psyche of the late capitalist state reveals the consequences of a culture-wide refusal to heed the call.

 "Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate." - C.G. Jung

Thursday, January 03, 2013

From Manufactured to Real Crisis: Obama Pushes Middle Class Off Fiscal Cliff


Rich Should Be Happy with Cliff Deal


Rich Should Be Happy with Cliff Deal Gerald Epstein: President Obama did not have to make this deal, it's a debacle being called a win

Watch full multipart Economy

Gerald Epstein is codirector of the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) and Professor of Economics. He received his Ph.D. in economics from Princeton University. He has published widely on a variety of progressive economic policy issues, especially in the areas of central banking and international finance, and is the editor or co-editor of six volumes.

Scenes from a Train Station: Idle No More in Vancouver

Idle No More - Scenes from a Vancouver Train Station

by Damien Gillis -

On January 2, 2013, hundreds of First Nations and non-indigenous people converged on Vancouver's Waterfront Station for the latest Idle No More rally. The beating of drums and singing of traditional songs signaled this crowd's solidarity with the movement that is building across the country and beyond its borders.

"This isn't just because we want to go out there and sing songs and protest. This is for our land, this is for our future," young Ben Paul from Tsartlip First Nation on Vancouver Island told the crowd.

A New Year World Not Differing from the Old

The U.S. Intelligence Community’s New Year’s Wish

Megatrends, Game-Changers, Black Swans, Tectonic Shifts, and a World Not That Different From 2012

by Tom Engelhardt - TomDispatch

Think of it as a simple formula: if you’ve been hired (and paid handsomely) to protect what is, you’re going to be congenitally ill-equipped to imagine what might be. And yet the urge not just to know the contours of the future, but to plant the Stars and Stripes in that future has had the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) in its grip since the mid-1990s. 
That was the moment when it first occurred to some in Washington that U.S. power might be capable of controlling just about everything worth the bother globally for, if not an eternity, then long enough to make the future American property.

Ever since, every few years the National Intelligence Council (NIC), the IC’s “center for long-term strategic analysis,” has been intent on producing a document it calls serially Global Trends [fill in the future year]. The latest edition, out just in time for Barack Obama’s second term, is Global Trends 2030. Here’s one utterly predictable thing about it: it’s bigger and more elaborate than Global Trends 2025. And here’s a prediction that, hard as it is to get anything right about the future, has a 99.9% chance of being accurate: when Global Trends 2035 comes out, it’ll be bigger and more elaborate yet. It’ll cost more and still, like its predecessor, offer a hem for every haw, a hedge for every faintly bold possibility, a trap-door escape from any prediction that might not stick.

None of this should be surprising. In recent years, with a $75 billion collective budget, the IC, that historically unprecedented labyrinth of 17 intelligence agencies and outfits, has been one of Washington’s major growth industries. In return for almost unfettered funding and a more-than-decade-long expansion of its powers, it’s promised one thing to the American people: safety, especially from “terrorism.” As part of a national security complex that has benefitted enormously from a post-9/11 lockdown of the country and the creation of a permanent war state, it also suffers from the classic bureaucratic disease of bloat.

So no one should be shocked to discover that its forays into an anxiety-producing future, which started relatively modestly in 1997, have turned into ever more massive operations. In this fifth iteration of the series, the authors have given birth to a book-length paean to the future and its dangers.

For this, they convened groups of “experts” in too many American universities to count, consulted too many individual academics to name despite pages of acknowledgements, and held “meetings on the initial draft in close to 20 countries.” In other words, a monumental effort was made to mount the future and reassure Washington that, while a “relative economic decline vis-à-vis the rising states is inevitable,” the coming decades might still prove an American plaything (even if shared, to some extent, with China and those rising powers).

Frack Is the New Crack

Having grown to immodest size, the “trends” in the project’s title were no longer faintly enough. Instead, the language of Global Trends 2030 has bloated to match its mammoth pretensions. These days to nail down the future for American policymakers, you need Megatrends (“Individual Empowerment,” “Diffusion of Power”), Game-Changers (“Crisis-Prone Global Economy,” “Governance Gap,” “Potential for Increased Violence”), Black Swans (“Severe Pandemic," “Much More Rapid Climate Change,” “A Reformed Iran”), and Tectonic Shifts (“Growth of the Global Middle Class,” “Unprecedented and Widespread Aging”), not to speak of Potential Worlds or fictional futuristic scenarios in which those Megatrends, Game-Changers, Black Swans, and Tectonic Shifts mix and match into possible futures.

Out of this, what exactly have the mavens of American intelligence, the representatives of the last remaining global superpower, concluded? Here would be my partial summary: that we should expect the rise of nothing much we don’t already know about; that various versions of the knowable present can be accurately projected into the future; that much depends on what happens to the Earth’s greatest state (with China nipping at its heels) -- whether, that is, with its “preponderance across the board in most dimensions of power, both ‘hard’ and ‘soft,’” the U.S. will remain a benevolent “global security provider” or “global policeman” of planetary stability or -- disaster of disasters -- pull in on itself, creating a declinist fortress America; that the true American crisis might be a decrease in military spending; that odds are the global economy, with more than a billion new “middle class” consumers, could do marginally better or worse; that Iran might (or might not) build nuclear weapons; that global conflict could increase somewhat (with an emphasis on resource wars) -- or decline; that the national state could hang in there with something like its present power or lose some of it to nongovernmental bodies and “smart cities,” and so on.

There are, however, a few topics that seem to have gone MIA in the National Intelligence Council’s version of our future world. You won’t, for instance, find these words emphasized in Global Trends 2030: corporations -- they seem to have no role worth mentioning in the world of the future; depression -- yes, “recession,” or even in extremis “collapse,” but not “global depression,” not even when the U.S. is compared to the planet’s previous great imperial power, nineteenth century Britain, and so to an era when depressions were rife (a possible “great depression” gets a single “low probability” mention); imperial -- since we’re the only... ahem... great you-know-what left, that’s not an appropriate word for the world of 2030; revolution -- oh, there was one of those in 1848 and it can be mentioned, but despite the fact that the globe has been convulsed by unexpected uprisings and unforeseen movements in recent years, in 2030, revolution is unimaginable; capitalism -- no need even to say it in a world in which nothing else exists, and to use it might imply that by 2030 another system of any sort could arise to challenge it, which is, of course, inconceivable; Israeli nuclear weapons -- why bring up the Israeli nuclear arsenal, which actually exists and will assumedly be there in 2030, when you can focus on that fabulous black swan Iran and its (as yet) nonexistent nuclear arsenal.

Finally, military base -- undoubtedly a perfectly acceptable term for the NIC in Global Trends 2040, once the Chinese establish a few of them abroad. In the meantime, in a world in which the U.S. still has about 1,000 of them globally, there's no point in bringing the subject up or discussing the fate of Washington’s historically unprecedented garrisoning of the planet. Nor in Global Trends 2030 will you find a serious consideration of American military power or Washington’s penchant in recent years not for guaranteeing stability but ensuring instability, mayhem, and chaos in distant lands.

You’ll find a section on drones, but not on our drone wars and how they might play out in 2030. (Another verboten set of words now associated with those wars are assassination, targeted killing, kill list. You’ll find the Arab Spring discussed in passing, but not the Indian Spring. (You know, the one that occurred in 2023 in that youth-bulge of a nation when rising expectations met economic frustration.) You’ll read much about resource problems and potential resource wars, but not about the 800-pound gorilla in the global room. The single looming crisis threatening the well-being of the planet, climate change, while certainly discussed in passing, is essentially ducked on the grounds, it seems, that by 2030 it won’t really have hit yet. (Assumedly, none of the group meetings the NIC called were held in the parched U.S. southwest, the drought-stricken Midwest, or on the Jersey Coast since Hurricane Sandy hit.)

You’ll note that the thing that makes our intelligence futurologists jump for joy and gives them the equivalent of a drug high is hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to which they return again and again. I kid you not. For them, frack is the new crack and if this document (god save us) were ever made into a movie, it might be called Frack to the Future. Yes, in most of their future scenarios, fracking, releasing all that “extreme energy,” makes the U.S. energy independent, a natural gas exporter, and practically ensures that 2030 will once again be an American year! Yippee!

Time’s Democracy

Above all, the National Intelligence Council’s analysts have managed to largely banish the single most essential, unavoidable, and bracing aspect of the future: surprise. That tells you far more about the Washington world the authors inhabit than what may happen in 2030. But before I get to that, give me just a second to pat myself on the back.

After all, I’ve done you an enormous favor. I’ve actually read Global Trends 2030 from its two-page “dear reader” letter from the chairman of the NIC and the report's “executive summary” though its 136 two-columned pages, and even its interminable acknowledgements. And let me assure you, it’s put together by perfectly intelligent people and has some interesting nuggets in it. The assembled crew has even tried its hand at writing bits of futuristic fiction and at least one of them, a “Marxist” analysis “updated” for the twenty-first century, has some passing entertainment value.

In the end, though, the document, like the IC itself, is an overblown artifact of Washington’s own limitations and fears. It’s also mind-numbingly, bone-blisteringly dull and repetitive, featuring elaborate charts laying out what you’ve just read as if you were simply too thick to take it in paragraph by paragraph. It’s exactly the sort of thing that no bureaucratic collective should be allowed to inflict on the great unknown, and that no one raised on H.G. Wells, Arthur Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Philip Dick, Ursula Le Guin, George Orwell, William Gibson, or for that matter, Suzanne Collins should ever have to endure.

And yet, the strangeness of this project, historically speaking, should get your attention. Stop for a moment and think about time and the state. States have traditionally had an urge to control the past (sometimes working hard to gain a monopoly on the writing of history). And -- no surprise here -- most states have the urge to control the present. But the future? The future is time’s democracy. No government can secure it. No military can invade it. No intelligence agency can embed its operatives in it.

This is why the Global Trends series that originally emerged from the increasingly self-confident world of the “sole superpower” holds a certain fascination. It represents a unique state foray into the future, a singular attempt to corral and possess it. Once upon a time, the distant future was the province of utopian or dystopian thinkers, pulp fiction writers, oddballs, visionaries, even cranks, but not government intelligence services. Peering into it was, at its best, a movingly strange individual adventure of the imagination, whether you were reading Edward Bellamy or Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Yevgeny Zamyatin or H.G. Wells, George Orwell or Aldous Huxley.

That was, of course, before the Pentagon began planning for the weaponry of 2020, 2035, and 2050; before war turned nuclear and so, with the exception of two cities in 1945, could only be "fought" in think tanks via futuristic scenario writing. It was before the leaders of the sole superpower were so overcome by hubris that they began to suspect the future, like the present, might indeed be theirs.

And yet the future is, and remains, everyone’s, always. Until it actually comes to pass, your guess is as good as the CIA’s or the NIC’s. Probably better. They may, in fact, be the worst possible candidates to write about the future. Even when they know the rap against them -- as laid out in Global Trends 2030, their inability to let go of “continuities” for “discontinuities and crises” -- it doesn’t matter.

They simply can’t bring themselves to think outside the box. They don’t dare surprise themselves, no less give the future its surprising due, even though -- my own guess -- ours is likely to be a world increasingly filled with those discontinuities. The rise of China, the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the Arab Spring, the eruption of both the Tea Party and the Occupy Movement, even the tiniest of unexpected trapdoors in history -- like Paula Broadwell taking down America’s “greatest” general -- are conceptually beyond them. Surprise is their poison. They would prefer to palm a few cards and play from the bottom of the deck rather than acknowledge that the future just isn’t theirs.

Apocalypse When?

The early years of the George W. Bush era proved a visionary, if quite mad, moment. That was when Washington blew a hole in the oil heartlands of the planet and may have launched the Arab Spring. More recently, policymaking has been firmly restored to an administration of managers and the American imperial imagination, such as it was, began to atrophy. Global Trends 2030 reflects that all-American reality, which is why it’s less like entering the future than getting a guided tour of the airless corridors of Washington’s collective mind as 2013 begins.

Of course, the future is an impossibly tricky thing to guide anyone through. Take China, for example. No one would claim its rise isn’t a fact of world historical importance. Still, I think it would be fair to say that, from the beginning of the nineteenth century to the end of the twentieth, an individual who accurately predicted the next bizarre and spectacular twist in China’s path to the future would have been laughed out of any roomful of experts: the collapse of imperial China, the improbable rise of Mao Zedong’s communist movement out of the chaos of invasion and civil war, or -- most improbable of all -- the creation by China’s Communist Party, after a decade of startling radicalism and extremism, of an unprecedented capitalist powerhouse (slated, as Global Trends 2030 points out, to pass the U.S. as the globe’s leading economy by 2030, if not earlier).

So why should anyone imagine that, when it comes to China, present trends can simply be extrapolated into the future? And yet so it goes for the folks of Global Trends 2030, who project a more daring than usual series of scenarios for that country, ranging from cooperation with the U.S. in hegemonic regional harmony to growing nationalism and “adventurism” abroad to (an extreme improbability, as they see it) an economic “collapse” scenario that shocks the global economy.

Still, let’s take one prominent fact of Chinese history, which the analysts of the National Intelligence Council ignore (although China’s leaders are deeply aware of it or they wouldn’t have moved to suppress the Falun Gong sect or, more recently, a Christian cult of the Mayan apocalypse). Under stress, China has a unique revolutionary tradition. For at least a couple of thousand years, in bad times huge peasant rebellions, often fed by syncretic religious cults, have swept out of the Chinese interior to threaten the country: the Yellow Turbans, the White Lotus, the Taipings of the mid-nineteenth century, and most recently Mao’s own movement, among others.

Already today, in economically upbeat times, China has tens of thousands of “mass incidents” a year in which citizens protest polluting factories, peasants take over local villages, and so on. If the Chinese economy takes a major hit between now and 2030, amid growing economic corruption and increasing inequality, who knows what might actually happen?

With the rarest of exceptions, however, the authors of Global Trends 2030 relegate the shock of the future to outlier “black swans” like a pandemic that could kill millions or solar geomagnetic storms that knock out satellite systems and the global electric grid (a scenario the writers of NBC’s hit show Revolution got to well ahead of the NIC’s experts). Otherwise, when it comes to a truly disjunctive world, for better or worse, forget it in Global Trends 2030.

I don’t think I’m atypical and yet I can imagine worse than they seem capable of describing without even blinking, starting with a full-scale, gob-smack global depression. In fact, if you have an apocalyptic turn of mind, all you need to do is look at the information they supply -- some of which their analysts consider good news -- and it’s easy enough to grasp what a truly extreme world we may be entering.

They tell us, for instance, that “the world has consumed more food than it has produced in seven of the last eight years” (a trend they hope will be reversed by the genetic modification of food crops); that water is running short (“by 2030 nearly half the world’s population will live in areas with severe water stress”); that demand for energy will rise by about 50% in the coming 15 to 20 years; and that greenhouse gases, entering the atmosphere as if there were no tomorrow, are expected to double by mid-century. By their estimate, in 2030 there will be 8.3 billion high-end omnivores rattling around this planet and more than a billion of them, possibly two billion, will have entered some abysmally degraded version of “the middle class.” That is, there will be more car drivers, more meat-eaters, more product buyers.

Throw in climate change -- and the “success” of fracking in keeping us on a fossil fuels diet for decades to come -- and tell me you can’t imagine the odd apocalyptic scenario or two, and a few shocking surprises as well.

A Wishing Well on the Global Mall

Think of Global Trends 2030 as a portrait of an aging, overweight Intelligence Community (and the academic hangers-on who work with them) incapable of seeing the world as it is, let alone as it might be. The National Intelligence Council evidently never met an apocalypt or a dreamer it didn’t want to avoid. Its movers and shakers seemingly never considered putting together a panel of sci-fi writers, and in all their travels they evidently never stopped in Uruguay and paid a visit to the radical writer Eduardo Galeano, or even consulted his 1998 book Upside Down: A Primer for the Looking-Glass World.

At one point, discussing global consumerism -- and remember this was the year after the first Global Trends report came out -- he wrote:

“Consumer society is a booby trap. Those at the controls feign ignorance, but anybody with eyes in his head can see that the great majority of people necessarily must consume not much, very little, or nothing at all in order to save the bit of nature we have left. Social injustice is not an error to be corrected, nor is it a defect to be overcome; it is an essential requirement of the system. No natural world is capable of supporting a mall the size of the planet... [If] we all consumed like those who are squeezing the earth dry, we’d have no world left.”

With the rising powers of “the South” and “the East,” we’ll now have a chance to see for ourselves, perhaps by 2030, just how accurate Galeano might have been about the fate of this ever more crowded, ever more resource-pressed, ever hotter and more tumultuous planet of ours. We might learn up close and personal just what it means to add a billion or two extra “middle class” consumers at such a moment. By then, perhaps we’ll be able to take our pick from extremities of all sorts, ranging from old standbys like revolution or fascism to new ones that we can’t even imagine today.

But don’t read Global Trends 2030 to find out about that. After all, the nightmare of every bureaucracy is surprise. We’re not spending $75 billion on “intelligence” and giving up what were once classic American rights and liberties to encounter a bunch of unsettling surprises. No wonder the NIC folks can’t bear to imagine a fuller range of what might be coming. The Washington bubble is too comfortable, the rest too frightening. They may be living off our fear, but don’t kid yourself for a second, they’re afraid too, or they could never produce a document like Global Trends 2030.

As a portrait of American power gone remarkably blind, deaf, and dumb in a world roaring toward 2030, it provides the rest of us with the functional definition of the group of people least likely to offer long-term security to Americans.

Boil it all down, in fact, and you have a single, all-too-clear New Year’s wish from the U.S. Intelligence Community: please, please, please make 2013, 2014, 2015... and 2030 not so different from 2012!

Tomgram: Engelhardt, Apocalypse When?

[Note to TomDispatch Readers: Welcome to 2013!  This January, TD plans to have another stellar line-up of provocative pieces for you by the likes of Bill McKibben, Nick Turse, Rebecca Solnit, Jonathan Schell, Noam Chomsky, Karen Greenberg, Michael Klare, Ann Jones, and others.  If you have a little extra time, urge your friends, colleagues, and acquaintances to put their email addresses into the “subscribe” window at the upper right of our home page and sign on for the TomDispatch email notices that 32,000 of you already receive whenever a new piece is posted.  Word of mouth remains our most powerful ally -- and that means you!  Glad to be back. Tom]

Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project and author of The United States of Fear as well as The End of Victory Culture, his history of the Cold War, runs the Nation Institute's His latest book, co-authored with Nick Turse, is Terminator Planet: The First History of Drone Warfare, 2001-2050. You can see his interview with Bill Moyers on supersized politics, drones, and other subjects by clicking here.

[Note to readers: This is the second piece I've written recently on what to make of the U.S. Intelligence Community. The first, which appeared on December 16th, was “The Visible Government, How the U.S. Intelligence Community Came Out of the Shadows.”]

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter @TomDispatch and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch book, Nick Turse’s The Changing Face of Empire: Special Ops, Drones, Proxy Fighters, Secret Bases, and Cyberwarfare.

Copyright 2013 Tom Engelhardt

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Resurrecting Iran's "Latin America Play"

‘The Iranians Are Coming': The Imagined, ‘Sinister’ Iranian Threat in Latin America

by Ramzy Baroud -

Reading the text of a bill that was recently signed into law by US President Barack Obama would instill fear in the hearts of ordinary Americans. Apparently, barbarians coming from distant lands are at work. They are gathering at the US-Mexico border, cutting fences and ready to wreak havoc on an otherwise serene American landscape.

Never mind that crazed, armed to the teeth, homegrown American terrorists are killing children and terrorizing whole cities. It is the Iranian menace that we are meant to fear according to the new law. When compounded with the other imagined threats of Hezbollah and Hamas, all with sinister agendas, then the time is right for Americans to return to their homes, bolt their doors and squat in shelters awaiting further instructions, for evidently, “The Iranians are coming.”

It is as comical as it is untrue. But “The Countering Iran in the Western Hemisphere Act”, which as of Dec. 28 is an official US law, is not meant to be amusing. It is riddled with half-truths, but mostly complete and utter lies.

Yes, Iran’s influence in Latin America is on the rise. However, by US standards, the expanding diplomatic ties, extending trade routes and such are considered a threat to be ‘countered’ or per Forbes magazine’s endless wisdom, ‘confronted.’

Language in politics can be very dangerous as it can misconstrue reality, turning fictitious scenarios into ‘facts’. Despite its faltering economy, the US continues to experience a sharp growth in its think tank industry - men and women whose sole purpose are to invent and push political agendas, which oftentimes belong to some foreign entity; in this case it is Israel. Ian Barman, Vice President of the American Foreign Policy Council reflected that sentiment exactly in a recent article in Forbes.

Only in the past year, “policymakers in Washington have woken up to a new (Iranian) threat to U.S. security”, he wrote, citing an alleged Iranian assassination plot in Washington. According to Barman, that was the wake-up call leading to a “deeply worrisome” reality. In a moment of supposed level-headedness, he writes: “exactly how significant this threat is represents the subject of a new study released in late November by the U.S. House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee. That report, entitled ‘A Line In The Sand’, documents the sinister synergies that have been created in recent years between Iran and Hezbollah on the one hand, and radical regional regimes and actors—from Venezuela to Mexican drug cartels—on the other.”

But according to Agency France Press, reporting on the new law on Dec. 29, “Washington has repeatedly stated it is closely monitoring Tehran's activities in Latin America, though senior State Department and intelligence officials have indicated there is no apparent indication of illicit activities by Iran.”

Indeed, on the issue of Iran’s influence in Latin America there are two contradicting narratives. One that merely acknowledges Iranians growing diplomatic outreach in Latin America since 2005 and another that speaks of massive conspiracies involving Iran, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, drug cartels, and yes, even underground music piracy groups. The alleged conspiracy is not only far-fetched, it is purposely fabricated to further punish Iran, on behalf of Israel, for its nuclear program. The panic over Iran’s ‘infiltration’ of the US ‘neighborhood’ in Latin America, didn’t start a year ago (as alleged by Barman) but rather coincided with old Israeli-Western propaganda which pained Iran as a country ruled by religious fiends whose main hobby is to assemble bombs and threaten western civilization. When pro-Israeli think tank ‘experts’ began floating a scenario of ‘what if Iran and Hezbollah join forces with Mexico’s Los Zetas drug cartel’ a few years ago, the idea seemed too absurd to compel a rational response. Now it is actually written into the new bill turned law as if a matter of fact. (Sec. 2, Findings 12)

The bill doesn’t only lack reason, proper references and is dotted with a strange amalgam of politically-inspired accusations, it also relies on wholesale allegations of little, if any plausible foundation whatsoever: “Hezbollah and other Iranian proxies with a presence in Latin America have raised revenues through illicit activities, including drug and arms trafficking, counterfeiting, money laundering, forging travel documents, pirating software and music and providing haven and assistance to other terrorists transiting the region.” (Sec 2, Findings 8)

Of course, since the whole exercise is fueled by Israeli anxiety, Hamas also had to somehow be pulled in, if not indicted through the same inexplicable reasoning: “The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration concluded in 2008 that almost one-half of the foreign terrorist organizations in the world are linked to narcotics trade and trafficking, including Hezbollah and Hamas.” (Sec. 2, Findings 10)

US author and journalist, Belen Fernandez has been looking into this matter for years. In all of her writings on the topic she seemed to trace the very thread that unites the invented upheaval over Iran’s supposed takeover of the ‘Western Hemisphere.’ In an article entitled: “Distorting Iranian-Latin American Relations”, nearly two years ago, she wrote: “Iranian ‘penetration’ in Latin America has in recent years become a pet issue of Israeli Foreign Ministry officials and American neoconservative pundits, many of whom take offense at the perceived failure of the U.S. government to adequately appreciate the security threat posed by, for example, the inauguration of a weekly flight from Caracas to Tehran with a stop in Damascus.”

The issue for Israel and its US conduits is entirely political. Iran is indeed expanding its political and diplomatic outreach, but entirely through legal and official means, something that the US has failed to do since The Monroe Doctrine gave the US exclusive hegemony over Latin America starting in December 1823. But much has changed since then, especially in the last two decades when the US swung towards disastrous Middle East foreign policies, much to the pleasure of Israel. The suffering endured by Arabs and Muslims was the needed break for some Latin American countries to challenge US policies in their respective countries. This period was the era in which powerhouses like Brazil rose and popular governments took the helm. US policies in Latin America are not failing because of Iranians ‘sinister’ plans, but because of something entirely different.

Demeaning Latin America as a hapless region waiting for US saviors and pinning US political stocks on Iran might serve immediate Israeli purposes, but it will certainly contribute to the growing political delusion that permeates Washington. Alas, there are little indications that Washington politicians are anywhere near waking up from Israel’s overbearing spell. Just examine the author of the anti-Iran bill: Rep. Jeff Duncan of South Carolina's 3rd District. He is a 'freshman', but has massive ambitions. He joined the Congress in 2011 and quickly learned the ropes. He knows that in order to succeed on Capitol Hill, one must win favor with the pro-Israeli lobby. He sponsored the bill on January 3, just few days before Iranian President went on a major diplomatic tour in Latin America to expand his country’s international relations. That alone was unacceptable, for Latin America has long been designated as the US ‘backyard’, per the belittling perception of US mainstream media. The trip ignited the ire of Israel, which media and officials considered a travesty at a time that Tel Aviv was tirelessly working to isolate Iran. The bill was clearly a coordinated move, as its language indicates textbook Israeli hasbara.

Duncan might have been a novice, but he is quickly catching up. On May 20, he proudly posted a statement on his House of Representative page that sharply censures his own president’s remarks on Israel, while fully supporting the political stances of the leader of another country, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He decried Obama’s siding with the “Hamas-led government”, thus “undermined(ing) Israel’s position in the negotiation process.”

“President Obama’s statement that Israel should retreat to its impossible to defend 1967 borders breaks a promise to one of our strongest allies, threatens Israel’s security, and jeopardizes the future of democracy in the region,” he wrote. Of course, Duncan wholeheartedly agreed with Netanyahu’s right-wing policies. “(The Israeli) Prime Minister understands the hard reality of Israel’s precarious security situation and daily threats of terrorism. I agree with the Israeli Prime Minister that President Obama’s position is simply unrealistic.” He concluded with a very telling statement: “As a Christian, I ask Americans to continue lifting up the people of Israel with prayers for safety and the hope for a lasting peace.”

This strange attitude towards politics and American national security is the real threat, not Iranian embassies and water purification projects in some Latin American countries. But considering the rising religious zealotry, shrewd Israeli lobby and the numerous think tanks of catered wisdom, there is little space for pragmatic politics or sensible approach to anything that concerns Israel. Thus, Obama enacted the bill into law and funds have been secured to evaluate Iran’s growing ‘threats’ in ‘America’s backyard’ so that proper measures are taken to counter the frightening possibilities.

What Duncan doesn’t know however, is that Latin America is no longer hostage, neither to the whims of Washington, nor to his South Carolina’s 3rd District. And that the ‘Western Hemisphere’ is no longer defined by the confines of US foreign policies, which seem to be narrowing each year to meet Israeli expectations and not those of America.

- Ramzy Baroud ( is an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of His latest book is: My Father was A Freedom Fighter: Gaza's Untold Story (Pluto Press).

Resolving to End Racism and Militarism in Zero 13

Resisting Racism and Militarism in 2013

by David  Swanson - War is a Crime

January 21st will be an odd day in the United States. We'll honor Martin Luther King Jr. and bestow another 4-year regime on the man who, in his Nobel peace prize acceptance speech said that Martin Luther King Jr. had been wrong -- that those who follow his example "stand idle in the face of threats."

I plan to begin the day by refusing to stand idle in the face of the threat that is President Barack Obama's military. An event honoring Dr. King and protesting drone wars will include a rally at Malcolm X Park and a parade named for a bit of Kingian rhetoric.

That evening I plan to attend the launch of a new book called We Have Not Been Moved: Resisting Racism and Militarism in 21st Century America.

The Martin King I choose to celebrate is not the mythical man, beloved and accepted by all during his life, interested exclusively in ending racial segregation, and not attracted to activism -- since only through electoral work, as we've all been told, can one be a serious activist.

The Martin King I choose to celebrate is the man who resorted to the most powerful activist tools available, the tools of creative nonviolent resistance and noncooperation, in order to resist what he called the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism.

Taking that seriously means ending right now the past five-year-long ban on protesting the president. At Obama's first inauguration we held Good Riddance to Bush rallies because pressuring Obama to mend his militaristic ways was not deemed "strategic."

It turns out that refusing to push people toward peace does something worse than offending them. It ignores them and abandons them to their fate.

But pushing is not exactly the verb we should be looking for as we strive to build an inclusive peace movement. Nor is peace exactly the adjective. What we need is a movement against racism, materialism, and militarism.

To build that, those working to reduce spending on the Pentagon's pet corporations need to also work against the prison industrial complex. And those working against police violence need to work for higher taxes on billionaires. And those working to protect Social Security and Medicare need to oppose the murdering of human beings with missiles and drones.

We need to do these things not just because they will unite a larger number of people. We would need to do them all even if nobody were already working in any of these areas. We need to do them because we are taking on a culture, not just a policy. We are taking on the mental habits that allow racism, materialism, and militarism. We cannot do so with a movement that is segregated by policy area any more than we can with a movement that is segregated by race.

The torture techniques are shared between our foreign and domestic prisons. Local police are being militarized. The latest insanity would have us arm our teachers so that when our children are shot up by failed applicants to the U.S. Marine Corps there will be, as at Fort Hood, more guns nearby. Violence at home and abroad exists through our acceptance of violence. Plutocratic greed drives both war and racism. Racism facilitates and is facilitated by war.

We Have Not Been Moved is a book with many lessons to teach. King spoke against the war on Vietnam despite being strongly advised to stick to the area of civil rights. Julian Bond did the same, losing his seat in the Georgia state legislature. African Americans marched against that war by the thousands in Harlem and elsewhere, including with posters carrying the words attributed to Mohammad Ali: "No Vietcong ever called me nigger!" So did Asian Americans and Chicanos. SNCC risked considerable support and funding by supporting the rights of Palestinians as well as Vietnamese, urging draft resistance, and stating its disbelief that the U.S. government's goals included free elections either at home or abroad.

Immigrants rights groups (to a great extent more accurately: refugee rights groups) are sometimes reluctant to challenge the war machine, despite deeper understanding than the rest of us of how U.S. war making creates the need for immigration in the first place. But, then, how many peace activists are working for immigrants' rights? Civil rights groups strive to resist rendition and torture and indefinite detention, warrentless spying and murder by drone. Unless they are brought more fully into a larger coalition that challenges military spending (at well over $1 trillion per year both before and after the "fiscal cliff") the struggle against the symptoms will continue indefinitely. Environmental groups are often reluctant to oppose the military industrial complex, its wars for oil, or its oil for wars. But this past year the threat that South Korean base construction and the U.S. Navy pose to Jeju Island brought these movements together -- a process our survival depends on our continuing.

Our movement must be inclusive and international. The movement to close the School of the Americas has not closed it, but has persuaded several nations to stop sending any would-be torturers or assassins to train there. The movement to shut down U.S. military bases abroad has not shut them down en masse through Congress, but has shut them down in particular places through the work of the people protesting in their countries. Where do we find media coverage that sympathizes with domestic struggles for justice within the United States? In foreign media, of course, in the media of Iran and Russia and Qatar. Those governments have their own motives, but support for justice corresponds with the sentiments of their people and all people.

Our movement should not oppose attacking Iran purely as outsiders, but working with Iranians. We should not oppose attacking Iran because all of our own problems have been solved, or because the dollars that will be spent attacking Iran could fund U.S. schools and green energy, or because attacking Iran could lead to attacks on the United States. We should oppose attacking Iran because we oppose militarism and materialism and racism everywhere.

We sometimes worry about having too many issues on our plate. How, we wonder, can new people be attracted to our rally against another war if we unreasonably also oppose murderous sanctions? How can we welcome new activists who doubt the wisdom of the next war if we unrealistically oppose all militarism? How can we not turn people off if our speeches demand rights for women and immigrants and workers? Do people who've never heard of Mumia need to hear about his imprisonment? Don't we want homophobes to feel they can join our campaign without loving those people?

I think this is the wrong worry. I think we need more issues, not fewer. I think that's the genius of Occupy. The issues are all connected. They are issues of greed, racism, and war. We can work with Libertarians on things we agree on. We need be hostile to no one. But we need to prioritize building a holistic movement for fundamental change. Taxing the rich to pay for more wars is not the answer. Opposing all cuts to public spending, even though more than half of it goes to the war machine is not the answer. Insisting that banks stop discriminating, while drone pilots do is not the answer.

This is going to take work, huge amounts of work, great reservoirs of patience and humility, tremendous efforts at inclusion, understanding, and willingness to see changed what it is people become included in. But we can afford to turn off racists. We can afford to not appear welcoming to bigots. We are many. They are few.

The war machine has set its sights on Africa. Its new name is AFRICOM, and it means business, the business of exploitation and cruelty. We can better understand 9-11 and everything that has followed from it if we understand the long history of terrorism on U.S. soil. We need the wisdom of Native Americans, Japanese Americans, Muslim Americans, and everybody else here and abroad who has been paying attention. We need to move from making war to making reparations, at home and abroad. We will have less reparations to make the sooner we stop making war.

We Have Not Been Moved includes a never before published speech by Bayard Rustin in which Rustin quotes Ossie Davis saying to the President: "If you want us to be nonviolent in Selma, why can't you be nonviolent in Saigon?"

"All the weapons of military power," says Rustin, "chemical and biological warfare, cannot prevail against the desire of the people. We know the Wagner Act, which gave labor the right to organize and bargain collectively was empty until workers went into the streets. The unions got off the ground because of sit-down strikes and social dislocation. When women wanted to vote, Congress ignored them until they went into the streets and into the White House, and created disorder of a nonviolent nature. I assure you that those women did things that, if the Negro movement had done them, they would have been sent back to Africa! The civil rights movement begged and begged for change, but finally learned this lesson -- going into the streets. The time is so late, the danger so great, that I call upon all the forces which believe in peace to take a lesson from the labor movement, the women's movement, and the civil rights movement and stop staying indoors. Go into these streets until we get peace!"

Resolving to Action in Victoria for New Year's Week: Enbridge and Idle No More in Town


Enbridge Hearings, Idle No More in Victoria

by Forest Action Network 

Happy New Year! Is it OK if we start 2013 with a bang? Because this Friday kicks off a week of anti-pipeline and pro-indigenous-rights events in Victoria and Vancouver.

Now is the time for everyone who loves the land and water to get together where it counts! So grab your 2013 calendar, and remember to dress for the weather with lots of extra layers.

Friday, January 4, Noon, Victoria - rally outside at the Delta Resort Hotel, 45 Songhees Road: Join us in "welcoming" the Joint Review Panel for the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project. Click here for a

Saturday January 5, 2:30 pm on, Victoria: Idle No More! Slahal Bone Game Blockade at the Coho Ferry Terminal, Belleville St. at Oswego. More info:

Two nights - Sunday & Monday, January 6-7, Victoria: We Don't Need No Indoctrination Tour with Savage Fam, Birdbrains, & Ancestral Pride featuring Sacheen & Crow. Hip-hop and spoken-word show, to benefit
sovereign indigenous housing. $10-15 suggested donation. - Sunday at Cenote Lounge, 768 Yates St, 7 pm (doors at 6) ** come early limited capacity!
- Monday at Intrepid Theatre, #2-1069 Blanshard St, 7 pm (doors at 6) - Info:

Friday January 11 Noon, Victoria at the Delta Resort Hotel: Come together to give the Enbridge review panel a big send-off on the final day of the hearings! Bring noisemakers and rally at 45 Songhees Road in Vic West.

Pipeline review comes to Vancouver Monday January 14, 5 pm Vancouver, Victory Square: No Consent, No Pipelines! Noise demo against Enbridge during the Joint Review Panel. Click here for details.

Volunteers needed! Please drop me a line if you can help with flyers or marshalling? (No experience necessary - training provided.)

Thank you for the support. Call or email anytime!

For a better world,


Visit Forest Action Network at
Hotline 250-813-3569

Resolving to Live the Truth

Living your life honestly

by Robert Jensen

Good teaching is living your life honestly in front of students.”

I don’t recall exactly when Jim Koplin first told me that, but I know that he had to say it several times before I began to understand what he meant. Koplin was that kind of teacher—always honing in on simple, but profound, truths; fond of nudging through aphorisms that required time to understand their full depth; always aware of the connection between epistemology and ethics; and patient with slow learners.

But, I’m getting ahead of myself. Some background: Jim Koplin was, by way of a formal introduction, Dr. James H. Koplin, granted a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Minnesota in 1962 with a specialization in language acquisition, tenured at Vanderbilt University and later a founding faculty member of Hampshire College, retired early in 1980 to a rich life of community building and political organizing. I never took a class from him, though in some sense the 24 years I knew him constituted one long independent study. That finally ended on December 15, 2012, not upon satisfactory completion of the course but when Jim died at the age of 79. ( He left behind a rich and diverse collection of friends, all of whom have a special connection with him. But I hang onto the conceit that I am his intellectual heir, the one who most directly continued his work in the classroom.

So, with that conceit firmly in place and his death fresh in my mind, it seems proper and fitting that I offer lessons learned from Koplin to the world outside his circle of students and friends.

I’ve spent a considerable amount of time in my 20 years of teaching at the University of Texas at Austin reflecting on Jim’s core insight, that good teaching is living your life honestly in front of students. The first, and most obvious, implication is a rejection of the illusory neutrality that some professors claim. From the framing of a course, to the choice of topics for inclusion on the syllabus, to the selection of readings, to the particular way we talk about ideas—teaching in the social sciences and humanities is political, through and through. Political, in this sense, does not mean partisan advocacy of a particular politician, party, or program, but rather recognizing the need to assess where real power lies, analyze how that power operates in any given society, and acknowledge the effect of that power on what counts as knowledge.

Every professor’s “politics” in this sense has considerable influence on his/her teaching, and I believe it is my obligation to make clear to students the political judgments behind my decisions. The objective is not to strong-arm students into agreement, but to explain those choices and defend them when challenged by students. At the end of a successful semester, students should be able to identify my assumptions, critique them, and be clearer about their own.

I would recommend this approach for all faculty members, but it has been particularly important for me because I am politically active in fairly public ways, which students often learn about through mass media and the internet. To make clear the difference between the goals of Jensen-in-the-classroom (encouraging critical thinking) and Jensen-in-public (advocating political positions), I have taken extra care to be transparent in front of students. This also was a product of my time with Jim, who insisted that if intellectual inquiry led one to conclusions about what is needed to advance social justice and ecological sustainability, then one should contribute to those projects. Jim’s life offered me a model for how intellectual work need not be separated from community and political work. In one of my early conversations with Jim about this balance, he referred me to one of his elders, Scott Nearing, who said that three simple principles guided his life: the quest “to lea
rn the truth, to teach the truth, and to help build the truth into the life of the community.” Each of those endeavors feeds the other two; scholarship, teaching, and community engagement are a package deal for me. But Jim always reminded me that what one does in front of students is not the same as what one does in front of a crowd at a rally, or in an organizing meeting.

Perhaps Jim’s most important contribution to my development as a teacher came in his advocacy of interdisciplinary undergraduate education. In the contemporary academy, the reward system and culture tend to push professors toward intellectual specialization over the big picture, and toward working with graduate students over undergraduate teaching. In my connection with Jim, I saw the importance of—and joy in—a truly interdisciplinary approach to knowledge that took as its primary task teaching at the most basic levels.

The first course I taught in the university-wide program called First-Year Seminars, “The Ethics and Politics of Everyday Life,” was straight out of Koplin: I had students read five books that touched on the political, economic, and ecological implications of our choices in our daily lives. Every time I worried that I would be pushing students too far, Jim would tell me that the students were hungry for honest, jargon-free radical talk, and he was right.

I devised my current interdisciplinary course, “Freedom: Philosophy, History, Law,” in conversation with Jim. As it came into focus, I told Jim that I wanted the course to not only challenge the culture’s simplistic definition of freedom but to undermine the confidence of anyone who thinks the term can be easily defined. On the first day of class, I tell students that the minute they think they have nailed down a definitive definition of freedom, some new experience will force them to modify that. It is the struggle to understand the concept that matters, and I am just another person struggling with them, albeit with the advantage of more extensive reading and experience.

That reflects another of Jim’s other lessons, the understanding that a good teacher learns alongside students. That doesn’t mean pretending that students have as much to teach me as I have to teach them (if that were the case, why am I the one getting paid?); the excitement comes from genuinely being open to that discovery with students. As a teacher, I shape—but cannot control—the experience. There’s always a certain kind of thrill in that process, especially in front of a class of 300. There are days when I feel a bit like I am doing an intellectual high-wire act. Those tend to be my favorite classes.

That thrill is rooted in another Koplin lesson: Good teaching is based in recognizing our intellectual limits, our ignorance. By that, he did not just mean that any single teacher can’t know everything. Instead, Jim meant that we humans are always more ignorant than knowledgeable, that even in fields in which we have dramatically deepened our understanding of the world, there is—and always will be—far more that we do not know than we do know. I have come to realize that the longer I teach, the more I know and the less certain I am about what I know. The more aware I am of the limits of my knowledge, the better teacher I become.

Jim also believed that all teaching required an appreciation of the arts, and he taught me to look for wisdom in poetry. To the best of my knowledge, Jim never wrote a line of poetry in his life, but that made him only more appreciative of the form. I cannot remember if I shared this poem with him or vice versa; at some point, as it is with a good teacher, the flow of information and insight was two-way and impossible to track. Whomever it came from first, Jim and I came across the poem “Dropping Keys” by Hafiz, the 14th century Sufi poet from Persia.

The small person
Builds cages for everyone
She Sees.

Instead, the sage,
Who needs to duck her head,
When the moon is low,
Can be found dropping keys, all night long
For the beautiful,
Rowdy, Prisoners.

For too many students, education too often feels like a cage. If we aren’t careful, we teachers can find ourselves building cages, guarding cages, and then locking ourselves inside those cages.

Jim Koplin never stopped dropping keys for me. To honor his memory, I will try to do the same for my students.

Robert Jensen is a professor in the School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin and board member of the Third Coast Activist Resource Center in Austin. He is the author of Arguing for Our Lives (City Lights, coming in 2013); All My Bones Shake: Seeking a Progressive Path to the Prophetic Voice, (Soft Skull Press, 2009); Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity (South End Press, 2007); The Heart of Whiteness: Confronting Race, Racism and White Privilege (City Lights, 2005); Citizens of the Empire: The Struggle to Claim Our Humanity (City Lights, 2004); and Writing Dissent: Taking Radical Ideas from the Margins to the Mainstream (Peter Lang, 2002). Jensen is also co-producer of the documentary film “Abe Osheroff: One Foot in the Grave, the Other Still Dancing” (Media Education Foundation, 2009), which chronicles the life and philosophy of the longtime radical activist.  An extended interview Jensen conducted with Osheroff is online at

Jensen can be reached at and his articles can be found online at To join an email list to receive articles by Jensen, go to Twitter: @jensenrobertw.