Sunday, January 29, 2012

Why the American dream could come to an end

Sun Jan 29 2012

Brandie Barbiere walks past her household possessions after they were removed to her front yard during a home foreclosure on Oct. 5, 2011 in Milliken, Colorado. Barbiere said she had stopped making the mortgage payments 11 months before, after she lost more than half her home child care business due to the continued weak economy.John Moore/GETTY IMAGES

By Bill Schiller Foreign Affairs Reporter
It was a chill January day last year when Lucy Berrington and 400 other immigrants from around the world gathered in Boston’s famed Faneuil Hall — the nation’s “cradle of liberty” on the historic “Freedom Trail” — to take an oath and become citizens of the United States.
For many immigrants who come to America to seek a better life, it’s an almost sacred ceremony, “something like being born again,” says Berrington, 42, who came to the U.S. from Britain in 1997.
Despite a wintry New England day, she found “warmth” in the words of the presiding judge, she says.
“It was unexpectedly moving,” observes Berrington, a graduate student at Tufts University, “a lovely thing, really.”
But, she adds candidly, “something seemed off.”
Standing beneath a painting of founding father Samuel Adams and other greats, Berrington was seized by the feeling that she and her new fellow Americans had come to the land of opportunity late.
“I felt I was arriving at the party as it was winding down.”
One year on, an avalanche of statistics and darkening attitudes support her anxiety.
So it was no surprise this week when President Barack Obama in his State of the Union address called keeping the American dream alive, “the defining issue of our time.”
Never before in the modern era has America seemed so broken, its beacon-like “American dream” which has drawn so many to its shores, so elusive.
Today some 24 million Americans are out of work.
Nearly 50 per cent of all citizens live in households that depend on some form of government benefit.
And the country’s housing market remains a train wreck in agonizing slow motion. One in every four American homeowners are “underwater” to use the parlance of our times, owing more on their mortgages than their homes are actually worth.
Some experts predict the plague of foreclosures will worsen.
It wasn’t always this way, of course. For nearly 250 years, long before the phrase “the American dream” was coined in 1931 by author John Truslow Adams, the concept of a land of transformative opportunity was a magnet for America, drawing the talented, the determined and the ambitious.
Yet, grateful though she is for the opportunity to become a citizen, Berrington worries that America’s ability to offer immigrants a chance to transform their lives has passed.
“I couldn’t help but question the premise,” she says, recalling the day she became an American, “namely, the enduring appeal of the American dream at a time when its achievement seemed ever less likely.”
“There is an increasing gap between the rhetoric and the reality,” she says. “America still wants to perceive itself in a certain way, and yet it is not willing or not able to be what it says it is and what it represents.”
It is also increasingly unwelcoming.
Nearly 400,000 people were deported from the United States in 2011, the highest number in the history of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“In desperate times we are less welcoming,” laments Michael F. Ford, founding director of the Center for the Study of the American Dream, at Ohio’s Xavier University. “That has been true since the founding of the republic.”
These are desperate times indeed. A recent survey by the centre found that nearly two of every three Americans believes America is a country in decline.
A clear majority, 57 per cent, say they have “lost confidence in the country’s standing in the world” — up from 52 per cent in 2010.
Perhaps more shocking, the Pew Charitable Trust found that in today’s America — proud home to capitalist culture for more than two centuries — just 50 per cent of Americans now have a “positive” reaction to the word “capitalism.”
A key reason for that is America’s unending housing debacle, which has overrun millions of American homeowners leaving them broke, broken and angry.
From 2006 to 2010 American real estate prices plummeted 30 per cent, losing a stunning $6 trillion off their value.
That’s what pushed former realtor Charles Koppa to the edge, inspiring him to launch his grassroots “Mad as Hell” seminars in Ramona, Calif., near San Diego.
His aim, he says, is to arm people with sufficient knowledge to take on the “banksters,” who force-fed investors, then forced foreclosures nationwide, stripping homeowners of whatever equity they had.
Koppa, 71, wants an end to what he calls “foreclosure tyranny,” and hopes to harness the Internet to inspire an “Occupy Our Homes” movement much like Occupy Wall Street.
“I’m tailoring seminars so that people can start to gather forces in their own homes.”
Their theme song, Koppa reveals, is Leonard Cohen’s “Everybody Knows.” (“Everybody knows the fight was fixed/the poor stay poor, the rich get rich.”)
On Tuesday, in response to growing national concern, President Obama vowed to launch an investigation into the handling of mortgages during the crisis.
The tsunami of statistics that attach to the crisis stagger: 2.2 million homes are now in foreclosure with more on the way; $800 billion in existing mortgages are more than 90-days delinquent; new home sales that once stood at 1.28 million in 2005 plummeted to just 305,000 in 2011; and 2 million construction jobs have been lost.
America’s housing sector is a wasteland with some cities featuring not one, but several boulevards of broken dreams.
Given all this, perhaps it was more than idle rhetoric this month when Republican hopeful Mitt Romney, in a speech following his victory in the New Hampshire primary, claimed “the middle class has been crushed” and that his campaign was all about “saving the soul of America.”
But it will take more than rhetoric, idle or otherwise, to steer America back to prosperity.
The capacity of the American economy to both build and attract facilities that produce jobs is also in sharp decline.
A new survey and study from the Harvard Business School this month shows America’s competitiveness is faltering and the immediate future isn’t bright.
More than 70 per cent of respondents — a cohort of 10,000 HBS graduates in senior executive positions in America and all over the world — say they expect the decline in American competitiveness to continue for at least three more years, dragging American living standards down with it.
More troubling, respondents report from first-hand experience, the U.S. is losing two-thirds of all bids to land new job-producing facilities.
The multi-year study shows that more facilities have moved out of the U.S, than have moved in.
“The threat to U.S. competitiveness we face today is far more complex than the one America confronted in the 1980s,” lead author Michael E. Porter cautions.
This time, it’s not just about Japan, and re-educating an American auto industry to learn about “fit and finish,” “just-in-time” supply deliveries and better fuel efficiency.
It’s more than that. America is now competing in a world with not one but more than 100 competitors, and must make deep structural changes to become more productive, creating more value per unit of resources deployed, if it wants to compete.
But there’s another problem.
“The U.S. government is more fiscally constrained and politically gridlocked than it was three decades ago,” Porter writes. The implicit message: gridlock must go if America is to move ahead.
But some aren’t so sure that America is positioned to make that turnaround.
“I think America’s pre-eminence in the world, which resulted from the 20th century and two world wars and the Cold War, that period of economic and political dominance is clearly ending,” says Canadian writer Ronald Wright, author of the 2009 bestseller, What is America?
American prosperity was built on what many thought was never-ending expansion, he says. While the expansion is over, attitudes of the period still linger.
“Americans got used to the idea that things were always going to get bigger and better and that standards of living would always rise,” says Wright. But so it was, too, with the imperial powers of Britain and France and Spain before them: they all had to learn accept limits eventually.
“I don’t think this spells doom for the American republic,” he says, provided “the republic realizes it has to play by the same rules as other nations do, take part in international agreements and deal with common problems.”
If America can adapt to these changing circumstances, perhaps the “party” Lucy Berrington felt she came to late can be revived.
“A friend of mine said, ‘The party isn’t winding down. You just arrived at an awkward pause,’” she says. “I can’t agree. If it is an awkward pause, it’s going to be a very long awkward pause and I think there’s going to be a lot of trouble before it gets going again.
“I hope it does,” she says

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Television Is Eating Your Brain!

Posted on January 28, 2012

Friends, it could be time to put your television in a metal cage, as you might do with a very dangerous animal. Why?
Because your television is eating your brain. Yes, friends, each time you turn it on it nibbles away a bit more of your power of thinking and you don’t feel a thing.
Of course, this doesn’t happen to everyone, just most. There are a few people out there who are clinging to their ability to think, who view their television with suspicion, with fear. The are skeptical of the words, even of the images.
Most people just open their minds and let the rubbish pour into their heads, infinite quantities of it.
They don’t realize that they are manipulated by the idiot box, how Governments and Corporations and Politicians and Media Billionaires are using television to manipulate them, to break them down, to turn them into zombies.
When they go into a Supermarket, they react involuntarily to the products and pick them up and put them in the trolley. They have been conditioned.
When they go to vote, they have been conditioned as to how to vote. They have listened and agreed to the messages from Big Business and Talk-jocks and Newspaper Editorials and will vote for the candidates that have spun the best, have promised them the most.
When they see footage from war zones, they smile because they have been led to believe that war is good, that anyone who thinks differently to them or looks differently to them is to be feared and killed if possible.
When religion comes on the flickering screen, they feel warm. Their conditioning makes them feel this way, Big Daddy is looking after us, stops them seeing the fraud that all religion is.
When sport comes on, things like cage fighting and contact sports like football and ice-hockey, they howl and yell as the blood flows and imagine how it must feel to physically dominate another human, how it feels to be victorious and how winners deservedly are grinners. They don’t realize that violence is being glorified and peace is being mocked.
Friends, the Dark Forces which control our world use television as their major form of manipulation. From the moment little children are exposed to television the programming and conditioning start.
And it never stops. 24 hours a day the television flickers and devours our brain.
Be on your guard. See it for what it is: a medium of mass indoctrination used by folk who have no scruples, no morals, and want to turn you into their puppet

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The latest sahib, Nicholas Kristof

January 25, 2012
Kristof and the Rescue Industry
The Soft Side of Imperialism


Reasons abound to be turned off by the New York Times columnist, Nicholas Kristof. He is too pleased with himself and demonstrates no capacity for self-reflection. He is too earnest. He claims to be in the vanguard of journalism because he tweets. He is said to be Doing Something about human suffering while the rest of us don’t care; he is smarmy. He doesn’t write particularly well. But most important, he is an apologist for a soft form of imperialism.
He poses for photos with the wretched of the earth and Hollywood celebrities in the same breath, and they are a perfect fit. Here he is squatting and grinning at black children, or trying to balance a basket on his head, and there he is with his arm over Mia Farrow’s shoulder in the desert. Here he is beaming down at obedient-looking Cambodian girls, or smiling broadly beside a dour, unclothed black man with a spear, whilst there he is with Ashton and Demi, Brad and Angelina, George Clooney. He professes humility, but his approach to journalistic advocacy makes himself a celebrity. He is the news story: Kristof is visiting, Kristof is doing something.
In interviews, he refers to the need to protect his humanitarian image, and he got one Pulitzer Prize because he “gave voice to the voiceless”. Can there be a more presumptuous claim? Educated at both Harvard and Oxford, he nevertheless appears ignorant of critiques of Empire and grassroots women’s movements alike. Instead, Kristof purports to speak for girls and women and then shows us how grateful they are. His Wikipedia entry reads like hagiography.
Keen to imply that he’s down with youth and hep to the jive, he lamely told one interviewer that “All of us in the news business are wondering what the future is going to be.” He is now venturing into the world of online games, the ones with a so-called moral conscience, like Darfur is Dying, in which players are invited to “Help stop the crisis in Darfur” by identifying with refugee characters and seeing how difficult their lives are. This experience, it is presumed, will teach players about suffering, but it could just as well make refugees seem like small brown toys for people to play with and then close that tab when they get bored. Moral conscience is a flexible term anyway: One click away from Darfur is Dying is a game aimed at helping the Pentagon improve their weapons.
Kristof says his game will be a Facebook app like FarmVille: “You’ll have a village, and in order to nurture this village, you’ll have to look after the women and girls in the village.” The paternalism couldn’t be clearer, and to show it’s all not just a game (because there’s actual money involved), schools and refugee camps get funds if you play well. A nice philanthropic touch.
Welcome to the Rescue Industry, where characters like Kristof get a free pass to act out fun imperialist interventions masked as humanitarianism. No longer claiming openly to carry the White Man’s Burden, rescuers nonetheless embrace the spectacle of themselves rushing in to save miserable victims, whether from famine, flood or the wrong kind of sex. Hollywood westerns lived off the image of white Europeans as civilizing force for decades, depicting the slaughter of redskins in the name of freedom. Their own freedom, that is, in the foundational American myth that settlers were courageous, ingenious, hard-working white men who risked everything and fought a revolution in the name of religious and political liberty.
Odd then, that so many Americans are blind when it comes to what they call humanitarianism, blissfully conscience-free about interfering in other countries’ affairs in order to impose their own way of life and moral standards. The Rescue Industry that has grown up in the past decade around US policy on human trafficking shows how imperialism can work in softer, more palatable ways than military intervention. Relying on a belief in social evolution, development and modernization as objective truths, contemporary rescuers, like John Stuart Mill 150 years ago, consider themselves free, self-governing individuals born in the most civilized lands and therefore entitled to rule people in more backward ones. (Mill required benevolence, but imperialists always claim to have the interests of the conquered at heart.) Here begins colonialism, the day-to-day imposition of value systems from outside, the permanent maintenance of the upper hand. Here is where the Rescue Industry finds its niche; here is where Kristof ingenuously refers to “changing culture”, smugly certain that his own is superior.
In the formation of the 21st-century anti-trafficking movement, a morally convenient exception is made, as it was made for military actions in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan. The exception says This Time It’s Different. This time we have to go in. We have to step up and take the lead, show what real democracy is. In the name of freedom, of course. In the case of trafficking the exception says: We have achieved Equality. We abolished slavery, we had a civil-rights movement and a women’s liberation movement too and now everything is fine here.
With justification firmly in place, the US Rescue Industry imposes itself on the rest of the world through policies against prostitution, on the one hand, and against trafficking, on the other. In their book Half the Sky, Kristof and co-author Sheryl WuDunn liken the emancipation of women to the abolition of slavery, but his own actions –brothel raids, a game teaching players to protect village women – reflect only paternalism.
It may be easier to get away with this approach now than it was when W.T. Stead of London’s Pall Mall Gazette bought a young girl in 1885 to prove the existence of child prostitution. This event set off a panic that evil traders were systematically snatching young girls and carrying them to the continent – a fear that was disproved, although Stead was prosecuted and imprisoned for abduction.
In contrast, in 2004 when Kristof bought two young Cambodians out of a brothel, he took his cameraman to catch one girl’s weepy homecoming. A year later, revisiting the brothel and finding her back, Kristof again filmed a heartwarming reunion, this time between him and the girl. Presuming that being bought out by him was the best chance she could ever get, Kristof now reverted to a journalistic tone, citing hiv-infection rates and this girl’s probable death within a decade. She was not hiv-positive, but he felt fine about stigmatizing her anyway.
Then last November, Kristof live-tweeted a brothel raid in the company of ex-slave Somaly Mam. In “One Brothel Raid at a Time” he describes the excitement:
Riding beside Somaly in her car toward a brothel bristling with AK-47 assault rifles, it was scary. This town of Anlong Veng is in northern Cambodia near the Thai border, with a large military presence; it feels like something out of the Wild West. (New York Times)
There’s the cavalry moment again. A few days later Kristof boasted that six more brothels had closed as a result of the tweeted raid. Focused on out-of-work pimps, he failed to ask the most fundamental question: Where did the women inside those brothels go? The closures made them instantly vulnerable to trafficking, the very scenario Kristof would save them from.
Some Rescuers evoke the Christian mission directly, like Gary Haugen of the International Justice Mission, which accompanies police in raids on brothels. Or like Luis CdeBaca, the US Ambassador-at-Large for Trafficking, who unselfconsciously aligns himself with William Wilberforce, the evangelical Christian rescuers claim ended slavery – as though slaves and freed and escaped slaves had nothing to do with it. CdeBaca talks about the contemporary mission to save slaves as a responsibility uniquely belonging to Britain and the US.
Kristof positions himself as liberal Everyman, middle-class husband and father, rational journalist, transparent advocate for the underdog. But he likes what he calls the law-enforcement model to end slavery, showing no curiosity about police behavior toward victims during frightening raids. Ignoring reports of the negative effects these operations have on women, and the 19th-century model of moral regeneration forced on them after being rescued, he concentrates on a single well-funded program for his photo-opps, the one showing obedient-looking girls.
Kristof also fails to criticize US blackmail tactics. Issuing an annual report card to the world, the US Office on Trafficking presumes to judge, on evidence produced during investigations whose methodology has never been explained, each country according to its efforts to combat human trafficking. Reprisals follow – loss of aid – for countries not toeing the line. Kristof is an apologist for this manipulative policy.
To criticize the Rescue Industry is not to say that slavery, undocumented migration, human smuggling, trafficking and labor exploitation do not exist or involve egregious injustices. Yet Kristof supporters object to any critique with At least he is Doing Something. What are you doing to stop child rape? and so on. This sort of attempt to deflect all criticism is a hallmark of colonialism, which invokes class and race as reasons for clubbing together against savagery and terrorism. The Rescue Industry, like the war on terrorism, relies on an image of the barbaric Other.
It is important not to take at face value claims to be Helping, Saving or Rescuing just because people say that is what they are doing and feel emotional about it. Like many unreflective father figures, Kristof sees himself as fully benevolent. Claiming to give voice to the voiceless, he does not actually let them speak.
Instead, as we say nowadays, it’s all about Kristof: his experience, terror, angst, confusion, desire. Did anyone rescued in his recent brothel raid want to be saved like that, with the consequences that came afterwards, whatever they were? That is what we do not know and will not find out from Kristof.
Discussing Heart of Darkness, Chinua Achebe said Conrad used Africa
as a metaphysical battlefield devoid of all recognizable humanity, into which the wandering European enters at his peril… The real question is the dehumanization of Africa and Africans which this age-long attitude has fostered and continues to foster in the world. (Things Fall Apart)
The latest sahib in colonialism’s dismal parade, Kristof is the Rescue Industry at its well-intentioned worst.
LAURA AGUSTÍN is author of Sex at the Margins: Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry (Zed Books). A researcher and analyst of human trafficking, undocumented migration and sex-industry research for the past 20 years, she blogs as the Naked Anthropologist.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Do Turkeys Enjoy Thanksgiving?

Do Turkeys Enjoy Thanksgiving?

January 24, 2004

By Arundhati Roy

Last January thousands of us from across the world gathered in Porto Allegre in Brazil and declared reiterated that "Another World is Possible". A few thousand miles north, in Washington, George Bush and his aides were thinking the same thing.

Our project was the World Social Forum. Theirs, to further what many call The Project for the New American Century.

In the great cities of Europe and America, where a few years ago these things would only have been whispered, now people are openly talking about the good side of Imperialism and the need for a strong Empire to police an unruly world. The new missionaries want order at the cost of justice.

Discipline at the cost of dignity. And ascendancy at any price. Occasionally some of us are invited to 'debate' the issue on 'neutral' platforms provided by the corporate media. Debating Imperialism is a bit like debating the pros and cons of rape. What can we say? That we really miss it?

In any case, New Imperialism is already upon us. It's a remodelled, streamlined version of what we once knew. For the first time in history, a single Empire with an arsenal of weapons that could obliterate the world in an afternoon has complete, unipolar, economic and military hegemony.

It uses different weapons to break open different markets. There isn't a country on God's earth that is not caught in the cross hairs of the American cruise missile and the IMF chequebook. Argentina's the model if you want to be the poster-boy of neoliberal capitalism, Iraq if you're the black sheep.

Poor countries that are geo-politically of strategic value to Empire, or have a 'market' of any size, or infrastructure that can be privatized, or, god forbid, natural resources of value - oil, gold, diamonds, cobalt, coal - must do as they're told, or become military targets. Those with the greatest reserves of natural wealth are most at risk. Unless they surrender their resources willingly to the corporate machine, civil unrest will be fomented, or war will be waged.

In this new age of Empire, when nothing is as it appears to be, executives of concerned companies are allowed to influence foreign policy decisions.

The Centre for Public Integrity in Washington found that nine out of the 30 members of the Defence Policy Board of the U.S. Government were connected to companies that were awarded defence contracts for $ 76 billion between 2001 and 2002. George Shultz, former U.S. Secretary of State, was Chairman of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq. He is also on the Board of Directors of the Bechtel Group. When asked about a conflict of interest, in the case of a war in Iraq he said, " I don't know that Bechtel would particularly benefit from it. But if there's work to be done, Bechtel is the type of company that could do it. But nobody looks at it as something you benefit from." After the war, Bechtel signed a $680 million contract for reconstruction in Iraq.

This brutal blueprint has been used over and over again, across Latin America, Africa, Central and South-East Asia. It has cost millions of lives.

It goes without saying that every war Empire wages becomes a Just War. This, in large part, is due to the role of the corporate media. It's important to understand that the corporate media doesn't just support the neo-liberal project. It is the neo-liberal project. This is not a moral position it has chosen to take, it's structural. It's intrinsic to the economics of how the mass media works.

Most nations have adequately hideous family secrets. So it isn't often necessary for the media to lie. It's what's emphasised and what's ignored.

Say for example India was chosen as the target for a righteous war. The fact that about 80,000 people have been killed in Kashmir since 1989, most of them Muslim, most of them by Indian Security Forces (making the average death toll about 6000 a year); the fact that less than a year ago, in March of 2003, more than two thousand Muslims were murdered on the streets of Gujarat, that women were gang-raped and children were burned alive and a 150,000 people driven from their homes while the police and administration watched, and sometimes actively participated; the fact that no one has been punished for these crimes and the Government that oversaw them was re- elected ... all of this would make perfect headlines in international newspapers in the run-up to war.

Next we know, our cities will be levelled by cruise missiles, our villages fenced in with razor wire, U.S. soldiers will patrol our streets and, Narendra Modi, Pravin Togadia or any of our popular bigots could, like Saddam Hussein, be in U.S. custody, having their hair checked for lice and the fillings in their teeth examined on prime-time TV.

But as long as our 'markets' are open, as long as corporations like Enron, Bechtel, Halliburton, Arthur Andersen are given a free hand, our 'democratically elected' leaders can fearlessly blur the lines between democracy, majoritarianism and fascism.

Our government's craven willingness to abandon India's proud tradition of being Non-Aligned, its rush to fight its way to the head of the queue of the Completely Aligned (the fashionable phrase is 'natural ally' ó India, Israel and the U.S. are 'natural allies'), has given it the leg room to turn into a repressive regime without compromising its legitimacy.

A government's victims are not only those that it kills and imprisons. Those who are displaced and dispossessed and sentenced to a lifetime of starvation and deprivation must count among them too. Millions of people have been dispossessed by 'development' projects. In the past 55 years, Big Dams alone have displaced between 33 million and 55 million people in India. They have no recourse to justice.

In the last two years there has been a series of incidents when police have opened fire on peaceful protestors, most of them Adivasi and Dalit. When it comes to the poor, and in particular Dalit and Adivasi communities, they get killed for encroaching on forest land, and killed when they're trying to protect forest land from encroachments ó by dams, mines, steel plants and other 'development' projects. In almost every instance in which the police opened fire, the government's strategy has been to say the firing was provoked by an act of violence. Those who have been fired upon are immediately called militants.

Across the country, thousands of innocent people including minors have been arrested under POTA (Prevention of Terrorism Act) and are being held in jail indefinitely and without trial. In the era of the War against Terror, poverty is being slyly conflated with terrorism. In the era of corporate globalisation, poverty is a crime. Protesting against further impoverishment is terrorism. And now, our Supreme Court says that going on strike is a crime. Criticising the court of course is a crime, too. They're sealing the exits.

Like Old Imperialism, New Imperialism too relies for its success on a network of agents ó corrupt, local elites who service Empire. We all know the sordid story of Enron in India. The then Maharashtra Government signed a power purchase agreement which gave Enron profits that amounted to sixty per cent of India's entire rural development budget. A single American company was guaranteed a profit equivalent to funds for infrastructural development for about 500 million people!

Unlike in the old days the New Imperialist doesn't need to trudge around the tropics risking malaria or diahorrea or early death. New Imperialism can be conducted on e-mail. The vulgar, hands-on racism of Old Imperialism is outdated. The cornerstone of New Imperialism is New Racism.

The tradition of 'turkey pardoning' in the U.S. is a wonderful allegory for New Racism. Every year since 1947, the National Turkey Federation presents the U.S. President with a turkey for Thanksgiving. Every year, in a show of ceremonial magnanimity, the President spares that particular bird (and eats another one). After receiving the presidential pardon, the Chosen One is sent to Frying Pan Park in Virginia to live out its natural life. The rest of the 50 million turkeys raised for Thanksgiving are slaughtered and eaten on Thanksgiving Day. ConAgra Foods, the company that has won the Presidential Turkey contract, says it trains the lucky birds to be sociable, to interact with dignitaries, school children and the press. (Soon they'll even speak English!)

That's how New Racism in the corporate era works. A few carefully bred turkeys ó the local elites of various countries, a community of wealthy immigrants, investment bankers, the occasional Colin Powell, or Condoleezza Rice, some singers, some writers (like myself) ó are given absolution and a pass to Frying Pan Park. The remaining millions lose their jobs, are evicted from their homes, have their water and electricity connections cut, and die of AIDS. Basically they're for the pot. But the Fortunate Fowls in Frying Pan Park are doing fine. Some of them even work for the IMF and the WTO - so who can accuse those organisations of being anti-turkey? Some serve as board members on the Turkey Choosing Committee - so who can say that turkeys are against Thanksgiving? They participate in it! Who can say the poor are anti-corporate globalisation? There's a stampede to get into Frying Pan Park. So what if most perish on the way?

Part of the project of New Racism is New Genocide. In this new era of economic interdependence, New Genocide can be facilitated by economic sanctions. It means creating conditions that lead to mass death without actually going out and killing people. Dennis Halliday, the U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Iraq between '97 and '98 (after which he resigned in disgust), used the term genocide to describe the sanctions in Iraq. In Iraq the sanctions outdid Saddam Hussein's best efforts by claiming more than half a million children's lives.

In the new era, Apartheid as formal policy is antiquated and unnecessary.

International instruments of trade and finance oversee a complex system of multilateral trade laws and financial agreements that keep the poor in their Bantustans anyway. Its whole purpose is to institutionalise inequity. Why else would it be that the U.S. taxes a garment made by a Bangladeshi manufacturer 20 times more than it taxes a garment made in the U.K.? Why else would it be that countries that grow 90 per cent of the world's cocoa bean produce only 5 per cent of the world's chocolate? Why else would it be that countries that grow cocoa bean, like the Ivory Coast and Ghana, are taxed out of the market if they try and turn it into chocolate? Why else would it be that rich countries that spend over a billion dollars a day on subsidies to farmers demand that poor countries like India withdraw all agricultural subsidies, including subsidised electricity? Why else would it be that after having been plundered by colonising regimes for more than half a century, former colonies are steeped in debt to those same regimes, and repay them some $ 382 billion a year?

For all these reasons, the derailing of trade agreements at Cancun was crucial for us. Though our governments try and take the credit, we know that it was the result of years of struggle by many millions of people in many, many countries. What Cancun taught us is that in order to inflict real damage and force radical change, it is vital for local resistance movements to make international alliances. From Cancun we learned the importance of globalising resistance.

No individual nation can stand up to the project of Corporate Globalisation on its own. Time and again we have seen that when it comes to the neo-liberal project, the heroes of our times are suddenly diminished.

Extraordinary, charismatic men, giants in Opposition, when they seize power and become Heads of State, they become powerless on the global stage. I'm thinking here of President Lula of Brazil. Lula was the hero of the World Social Forum last year. This year he's busy implementing IMF guidelines, reducing pension benefits and purging radicals from the Workers' Party. I'm thinking also of ex-President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela. Within two years of taking office in 1994, his government genuflected with hardly a caveat to the Market God. It instituted a massive programme of privatisation and structural adjustment, which has left millions of people homeless, jobless and without water and electricity.

Why does this happen? There's little point in beating our breasts and feeling betrayed. Lula and Mandela are, by any reckoning, magnificent men.

But the moment they cross the floor from the Opposition into Government they become hostage to a spectrum of threats - most malevolent among them the threat of capital flight, which can destroy any government overnight. To imagine that a leader's personal charisma and a c.v. of struggle will dent the Corporate Cartel is to have no understanding of how Capitalism works, or for that matter, how power works. Radical change will not be negotiated by governments; it can only be enforced by people.

This week at the World Social Forum, some of the best minds in the world will exchange ideas about what is happening around us. These conversations refine our vision of the kind of world we're fighting for. It is a vital process that must not be undermined. However, if all our energies are diverted into this process at the cost of real political action, then the WSF, which has played such a crucial role in the Movement for Global Justice, runs the risk of becoming an asset to our enemies. What we need to discuss urgently is strategies of resistance. We need to aim at real targets, wage real battles and inflict real damage. Gandhi's Salt March was not just political theatre. When, in a simple act of defiance, thousands of Indians marched to the sea and made their own salt, they broke the salt tax laws. It was a direct strike at the economic underpinning of the British Empire. It was real. While our movement has won some important victories, we must not allow non-violent resistance to atrophy into ineffectual, feel-good, political theatre. It is a very precious weapon that needs to be constantly honed and re-imagined. It cannot be allowed to become a mere spectacle, a photo opportunity for the media.

It was wonderful that on February 15th last year, in a spectacular display of public morality, 10 million people in five continents marched against the war on Iraq. It was wonderful, but it was not enough. February 15th was a weekend. Nobody had to so much as miss a day of work. Holiday protests don't stop wars. George Bush knows that. The confidence with which he disregarded overwhelming public opinion should be a lesson to us all. Bush believes that Iraq can be occupied and colonised - as Afghanistan has been, as Tibet has been, as Chechnya is being, as East Timor once was and Palestine still is.

He thinks that all he has to do is hunker down and wait until a crisis-driven media, having picked this crisis to the bone, drops it and moves on. Soon the carcass will slip off the best-seller charts, and all of us outraged folks will lose interest. Or so he hopes.

This movement of ours needs a major, global victory. It's not good enough to be right. Sometimes, if only in order to test our resolve, it's important to win something. In order to win something, we - all of us gathered here and a little way away at Mumbai Resistance - need to agree on something. That something does not need to be an over- arching pre-ordained ideology into which we force-fit our delightfully factious, argumentative selves. It does not need to be an unquestioning allegiance to one or another form of resistance to the exclusion of everything else. It could be a minimum agenda.

If all of us are indeed against Imperialism and against the project of neo-liberalism, then let's turn our gaze on Iraq. Iraq is the inevitable culmination of both. Plenty of anti-war activists have retreated in confusion since the capture of Saddam Hussein. Isn't the world better off without Saddam Hussein? they ask timidly.

Let's look this thing in the eye once and for all. To applaud the U.S. army's capture of Saddam Hussein and therefore, in retrospect, justify its invasion and occupation of Iraq is like deifying Jack the Ripper for disembowelling the Boston Strangler. And that - after a quarter century partnership in which the Ripping and Strangling was a joint enterprise. It's an in-house quarrel. They're business partners who fell out over a dirty deal. Jack's the CEO.

So if we are against Imperialism, shall we agree that we are against the U.S. occupation and that we believe that the U.S. must withdraw from Iraq and pay reparations to the Iraqi people for the damage that the war has inflicted?

How do we begin to mount our resistance? Let's start with something really small. The issue is not about supporting the resistance in Iraq against the occupation or discussing who exactly constitutes the resistance. (Are they old Killer Ba'athists, are they Islamic Fundamentalists?)

We have to become the global resistance to the occupation.

Our resistance has to begin with a refusal to accept the legitimacy of the U.S. occupation of Iraq. It means acting to make it materially impossible for Empire to achieve its aims. It means soldiers should refuse to fight, reservists should refuse to serve, workers should refuse to load ships and aircraft with weapons. It certainly means that in countries like India and Pakistan we must block the U.S. government's plans to have Indian and Pakistani soldiers sent to Iraq to clean up after them.

I suggest that at a joint closing ceremony of the World Social Forum and Mumbai Resistance, we choose, by some means, two of the major corporations that are profiting from the destruction of Iraq. We could then list every project they are involved in. We could locate their offices in every city and every country across the world. We could go after them. We could shut them down. It's a question of bringing our collective wisdom and experience of past struggles to bear on a single target. It's a question of the desire to win.

The Project For The New American Century seeks to perpetuate inequity and establish American hegemony at any price, even if it's apocalyptic. The World Social Forum demands justice and survival.

For these reasons, we must consider ourselves at war.

©Arundhati Roy


[1] Mumbai conference calls for boycott of America, Inc. author: Antonio Gramsci

Activists in India [including Arundhati Roy] and elsewhere are spearheading a call for an international boycott of corporate America, starting with the ten biggest donors to the George Bush Jr campaign.

[2] Bush Boycott Website [Comprehensive site]

[3] A thousand issues during a week of workshops, protests, and events A major theme by many activists is how to defeat Bush in 2004 and a broader call for a boycott campaign against US corporations which benefit from the occupation of Iraq.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

No Evil on earth prior to Humans

Posted on October 21, 2011 by David G

Primitive humans made up elaborate, fanciful stories to explain their innate evil.

Even today, most humans still find it virtually impossible to accept the truth about themselves.

It’s funny, isn’t it. Prior to the advent of humans there was no evil on planet earth.

All forms of life did their own thing as nature intended: they procreated, protected their young, killed other things for food, fought off rivals, competed for mating rights, etc.

But no other life form had the kind of brain that could allow them to sit down and plan how to kill others of their kind, how to invent new weapons that would give them an advantage, enable them to destroy whole cities. No other life form embraced greed as their raison de etre. No other life form developed cruelty and torture and turned it into an art form. No other life form enslaves as humans do or carries out rituals like burning witches or sacrificing virgins to some mythical being.

If you think about the amount of evil in our world, we humans have little to be proud of. It seems that each human is born with evil already there. Whether it emerges depends on the circumstances we are born into.

Gaddafi was killed last night and according to report, it was not a pretty death, and not according to the images I saw, images caught on a cell phone. Wild animals could not have done worse.

Humans will now compete with each other for the rights to grab Libyan oil. I suppose Britain and France will put in a strong call but the U.S. will inevitably be at the front of the queue.

With Gaddafi gone, the rest of Africa is open for an invasion of competing nations all wanting to grab resources before others do. If they can’t get them via deals, they’ll get them by military force either overt or covert.

The only way to rid planet earth of evil is for humans to become extinct, every single one. Given there are 7 billion of us already, if we keep procreating as we are, the evil multiplies as well. Imagine how the world will be if we reach 20 billion or 50 billion. It’s too awful to contemplate!

Humans are a terrible evolutionary mistake. Other animals have brains but they do not work the same as ours do. Where did our evil come from, you may ask?

Religious people have to blame the ‘GOD’ who made them. Atheists have no such answer. We just have to live with the fact that we are a despicable life form, try as best we can to curb our base instincts, and wait for the human race to destroy itself which may not be far away.

Is there no hope, you ask?

None that I can see!

The National Security Law in S Korea

January 7, 2012
South Korean Law Casts Wide Net, Snaring Satirists in a Hunt for Spies

SUWON, South Korea — On May 1, 2007, the police locked Kim Myung-soo in a jail cell so small he could spread his arms and touch the facing walls. On one of those walls, a television was showing trains in North and South Korea preparing to cross the border for the first time since the 1950-53 Korean War. The report also noted that South Korea was donating 400,000 tons of rice to North Korea.

Mr. Kim was angry about his fate and confused by the reports of North-South conciliation. After all, he had been told his crime was “aiding the enemy” by running a Web site that sold used books deemed pro-North Korean. These included a biography of Karl Marx and “Red Star Over China,” an account of the birth of Chinese Communism by the American journalist Edgar Snow.

Although Mr. Kim was later released on bail, he is still fighting the charge in court. He has visited nearly every public library in Seoul and the surrounding metropolitan areas to bolster his argument that all the books seized from him as criminal evidence are readily available at government-supported libraries.

“It’s a tragicomedy,” said Mr. Kim, 56, whose acquittal in a lower court is being challenged by prosecutors in an appeals court. “It’s depressing living under a government like this.”

Over the years, South Korea has sought reconciliation with North Korea while at the same time guarding against Communist ideology infiltrating its society. Nowhere have those conflicting desires clashed more sharply than in the National Security Law, enacted in 1948 to fight Communism and used to indict Mr. Kim and numerous others.

That conflict was on display in recent weeks after the death of the North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. On one hand, the South Korean government allowed the widow of former President Kim Dae-jung, who had hugged Kim Jong-il during a landmark summit meeting, to go to Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, to express condolences. On the other hand, it barred most other South Koreans from visiting the North and was seeking to arrest a former student activist who had traveled to Pyongyang.

In Seoul, conservative activists blocked an attempt by civic groups to pitch a tent to receive mourners for Kim Jong-il’s death as a gesture to promote reconciliation with the North. The authorities at Seoul National University dismantled a makeshift mourning altar that a student had set up on campus. Since Mr. Kim’s death was announced on Dec. 19, South Korea has also intensified the policing of the Internet, where some bloggers called for expressions of condolence, if only to test the government’s tolerance of free speech.

Lee Kwang-cheol, a lawyer who is defending several people charged under the National Security Law, said its applications had varied widely depending on the government’s stance toward North Korea.

“What once were called exchanges and cooperation with North Korea are now acts of ‘aiding the enemy,’ ” Mr. Lee said. He cited cases in which people were convicted based on conversations with North Korean officials during trips authorized under previous, more liberal governments.

For years, international rights groups, including the United Nations Human Rights Commission, have urged South Korea to repeal the law. But it has proved resilient in a society where the generation that experienced the 1950-53 Korean War remains wary of Communism, its fears revived by every North Korean military provocation and often stoked for domestic political ends.

In 2010, 151 people were interrogated on suspicion of violating the National Security Law, up from 39 in 2007. The number of people prosecuted for pro-North Korean online activities increased to 82 in 2010 from 5 in 2008. The number of domestic Web sites shut down for pro-North Korean content rose to 178 last year from 18 in 2009.

During the first 10 months of 2011, the police deleted 67,300 Web posts they believed threatened national security by “praising North Korea and denouncing the U.S. and the government,” a sharp rise from 14,430 posts in 2009. The Korea Communications Standards Commission, a government regulatory agency, almost always approved requests by the police or the national spy agency to delete Web content for violating the National Security Law, although only 20 percent of their investigations under the law led to court convictions in 2010, according to government data submitted to Lee Yong-kyung, an opposition lawmaker.

In May, Frank La Rue, the United Nations special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, called South Korea’s regulation of online content “a matter of great concern.” In the past, South Korea’s military dictators used the National Security Law not only to prosecute spies but also to persecute political dissidents. Between 1961 and 2002, at least 13,178 people were indicted, and 182 of them executed, under the law, according to human rights groups.

Presidents Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun, who supported reconciliation with the North between 1998 and 2007, enforced the law less vigorously. But Lee Myung-bak, a conservative, rejected that approach when he became president in early 2008. Inter-Korean relations chilled further in 2010 when South Korea accused the North of torpedoing one of its warships and the North shelled a South Korean island. Seoul halted aid shipments and cross-border trains. It also increased the policing of the Internet, citing what it called a growing infiltration of North Korean propaganda.

The government denies that it is applying the law as a weapon against political dissent. But human rights groups, including Amnesty International, say that prosecutors began enforcing the law more vigorously in the months before Mr. Lee took office, when it became clear that conciliation toward the North would end.

The law makes it a crime to praise, sympathize or cooperate with North Korea if such acts threaten national security. But it is so vaguely worded that, decades ago, even people who might have praised North Korea while drunk were hauled in for interrogation.

Court records show that, depending on the prosecutor or judge, “The Communist Manifesto” was either a political pamphlet of historical interest or “subversive material” whose possession was punishable by as much as seven years in prison.

Recently, the South Korean authorities have begun investigating or arresting bloggers who have praised North Korea — jokingly, some of them said — or have downloaded North Korean propaganda that is widely available on the Internet.

These actions have had “a chilling effect on the freedom of expression,” said Rajiv Narayan, an East Asia researcher for Amnesty International.

In August, Prosecutor General Han Sang-dae declared “a war against fellow-traveling pro-North Korean left-wing elements,” and said, “We must punish and remove them.”

A month later, plainclothes police officers ransacked Park Jung-geun’s photography studio and his home in Seoul for 10 hours, copying the hard disks of his computer and his cellphone memory data and confiscating photos and books they deemed suspicious. They have since called him in five times, each time questioning him for hours: Why did he upload Web links to North Korean songs on his Twitter account? Didn’t he know Twitter was “a powerful propaganda tool” for the North?

Mr. Park said he had done it for fun. His satirical streak was evident in the North Korean propaganda posters he had tweaked and uploaded on Twitter. In his versions, he replaced a smiling North Korean soldier’s face with a downcast version of his own and the soldier’s weapon with a bottle of whiskey.

To the police, that was not funny. “I felt ridiculous having to explain my beliefs, and explain jokes so obviously harmless to anyone who’s not language-impaired,” said Mr. Park, 23. “This law defines your brain and your tongue as government property.”

Now he is waiting for prosecutors to indict him, and he says he is on medication for stress and sleeplessness. In a recent Twitter post, he asserted his right to free speech, taunting the prosecutors with an insult and saying, “Hear me loud and clear — Hurray for Kim Jong-il!”

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Invented people

Posted on January 6, 2012 by David G

“Now, look, Fellow Founding Fathers, what will we call ourselves? I suggest Americans. It sounds grand, exceptional, noble, born to rule!”

“You may have invented yourselves earlier than us, but God has been watching over us for thousands of years. We are His chosen people. Too bad, eh?”

Friends, to answer this question requires an ability to think outside the box, to rid one’s mind of all indoctrination, all the nonsense that we have been fed since birth.

To begin, let me make this point: many nations have been going for centuries, some for millennia (thousands of years)! And some others have been going for a matter of a few hundred of years and one nation, one built upon racism and elitism, has been in existence since 1947! Wow!

Now, who are these ‘Johnny come Lately’ nations and how has their emergence affected the world? Let’s take the U.S. first.

As the flood of immigrants from Europe impacted upon the Native Indians on the North American Continent, the result was not good for the local inhabitants. To cut a long story short, they were ‘genocided’ out of existence.

Yes, the ‘white trash’ that moved from Europe did not bring with them nobility or generosity. No, they brought guns and created soldiers and quickly dispatched those who quarreled with the insatiable demands of the white invaders.

Once the ‘invaders’ dispatched the Native Indians, they then went to Africa and, without a second thought, stole black Africans to work on the cotton plantations as slaves. Boy oh boy, did those black slaves get a bad time of it.

Eventually, the ‘whites’ in the North of the new nation decided that slavery was not a good look, so the white ‘riffraff’ from Europe fought a bitter civil war with each other.

The ‘Americans’ also fought against Britain and France and anyone else who dared show their face in the ‘New World’. Soon, the white ‘riffraff’ moved elsewhere in the world, anywhere there was a buck to be made.

A few hundred years later this brash, warmongering nation lays claim to being exceptional and, modestly, claims it is the greatest nation in the history of the world forgetting about India and China and Greece completely. I guess if you don’t blow your own trumpet, who will?

As if this is not the greatest fraud the world has ever seen, then Israel came along, and, in 1947, after lots of political manipulation and the endless playing of the Holocaust card, Israel appeared on the world stage. The Americans might have slaughtered most of the Indians and used Africans as slaves but Israel moved into the Middle East claiming to be God’s Children! That’s a hard act to follow!

This amazing event is without parallel in human history. A group of religious fanatics, who, though it’s nonsensical, claim authentic genetic relationship to people who lived two thousand plus years ago, suddenly appeared on the world scene and, as ‘invented people’, began to throw their weight around with the assistance of the ‘invented people’ from the United States.

I guess we live in a new age, that of the ‘Invented People’. History no longer means anything, nothing. You just invent yourself and off you go. Israel suggests that God has enabled its emergence. America, with their normal modesty, claims that God made it ‘exceptional’, the greatest nation in the history of the world, one born to dominate the world. Israel is just waiting for God to pick it up and move it to a ‘heavenly place’ where Gentiles and other lowlife are banned.

Both of these nations are peopled by folk who are quite a few cards short of a pack, who are, in the main, completely possessed by demons and delusions. Both of these nations are quite capable of leading our world towards complete destruction despite their recent and unfortunate invention.

Heed should be taken of those nations which have a rich history. No notice should be taken of a bunch of upstarts who just appeared on the block and demand to be recognized as ‘New Gods’.

Our ‘New Gods’ are false gods. They are immature. They are full of hot air and bullshit. All they want is a quick buck and they don’t care how they get it.

It’s time the nations of the world who have a history over many centuries to bring their maturity to the world stage, their track record, their commonsense and statesmanship.

Let’s push the ‘invented nations’ off the stage. They have proven themselves to be unworthy, a danger to themselves and the rest of the world.

Friday, January 6, 2012

I only wish I had killed more

"All murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpet."--Voltaire
Book by ‘most lethal sniper’ in U.S. history claims 160 kills in Iraq
January 05, 2012

Daniel Dale

Chris Kyle in camouflage uniform. The former Navy SEAL probably holds the American record for military killing by sniper fire.

Some days, Chris Kyle writes, the U.S. military credits him with killing 160 people in Iraq. Other days, it credits him with killing a bunch more people. Not that the tally matters.

“The number is not important to me. I only wish I had killed more,” Kyle, a former Navy SEAL, writes in his new memoir, American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History. “Not for bragging rights, but because I believe the world is a better place without savages out there taking American lives.”

Though a spokesperson for the Naval Special Warfare Command said he could not corroborate Kyle’s claimed kill count, he said Kyle “seems to be a pretty credible guy.” Kyle’s official service record confirms that he received the numerous prestigious combat awards he says he did — and, in a Wednesday interview, Kyle said he didn’t even want to include his kill count in the book.

“One of the things people are saying is, ‘Why are you glorifying yourself for killing so many people?’ My thing is, I didn’t even want the number put in there. That’s not even on me. You can blame the publisher for wanting to sell books,” Kyle, 37, said over the phone from New York.

“I’m not trying to glorify myself, and if you read the book, you’ll find out that I give all the credit to all my guys. I’m not the best sniper, I’m not the best SEAL, I almost failed out of sniper school. I happened to be surrounded by heroes who made me look good.”

Kyle, who served from 1999 to 2009, did four tours in Iraq. If his claimed kill count is accurate, he far exceeded the 109 kills recorded by the Vietnam War sniper previously thought to hold the American record, Adelbert Waldron III.

Kyle earned two Silver Stars, five Bronze Stars With Valor, and reverent nicknames from both his SEAL colleagues (“The Legend”) and insurgents in Ramadi (“The Devil”). A former rodeo rider who grew up hunting deer and pheasant in his native Texas, he said Wednesday that he is “just some big, dumb hick.”

“I’m not this refined assassin, or whatever you might think when you look at Hollywood. I don’t have the stereotypical look to me, I guess. I’m a country boy. I have the accent. In fact, I’m wearin’ my boots and jeans today,” he said, his drawl thick.

Kyle is the son of a deacon and a Sunday school teacher. He did most of his killing with a bolt-action .300 Winchester Magnum sniper rifle.

He says he killed 40 people in the Second Battle of Fallujah alone, about seven of them through the window of an apartment building while lying on top of a baby crib he turned upside-down. (“No babies were harmed,” he said with a chuckle.) Near Sadr City, he says, he killed an insurgent, who had been aiming a rocket launcher at an approaching American convoy, from a distance of 1.2 miles.

Kyle said Wednesday that he never mistakenly killed an innocent person. In fact, he said, he probably should have killed more people than he did.

“That was one thing that was heavy on my mind: when I come home, I definitely do not want to be tried for murder for accidentally shootin’ the wrong person,” he said.

When people ask him whether it bothers him that he killed so many people, he writes, he answers with a simple “no.” On Wednesday, he said it does bother him, “a little bit,” that some people now think he is a “sadistic murderer.”

“I’ve seen the blogs,” he said. “People who have never been out there, never experienced it — and they think that, because I consider myself a Christian, I’m a horrible Christian, because Christians aren’t supposed to be killin’ people. But you know what? In the Bible, God sent people to kill people. I feel extremely justified in what I did. I’m not out there murdering people; the people I killed were actively trying to murder my people, and I was out there trying to protect ’em.”

Kyle says he was shot twice. Insurgents put a bounty on his head. Two of his close friends were killed. In the end, though, he says it was his fear of losing his wife, not his life, that prompted him to leave the military. He now runs a security and weapons training company in Dallas.

“My wife figured out, the last three years I was active, I was home six months. That’s not good for a marriage, especially when you’ve got two kids, two very young kids, who didn’t know their dad,” he said. “SEALs have a 95 per cent divorce rate.”

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

China’s President Pushes Back Against Western Culture

January 3, 2012

BEIJING — President Hu Jintao of China has said that the West is trying to dominate China by spreading its culture and ideology and that China must strengthen its cultural production to defend against the assault, according to an essay in a Communist Party policy magazine published this week.

Mr. Hu’s words signaled that a major policy initiative announced last October would continue well into 2012.

The essay, which was signed by Mr. Hu and based on a speech he gave in October, drew a sharp line between the cultures of the West and China and effectively said the two sides were engaged in an escalating culture war. It was published in Seeking Truth, a magazine founded by Mao Zedong as a platform for establishing Communist Party principles.

“We must clearly see that international hostile forces are intensifying the strategic plot of westernizing and dividing China, and ideological and cultural fields are the focal areas of their long-term infiltration,” Mr. Hu said, according to a translation by Reuters.

“We should deeply understand the seriousness and complexity of the ideological struggle, always sound the alarms and remain vigilant and take forceful measures to be on guard and respond,” he added.

Those measures, Mr. Hu said, should be centered on developing cultural products that can draw the interest of the Chinese and meet the “growing spiritual and cultural demands of the people.”

Chinese leaders have long lamented the fact that Western expressions of popular culture and art seem to overshadow those from China. The top grossing films in China have been “Avatar” and “Transformers 3,” and the music of Lady Gaga is as popular here as that of any that of any Chinese pop singer. In October, at the annual plenum of the party’s Central Committee, where Mr. Hu gave his speech, officials discussed the need for bolstering the “cultural security” of China.

“The overall strength of Chinese culture and its international influence is not commensurate with China’s international status,” Mr. Hu said in his essay, according to another translation.

“The international culture of the West is strong while we are weak,” he said.

Mr. Hu did not address the widespread assertion by Chinese artists and intellectuals that state censorship is what prevents artists and their works from reaching their full potential. Last week, Han Han, a novelist and China’s most popular blogger, discussed the issue in an online essay called “On Freedom.”

“The restriction on cultural activities makes it impossible for China to influence literature and cinema on a global basis or for us culturati to raise our heads up proud,” Han Han wrote.

The publication of Mr. Hu’s essay and other articles in Seeking Truth on bolstering China’s cultural power signaled that this would be a central initiative in 2012, which is a transition year for the Chinese leadership as seven of the top nine party members step down from the Standing Committee of the Politburo. Mr. Hu appeared keen to enshrine the culture drive as a final defining moment of his decade-long tenure at China’s helm.

The Central Committee meeting in October established the ideological foundation for a tightening of a cultural sphere that is only now beginning to unfold. Right after the meeting, officials announced a sweeping new policy to wipe scores of so-called entertainment shows off the air. That took effect on Sunday. Television stations have been racing to come up with new programs that will be deemed “socially responsible” by the censors.

Last month, officials in Beijing and other cities ordered Internet companies to ensure that people posting on microblogs, called weibo in Chinese, had registered their accounts using their real names, though they could still post under an alias. Officials have been putting pressure on executives and editors running the microblog platforms to self-censor, and many microblog users say the microblogs have been getting less interesting.

At the same time, China has been making a push to increase its cultural influence abroad, or its “soft power.” The government has opened up Confucius Institutes around the world to aid foreigners in learning Chinese. The state is also lavishing financing on opening operations of large state-run news organizations, including Xinhua, the state news agency, and China Central Television in cities around the world. Officials from those organizations say they hope their version of the world events becomes as common as those from Western news organizations.