Sunday, January 29, 2017

Be very, very frightened

I've been saying it for months, events in the US have been reminding me of Germany in the 1920s and 1930s. We have an insane demagogue rising to power in a major military superpower. He has the attention span of a child; a very thin, very sensitive skin and absolutely NO concept whatsoever of diplomacy or compromise. He micromanages his own Twitter feed and throws a temper tantrum any time he thinks he's been criticised or insulted. He attacks anything or anyone who he sees as crossing him in any way. His agenda is openly racist and sexist, and anti-science. He rose to power on a wave of hysteria and lies and fear and loathing. This is the man who has the US nuclear codes at his disposal. Make no mistake, Donald Trump is the Adolf Hitler of the 21st century.

Under him we're seeing the rise of the alt-right, the neo Nazis of the new millennium. They control much of the mass media and pour out a constant torrent of extreme, right-wing racist and xenophobic propaganda. The media is being manipulated and used for propaganda on all sides. Facts are routinely and openly distorted and just reinforced with louder screaming and counter accusations. Any organisation which might have a message different from the official party line is being quickly gagged. This is exactly what Goebbels did with the German media during the Nazi rise to power, except that in this case, the subversion is mostly decentralised. We have new jargon to describe it in a "post-truth" world of "alternative facts". The flood of fake news serves two purposes. First, it helps to hammer the party line into the populace. Second, it puts news in general in doubt, since none of it can be explicitly trusted. Which means it becomes easier to steer people away from the facts.

We have an old-school, hardline Russian leader taking Russia back to the core values, the good old days when Russia was paranoid about its borders and constantly looking to hold strategic access to ports where it can place fleets. Hence the wars with Ukraine in the Crimea, and in Syria, countries where there are big ports in key areas. As soon as those two conflicts are stabilised, the Russians will place a Black Sea Fleet in the Crimea and an Eastern Mediterranean fleet based in Syria. Modern fleet carrier groups literally carry all personnel, vehicles and supplies to place an army anywhere in the theatre within 24 hours, backed up by full Air Force and Navy support. This gives Russia two quick reaction forces available for use in the Middle East, North Africa and Europe, plus potential control of the Suez Canal.

The recent bromance between Russia and the US was disturbing enough without looking at what must really be going on. Trump has agreed to stay out of Russian interests in the Middle East, hence no US support of the Ukraine and no US military in Syria. In return, Putin gave him the election. The problem is that this relationship is based on a huge misunderstanding. Trump thinks his bluff, confrontational familiarity breaks the ice and puts him on first name terms with the other world leaders from the start, but in fact his attitude is deeply insulting and he's too wrapped up in himself to see it. Putin sees him as weak and easily manipulated. Trump thinks Putin is an open book and basically a "nice guy". Neither of them can could be more wrong, and when it all suddenly becomes apparent to even them what's really happening, then the gloves will come off and things won't be so friendly.

In Europe, we have Brexit, and the disintegration of the European Union. Look back on World War I and World War II. Both times, each of those wars had an epicentre in a divided Europe, a continent which was disintegrating and rearming. Each of those wars were sparked by events in Europe, but what Europeans don't understand is that they are more like each other than anyone else on the globe. Which means any war which happens inside Europe is essentially a civil war. And other countries are also talking about leaving the EU. The modern epicentre for a new war has moved east into Eurasia and the Middle East, but that doesn't prevent Europe from being on the frontlines of that war.

Germany is leading the European push to rearm, but countries all over the world are polishing and modernising and restocking their arsenals. Modern military technology is frightening. Its use of satellite, computers and drone technology allows instant communications globally and gives the military the power to deliver lethal force anywhere on the globe with no actual human presence necessary.

After World War I, the League of Nations was formed with a mandate of keeping the peace. It was disintegrating by the late 1930s. After World War II, it was replaced with the United Nations, of which the UN Security Council, consisting of fifteen countries, is specifically created to maintain world peace. The US and the other five victorious powers of World War II are all the permanent members of the Security Council. But now, the US is busy with a bill to withdraw from the UN. Other countries have also been discussing leaving.

We have a world pushed to the brink of severe global warming, with resources becoming scarcer and the biosphere under attack everywhere on the planet. Climate refugees are becoming a daily reality, and once global warming really begins to bite there will be countless millions of people adrift, all of them desperate for food and water and space to live. The world's oil reserves are about half finished, and what's left costs more to extract and supply. Oil will become scarcer and prices will rise. With a combination of global warming, severe droughts and floods and the crash of biospheres, food will become scarce and expensive. Global warming is not being dealt with fast enough as it is, but now that Trump is in power he is busy tearing up every single piece of paper he can find with the word "climate" written anywhere on it, and simultaneously gagging major US science organisations from saying anything at all about the facts of climate change.

What does all this mean? I think we are seeing the opening moves of World War III. This war will be different to the ones of the past. It will be fought along racial and ideological and religious lines. It will be the first world conflict fought for resources, most especially oil. And the problem is, it won't change a damn thing. It will have a high body count. The plutocracies will still be in charge, having cemented their power and position and wealth even further. The rest of us will be left with scraps in the rubble, trying to survive. They will have sparked a war resulting in hundreds - if not thousands - of millions of deaths, if not more. To them, it's part of the natural process, humanity culling itself. Business as usual, in other words.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

"The Drum" John Scott (1730-83)

The Drum
John Scott (1730-83)

I hate that drum's discordant sound,
Parading round, and round, and round:
To thoughtless youth it pleasure yields,
And lures from cities and from fields,
To sell their liberty for charms
Of tawdry lace, and glittering arms;
And when Ambition's voice commands,
To march, and fight, and fall, in foreign lands.

I hate that drum's discordant sound,
Parading round, and round, and round:
To me it talks of ravag'd plains,
And burning towns, and ruin'd swains,
And mangled limbs, and dying groans,
And widows' tears, and orphans' moans;
And all that Misery's hand bestows,
To fill the catalogue of human woes.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

List of South African government corruption (so far)


1. Multi-billion $ Arm's deal
2. E-tolling
3. Jacob Zuma's Nkandla Homestead Project (Project Prestige)
4. Nkandla Freeway Project
5. Misuse of the plastic bag levy funds
6. Police Buildings and the exorbitant lease saga
7. Travelgate
8. Tony Yengeni's arrest
9. Jackie Selebi and everything about the trial
10. Jackie Selebi's parole
11. Shabir Schaik's trial, during which Zuma was implicated but no prosecution followed
12. Schabir Shaik's parole on medical grounds, but suddenly, he has fully recovered
13. Richard Mdluli's slush fund
14. Richard Mdluli's abuse of safe houses
15. Richard Mdluli's travel agency scam
16. Richard Mdluli's abuse of state owned vehicles
17. Manto Tshabalala-Msimang's liver transplant
18. Nathi Mtethwa's private residence upgrade with public funds
19. Julius Malema's Limpopo feeding programme
20. Ntau Letebele's transport tender in Limpopo
21. Julius Malema's transport tender in Limpopo
22. School feeding schemes in the Eastern Cape
23. Ms Dina Pule and the ITC Indaba
24. Limpopo textbooks saga
25. Moses Kotane Development Agency corruption
26. Msunduzi municipality officials using more than R1m of taxpayers' money to fund an ANC rally.
27. Mthatha corruption case over fraudulent legal jobs didn't exist
28. Ekurhuleni municipality corruption in awarding water meter contracts to Lesira-Teq
29. Thaba Chweu local municipality's misuse of R3m in 2009
30. Endemic corruption at Nala Local Municipality to the point that treasury have cut them off
31. Desiree Tlhoaele's axing after going after corrupt officials in sports, arts and culture
32. Viking testing station's corrupt examiners
33. Police officers Linda Mlambo and Mahlang Shaku fraudulently conning motorists out of cash
34. Sandton officers arrested for corruption after extorting money from a motorists
35. Willie Hofmeyer's axing
36. Mvula Trust and the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs' job creation fraud to the tune of hundreds of millions of rands
37. Government's endemic over-use and over-pay of consultants
38. Glynnis Breytenbach's axing
39. The spy-tape saga
40. Thosan Panday corruption in KZN
41. KZN's misuse of R785m in 2011
42. Madibeng municipality awarding millions in tenders to its own employees
43. Madibeng municipality's taxation scam with its employees
44. Madibeng municipality paying money to fictitious companies for fictitious work
45. Madibeng municipality paying for funerals that never took place
46. Madibeng municipality paying for home renovations for its employees
47. Taung municipality paying triple digit increases without consultation
48. Morake Incorporated Attorneys & the Rustenburg provincial department - R13m paid in fees for a disciplinary hearing
49. Endemic corruption at Mbhashe municipality to the point of the mayor and 7 others being fired
50. Corruption exposed by SIU at Rustenburg and Madibeng local municipalities
51. Corruption exposed by SIU at Moses Kotane
52. Corruption exposed by SIU at Bojanala District
53. Corruption exposed by SIU at Ventersdorp
54. Corruption exposed by SIU at Greater Taung
55. Corruption exposed by SIU at Tswaing
56. Corruption exposed by SIU at Ramotshere Moiloa
57. Corruption exposed by SIU at Mahikeng
58. Corruption exposed by SIU at Dr Kenneth Kaunda District
59. Corruption exposed by SIU at Maquassi Hill
60. Corruption exposed by SIU at Moretele
61. Corruption exposed by SIU at Lekwa-Teemane
62. Corruption exposed by SIU at Ngaka
63. Corruption exposed by SIU at Modiri Molema District
64. Corruption exposed by SIU at Ditsobotla
65. Corruption exposed by SIU at Kagisano
66. Corruption exposed by SIU at Kgetlengrivier
67. Corruption exposed by SIU at Ratlou
68. Corruption exposed by SIU at Dr Ruth Mompati District
69. Corruption exposed by SIU at Naledi Local Municipality
70. Awarding of tenders to Vivian Reddy following Zuma intervention
71. Twenty five cases, involving R768 827 043 in KZN in 2010 alone
72. The Glen Agliotti case
73. Diverting of public funds to Swazi King
74. Diverting of public funds to Robert Mugabe
75. Diverting of public funds to Zanu-PF
76. Funding of military equipment in Zimbabwe with SA public funds
77. Zuma's corruption in numerous cases prior to his presidency
78. Fraud, corruption, tender-rigging, kickbacks and irregular appointments at Tshwane municipality
79. Endemic corruption at the heart of Mpumalanga municipality including physical violence to avoid publication of facts
80. Public Works' endemic misuse of public funds for private residences of government officials, disguised as security upgrades.
81. Public Works leasing back property from its own employees for official use, while footing the initial bill too
82. BEE fronting for SAPS land deals outside of the main contract for PTA head office through Roux Shabangu
83. R2.4bn in improper bonuses paid out by SABC to directors
84. SABC paying fictitious staff
85. ANC controlling SABC with threats of fund withdrawals
86. SABC awarding tenders to its own employees
87. Ekurhuleni employees signing off on deals that do not exist
88. Land fraud in KZN worth R50m involving three officials and a businessman for farms and other properties
89. Department of arts and culture misuse of R42m during the soccer world cup
90. Loss of dockets relating to high profile corruption cases
91. Education department officials involved in examination selling
92. Parastatals' inflated sponsorship of events hosted by the Guptas and New Age
93. New Age website having massive funds diverted its way from government budgets without readership stats to speak of
94. The City of Johannesburg rigging a large tender in favour of Regiments, an ANC-connected empowerment firm central to a consortium that made the JHB mayor's wife a *multimillionaire.
95. On-Point Engineering securing Limpopo tenders through Julius Malema and his accomplices
96. Amathole district municipality awarding irregular tenders relating to vehicle tracking
97. John Block's R112m tender fraud relating to water purification equipment
98. Gaston Savoi's R112m tender fraud relating to water purification equipment
99. DoC official awarding R500k tender to his wife
100. Martin Masemola from Dept of Minerals & Energy receiving financial kickbacks and land for favours to friends and family
101. Bosasa and Correctional Services corruption to the tune of R3bn in tender rigging
102. Public Works corrupt relationship with Saab and the blacked out agreements that not even they are entitled to
103. R63 million tender fraud at Limpopo traffic department involving Mbhazima Sithole, 45, Felix Baloyi, 34, Mphateleni Musubu, 43, and Lufuno Muladi, 27, all directors of various companies that secured tenders illegally
104. Gauteng Finance dept awarding R23m in IT tenders fraudulently
105. Kelly Group securing labour broking tenders worth R372m by BEE fronting
106. Eastern Cape health department and their tender fraud worth over R800m in just one single case
107. Obed Mlaba securing tenders to the value of R3bn in KZN
108. KZN misuse of public money to the tune of R532m in 2009
109. Public Works in Limpopo involved in tender fraud for undisclosed sum late last year
110. Tshwane kickback scheme for tenders to the tune of R1b
111. Tshwane maladministration in their financial dept for undisclosed sum
112. Philemon Mohlahlane (ex Land Bank CEO) embezzling R19m out of the Land Bank for his personal and business use
113. Prestige Portfolio tender corruption at Public Works as investigated by SIU (this appears to be linked to Project prestige - Zuma's development)
114. Bobby Motaung's multi-million rand fraud involving stadium tenders
115. Ekurhuleni Metro IT tender for R21m that was used to buy Porsches and Mercs
116. Limpopo transport tender fraud of R63m
117. Limpopo Premier Cassel Mathale's influence in awarding tenders
118. Buffalo City Metro tender fraud of R12m
119. Ekurhuleni Chief Financial Officer Mr Zakes Myeza, Chief Director Water and Sanitation Mr Slindokuhle Hadebe, Acting Head of Department of then Roads and Stormwater Mr Moses Maliba, Junior Official Water and Sanitation Ms Nomusa Malimabe and Independent Contractor Mr Miyelani Holeni's all involved in tender fraud worth R166m
120. Julius' cousing Tshepo Malema involved in corruption and fraud through the government worth R63m
121. Pikitup tender fraud relating to contracts awarded through City of Johannesburg for undisclosed sum
122. Vivian Reddy's company awarded an inflated contract of R1.25bn for smart electricity meter reading in Joburg despite never having done anything like it before
123. Xhariep district mayor Mongi Ntwanambi's fraudulent travel expenses claims costing half a million rand a year
124. Free State Government paying R140million for their website created with a $40 Wordpress template
125. Limpopo Health's unaccounted for R739m tender spend for 2012
126. Gauteng Health's R1bn corruption in 2010
127. ANC's investment body, Chancellor House, receiving yet another state tender worth billions of Rands
128. ANC's investment arm, Chancellor House, receiving millions from the Medupi & Kusile deals
129. ANC's investment arm, Chancellor House, to benefit significantly from R40bn Eskom tenders
130. The spending of more than R13.5m on Nomvula Mokonyane's home. A home that was purchased for R11.5m
Zuma's position weakens as he loses battle to keep 'spy tapes' under wraps.
And then there is the order placed for a presidential Boeing 777 which was cancelled after it was discovered. Boeing fortunately repaid the $10M deposit.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Why Facebook's Messenging App is NOT Cool

This came in by email today:

In a breathtakingly creepy invasion of privacy, Facebook is forcing all smartphone users to install a new messaging app. The Android version of the app -- and to a lesser extent the iPhone version as well -- allows Facebook to access your phone camera and record audio, call and send messages without your permission, identify details about you and all your contacts, and send that info on to third parties.

If you want to carry on sending and receiving messages on Facebook you now have no choice but to install Facebook Messenger - and give the company access to a wealth of personal data stored on your phone.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has also admitted that his long-term plan is to 'monetize' the app, so we need to act now before the app becomes impossible to stop.

The company claims that it is simply improving the user experience, and that it doesn’t have control over the permissions required for the app, specifically on Android phones. But there’s a simple solution to the problem: don’t make users download the new messenger.

Most people installing the app have absolutely no idea what they just agreed to. So we need to spread the word about Facebook's shocking privacy invasion -- and if we can make this petition huge, Facebook will have to listen.


http://action.sumofus.org/a/facebook-messenger


Now, in case anyone is in any doubt whatsoever: this is not cool. The debate about whether or not privacy has been violated, and if so, to what degree is irrelevant. It has already been violated, and that is completely unacceptable. Every time another one of these situations is allowed to pass unchallenged, it results in another little piece of our privacy being removed forever. There is no excuse for that, and if we keep allowing it to happen, our children will grow up in a corporate police state where they have no rights to their privacy at all, and no legal control over their own personal information. Instead, their personal information will be available to anyone who can pay for it, for any abuse they see fit to use it for.

There's only one way to prevent that from happening: to oppose every single situation where our privacy is under assault. Otherwise we are throwing away our own fundamental human rights and freedoms.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Quote of the Day

We make ourselves miserable by first closing ourselves off from reality and then collecting this and that in an attempt to make ourselves happy by possessing happiness. But happiness is not something I have, it is something I myself want to be. Trying to be happy by accumulating possessions is like trying to satisfy hunger by taping sandwiches all over my body.
[Roger Corless The Vision of Buddhism: The Space Under the Tree]

Thought for the Day

Hate is a negative emotion. It's just jealousy allowed to run wild.
[Jon]