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 LappĂ©, Time for Progressives to Grow Up

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Trade legerdemain on both sides of the Atlantic

Click here to access article by Pete Dolack from his blog Systemic Disorder.

I had to run to the dictionary to find out what "legerdemain" means and found that the term is very apt for this article. 

Dolack reports on the various tricks now being deployed to pass major neoliberal trade deals through Congress and the European Union, deals which are being negotiated in secret by ruling class officials and their counterparts in corporations. Of course, I am referring to the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. (Actually, the word "partnership" in these two agreements is also appropriate because they really represent an attempt to further the partnership between capitalist-owned multi-national corporations and capitalist-ruled governments.)

Kiev regime orders crackdown as US steps up threats against Moscow

Click here to access article by Bill Van Auken from World Socialist Web Site.

Van Auken reports on the latest moves by the Empire's coup-installed regime in Ukraine to continue pursuing their aggressive designs despite any agreements.
...the Ukrainian regime’s foreign minister joined his counterparts from the US, Russia and the European Union in drafting an agreement in Geneva to halt all violence and de-escalate tensions by disarming illegal groups, ending occupations of public buildings and spaces, freeing political prisoners and initiating a dialogue between the regions.
Shortly afterwards, the regime in Kiev added that it was observing an “Easter truce.” It was during this supposed truce that a column of four cars carrying Right Sector gunmen attacked a roadblock on the outskirts of Slovyansk on Easter Sunday, killing three local men.
Then Alex Lantier from the same website reports on the discovery of deliberate photo tricks used by the NY Times to promote the Empire's project in Ukraine. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Dollar dying; multi-polar world in offing

Click here to access article by William Engdahl from PressTV (Iran).

Engdahl is a brilliant geopolitical analyst, but fails to understand the nature of capitalism. He, like many other Empire critics, is placing his hopes on the rise of a multi-polar capitalist world. In this essay he examines what he regards as stupid strategies of Empire agents to preserve their dominant position in the world. 
Washington’s decision to go for the military coup in Ukraine...opened the door for a genuine multi-polar world where peaceful cooperation replaced military threats and sole Superpower domination.
I think his analysis is likely correct. But to see a multi-polar capitalist world as a desirable alternative is also stupid. The system of capitalism creates societies where social injustice is a natural consequence, and people who do well in it are logically sociopaths--people without any social justice scruples or who are reluctant to engage in wars to acquire wealth and power. We've had multi-polar capitalist worlds before now--in fact, the world has always been a multi-polar capitalist world from the advent of capitalism until the conclusion of WWII when the US led Empire has attained almost total dominance. So, was there peace before 1945?

Pieces of Madrid

Click here if you wish to access the original posting on Global Uprisings. 

The first half of the video portrays typical street battles by the people against the security forces of the ruling class. But what I think is a much more important part of the video starts at 9:00m. Although not as photogenic as the street battles, they show people engaged in self-organizing efforts to not only protect themselves and their communities, but to begin the critically important revolutionary task of constructing bottom-up infrastructures of a genuine democracy. They are busy constructing the foundation of a new society that serves the needs of everyone to replace the capitalist organization of society which delivers so much wealth and power to a few. The Spanish people are starting to realize that there is no alternative: they must construct a genuine democracy or our masters will continue to lead us down the road to a nightmarish fascism and the destruction of the biosphere for human habitation. 
This short documentary explores ongoing resistance and self-organization in the midst of the economic and social crisis in Madrid, Spain.
As social conditions continue to deteriorate across the country, people have been turning to the streets and to each other to find for solutions to the crisis. This film tells a story of the massive mobilization that saw millions of people converge on Madrid on March 22nd 2014, the story of the proliferation of social centers, community gardens, self-organized food banks, and the story of large-scale housing occupations by and for families that have been evicted. The film pieces together many of the creative ways that people have been coping with crisis and asks what the future may hold for Spain.
Filmed and edited in March/April 2014, it is part of the Global Uprisings documentary series.

Monday, April 21, 2014

‘Kiev desperately pushing for greater conflict with Russia’

Click here to access a 4:37m interview (with transcript) with German investigative journalist Manuel Ochsenreiter posted on RT.

Ochsenreiter argues that the right sector in Ukraine is trying desperately to bring on a wider war in Ukraine by violating any agreements reached by international parties. He poses the worrying argument that this is a deliberate ploy by Western agents so that they can have deniability for their aggressive agenda to bring all of Ukraine under NATO control. 

This argument is very bewildering to me because I do not see that the present US regime or their counterparts in Europe are prepared for the dangerous potential such actions have to bring about a wider war. To be sure there are right-wing elements in the the West who have a very arrogant attitude toward Russia and believe they can intimidate Russia, but there have been official statements coming from the Obama administration that suggest a desire to dissipate the crisis in Ukraine. So, what are the real policies informing US Empire actions? If the German journalist's argument is correct, then Western agents are playing a very dangerous game in Europe. He writes in reference to the new regime brought to power by the violent overthrow of the government: 
 It’s a failed state, so the government in Kiev is nothing else as satellite government. It’s a mix of oligarchs and organized crime, and of course terrorists – the Right Sector. We should see it as a terrorist organization, activists of the Right Sector fought in Chechen wars against Russia alongside Islamism terrorists. So we should see that Kiev doesn’t have a will as well as the power to crack down on those people [in Eastern Ukrainian], and that long since [for several] weeks other people telling [them] what to be done, what not, we have to see that American advisors already active there, that there are NATO advisors, we have to see this in a context that Poland is asking for 10,000 US troops on their soil. Something big is going on and the Right Sector’s aggression against the Eastern Ukrainian is just a little pretext of what we will maybe expect within the next weeks.

Taking On the Fashion Industry

Click here to access a book review of Stitched Up: The Anti-Capitalist Book of Fashion by Tansy E. Hoskins posted on MRZine. 

The fashion industry's operations provide an excellent example of how capitalism works from one end, the exploitation of working people, to the other end of consumption driven by advertising, the engine of consumption. This book appears to provide an excellent exploration of this key industry of capitalism. 
The exploitation of consumers in New York or London is clearly less horrifying than the treatment of workers in Bangladesh, but it remains exploitation.  Frequently using and reinforcing racist and sexist stereotypes, fashion pressures working people here to consume, and to consume more than they can afford.  Women especially are subjected to "constant messages that [they] must diet, must get cosmetic surgery, buy clothes and feel bad about themselves," Hoskins writes.  And those of us who can resist the omnipresent pressure to buy are still compelled to "dress for success" if we hope to get and hold most types of job.  

Towards the End of U.S. Propaganda

Click here to access article by Thierry Meyssan from VoltaireNet.

Meyssan proposes a very interesting, hopeful argument that the world of ruling class propaganda has changed, and changed for the better. He reviews the early, successful history of war propaganda starting in 1915 when the British issued the infamous Bryce Report on German war crimes to enlist their population in a war against Germany, and continues with such efforts during WWII. He argues that the present proliferation of alternative sources of information has radially changed things. I think he is referring to the internet and the access it gives to people all over the world, to TV media networks like RT, and such journalists as Pepe Escobar, that are independent of Empire control and accessible in the US.
Barack Obama and Benjamin Rhodes , John Kerry and Richard Stengel act only in the short term. Their propaganda convinces the masses for only a few weeks and then helps create revulsion when the people understand they are being manipulated. Unwittingly, they undermine the credibility of the state institutions of NATO who consciously relay them. They forget that the propaganda of the twentieth century could only succeed because the world was divided into blocks that did not communicate with one another, and this monolithic principle is incompatible with the new means of communication.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Ukraine: The Bloody Eastern Escalation

Click here to access article by Billmon from his blog Moon of Alabama. 

For the very latest news on the Empire's latest victim, follow this blog. 
This is very bad news. The OSCE had reported that Pravyi Sektor paramilitaries were moving to the eastern Donbass region. It looks like they have arrived.

It seems the U.S. neocons found out that they can not have the Ukraine and are responding like they always do. "Can't have it? Will destroy it!"

Film of the Week: Quants — The Alchemists of Wall Street

Click here to access 47:48m video posted by Don Quijones from Raging Bull-Shit (Spain).
With the banks ruling the world, and the machines as good as ruling the banks, just how close are we to another major financial crash?

In this brilliant VPRO documentary, some of the world’s leading “quants” — that is, people who specialize in the application of mathematical and statistical methods to financial and risk management problems – voice their fears about the financial industry’s almost complete dependence on mathematical models, many of them deeply flawed.
What I got from the film is that the new financial products that capitalists gamble with are based on assumptions about the future which have their roots in the most basic of all capitalist assumptions--economic growth. Capitalism requires growth to exist, hence people who work for capitalists such as mathematicians create models and mathematics with growth built into them. Inevitably these assumptions are wrong because reality based on people is constantly changing. Investments, or the bets, based on these assumptions are huge, the payoffs huge, but also the consequences for economic destruction are huge most of which are born by ordinary people. 

The bust part of these cycles are happening at an increasing rate. Capitalists, who incidentally are a ruling class, use their control of the state and central banks to provide stimulus in the form of low interest rates to create more money (debts to nations) and another cycle of big payoffs is created for them. (For an interesting commentary on the role of the Fed, read this piece by James Kunstler.)

I would also argue that because their assumptions, on which their logarithms are based, are motivated by the basic capitalist requirement of growth, they are disastrously wrong given the fact that growth can no longer be sustained given the finite limits of the planet. So, we must choose between two options: change the system or experience a nightmarish dystopia and probably extinction.

View the fascinating video and see what you think.

Seed Wars: Latin America Strikes Back Against Monsanto

Click here to access article by Don Quijones from Raging Bull-Shit.

The author reports on a global backlash against corporate owned, engineered seeds in the form of protests and political actions particularly in Latin America.
...despite its tireless lobbying efforts in Brussels, Monsanto and its main rivals continue to hit a brick wall of resistance in many of Europe’s biggest markets, including Germany and France. And now, with popular resistance on the rise in Latin America, the U.S. agribusiness giant faces the prospect, albeit slim, of losing its grip on one of its most important strategic markets.

A new wave of environmental protest rocks China

Click here to access article by James Smart from Reflections on a Revolution.
Ahkok Wong is an activist and school lecturer from down the road in Hong Kong, potentially enjoying his last two days of freedom.

“Environmental problems are one of the main outcomes of a one party-ruled, corrupted, non-humane government,” he starts. “The citizens started discovering what harm the PX
[paraxylene]  plant can bring, so there are [a lot] of protests, and then the police arrest and kill protesters, forcing people to sign agreements that they support PX plants,” he continues. “They control the media and the internet so the news cannot get across the country.”

Protesters like Ahkok are sentenced by a judiciary with links to the government, which in turn has links to big business — for example, the Maoming PX joint venture between Sinopec and the state.

Climate Change Meets High Tech: An Eco-Future is Possible

Click here to access article by Robert Hunziker from The Greanville Post. 

This article assures us that it is okay to continue practicing our addiction to consuming all kinds of frivolous products. I'm referring to the drugs delivered by the global system of capitalism. Some people think that capitalism is a racket run by drug lords to supply us with all kinds of stuff to fill up our empty lives such as electronic gadgets, car-cars, the latest fashions, cosmetics to make us look younger, etc. That's nonsense! Forget about climate destabilization and environmental destruction. We humans can go on producing and consuming forever on our little planet. Yes, folks, the solution to all these crises is at hand! Fusion energy!

It seems that whenever we are sufficiently aroused out of our drug-induced slumber we become too concerned about some of the effects of our habit--such as, it will kill us--that our capitalist drug lords trot out their favorite fantasies such as climate engineering and carbon capture so that we keep practicing our habit of consuming frivolous stuff. When these fantasies don't work, they bring out their ultimate fantasy--excuse me, "fact"--this time from the United States Navy!
Looking ahead into the future, the Navy predicts seawater fuel will cost $3-6 per gallon, and it could be available on a commercial scale within 10 years.
Now, please excuse me, I must leave to go shopping for the very cool Nike Fingertrap Max sneakers.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Let them eat cake! IMF the equality champion?

Click here to access article from Bretton Woods Project.

Talk of inequality seems to be all the rage in Western media, and this has been spearheaded by such notable figures as Obama, and here in this article it is reported that no less than the IMF director Christine Lagarde has raised the issue. Being a rather cynical doubter of all things printed in mainstream media, I ask: are they serious?

I think the answer is partly "yes" and mostly "no". This article supports my opinion by revealing that IMF actions indicate that such concerns about inequality are for public relations purposes only. Let me explain.

In the past, like in the Great Depression of the 1930s, the ruling capitalist class was seriously concerned about the dramatic gaps between the rich and the poor. Also, there was a very militant labor movement that was concerned about social justice which was inspired by the mostly theoretical ideas coming from the Soviet Union and the actual fact that the workers of the latter country experienced no unemployment. I do not think that they have that concern today. 

In today's Western societies they have in place very effective means of controlling dissent: the concentration of media provides for control of information, highly advanced technology and police state methods to surveil potential revolutionaries, and militarized police forces. 

However, the ruling class also has a more serious concern about the phenomenon of a diminishing middle class. A happy middle class is a critical requirement to the stability of a capitalist ruling system simply because they actually run the system while capitalists, who reward them with the vaunted middle class lifestyles, skim off most of the benefits from a system that exploits both workers and the environment. Besides, it is widely recognized that revolutions in recent centuries have all been led by middle class people. 

While the second concern exists, I think that most of the publicized concern is rhetorical and informed by a desire to divert political opposition into paths which will require an enormous expenditure of energies, but will end up in the scrapheap of failed efforts. I'm referring here to the growing phenomenon of publicity about dramatic raises in the minimum raise, such as $15 per hour in Seattle and the advocacy of a guaranteed annual wage. 

Labor advocates such as Shamus Cooke have devoted many articles (see this and this) to promote dramatic increases in minimum wage laws, and now we see the appearance of David Graeber on PBS TV extolling the benefits of a guaranteed income. I have commented on the minimum wage campaign previously here, so let me address my observations about the latter.

Anarchists are usually smeared by ruling class mainstream media as hooligans, often compared to terrorists, and never given access to their media. So, it is remarkable that PBS gave coverage to anarchist Graeber's views promoting a guaranteed income. I understand why a ruling class TV network would want to promote such a dead-end proposal, but it makes me wonder a lot about Graeber. Such access to mainstream media is often a method used by media directors as bait to lure left-wing critics to advocate safe reforms to the system and eventually to thoroughly co-opt them. I hope this isn't the case with Graeber.

Perfection Anxiety

Click here to access article by A. A. Gill from Vanity Fair.

This is another contribution to my practice on Saturdays to run articles about our fellow citizens of the One Percent (actually .01 of the 1%, or one out of every 10,000 of us) hoping that by doing this that we don't lose touch with their world and their concerns--you know, to promote understanding. It is important that we become better acquainted so that we can serve them better and make it easier for them to carry out the daily burden of making important decisions, decisions which affect whether we go off to war in foreign lands to kill their enemies, if we have jobs, if we live in a home or under a bridge, if we can afford their health care services, education, etc.

Unfortunately, for some reason they tend to hide their lives from the rest of us behind walls of secrecy, literal walls of guarded gated communities, private clubs, esoteric publications, by traveling with private jets, etc. We should not let that deter us.
 

Today we have to thank Vanity Fair for making us aware in this article of a widespread disease plaguing the rich. I think it reasonable to believe that many of the rich were not even aware of it, and probably not conscious that they, too, might be suffering from it. Thankfully, you and I don't have to worry about it.
When you have 15 houses, yachts in three oceans, planes, cellars, mistresses, surgery, a library, and a personal charity, new purchases become just a matter of upgrading. And this is where the Perfection Anxiety kicks in. What you need is to have not just the most but the very, very best. The super-rich watch each other like envious owls, to see who’s got a slightly better loafer, a pullover made from some even more absurdly endangered fur. They will go to any lengths to find the best tailors. I know of a man who gets his suit pants made in Italy and the jackets on Savile Row.
Gill reports on some other symptoms of this disease plaguing the rich: 
And when you’ve got the best of everything, when you have your tea flown in from a micro-garden in Darjeeling and it still tastes rather like tea, when you’ve designed your own scent made from the squeezed glands of civets and the petals of rare orchids and that fails to give you the high—“When Alexander saw the breadth of his domain, he wept, for there were no more worlds to conquer”—then you’re reduced to collecting art.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Ukraine and the grand chessboard

Click here to access article by Pepe Escobar from Asia Times Online.

I love the way Escobar ridicules Western propagandists who with their preposterous statements give him so many opportunities. Ridicule and laughter offer a healthy way to neutralize so much of the absurdity of US media coverage.
The US State Department, via spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki, said that reports of CIA Director John Brennan telling regime changers in Kiev to "conduct tactical operations" - or an "anti-terrorist" offensive - in eastern Ukraine are "completely false". This means Brennan did issue his marching orders. And by now the "anti-terrorist" campaign - with its nice little Dubya rhetorical touch - has degenerated into farce.

Now couple that with NATO secretary general, Danish retriever
Anders Fogh Rasmussen, yapping about the strengthening of military footprint along NATO's eastern border: "We will have more planes in the air, mores ships on the water and more readiness on the land."

Welcome to the Two Stooges doctrine of post-modern warfare.
Unfortunately, many Americans take such statements from the Ministry of Truth as straight information. This is largely because the so-called "free press" is very well managed by the ruling class and consistently gives out stories that are unchallenged by any alternative views. And, many Americans consider it un-American to get their news and analysis from sources other than corporate media.   

Generally, Escobar's analysis suggests that the Empire with its latest actions is only digging its grave deeper.

Interview: Big Men Director Rachel Boynton on Oil, Ghana and "Responsible Capitalism"

Click here to access article by Steve Horn from DeSmogBlog.

This piece interested me because I think it is a good illustration of limited thinking on the parts of the participants, the interviewer Horn and the interviewee Boynton, a film director, who answered questions about her film "Big Men". 

The limits of the discussion were wider than most because of the recognition that the drama in her film involved the system of capitalism and the many conflicts and undesirable consequences that often follow their operations. However, the questions and comments in the interview clearly indicated that both considered the system as a given or constant, whereas questions about human nature as well as the possibilities of capitalist outcomes were left open for the viewer to question. 

Neither Horn nor Boynton thought about questioning the system itself. Although they named the system, their questions and comments clearly reinforced the idea that "there is no alternative". Thus, Brad Pitt, the producer, leads readers to speculate over whether there is such a thing as responsible capitalism; whereas Boynton leads readers to speculate about the (capitalist) nature of humans.

Such limited thinking is a major hurdle for all ordinary people to overcome if humanity is ever going to find its salvation. Websites like this encourage people to stay safely inside limits that capitalist ideological enforcers can tolerate.

The West Marches East, Part 1: The U.S.-NATO Strategy to Isolate Russia

Click here to access article by Andrew Gavin Marshall from The Hampton Institute.

As an antidote to the poison of the Empire's anti-Russian propaganda, Marshall provides us with some inconvenient current and historical facts. Ultimately, the Empire's actions boil down to this:
...the United States is the global 'Godfather' of the Mafia crime family of Western industrial nations (the NATO powers). Countries like Russia and China are reasonably-sized crime families in their own right, but largely dependent upon the Godfather, with whom they both cooperate and compete for influence.

When the Mafia - and the Godfather - are disobeyed, whether by small nations (such as Iraq, Syria, Libya, et. al.), or by larger gangster states like China or Russia, the Godfather will seek to punish them. Disobedience cannot be tolerated. If a small country can defy the Godfather, then any country can. If a larger gangster state like Russia can defy the Godfather and get away with it, they might continue to challenge the authority of the Godfather.
Of course, this is the nature of capitalism as it is for every system that privileges one segment of society over another. Such gangs end up competing with gangs from other nations for dominance, and we have inter-gang wars which ordinary people fight and die in. This will last as long as we tolerate gangs, as long as we tolerate privileges like private ownership of an economy over the needs of whole societies. We must stop believing all the lies of the gangsters that there is no alternative to the existing societal arrangements; and then, we must be prepared to sacrifice immediate comforts to fight against such gangster organizations.  

We have a choice: continue to accept these societal arrangements that make such gangs possible, their inter-gang wars, and all the other forms of suffering we endure, or we destroy these arrangements and construct egalitarian societies.

One of the most powerful documentaries on 9/11—ever.

I thank the people at The Greanville Post for posting this 1:44:55 video and bringing it to my attention. I watched it last night and I was profoundly impressed. I have read a lot about this 9/11 project which prepared ordinary Americans for a much more aggressive foreign policy abroad and the installation of the infrastructure of a police state at home. But this profession quality Italian film captured this project better than any other single film production, and made it so any ordinary person could easily follow it. 

It had to be made abroad because there are too many pressures on companies associated with film production here in the US to prevent any serious examination of the event. I urge everyone to view it over this long holiday weekend.

I am posting this YouTube film instead of the same one in the article because it identifies the correct title of the film--"ZERO: An Investigation Into 9/11".

Thursday, April 17, 2014

America's Thin-Skinned Billionaires

Click here to access article by Paul Krugman from TruthOut.
Never mind freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from want, freedom from fear. What America's embattled billionaires are demanding, as their birthright (and I mean that pretty much literally), is something much more important: freedom from criticism.

Making a desperate stand in The Wall Street Journal, heroic, oppressed men like Tom Perkins
[see this] and now Charles Koch have been telling it like it is: anyone who says anything negative about them is just like the Nazis, or maybe Stalin.