I watched a great documentary about Motown the other night, so please excuse the Marvin Gay reference. There is a lot going on at the moment. Let’s go through some things. Bear with me.

I recently read James Kunstler’s The Long Emergency“, and I’d thoroughly recommend you do too. It’s affecting my long-term goals and aspirations in a big way. To summarize, it’s about the passing of Peak Oil and what is likely to unfold. It makes for some scary reading, but it’s also serving to be inspirational. I might have to expand on this at some point… but not at the moment. More thinking and reading to do.

The USA’s Special Forces killed Osama Bin Laden – in Pakistan. That’s a sovereign nation where the US military is not supposed to be operating. According to a spokesman, the US Special Forces currently operate in 75 countries, and that number is set to increase over the next year – to 120. It’s one thing to have a diplomatic presence in a country, but it’s something else to have an active military one – especially when you don’t notify the host government about what you’re up to. Will there be more operations? You betcha. Will that only serve to increase anti-American sentiment, when they should be considering pulling out of these sorts of situations? You can definitely count on that. For example, the USA recently signed a secret pact to stay in Afghanistan until 2024.

The US really should do something about its own record on human rights before tramping around the world telling everyone else they should enact their own human rights laws. But hey, when in the past 60 years hasn’t the US been tramping the world, telling people how they should live?

The unnofficial case against the Western protagonists of the Iraq War continues to build, with MI5 coming out saying they told Tony Blair Iraq was no threat to the West. Also Dick Cheney’s memoirs are out in which he continues to unapologetically defend his actions and policies. Can someone arrest these scumbags ASAP, please? There are more and more officials who would be willing to testify against them. Let’s do it! Oh, wait. Americans are now too distracted, too conditioned and too afraid to do anything. Also, the conservatives are busy setting up a gerrymander to keep as many potential Democrat voters out of the voting booth as they can. Looks like the real terrorists have won…

Alternet is becoming a go-to place for effective analysis of the American Republican Party’s policies and personalities as the 2012 election starts to gear up. Essentially, they’re all lying scumbags, but at least one can have a solid intellectual foundation for explaining why. Obama isn’t any better by the way. Ron Paul isn’t a viable option out of the crazies. If ever there was a time for a solid ‘third-way’ candidate to make a difference, this would be the time. I don’t expect it to happen though.

The new economic reality of America is changing the way people live and work. For example, here is a piece about Workampers. Nothing new, you might say, but it’s happening more and more as the US economy stalls big time. Here’s something else about how car washes are turning into sweatshops, along with chocolate factories, or how students in trouble are turning to that old standby, sex work.

The Eurozone is slowly moving towards a major existential crisis…

The Australian government tried to pass a law enabling them to send refugees arriving by boat to Malaysia for processing. That was shot down by the High Court. This article goes through the situation and some of the implications very nicely. Personally I’m very disappointed that the supposed left-wing Labour Party have ended up following the policies of the deposed conservative Liberal Party, in particular its 90s poster-boy, John Howard. Very disappointed indeed. Looks like the current PM could be headed to the chopping block since her criticisms of the decision have made her looking bitter, or in the words of the High Court, “‘irresponsible … extraordinary, unfair and curious”.

Woolworths and Coles are essentially the Walmart of Australia, with the recent price wars highlighting their dirty campaign to remove other brands from their shelves and replace them with their own ‘home brands’.

They’re talking the high-speed rail link between Sydney and Melbourne again, again.

Oh, and quietly, Australia’s internet is now censored.

Moving back home is going to be quite interesting. It’s been ten yen years since I lived in Australia. Australia has always been a culture of haves and have nots – and the haves seem to become a bunch of over-indulged, whiny douchebags. It’ll be entertaining, at least…

But they are doing one thing right though. The Australian Government may soon pass laws that will, in effect, bankrupt the Scientologists. By legally defining the meaning of ‘charity’, they may be able to force the ‘church’ to back pay its workers millions of dollars, as well as the taxes owed on those wages.

An interesting look at the benefits of ‘lazy parenting’. I know it’s ironic that I’m a part of the industry responsible for the over-scheduling of children, depriving them of creative free time and the chance to enjoy their childhoods. However, I do believe that learning English is going to be become indispensable as global communication becomes a key for survival and prosperity in this current world. You can take your abacus-learning, flower-arranging and calligraphy clubs, along with your cram-schools and drown them in the sea for all I care about what good they’ll bring. (They reinforce a lot of negative attitudes that the Japanese have; namely Japanese exceptionalism, the culture of overwork, as well as teaching useless skills.)

With all the media’s attention focussed recently on the riots in London, someone or some group of people have been engaged in a campaign of torching luxury cars across Germany for some time now. Are there still areas of Paris that are set alight every summer, where the police fear to tread? The cities are becoming war zones…

Some more climate changey type things going on. The ice sheet on Greenland is starting to break up, with massive ice islands being calved and glaciers shrinking.

People in Japan always seem surprised when I tell them I hate Disney and everything about the Disney company. This article (and subsequent book) go a along way to explaining why. Essentially, Disney’s business model is based on targetting children – as young as six months old – in order to condition them to a certain world view, based on conformity to stereotypical roles and bland consumerism. If I ever have children, I will actively ban them from exposure to the Disney company, and if any friends give me anything for them from the Disney company, it will be burnt. Joyfully. Sorry.

The James Randi Educational Foundation has had a $1 million challenge for a number of years now. It’s getting pushed again since they’ve challenged some prominent media ‘psychics’ to prove their ‘ powers’ are real. One has made overtures, but we’ll see if any actually take on the skeptics. In her words, she’s the ‘real thing’ so she doesn’t have to worry about taking scientific tests to prove her abilities are real. Huh? I guess we just have to take her words for it. PLEASE don’t give these sorts of scumbags any money!!

As the military are always looking to get their mitts on the latest technology, you can be sure that invisibility cloaks will soon be coming to an army near you.

Lebowski.

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Another week rolls by and the injustices of the world continue to require our attention and vigilence.

An interesting look inside the Indian call centre industry. Yes, you may be annoyed with having to talk to an Indian on the phone, but also spare a thought for what they are going through as well. Direct your energy towards the companies and policies that cause jobs to go offshore, not the fact that this is a rare shot for thousands of poor people to make a ‘decent’ wage. Buy an answering machine to screen calls if you have to.

In Australia, the furor over the introduction of the carbon tax has overshadowed the reality for a lot of people that they are currently living through a recession, despite all the ‘official figures’ saying otherwise. There’s also the issue of the government shooting Australian internet users in the foot over wireless internet. A “prohibition on Telstra “promoting wireless services as a substitute for fibre-based services for 20 years” “!?!? 20 years ago – in 1991 – NO ONE had internet access in Australia. Not a single person. My university got internet in 1994. In twenty years the rest of the world will be downloading entire full-sensory movies into their minds to be experienced in all five senses, and the internet users of Australia will be clinging on to their legacy DVDs and Blu-Rays. Ridiculous.

This was an interesting piece looking at the underlying racism behind unemployment figures in the USA. One highlight of the piece was an experiment done where four types of job applicants applied for work and the reponse rate was measured. The worker types tested were all male, of similar age and educational background. The only differences were if the applicant was white or black, and if they were a felon or not. The white applicant without a criminal record achieved a 34% rate of callback and the white felon received a 17% rate of callback. What made the experiment devastatingly eye-opening were the callback rates for the black applicants: 14% and 5%. The white felon was preferred over the college-educated black man with a clean criminal record. The experiment’s results have been reproduced, so it seems apparent that racism, and a glaring disparity between blacks and whites, is still alive and well in the USA.

Despite what the American politicians say, the next election is all going to be about jobs. No one is talking about that giant elephant in the corner and while ‘austerity’ is the word in the air, you can bet your bottom dollar that the situation will not improve, which may well affect us all. You can certainly bet on cutting services to most Americans, whereas if just the top 25 hedge fund managers were forced to pay taxes like most ordinary Americans, they could cut the deficit by US$44 billion over the next ten years. That’s a lot of money to help fund actual policies that help actual people. Will it happen? Don’t bet on it.

The global situation over food, water, climate and energy continues to unravel. The wars of the 21st Century will continue to be about control of the world’s resources – that’s if the fundies don’t kill us all first.

Maybe North Korea is getting close to implosion since it can’t even feed its army any more.

This was a moment of journalistic beatup and hysteria-mongering that almost defied description. Victoria experinced a small earthquake that rattled some windows in Melbourne, so the next day The Age ran a story about how Victoria’s volcanoes were ‘overdue’ for eruption. The writer ignored most of the science on the issue (such as the hot spot under Mt. Gambier being well and truly dead) and focused on the law of averages as referred to by one single piece of research. It was scraping the bottom of the barrel in search of a story. Good fun to read though. 

Almost as entertaining, but not quite as harmless, the same newspaper (amongst others) ran a piece on how the next terror threat involved surgically implanted bombs. The Department of Homeland Security think the terrorists are getting their ideas from Batman movies and are going to set off bombs on planes by remotely detonating explosives hidden inside suicide bombers. I’m sure the terrorists are saying ‘thanks’ for the idea and we should all look forward to CT scan machines making an appearance at boarding gates before too long.

Oh, and I’ve said this for years, but now Cracked has picked up on the idea that major events in the War on Terror™ mirror Starship Troopers in no small way.

And so it begins, the post-Bush era, as well as the Obama Years. Let’s see what they shall bring, eh?

As the door hits Bush’s backside on the way out it looks like some judges are finally growing a pair, while other continue to erode the constitution.

There’s no shortage of advice for the new President. So many writers and opinion-givers are lining up to share something they hope Obama might actually read. (I wonder if they ever read the newspapers or internet, or just rely on their advisors… Bush was famous for not reading anything without pictures in it.)

Most of the advice I’ve been reading has revolved around what to do about the economic crisis. It’s natural since it’s going to be the dominant world news topic for some time. The decisions made over the next few months may well shape the outcome of the next few years. Some are not feeling very hopeful at all. (83 out of the top 100 corporations in the USA have subsiuaries in offshore tax havens – and some of them are receiving taxpayer funded bailouts. Ssssssh!) Obama’s rhetoric is very inclusive, but you have to wonder how grounded it is in reality. When Obama says that ‘everyone’ is going to have to make sacrifices, one wonders how much the poor of America have left to give… perhaps they will just disappear; or is that the plan? Obama lays claim to the legacy of MLK, but how much would have King approved of Obama’s message and actions? The salaries of the majority of Americans has decreased over the past 40 years. The people who put him in power now need to hold him accountable.

One interesting outcome of the financial crisis has been that the US armed forces’ recruitment quotas are now being exceeded. People are seeing the Army as a safe haven as far as securing an income is concerned. One wonders though exactly what they’re being set up for

Amnesty International is pushing for a war crimes tribunal into what has happened in Gaza over the past month. Of the 1194 Gazans who died in the invasion, 1099 were civilians. 6000 were injured. Many of the victims were children.  Don’t look to the U.N. for any support though… And as for that ceasefire – forget it.

Britain is walking a tightrope. It still doesn’t look good in Ireland or Iceland either. Australia’s situation is not looking good either. Eastern Europe and the Baltic States are seeing more civil strife as their economies worsen. Japan’s economic stimulus package is deeply unpopular, but that isn’t stopping the PM’s crusade to see it through – even as his own MPs are deserting him. In the rest of Asia the crisis may have an interesting spinoff, leading to greater independence for the Asian economies. The banks that are bankrupting America are now targetting the funds in Medicare and Social Security.

The situation on the Korean peninsula is still threatening to spill over into total war.

I promise I’ll post something positive/nice/weird/entertaining soon…