The global financial crisis has created a unique opportunity to radically redefine the role of government, the public sector and welfare state. But the political neoliberal consensus has electively limited the debate to the budget deficit and public spending cuts whilst curtailing debate on increasing government revenue. There is little vision or ability to think about the future within the main political parties.
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 Lappé, excerpt from Time for Progressives to Grow Up
Saturday, March 27, 2010
The series kicks off with Oliver bounding into town like an impudent puppy, tussling with the school cafeteria cooks and shaking his shaggy head in disbelief at the agribiz atrocities they blithely dish up: breakfast pizza; sugary pink milk; dehydrated, chemically “enhanced” mashed potatoes whose reconstitution Oliver likens to the mixing of cement. The “lunch ladies,” as he calls them, stare at him in disbelief when he suggests that they ought to try making meals from scratch using unadulterated, wholesome foods.
Western European publics might be better prepared to tolerate a spring and summer ofSo, how does the CIA's "comunication program" function? See this and this for starters.
greater military and civilian casualties if they perceive clear connections between outcomes in Afghanistan and their own priorities. A consistent and iterative strategic communication program across NATO troop contributors that taps into the key concerns of specific Western European audiences could provide a buffer if today’s apathy becomes tomorrow’s opposition to ISAF, giving politicians greater scope to support deployments to Afghanistan.
Friday, March 26, 2010
GDP only measures a small part of economic success. Some really important aspects are ignored. Take sustainability, for example. It's absurd that a country can have high growth rates because it has a lot of polluting industry. The quality of the air, health, progress made by women, child care and social cohesion -- these are all important economic factors. GDP does not show how innovative an economy is. Nor does it show if the products being produced will be successful in the long run or will be out of fashion tomorrow. But, up to now, there has not been a substitute for GDP.
Two of the largest companies involved in natural gas drilling have acknowledged pumping hundreds of thousands of gallons of diesel-based fluids into the ground in the process of hydraulic fracturing , raising further concerns that existing state and federal regulations don't adequately protect drinking water from drilling.
At times of catastrophe, government institutions, public services, and private enterprise often fail. It seems as if there's a general collapse, to a great extent because the spread of the market economy has eaten away at the fabric of social ties. Relationships of trust and proximity—the relationships in small neighborhood shops where workers took food and paid for it at the end of the month—fell apart when big supermarket chains moved in. Communal spaces, plazas, taverns, and neighborhood festivals have been lost to urban speculation and the privatization of everyday life.
There is considerable attention paid in the United States to the collapse of journalism — both in terms of the demise of the business model for corporate commercial news media, and the evermore superficial, shallow, and senseless content that is inadequate for citizens concerned with self-governance. This collapse is part of larger crises in the political and economic spheres, crises rooted in the incompatibility of democracy and capitalism.
...it’s shady business as usual with more businesses going out of business. And alongside this failure is a growing meltdown for what used to be the middle class and working class.
Quite reasonably, the public is becoming angrier because jobs are not coming back. And quiet as it is kept, they may not be coming back.
There is no stopping it this time.
Last month Senator Jim Bunning created a stir with his stand against extending unemployment benefits to the long-term unemployed through borrowing. After a lot of political grandstanding, it ended after a couple days when both sides agreed to a temporary 30-day extension.
The 30-days are almost over and nothing has been accomplished. D-Day is approaching for the unlucky millions of long-term unemployed.
Clearly, what has passed as financial market regulation for the rating agencies has been tempered by the need for the very same governments in the bond markets to continue their borrowings.
In other words, there is a conflict of interest in the US and highly indebted European governments being in charge of reforming the credit rating agencies in the first place, given their own borrowing needs, which would be adversely affected by potential rating downgrades should the demands for "truth" in credit ratings become too onerous or even inflexible.
Thursday, March 25, 2010
When it comes to the United States' military affairs, ignorance is not bliss. What's remarkable then, given the permanent state of war in which we find ourselves, is how many Americans seem content not to know.But his metaphor of the Catholic Church is not quite right. The reality is more like this: a hidden capitalist class behind the stage performs a play called, "Constitutional Representative Democracy". They direct the play for the audience of the American people and the world. It is very much like a Hollywood production in that it is filled with political spectacles, intrigue, sex scandals, tension, romance, feel-good stuff, and heroes. If anyone (of significance) in the audience doesn't like, or questions the play, the forces commanded by the Pentagon (also CIA, FBI, police, etc.) move in and remove them, often violently. The Pentagon is simply the goon squad for the capitalist class. And no one dares question the Pentagon.
This "crisis" between Tel Aviv and Washington is a non-event. On the other hand, no one knows exactly whatever hardball Obama and Netanyahu played behind closed doors for three-and-a-half hours in Washington. Did Netanyahu "spit into Obama's eye", according to Israeli Labor Party member Eitan Cabel? Or was this was just more kabuki designed to obscure a not-so-silent drive towards an attack on Iran - where once again fresh American blood will be spilled to placate a non-existent "existential threat" to Israel?
To advance an agenda based on effective just solutions, Bolivia is therefore hosting a Peoples' Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth on 19-22 April, and inviting everyone to participate. Unlike Copenhagen, there will be no secret discussions behind closed doors. Moreover the debate and proposals will be led by communities on the frontlines of climate change and by organisations and individuals dedicated to tackling the climate crisis.
The fifteen month running battle between Obama Democrats and tea party Republicans was never much more real than televised professional wrestling. Like the opposing wrestlers, both sides work for the same bosses, for Big Pharma, Big Insurance, and the biggest medical providers.
I am only posting this article because it is a very good representative example of the current thinking of mainstream environmentalists. It presents many accurate observations about the consequences and possible solutions to energy decline, but the core problem with dealing with this issue is obscured by assigning the basic problem to "the logic of abundance". This is like saying that a person's discomfort is caused by a headache when, in fact, the person has a headache because there is a tumor growing in his brain. Thus the prescribed treatment is aspirin instead of surgery.
To move from metaphor to reality, the problem with a so-called belief in the "logic of abundance" is due to the denial of capitalists that energy sources are declining. They are forced to deny reality because of their addiction to profits which depend upon an economic system that requires ever greater amounts of energy. The fact that intelligent people like Greer cannot identify this 800 pound gorilla in the room is puzzling to me. Is it because the security of their careers require it, they are just myopic, or what?
The concept of vivir bien (live well) defines the current climate change movement in Bolivia. The concept is usually contrasted with the capitalist entreaty to vivir mejor (live better). Proponents argue that living well means having all basic needs met while existing in harmony with the natural world; living better seeks to constantly amass materials goods at the expense of the environment.
...NATO spokesman James Apparthurai announced today that the alliance cannot allow a situation where people in one of the world's poorest nations are left without means of livelihood and receive no compensation.Such concern seems ironic in view of the fact that there has never been any concern expressed by The Empire about the coca farmers' welfare in South America.
Afghan drug production increased dramatically after the U.S.-led invasion that toppled the Taliban in 2001, and Russia has been one of the most affected countries, with heroin consumption rising steeply. An estimated 90% of heroin consumed in Russia is trafficked from Afghanistan via Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.It is my recollection that heroin production was banned under the Taliban before the US/NATO invasion.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
A survey released yesterday shows just 34 percent of the public is worried a "great deal" about the environment, down from 40 percent the year before. Meanwhile, a poll published today reveals Americans are less troubled about pollution, global warming, deforestation, and animal and plant extinction than at any point in the past 20 years.
It is worthwhile in that it provides perspective and urgency about opposing the further development of this neo-liberal totalitarianism, but no tools to stop it. I think that most of us on the left have already a fair understanding of the dire situation. What we need are ideas to show us the way out. Such ideas have been presented by the exponents of Inclusive Democracy and The Simpler Way, but these need much further development.
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
We need independent media. Is that not yet crystal clear? The strongest grassroots community organization in the country, ACORN, has been swatted away like a fly through the endless airing of fraudulent, badly edited, and irrelevant, but salacious video clips. Elected officials or electoral candidates succeed or fail at the whim of the media cartel. And the biggest lies of all are buried so deeply beneath the hot news stories that they're almost impossible to see. Does or does not Iran possess nuclear weapons? That question hides the insidious assumption that if a nation possesses nuclear weapons, then our nation can and should launch an illegal war of aggression against it. Or at least our nation should have a debate over how best to take action against our "enemy," a debate that will represent us all because it will include two political parties.
This is the biggest lie of them all: the system works. Vote for this corporatist war party or that warmongering corporate party, and you will have played your role well. The system works.
This article provides more detail on Emanuel Rahm, Obama's influential Chief of Staff. As I see it, Obama was carefully vetted by the ruling class to head up their government. Rahm looks like his chief handler. This is the way "democracy" works in the US (and many other places).
King could have cautioned Obama, who got elected largely because he opposed the war in Iraq, that there might be problems giving so much power to Emanuel who supported the invasion and occupation. Observers were so enamored with the idea of Obama putting together a “team of rivals” that they failed to note that Emanuel’s views on the conflict in the Middle East are quite contrary to Obama’s Cairo speech about reaching out to the Islamic world.Obama did not give any power to Rahm. The latter is there to manage Obama. As progressives, we must stop looking at politics and power through the lens of conventional capitalist democratic concepts. Stop thinking about Washington politics in terms of the two capitalist parties. There are differences, but only negligible ones largely over tactics. Note that Obama's health plan, an anemic one at best, was completely stalled until he went to the primary governing board of the capitalist class--the Business Roundtable and pleaded with them. See this, this, and the other articles from the series by David DeGraw.
Overlooked was the fact that the President, so broadly supported by people working to end the war in Iraq, was placing at his right hand someone who had worked quite hard to undercut peace sentiment inside the Democratic Party.
That faint, “We told you so” ringing in your ears might be coming from the folks at the Cornucopia Institute, the Wisconsin-based watchdog group that has being complaining for years that the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) enforcement of federal organic laws was, to put it kindly, pathetic, clearly favoring industrial operations who bent (or broke) every rule they could to out-compete small, conscientious farmers who hewed to the letter and spirit of organic policy.
It is also often suggested that a growth in part-time jobs may indicate future growth in full-time work -- that companies hire part-time workers before committing to hiring new full-time employees. While this is sometimes the case, it may not be so at this point in the U.S. economy: Gallup data show that one in three part-time employees who are wanting full-time work are currently "hopeful" about finding a full-time job in the next 30 days -- not much of an endorsement of the idea that today's new part-time work will progress to full-time jobs.
...after analysing a five-day working week in the media, across 10 hard-copy papers, ACIJ and Crikey found that nearly 55% of stories analysed were driven by some form of public relations.
Armey was employed as a lobbyist by leading international “consulting firm” DLA Piper. In that capacity, from 2005 to 2009, Armey promoted the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran, otherwise known as Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK), which the State Department has branded a terrorist group. Armey lobbied his former colleagues on behalf of legislation that would have provided taxpayer support to the MEK.
Monday, March 22, 2010
This apolitical space means groups such as the Camp for Climate Action have failed to find the antagonism they need in order to develop a fully anti-capitalist perspective, and as the UK Anarchist Federation state, “there is a very real danger of the Climate Camp being turned from a genuine movement for social change into a lobbying tool for state reform.” As capital restructures itself around so-called “green” policies, the emerging climate movement risks unwittingly bolstering this restructuring, ushering in a form of “green capitalism.”
The main features of the bill include hundreds of billions of dollars in cuts to Medicare, and the requirement that individuals and families obtain insurance or pay a fine, thus providing a new influx of cash-paying customers for private insurance companies. Businesses are under no obligation to provide their workers with insurance, paying only minimal fines if they do not.Also, on the same subject an article by Chris Hedges: The Health Care Hindenburg Has Landed
Another source provides a summary sheet of changes, from FDL Action: Fact Sheet: The Truth About the Health Care Bill
News of the secret deals fuelled fresh accusations that Mr Blair is 'cashing in on his contacts' from the controversial Iraq war in what one MP called 'revolving door politics at its worst'.
They will increase concerns that Mr Blair is using his role as the West's Middle East envoy for personal gain.
The revelations also shed fresh light on his astonishing earnings, which include lucrative after-dinner speaking, consultancies with banks and foreign governments, a generous advance for his forthcoming memoirs, as well as the pension and other perks he enjoys as a former Prime Minister.
The political history of the Papandreou family is a Greek tragic-farce; the tragedy of a people who fought the good fight again the Nazis and their collaborators only to be savaged by the rising new Anglo-American rulers.
Tipping Point: Near-Term Systemic Implications of a Peak in Global Oil Production - Part 1 - Summary
We have passed or are close to passing the peak of global oil production. Our civilisation is structurally unstable to an energy withdrawal. There is a high probability that our integrated and globalised civilisation is on the cusp of a fast and near-term collapse.
US attempts at the military encirclement of Russia included not only the Rose and Orange Revolutions in 2003 and 2004, but also the highly provocative Pentagon missile ‘defense’ policy of placing US-controlled (not NATO-controlled) missiles in key former Warsaw Pact countries on Russia’s direct perimeter. As a result, Moscow has developed a remarkable and complex energy pipeline strategy to undercut a clearly hostile US military strategy that has used NATO encirclement, missile deployments, and ‘color revolutions,’ including the attempted destabilization of Iran during summer 2009 with a ‘Green Revolution’ or what Hillary Clinton flippantly dubbed the ‘Twitter Revolution.’ All of these US moves have attempted to isolate Russia and weaken her potential strategic allies across Eurasia.
In Washington DC, if I try to broadcast on an FM radio frequency without a legal broadcast licence, I will be shut down. When this happens in Venezuela, it is reported as censorship. No one here will bother to look at the legalities or the details, least of all the pundits and editorial writers, or even many of the reporters.
"It is not Greece that is suffering but the Greek working people, the people who are always at the bottom of the pile," he told IPS. "If you want to have a reduction of the deficit, the first thing to do should not be to hit the most vulnerable parts of society, the low-paid civil servants and the working class. You should hit big capital, the people who profited out of the extreme neo- liberal organisation of the markets."
Decades of inexpensive imports - especially rice from the U.S. - punctuated with abundant aid in various crises have destroyed local agriculture and left impoverished countries such as Haiti unable to feed themselves.
Sunday, March 21, 2010
- Our only hope for a drastic course correction is to support grass-roots movements to elect leaders who clearly understand energy and the growing tension between an economic system based on continued growth (especially population) and declining energy.
- For me the answer is...find a new no-growth economic paradigm.