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©, excerpt from Time for Progressives to Grow Up

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Breaking the Growth Habit: A Q&A with Bill McKibben

from Scientific American. 
This celestial body [Earth] can no longer support the economic growth model that has driven society for the past 200 years. To avoid its own collapse, humankind must instead seek to maintain wealth and resources, in large part by shifting to more durable, localized economies—especially in food and energy production.

‘Peak Demand,’ Yes, But Not the Nice Kind

by Chris Nelder from his blog. 
As I explained in "Investment Themes for the Next Decade," the new normal will be  cycles of bumping our heads against the supply ceiling, falling dazed to the floor, rising back to our knees, then finally standing... only to bump our heads against the ceiling once more. 

The education problem is not what you think, neither is the solution

by Terry Edlin from her blog.
Firing more teachers and creating more charter schools is not going to solve the education problem if the root cause is poverty and dysfunction. If we broaden our scope and begin to think of creative ways to support our communities, and see people and resources everywhere lying fallow, we could think of a new way utilize them. The economic collapse has taken a severe toll on every sector. Tens of thousands of social workers, substance abuse and domestic violence counselors are collecting unemployment.  Can’t we come up with some way to tap the hard won skills that are trapped in their hearts and heads when we need them more than ever?

Industry interests are not in their "twilight"

Glenn Greenwald from Salon demolishes a leading mainstream propaganda piece by the Washington Post's Ezra Klein who "trumpets what he calls the 'Twilight of the Interest Groups' reflected by likely passage of the health care bill." Instead Greenwald argues:
...this bill was negotiated using the standard, secret, sleazy Beltway lobbyist/industry practices that candidate Obama frequently condemned and vowed to defeat.  And these industries extracted such huge benefits as a result of these secret deals -- a bill shaped to their liking and profit objectives -- that they are essentially in favor of it.

Time out

Why Israel Always Prevails

by Jeffrey Blankfort from Counterpunch. He provides an excellent history of many other instances of the powerful influence that Zionists have had over US government figures and policies.
Indeed, even a day after having been blind-sided by the announcement that Israel would build 1600 new and exclusively Jewish housing units in East Jerusalem, Biden was still trying. In a prepared speech, he once again bragged, this time to a Tel Aviv university audience, that he was a Zionist and that, “Throughout my career, Israel has not only remained close to my heart but it has been the center of my work as a United States Senator and now as Vice President of the United States,” a statement that should raise questions about dual loyalties and which, curiously, was omitted from all reports on his speech in the US press.

A Ruinous Meltdown

an op-ed by Bob Herbert from the NY Times. He's right, the meltdown of all public services is not being covered. It appears to me that this is what the ruling class calls "structural adjustment" that has been imposed on so many other countries by the banking elites. Of course, ruling class media doesn't want to talk about it. They continue the line that we are just in a cyclical recession and it will be "all better" in time.

Night Riders: Afghan Atrocity and American Values

by Chris Floyd from Empire Burlesque. Occasionally the real news about what is happening in our (US) Empire's latest addition, Afghanistan, leaks out in some round about way. But will most Americans who are glued into ruling class media find out about it? Somehow, I don't think so.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Transition Network.org

This is a new website dedicated to the "Transitions Initiative" (TI) movement which is hoping to develop the "Transitions Model". By listing this new website and by listing articles from this movement, as I have in the past, I am in no way endorsing the movement. But it needs to be looked at critically to see if it has potential to help ward off the coming cataclysm caused by the collision of the capitalist system with the ecological limits of our planet. 

I have a lot of doubts at present. There seems to be a large element of naivetĂ© in their strategy. I am referring to their lack of any concern about the larger economic system, and the very powerful, ruling capitalist class. From reading their literature one wouldn't anticipate any conflicts whatsoever. Look at their article entitled, "The twelve key ingredients to the Transition model", which lists the support of local governments as one of their key ingredients. Although they assure us that "Your local authority's role will be TO SUPPORT, NOT DRIVE, your Transition Initiative; they never suggest that there might be any problems with this effort. 

I believe that this is highly problematic unless the TI plans to attempt to work within the capitalist system, in which case, the movement will hit a dead end. IMO, if this is the case, it will only permit some of us to reduce our standard of living to accommodate the needs of The Empire to devote more resources to their so-called "war on terrorism", i.e., their control over increasing areas of the earth to secure resources, cheap labor, and markets.

The 5 characteristics of scientific denialism

from Skeptical Science.  The goal of the Skeptical Science blog is to “explain what peer reviewed science has to say about global warming” and answer the most common questions and objections raised both by the well-meaning doubters and the not-well-meaning dis-informers.

To rob a country, own a bank (11:11m video)

from Real News Network. This is an interview with William K. Black who teaches economics and law at the University of Missouri — Kansas City. He was the Executive Director of the Institute for Fraud Prevention from 2005-2007.

The Monster in Our Midst

by Gary Brumback from Dissident Voice. 
What is this monster? It’s the corpocracy, a marriage made in Hell between “our” government and large corporations. This monster is ruling and ruining America and Americans.

There are so many telltale signs that the monster exists that it would take one billboard after another to post them. The monster’s domination, often harmful, is over every aspect of our lives. Here are some of the signs to illustrate what I’m talking about.

Is Israel an Apartheid State?

carried on Creative-i website because it is more readable than the original site. This is a summary of a legal study by Human Sciences Research Center of South Africa. It is quite a lengthy article, but quite comprehensively makes the case in the affirmative. 

Activism is Change: A View From the Struggle in Gaza

by Ramzy Baroud from Toward Freedom.
Activism should not be bound by mere personal affiliation, and nor should it unreservedly embrace or accept ideological dogmas. An activist is an ambassador to his cause; yes, he or she must be morally focused, but there should also be a willingness to serve as a unifying force, and to strategize and organize accordingly.  

Time out

This cartoon refers to a recent report here

At Lehman, Watchdogs Saw It All

from the NY Times. Lehman's fraudulent accounting was known by SEC and NY Fed regulators, yet they did nothing. Now the Fed is fighting to keep all oversight regulation in their control.

Obama's US Top Cop for Banks Wants Less Regulation, Echoes Republican Wall St. Pals

from Alter Net. 
If you had any doubt about the bank lobby's vice-grip on public policy, look no further than the meeting of the American Bankers Association currently taking place in Washington. In a shameless effort to curry favor with the deep-pocketed financial industry, House Minority Leader John Boenher, R-Ohio, urged lobbyists to fight hard against financial reform. And astonishingly, the nation's top bank cop, Comptroller of the Currency John Dugan, actually agreed with him.

Creating our Own Credit: The Growing Movement for Publicly-Owned Banks

by Ellen Brown from Global Research. 
Money today is just a ticket, a receipt for work performed and goods delivered.  We can fund the work we need done by creating our own credit. The real promise of publicly-owned banks is not that they can bail out subprime borrowers but that they can jumpstart the economy by creating real wealth. They can provide the liquidity to put labor and materials together, allowing the economy to build and grow. Our private, profit-driven banking sector has been bleeding wealth from the rest of the economy. Public-interest banks can transfuse the economy with the credit it needs to flourish and be productive once again.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Nuclear Power Makes No Business Sense

from Climate Progress.
Though nuclear power may seem a limited issue — related only to energy, and only one of several energy sources at that – the decision whether to pursue nuclear power may prove to be the most important decision now before world leaders.

Synergy in Security: the Rise of the National Security Complex

from Dollars and Sense. The article reveals the evolution of the military-industrial complex into what we have today.
The term “military-industrial complex” no longer adequately describes the multi-headed monster that has emerged in our times. The industrial (that is, big business) part of the military-industrial complex has become ever more deeply integrated into government—no longer simply providing arms but also increasingly offering their services on the fronts of war and deep inside the halls of government—commissioned to carry out the very missions of the DoD, DHS, and intelligence agencies. In the national security complex, it is ever more difficult to determine what is private sector and what is public sector—and whose interests are being served. 

"The Reason For This Cover-Up Goes Right To The White House"

from Washington's Blog. Some more great material collected by this blogger on the 9/11 tragedy.

The American Dream Has Moved Abroad

from Washington's Blog. He quotes Michael Moore writing in 2003:
After fleecing the American public and destroying the American dream for most working people, how is it that, instead of being drawn and quartered and hung at dawn at the city gates, the rich got a big wet kiss from Congress ... and no one says a word? How can that be?

I think it's because we're still addicted to the Horatio Alger fantasy drug. Despite all the damage and all the evidence to the contrary, the average American still wants to hang on to this belief that maybe, just maybe, he or she (mostly he) just might make it big after all.

So don't attack the rich man, because one day that rich man may be me!

In Dodd We Trust (10:39m video)

by Jon Stewart from The Daily Show. Great satire!  I found this episode both hilarious and sickening at the same time.

Time out (click on cartoon to enlarge)

Britain: Quarter of adults out of work, official figures show

from the Telegraph.
A total of 10.6 million people either did not have a job, or have stopped looking for one, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics, which indicated that more people than ever before had abandoned the workplace – choosing instead to study, go on sick leave or just give up searching for a job. 

Hyperdeflation, followed by rampant inflation

from Billy Blog. This article provides a good analysis of the issue of deficit government budgets and the way media has flamed the issue to serve the interests of the governing classes.
A more realistic interpretation is that the power elites fear that their party is over if governments return to supporting higher levels of employment and more equitable transfers of national income including a sensible (and necessary) realignment of real wages and productivity growth. They also fear that a new regulative environment might force them to work a bit harder for their living and stay within the law more often. This elite controls much of media and has its lobbying tentacles right into all major governments. They are not shy to spend big money bribing officials and cheating the “markets” – which they hold up as the pure form of freedom and entrepreneurship.

Health Care: Who will be in charge 10 years from now?

 from Black Commentator. This site requires registration (quick & easy) and asks for some contribution. However, a 10 day free trial is offered. You might wish to take advantage of this offer to determine how useful this site is for your purposes. 

Actually the essay really addresses the question, "What do we have [the current proposed bill] that is better than what existed before Corporate America pulled out all the stops and poured money into the tea pot that is Washington, D.C.?
Let’s see. Insurance companies will not be able to drop you from coverage because you get sick. You will not be denied coverage if you have a pre-existing condition. You can keep your insurance plan, if you like it.
Those are the advantages, but he goes on to list all the many disadvantages.

Nobel Prize-Winning Scientists and Economists Call on Senate to Address Climate Change Now

from Union of Concerned Scientists. 
Nobel Prize-winning economists and scientists will deliver a letter to the U.S. Senate today, urging lawmakers to require immediate cuts in global warming emissions. The letter was signed by more than 2,000 prominent U.S. economists and climate scientists, including eight Nobel laureates, 32 National Academy of Sciences members, 11 MacArthur "genius award" winners, and three National Medal of Science recipients. 

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Privatization of Everything

from The Economic Populist. The article illustrates that the capitalist class, and therefore the US, is lead by people who are globalists, that is, are tied by their interests to international capitalism. Hence they have no special regard for the US, especially the health and welfare of American workers or their communities. The only importance that the US has is its military and military related industries which serve to enforce the dictates of The Empire led by this class of people. Thus the current trend is toward a world where a huge 3rd world, within which lie tiny islands of 1st world people, will exist everywhere in the world. 

Iraq election entrenches communalist divisions

from World Socialist Web Site. 
...the election will produce another parliament dominated by sectarian and communalist factions of the Iraqi elite, each seeking to gain the maximum position and privilege at the expense of the others.
It's the way The Empire controls its colonies.

Obama’s cynical pursuit of health care “reform”

from World Socialist Web Site. 
Obama’s claim that the problems confronting Ms. Canfield and others like her—skyrocketing premiums, massive out-of-pocket expenses—would be addressed by his health care plan is a lie. He knows perfectly well that the proposed legislation would have no real power to rein in insurance premium costs.
See also this.

Colleen Rowley: Minders Ensured She Didn't Say Anything About 9/11 the FBI Didn't WANT Told, Even to Government Officials With Top Security Clearance

from Washington's Blog. 
Rowley said that in her testimony to the Joint Intelligence Committee regarding 9/11, she was “minded”. Specifically, she said that “FBI minders” listened to her every word, to trail her and make sure that she didn’t tell government personnel with top secret clearance even higher than her own anything which the FBI did not want to be told.
(See the first comment in this article that indicates an error re the attribution to Scott Horton of Harpers.)

Also see this:  Ashcroft, Tenet, Rumsfeld warned 9/11 Commission about ‘line’ it ’should not cross’

Time out (click on image to enlarge)

What Happens When the U.S. Chamber of Commerce "Trains" Black Elected Officials?

by Bruce A. Dixon from the Black Agenda Report. The short answer is: the same results as when the US Chamber of Congress trains white elected officials. The capitalist ruling class is an "equal opportunity" employer of leaders as long as they follow the Chamber's dictates. But, read this article anyway to see how the Chamber functions to promote black leaders in the Atlanta area.

Large majority of Americans continue to believe global warming is real and trust scientists

from Climate Progress.
Scientists may have that feeling [loss of belief], but it has little basis in fact.  You can’t discuss this subject in a serious fashion without looking at key factors like the anti-science disinformation campaign, the he-said/she-said coverage by the media, the decision by many enviros to downplay talk of global warming, and, in the U.S., the relatively  coolish temperatures of the past two years....

"The Big Short" Is A Bit Short In Missing The Reasons for The Financial Crisis

by Danny Schechter from Global Research. A Review of Michael Lewis’s popular book.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Capitalism cut adrift (II)

by William Bowles from Strategic Culture Foundation. Part one is here and was previously carried on this site
...we now live in at least the third version of capitalism to blight this England. The first occurred around 1750 with the arrival of factory system, the second with the Enclosures Act in 1832 that saw the forcible removal of millions of workers from country to city and the third, the enforced deindustrialization that began in the Thatcher years. The fundamental effect of these transformations was to break the links with the past. What remains is a hollowed out ‘heritage’ version of our history, aka Walt Disney’s theme parks. 

The Festival of Life in the Cracks

from These Old New Traditions. 
...the economy of community is based on abundance. There is pie for everyone, and more pie can always be had because we had the forethought to plant orchards. The more we share, the more we each have and are willing to give.

Why Go Organic – Ten Top Reasons

from Food Freedom. 
The soil of our earth is the foundation of the whole human and environmental food chain and thus our survival. The typical organic farm is teaming with life – from butterflies, to frogs, to bees, to you name it. Conventional farms have polluted and depleted and thus “dead” soils. They have been rendered sterile, using herbicides and pesticides to kill other life forms. Also through the vast degradation of our soil, we are losing cropland topsoil seven times faster than it is being replaced naturally.

Manipulative use of the term "Terrorism"

by Glenn Greenwald from Salon. This is an introduction to a radio interview with a Phd candidate regarding his dissertation that researched the use of the word "terrorism" in modern times. One can listen to the interview or read the transcript of the interview by clicking on the appropriate links.
It has no fixed meaning, and thus applies to virtually anything the user wishes to demonize, while excluding the user's own behavior and other acts one seeks to justify.  All of this would be an interesting though largely academic, semantic matter if not for the central political significance with which this term is vested:  both formally (in our law) and informally (in our political debates and rhetoric).

Time out

Letter to the Editor: Stovepiping To Persia

by Chris Floyd from his blog, Empire Burlesque. 
Dear New York Times,
OK, OK, we get the picture: you want the United States to attack Iran. Why don't you go ahead and put a permanent banner across the top of the front page with the Cato-like adjuration: "Iran Must Be Destroyed!" Or maybe you could just tack it on to every single story: "Yankees Trade to Bolster Outfield; Iran Must Be Destroyed." "Mixed Results for Apple I-Pad; Iran Must Be Destroyed." "Markets Anxious Over Health Care Vote; Iran Must Be Destroyed." "New Bistro Revels in Bohemian Ambience; Iran Must Be Destroyed."

Coalition of the Shilling

by Nathan Hodge from The Nation. 
It's part of a new influence game in Washington. Think tanks, once a place for intellectuals outside government to weigh in on important policy issues, are now enlisted by people within government to help sell its policies to the public, as well as to others in government. Institutions like CNAS are also heavily funded by major weapons manufacturers and Pentagon contractors, creating potential conflicts of interest rarely disclosed in the media. 

Repo 105 (5:57m video)

from Marketplace. A simplified explanation of one of the accounting tricks used (repos) by Lehman Brothers to hide the dismal state of their enterprise in order to keep the Wall Street scams going as long as possible. And if you wish to know more about Lehman Bros. and repos, read this recent report.

An Angry Woman

 posted on Counter Currents. Interview with the young Afghan deputy, Malalai Joya, thrown out of Parliament for having exposed foreign interference in her country.

The aim of the war was never to create democracy and justice nor to uproot the terrorist groups. The war's only purpose has been to perpetuate the occupation, install military bases and safeguard the takeover of a region that has substantial natural resources. Obama is just like Bush, if not worse, because he is escalating the war and bringing it to Pakistan. The American government is maintaining a dangerous situation in order to stay as long as possible in Afghanistan so it can more easily watch over neighboring countries like Iran, Pakistan, Russia, Uzbekistan.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Will Facebook Remake the World?

by John Feffer from the Institute for Policy Studies.  An interesting look at the impacts of the latest communications technologies on society--it's a very mixed bag, particularly with regard to a "deliberative democracy".
Deliberative democracy involves substantive discussion of issues through community meetings, conflict resolution mechanisms, and in-depth polls. According to the Civic Practices Network, the aim is to “cultivate a responsible citizen voice capable of appreciating complexity, recognizing the legitimate interests of other groups (including traditional adversaries), generating a sense of common ownership and action, and appreciating the need for difficult trade-offs.”

Beyond Orwell: The Electronic Police State, 2010

by Tom Burghardt from Dissident Voice. The author appears to argue that the net effect of the new communications technologies are, and will continue, to have very negative effects.

7 Questions About Public Banking

from Washington's blog. I haven't yet had time to read/view it all, but IMO, this fairly lengthy article that includes videos is important in understanding the concept of money. I also recommend Ellen Brown's very readable book, "Web of Debt".

Broken Incentives: “People See What They're Incentivized to See. If You Pay Someone Not to See the Truth, They Won’t See the Truth.”

from Washington's Blog. The only problem with this article is that it narrowly focuses its thesis on the Wall Street/financial institutions. The thesis re incentives needs to be applied to the whole ruling class of owners of the economy who control not only the rewards of labor, but also what is produced which is leading to the destruction of the planet.

Time out

Curse of the Black Gold: 50 Years of Oil in the Niger Delta

from the Guardian. 20 pictures from a recently published book:
Curse of the Black Gold: 50 Years of Oil in the Niger Delta, by the photojournalist Ed Kashi, documents the consequences of 50 years of oil extraction in the Niger delta. Oil companies operated here for decades with very little environmental supervision and the delta, notoriously beset by conflict and poverty, has been steadily pushed towards ecological disaster. Villagers struggle to live off land and water poisoned by years of oil spills, and crops fail under the acid rain caused by gas flares.

In Hard Times, Lured Into Trade School and Debt

from the NY Times. 
Critics say many schools exaggerate the value of their degree programs, selling young people on dreams of middle-class wages while setting them up for default on untenable debts, low-wage work and a struggle to avoid poverty. And the schools are harvesting growing federal student aid dollars, including Pell grants awarded to low-income students. 

Chile's Social Earthquake

by Roger Burbach from Global Alternatives. 
Chile is experiencing a social earthquake in the aftermath of the 8.8 magnitude quake that struck the country on February 27. “The fault lines of the Chilean Economic Miracle have been exposed,” says Elias Padilla, an anthropology professor at the Academic University of Christian Humanism in Santiago. “The free market, neo-liberal economic model that Chile has followed since the Pinochet dictatorship has feet of mud.”

Sunday, March 14, 2010

After Victory Over Disney, Group Loses Its Lease

from the NY Times. 
As a professor at Harvard Medical School who has written books with Bill Cosby, Dr. Poussaint fields frequent calls from the news media. He said he was upset to be told not talk to reporters — and to be told that a group fighting the commercialization of children’s lives should not advocate against corporations. 
See also this report from  the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.

The Obama Spending Freeze — Opening Salvo for Deeper Attacks on Social Programs

from Socialist Alternative. 
 In the last 10 years the U.S. ruling class busted the budget engaging in wars of aggression in the Middle East and South Asia. They busted the budget giving tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans. The Bush Administration was given war authorization with overwhelming support from both Democrats and Republicans while the Bush tax cuts passed with enough Democrats voting for them to avoid a filibuster. Directly or indirectly, the two parties of Wall Street and big business ensured that the taxes paid by working people went to finance the gluttony of rich bankers, military contractors and big business in general.

So now, having sent the public debt even higher into the stratosphere by bailing out Wall Street after the crash of ’08, they want to make it possible to meet these new obligations by gutting spending on programs for poor and working people. A big part of these cuts will be the continuation of massive layoffs of public sector workers. 

Texas Conservatives Win Curriculum Change

from the NY Times. This is only a more flagrant example of how the US ruling class is increasingly transforming education into pure indoctrination.
After three days of turbulent meetings, the Texas Board of Education on Friday approved a social studies curriculum that will put a conservative stamp on history and economics textbooks, stressing the superiority of American capitalism, questioning the Founding Fathers’ commitment to a purely secular government and presenting Republican political philosophies in a more positive light. 

Watching Cartoons

 from TPM Cafe. 
...surely we shall pay for using this most powerful instrument of communication to insulate the citizenry from the hard and demanding realities which must be faced if we are to survive. I mean the word survive literally. If there were to be a competition in indifference, or perhaps in insulation from reality, then Nero and his fiddle, Chamberlain and his umbrella, could not find a place on an early afternoon sustaining show....

Timeout (liberals came in a close second for Oscars)

The US-Israeli Crackup

by M J Rosenberg from TPM Cafe. 
The other thing is my fear that Obama will back down as the Democratic party's top donors start screaming. AIPAC is coming to Washington in a week or so for the annual grovelfest (see the grovelfest video). It is hard to imagine Democrats standing up to the lobby and its subsidiary among House Democrats (see Hoyer, Steny -- and the NY, FL and LA delegations).

"We are not Anti-American, We are Anti-Imperialism"

by Cindy Sheehan from Venezuela Analysis. Asked why she made the trip, she responded:
First of all, I just got tired of all the misinformation that is spread in the US about President Chavez and the people’s Bolivarian Revolution. In only one example, the National Endowment for Democracy (another Orwellian named agency that receives federal money to supplant democracy) spends millions of dollars every year in Venezuela trying to destabilize Chavez’s democratically elected government.

James Hansen and climate solutions

 from Green Left Online.
Years of advising the US government to change course has also led Hansen to draw new conclusions about politics. He said the mainstream politicians have not acted on climate change because they are too compromised by the powerful fossil fuel lobby. 

For some, the search for what happened on 9/11 isn't over

by Jesse Ventura from RT (Russia Today). This former Governor of Minnesota, professional wrestler, author, and Navy Seal diver with deep roots in the American working class has been asking questions about the official 9/11 story for some time. He is finally being covered a little in mainstream news, but faces a lot of opposition, smears (see this), and censorship .