News and Commentary

From Around the Web – 18 February 2016

Turkey v Islamic State v the Kurds: What’s going on? – BBC News – Although military affiliates of the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) have been some of the most stalwart and effective opponents of Daesh (the Islamic State), Turkey has chosen to focus their efforts on destroying the Kurdish freedom movement. The United States’ support of these efforts is unconscionable. This article from BBC News from a few months ago gives a decent overview of the situation.

Thomas Piketty on the rise of Bernie Sanders: the US enters a new political era | The Guardian – French Economist Thomas Piketty writes that the Vermont senator’s success so far demonstrates the end of the politico-ideological cycle opened by the victory of Ronald Reagan at the 1980 elections.

Bernie Sanders’ Phantom Movement – Chris Hedges – Truthdig – Hedges argues that no movement or political revolution will ever be built within the confines of the Democratic Party. And the repeated failure of the American left to grasp the duplicitous game being played by the political elites has effectively neutered it as a political force.

China’s currency reserves plunged in January – BBC News – China still has the world’s biggest reserve of foreign currency holdings. But that has declined by $420 billion over six months and stands at the lowest level in nearly four years. This is the most underreported and significant economic news of 2016, thus far.

Can the U.S. escape the slump? | – Lee Sustar looks at the prospects for the U.S. economy amid global instability.

Greatest Threat to Free Speech in the West: Criminalizing Activism Against Israeli Occupation | The Intercept – Glenn Greenwald and Andrew Fishman report that there is a coordinated and well-financed campaign led by Israel and its supporters to criminalize political activism against Israeli occupation, based on the fear that the worldwide campaign of Boycott, Sanctions, and Divestment is succeeding.

The end of capitalism has begun | Books | The Guardian – Paul Mason posits that Capitalism will not be abolished by forced-march techniques, but by creating something more dynamic that exists, at first, almost unseen within the old system, but which will break through, reshaping the economy around new values and behaviors.

More money for Wall Street, more problems for Chicago’s schools | Chicago Reader – From Ben Joravsky: “It seems the mayor and his council allies remain defiantly determined to waste money, raise taxes, and plunge Chicago Public Schools into bankruptcy.”

EFF to Support Apple in Encryption Battle | Electronic Frontier Foundation – “For the first time, the government is requesting Apple write brand new code that eliminates key features of iPhone security—security features that protect us all. Essentially, the government is asking Apple to create a master key so that it can open a single phone. And once that master key is created, we’re certain that our government will ask for it again and again, for other phones, and turn this power against any software or device that has the audacity to offer strong security.”

Unless It Changes, Capitalism Will Starve Humanity By 2050 – Forbes – Drew Hansen, writing for that hotbed of Socialist thought, Forbes, says that corporate capitalism is committed to the relentless pursuit of growth, even if it ravages the planet and threatens human health.

Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Pope?

Those who profit from what harms the earth have to keep the poor out of sight. They have trouble enough fighting off the scientific, economic, and political arguments against bastioned privilege. Bringing basic morality to the fore could be fatal to them. That is why they are mounting such a public pre-emptive strike against the encyclical before it even appears. They must not only discredit the pope’s words (whatever they turn out to be), they must block them, ridicule them, destroy them.

Read More: Who’s Afraid of Pope Francis? by Garry Wills | NYRblog | The New York Review of Books

Rolling Firebombs

Environmentalists around the country have been protesting the “bomb trains” for several years now, but the 100 car unit trains are continuing to roll through hill and dale, towns and cities. This, despite the fact that we now know that fracked Bakken crude is more explosive than gasoline. The fireballs that have erupted lately dramatically illustrate this point.

Read More: Exploding Trains and Crude Oil » CounterPunch: Tells the Facts, Names the Names.

Trish Kahle on the Elk River Spill

“IMAGINE YOURSELF in the rugged countryside of the Appalachian Mountains, where you and your neighbors have lived with a history of poverty and lack of economic development–and you learn that the water piped into your home has been poisoned and can’t be used, even after it is boiled, until further notice.”

Read the article: They poisoned the river for a “clean coal” lie | I Can’t Believe We Still Have to Protest This Shit.

2012 Living Planet Report

2012 Living Planet Report. [World Wildlife Fund] – The 2012 edition of the Living Planet Report highlights the tremendous pressure that humanity is putting on our planet. We are currently using 50 per cent more resources than the Earth can provide. By 2030, even two planets will not be enough. Rising consumption trends in high-income groups around the world (and also in Brazil, Russia, India, Indonesia, China and South Africa), combined with growing population numbers, provide warning signs of the potential for even larger footprints in the future.

The United States ranks 5th among per-capita consumption (behind Qatar, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates and Denmark). If the entire world consumed as we Americans do, it would currently take 4 planets just like ours to sustain us.

Download the full report here or the summary here.

10 Great Container Tomatoes

There’s nothing like stepping out back and picking a beautiful, ripe homegrown tomato for a BLT, a salad or simply for slicing and serving with a little seasoned salt. I started planting tomatoes in huge terra cotta pots more than a decade ago when I didn’t have diggable space in a decent, sunny location for a garden, and the habit stuck. I’ve always loved the first tomato of the season. No matter how fresh they are from the farmers’ market, they’re never quite as tasty as the ones you grow yourself.

Colleen Vanderlinden over on Treehugger has a wonderful post about ten tomato varieties that do well in containers. The Black Krims sound particularly tasty.

I first ran across Colleen’s article on the Occupy Monsanto blog. The more I learn, the more I realize that some of the most simple and pleasant everyday things we do – like choosing to grow heirloom tomatoes in pots – can be powerful political acts as well. For me, that makes such things all the more satisfying.

I’m hoping it won’t be too late to plant a few pots after our move next month.

A word of caution to those who want to grow container tomatoes on an upstairs balcony. Be careful where you set them. Remember that Tommy Ewell nearly got killed by Marilyn Monroe’s falling tomato plant in The Seven Year Itch. :)

Monsanto Threatens to Sue Over GMO Labeling

Monsanto Threatens to Sue Vermont if Legislators Pass a Bill Requiring GMO Food to Be Labeled. [AlterNet] – The world’s most hated corporation is at it again, this time in Vermont. Despite overwhelming public support and support from a clear majority of Vermont’s Agriculture Committee, Vermont legislators are dragging their feet on a proposed GMO labeling bill. Why? Because Monsanto has threatened to sue the state if the bill passes. What it really comes down to this: Elected officials are abandoning the public interest and pubic will in the face of corporate intimidation.