We’ve lived so long under the spell of hierarchy—from god-kings to feudal lords to party bosses—that only recently have we awakened to see not only that “regular” citizens have the capacity for self-governance, but that without their engagement our huge global crises cannot be addressed. The changes needed for human society simply to survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions through direct engagement. Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive to yield to directives from on high.
—Frances Moore Lapp√©, Time for Progressives to Grow Up

Monday, October 5, 2015

Parasites in the Body Economic: the Disasters of Neoliberalism

Click here to access article which features a transcript of Eric Draitser's interview with Michael Hudson which was podcasted a few weeks ago.  

Although I've valued Hudson's insights about finance capitalism and posted many of his articles, I've always experienced some discomfort when reading his posts. This morning I'd like to begin to explore where that discomfort lies not only with this particular lengthy article, but with his whole perspective. Thus my critique of his ideological position is a bit tentative and not yet fully formed.

It dawned on me this morning that Hudson is really like so many middle-class critics of neoliberalism in which finance plays a major role: they see the obvious dysfunction for societies as a whole of this advanced form of capitalism and want to return to industrial capitalism in which their class played such an important role. The middle-class see their roles in monopoly and neoliberal capitalism as diminishing; and they are not only concerned about their own future, but especially that of their children's future in this advanced stage.

I believe that Hudson's view of capitalism distorts a number of insights contributed by various social critics and ideologists who wrote about capitalism during its several hundred years of existence. This is necessary because he must separate out this current "bad" form of advanced capitalism--finance, monopoly, and neoliberal capitalism--from the "good" stage of industrial capitalism.

For example, his take on Marx's labor theory of value.
...there’s often a misinterpretation of the context in which the labor theory of value was formulated and refined. The reason why Marx and the other classical economists – William Petty, Smith, Mill and the others – talked about the labor theory of value was to isolate that part of price that wasn’t value. Their purpose was to define economic rent as something that was not value. It was extraneous to production, and was a free lunch – the element of price that is charged to consumers and others that has no basis in labor, no basis in real cost, but is purely a monopoly price or return to privilege. ....

The aim of the labor theory of value was to divide the economy between excessive price gouging and labor.
I think this is a gross misinterpretation of Marx's concept. To me, it's really very simple: anything of value in any economy can only be created by labor through physical and/or mental work. Labor does this by using their brains and/or muscles to transform materials or ideas into products that people want. 

Thus the early English and Dutch capitalist settlers on the American continent realized the vast potential for riches in this undeveloped continent, and saw only "savages" and the need of labor standing in their way of vast wealth accumulation. With their superior weapons they rapidly eliminated opposition by Native Americans who refused to be enslaved, but they still needed huge amounts of labor. Because they could not get enough of this supply from Europe, they used violence to enslave and import Africans to furnish this labor. These early capitalists provided both mental labor and capital (stored labor value) to transform the natural resources of the continent into products. It didn't matter how much wealth (stored labor value) these early capitalists brought over from Europe, they had to have labor to create more value.

Many early capitalist ideologists mixed up these different contributions: capital (stored labor value) and mental labor to justify the capitalist "property right" to take as much as he wanted above what was necessary to maintain his labor force whether owned (slaves) or rented (wages, salaried). 

Eventually they engaged in "price gouging" through the inevitable increasing concentration of "ownership" of sections of the economy. But that has nothing to do with Marx's labor theory of value. Over time these old entrepreneurial capitalists evolved into pure capitalists by supplying only capital through investments, forming banks, etc, where speculation about obtaining profits became their sole contribution. Now in this neoliberal stage of capitalism we see international industrial corporations and banks diminishing the power of national governments, whether fake democratic or autocratic, and increasing the power of international capitalists. 

We are also witnessing the sophisticated development of information technologies and automation which is diminishing the need for the middle class (managers, teachers, highly skilled technicians, other professionals) which is what people like Hudson are concerned about.

Nuclear War And Corbyn – The Fury And The Farce

Click here to access article from Media Lens (Britain).

What passes for a left in both Europe and the USA keep looking for "heroes" to deliver them from the evil of advanced capitalism. In the US many have gravitated to Sen. Bernie Sanders who is running in primary elections as a candidate for president. The Zionist senator, although he often supports social welfare policies, has never met an Empire war he didn't support. However Jeremy Corbyn looks a lot more authentic, but still real change in Britain's participation in Empire adventures will never be possible without a significant revolution that overturns the rule of capital in Britain. Either Corbyn will keep compromising his views until they are satisfactory to Britain's ruling capitalist class, or he will be marginalized or eliminated one way or another. Only an organized working class engaged at the grass roots can save themselves. Forget about heroes coming to save us.

The Strange Case of the Syrian Opposition

Click here to access article Gordon Duff from Veterans Today.
US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter has cited concerns that Russia may be hitting the wrong targets in Syria.  Does Carter believe that a Syrian opposition group utterly and absolutely divorced from terrorist allegiances exists?
Thanks to "The Saker" at A bird's eye view of the Vineyard.

Bad terrorist, good terrorist

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Russia's Campaign To Snuff Off The CIA's Al-Qaeda Forces

Click here to access article by Bernhard from Moon of Alabama.

The author pulls together solid evidence to undermine all the false reports issued by corporate media talking heads and various government officials. The links following this statement are the most important:
The CIA mercenaries in Syria - 10,000 men trained, armed and paid under a secret program - are directly cooperating with al-Qaeda and the likewise terrorist Ahrar al Shams. The NYT finally acknowledges this in two pieces today.
I came across this article posted yesterday by the Sunday Express (Britain) which announced in the headline "ISIS left so weakened by airstrikes and desertion it could be destroyed in just HOURS". Although the US has been supposedly attacking ISIS forces for over a year, maybe this is just a coincidence after the Russian air-force attacked terrorist targets in just the last several days. Of course the British website credited both "Western and more recently Russian airstrikes".

Mid-East Coup: As Russia Pounds Militant Targets, Iran Readies Ground Invasions While Saudis Panic

Click here to access article by Tyler Durden from Zero Hedge.

Durden digs up some very interesting Reuter's reports in support of the headline. Although I think he overstates Iran's impending ground invasion--a few hundred troops don't matter much--from what I've read, Iran is mostly sending military advisors. Putin and his allies are clearly playing a very clever geopolitical chess game vis-√†-vis the Empire. In any case, the situation is very dangerous given the vitally strategic importance of the Mid-East to the Empire. 
...Putin looks to have viewed this as the ultimate geopolitical win-win. That is, Russia gets to i) expand its influence in the Middle East in defiance of Washington and its allies, a move that also helps to protect Russian energy interests and preserves the Mediterranean port at Tartus, and ii) support its allies in Tehran and Damascus thus preserving the counterbalance to the US-Saudi-Qatar alliance. 

El Salvador vs Pacific Rim: The Price of Saying ‘No’ to a Gold Mine

Click here to access article by Ciara Nugent from The Argentina Independent

Gold mining is one of the most polluting mining industries there are, and El Salvadorians through their government refused to allow a mining company to continue to pollute their water supplies and are now facing a $301 million lawsuit.

North American mining corporations have been most notorious for using violent tactics to gain access to various metals throughout Latin America. Pacific Rim, a Canadian gold mining company, is one such corporation. The details are a bit complicated, but what is clear is that they first used terrorist tactics to mine gold in El Salvador, then they gained access to a legal weapon through the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism that has become a part of all "free trade" agreements. Read the article to find out what El Salvadorians, and all smaller countries, are up against with this weapon while fighting for clean water and healthy environments in their respective countries. Once again, it's the people versus powerful international capitalists whose corporations have the sole legally defined purpose as profits.
To challenge El Salvador’s rejection of their project, Pacific Rim activated the ISDS – investor-state dispute settlement provisions. Written into most trade agreements these days, and due to be expanded under the massive Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the ISDS allows companies to challenge the decisions of governments that might be said to affect their investments in the country. The main forum for these cases, including El Salvador’s, is the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID). It was established by the World Bank in 1966, and currently has more than 200 ISDS cases pending.

The ISDS is built into a free-trade agreement between the US and the countries of Central America. Pacific Rim initially gained access to this clause by transferring part of its business to the US, via a subsidiary. 

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Wikileaks vs. the Empire: the Revolutionary Act of Telling the Truth

Click here to access article by John Pilger from CounterPunch

Pilger, an Australian journalist, knows first hand how media under the ownership of corporations have turned information into pure propaganda to serve the capitalist ruling classes, especially those associated with the US-led Empire. He introduces a new book entitled The WikiLeaks Files: The World According to US Empire which is a collection of essays authored by people associated with Wikileaks. 

If it is true that "ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" as I was taught by my Sunday school teacher, then the works of Wikileaks must be one of the most blessed activities of contemporary women and men. However, the secular authorities, much like the earlier Romans with their treatment of Christians, have essentially "crucified" people like Edward Snowden, Julian Assange, and Chelsea Manning who have revealed the truth. 
In an American-owned world, independence is intolerable.

This book reveals these truths, one after the other.  The truth about a war on terror that was always a war of terror; the truth about Guantanamo, the truth about Iraq, Afghanistan, Latin America.

Never has such truth-telling been so urgently needed.  

A Useful Prep-Sheet on Syria for Media Propagandists

Click here to access article by Gary Leupp from CounterPunch.

It must be difficult for White Press Secretaries and other official spokespeople for the Empire when they must knowingly lie to their audiences. Leupp illustrates a kind of prep-sheet that they must use when facing audiences who likely know at least some of the real truth.

VW chose profit over the planet

Click here to access article by Tyler Zimmer from Socialist Worker.
The public will be encouraged to conclude that this scandal is the result of cynical, deceptive actions on the part of a few corporate executives--"a few bad apples"--at the top of Volkswagen. But thinking about the issue in this way would be a mistake, since it would lead us to overlook the larger, systemic problems with capitalism that this scandal reveals.
All corporations must choose profit over the planet and everything else. Because all corporations must preserve and increase market share, because our societies are governed by these same disciples of capitalism, because the same people own our media and these people will make sure that their media coverage will narrowly focuse on this "one bad apple" while providing a deluge of messages about "green capitalism", Volkswagen will receive a slap on the wrist with a fine which will be regarded as a cost of doing business, and no executives will go to jail. You see, crime pays when perpetrated by a major corporation.

The problem is not Volkswagen, it is capitalism. Yes, the problem is systemic!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Propaganda War Begins: Russia's Syria Strikes Targeted US-Backed "Moderate" Rebels, West Says

Click here to access article by Tyler Durden from Zero Hedge
With the US having officially lost control of the narrative in Syria now that The Kremlin has called Washington’s bluff on the battle to eradicate ISIS and eliminate the Sunni extremist elements that threaten to wrest control of Syria from President Bashar al-Assad, the only remaining question after Russian lawmakers officially cleared the way for airstrikes was how long it would be before the Western media began shouting about Russian warplanes bombing targets that aren’t affiliated with ISIS.
Because I have been busy with visiting relatives, I have seen only a little of the outrageous reporting from corporate media that Durden much more fully describes in this article. It seems in the minds of our "minders", there are good Al Quedas and bad Al Quedas, or good terrorists and bad terrorists, much like the way George W. Bush described his simple-minded view of the world after 9/11: "you are either with us or against us". Russia is bombing both terrorists to our ruling class's displeasure. Of course the "us" refers to the Empire's rich and powerful ruling capitalist class who regard the Assad government of Syria to be a problem for their interests in the oil-rich Middle East, and thus is pretending to use "good terrorists" to bring Assad down. In reality there is no distinction.

How Britain’s Propaganda Machine Controls What You Think

Click here to access article by Graham Vanbergen from TruePublica (Britain).

The author describes the concentration of the media by the powerful rich who furnish information that serves the rich but strongly shapes how ordinary people think. 
In terms of Britain’s media, the reality is that there are 5 billionaires who run our media, and they have huge power in our democracy forcing our political parties to prioritize their wishes over the wishes of the British public. These 5 people not only own 80% of the newspapers we read every day, they also own TV stations, press agencies, book companies, cinemas, so everything we think or speak about in Britain is nearly controlled entirely by these 5 men.
The essential features of the concentration of media ownership/control in Britain are the same here in the US, but the details are a little different. The only criticism I have is that he, like many others, keeps maintaining the fiction that we have or had "democracy" under capitalist rule. It was only a fake version which is often referred to in left-wing literature as "bourgeois democracy". His view is another illustration of a middle class perspective that sees, along with the growing extreme inequality, a threat to middle class privileges and opportunities.

US Upstaged at UN General Assembly - Who's to Blame?

Click here to access article by Tony Cartalucci from New Eastern Outlook.
The UN General Assembly this year celebrated its 70th anniversary which is why more leaders than usual attended and participated. While the speeches were typical and mostly irrelevant for people already well-informed about world events, there was one particular point to note that made this gathering more telling than most.

It wasn’t a point that could be discerned by simply watching the speeches play out on the floor of the General Assembly hall, but rather revealed itself in the reaction to the speeches by American policymakers online.

The 23rd of September was the annual opening of the General Assembly of the United Nations. Because it marks the 70th session in which many, many world leaders were in attendance and over a hundred have made speeches during the following days.
Just as an illustration of the bias of our corporate mainstream media, I would like you to google "UN General Assembly" and select the past month (under "Search tools") to view the selection of articles. Of the twelve entries that I found on the first page, four referred to a speech by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. Now compare this with the provisional list of the over one hundred world leaders that spoke at these sessions.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Earning a profit from global warming

Click here to access article by Pete Dolack from Systemic Disorder. (I regard this as a "best post".)

As the Paris climate summit scheduled for December approaches, we are witnessing several major governments making promises about efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This is strictly an effort to cover for their past failures in reducing carbon pollution in our atmosphere and to keep their population believing that they are making serious efforts at preventing a disastrous destabilization of our climate. Dolack writes about these propagandistic efforts while the real actions of capitalist ruling classes, like the neoliberal trade proposals, only increase the problem. 

His argument leads inevitably to the conclusion that the dynamics of capitalism is in sharp contradiction to a planet that can sustain human life. Thus the only real solution is revolution.
To stave off further global warming, and avoid the massive disruptions it promises, requires nothing less than an entirely new economic system, one that provides for human need under community control rather than private profit under the control of industrialists and financiers.  

US Complains As Russia Bombs its Terrorists

Click here to access article by Tony Cartalucci from New Eastern Outlook.
The New York Times in its recent article, "Russians Strike Targets in Syria, but Not ISIS Areas," attempts to frame Russia's recent actions in Syria as dishonest and dangerous. It reports:
Russian aircraft carried out a bombing attack against Syrian opposition fighters on Wednesday, including at least one group trained by the C.I.A., eliciting angry protests from American officials and plunging the complex sectarian war there into dangerous new territory.
This of course would only make Russia's actions dishonest or dangerous if groups trained by the US CIA were in fact the "moderates" the US claims they are. However, they are not, and thus Russia's actions are duly justified as is the expansion of their current policy.
US Ruling class media propagandists are having to work overtime trying to cover all their lies and schemes about supporting "moderate rebels" in an effort to topple the elected government of President Bashar al-Assad. It is clear that our masters support "democracy" or elections only when it is in their interest, and support corrupt medieval kingdoms when it is in their interest. Their sole interest is power and profits. The challenge for their propagandists is to cover this interest with legitimate reasons wrapped in "democratic" ideology.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

What's Called "Capitalism" Is Far from Any Model of Capitalism or Market

Click here to access article by "Gaius Publius" from Down with Tyranny!.

I don't like to post articles like this, but they are appearing all too frequently on the web to ignore. This piece is another prime example of a middle-class person defending the system from which he/she have reaped so many rewards in the past. These people are much like "house niggers", who Malcolm X referred to, loyally serving the plantation owner while enjoying many privileges denied to the "field niggers".

With the system increasingly showing signs of distress and extreme inequality, they are coming to its defense. They are desperately searching for ways to defend capitalism by using various arguments: we only need to be more vigilant and we can fix what ails the system (see this for example and my critique), we can elect people who will reform the system and make it work better, or as in this article, what we have really isn't capitalism at all!
Simply put, we're not living in a "capitalist" economy, and present economic activity is not properly described by the word "market." To see and say that completely misses the facts.
The author only recognizes that we are in a "neoliberal period", but refuses to acknowledge that this has anything to do with capitalism. Apparently someone stole the wonderful system of capitalism from us one night and slipped in this other thing which he/she describes as the following:
Economic predation by the powerful is not an economic system in any sophisticated sense, any more than organized bullies stealing every child's lunch money the minute she enters the building is a "system" in any complex sense. It's not even a "racket" if that term implies misdirection and a multi-step process. It's just boots on the neck and hands in the pocket. 

Orwell at the UN: Obama Re-Defines Democracy as a Country That Supports U.S. Policy

Click here to access article by Michael Hudson from CounterPunch.
A century ago the word “democracy” referred to a nation whose policies were formed by elected representatives. Ever since ancient Athens, democracy was contrasted to oligarchy and aristocracy. But since the Cold War and its aftermath, that is not how U.S. politicians have used the term. When an American president uses the word “democracy,” he means a pro-American country following U.S. neoliberal policies, no matter if the country is a military dictatorship or its government was brought in by a coup (euphemized as a Color Revolution) as in Georgia or Ukraine. A “democratic” government has been re-defined simply as one supporting the Washington Consensus, NATO and the IMF. It is a government that shifts policy-making out of the hands of elected representatives to an “independent” central bank, whose policies are dictated by the oligarchy centered in Wall Street, the City of London and Frankfurt.
Hudson places too much emphasis on Obama's UN speech in which the latter he re-defines "democracy". Obama is, of course, merely following the script handed to him by his capitalist class handlers like all the other presidents since John Kennedy. Kennedy was determined to follow a more independent foreign policy and thus was assassinated. Elsewhere Hudson accurately indicates that this concept of "democracy" has been used by many other presidents in recent history. ("When an American president uses the word “democracy,” he means a pro-American country following U.S. neoliberal policies....") So, there is nothing unique about Obama.

Beginning in the 1930s Orwell saw many applications of propaganda to serve the interests of power. No doubt he compared his direct experience in Spain's civil war, in which he fought, with the coverage provided by those allied with Anglo-American capitalists, fascist capitalists, and the Soviet Union. They all had their own interests and their own agenda with regard to Spain, and their media reflected those interests regardless of the realities of the conflict. To people like Orwell the Spanish Civil War was both extremely disillusioning and revealing.

With the ascendancy of the overwhelming power of the US after WWII, the ruling capitalist class saw a huge vacuum that they could fill. Over the years since the war, those foreign capitalists who followed the lead of the US were integrated into what has become a US-led Empire intent on global domination. 

Meanwhile the technology of propaganda was perfected and its usefulness increased. It was seen as a cost-effective way of not only managing opinion of their domestic populations, but taming and co-opting opposition all over the world. It's use was not confined to news reporting, but to all ideological institutions, especially to entertainment and education. Hollywood movies were distributed all over the world carrying many subliminal messages selling the American way of life, a largely mythical construct suggesting materialist values of consumerism and a fake version of "democracy". 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Power of False Narrative

Click here to access article by Robert Parry from ConsortiumNews.
In this age of pervasive media, the primary method of social control is through the creation of narratives delivered to the public through newspapers, TV, radio, computers, cell phones and any other gadget that can convey information. This reality has given rise to an obsession among the power elite to control as much of this messaging as possible.

So, regarding U.S. relations toward the world, we see the State Department, the White House, Pentagon, NATO and other agencies pushing various narratives to sell the American people and other populations on how they should view U.S. policies, rivals and allies. The current hot phrase for this practice is “strategic communications” or Stratcom, which blends psychological operations, propaganda and P.R. into one mind-bending smoothie.
Parry writes about the application of Stratcom methods to shape the perception of Americans in support of the Empire's agenda since 1980. Stratcom methods have been honed and perfected from its antecedents developed by the CIA following WWII which I summarized in a recent post
...since WWII there have been a number of reports mostly from a few mainstream sources or alternative media of increasing involvement of secret government agencies attempting to shape news, information, and entertainment. In the 1960s from Ramparts magazine we learned about CIA infiltration of the media in the 1950s. In 2007 Carl Bernstein reported in Rolling Stone magazine about the continuing CIA involvement with major media. We still see occasional reports from credible sources about CIA and other government past attempts to shape news and entertainment that major corporations publish or broadcast, but they usually imply that this is not happening today. A few credible sources allege that this still exists today both in the US and in Europe.
Actually I agree with Paul Craig Roberts that the CIA is in control of this program in what he refers to as "a Ministry of Propaganda for Washington". 

UK Labour Party conference begins under leadership of Corbyn

Click here to access article by Chris Marsden from World Socialist Web Site.
The Blair and Brownites are a despised and hated minority. But they have the backing of the ruling class, the media and the Tories in the fight to discredit and drive out Corbyn and his supporters. They may calculate that their weakened position does not allow for a frontal assault, but they will do everything and anything to maintain Labour as a pro-business and pro-war party.

Their greatest political advantage lies in the opponent they face, Corbyn. At every juncture, he stresses the political imperative of maintaining party unity at all costs, even under conditions where he is backed by many thousands of ordinary members.

His brief time at the helm has seen one political retreat after another, especially whenever he has been attacked by the media.