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

Friday, April 16, 2010

NOTICE: Because I will be leaving shortly on a five day trip, I will not be able to post any articles (except the one following this note) until next Wednesday or Thursday. If you would like me to notify you when I'm back, email me to let me know. Meanwhile there are a number of great posts from the past that you can access from my site. 

I welcome people who share my view that the capitalist system is on a collision course with a planet capable of sustaining human (and other life) to post articles with me that will help us to head off this catastrophe. If interested, email me.

Today I'll leave you with one article from Joe Bageant that I just received. 

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Global Food Security Act, S.384, to give $billions to Monsanto, other GMO producers

from Food Freedom. 
Ben Burkett, National Family Farm Coalition president and Mississippi family farmer, added, “Corporate control over inputs and the free trade agenda have destroyed the livelihoods of so many farmers at home and abroad. That’s why farmers worldwide are calling for food sovereignty—the right to choose fair and sustainable farming practices that protect our local food and livelihood security. This is what works best for our farms and communities.” 

University Struggles at the End of the Edu-Deal

from Mute. 
...for the majority of students, acquiring a certificate is no guarantee for the future which promises simply more precarity and constant self-recycling. Many students realise that capitalism has nothing to offer this generation, that no ‘new deal' is possible...

Obama's Nuclear Surprise

from Strategic Culture Foundation (Russia). I find that it is often useful to peruse foreign publications to find out information on your own country that is missing from your domestic media. This article provides a good context for understanding the strategy behind the US administrations', current and former, efforts to reduce nuclear weapons. (The article seems to contain one mistranslation re "450 system".)

Congressional Pressure Can Help End the War, Saving Many Lives

from Just Foreign Policy. Don't know if you believe in letters to your US Congress people, but I occasionally write them. To the right of this article is a convenient way to send an email to your representatives protesting another bill to authorize $33 billion more for the war in Afghanistan. Funny isn't it that in contrast to the recent health care bill, this one will likely fly through Congress, and the media won't even bother to report it.

Frontline Fronts for Corporations Instead of Public

by Dr. Margaret Flowers from After Downing Street. Both PBS and NPR function as major "gatekeepers" of opinion in the US in the never ending efforts by the ruling class to "manufacture consent".
...just as it was in the health “debate,” single payer, improved Medicare for All, was also excluded from the film. The major point of the influence of health industry dollars on the reform process which should have been mentioned is that these dollars were spent in order to restrict the debate and protect industry profits. The lucrative status quo would have been threatened if single payer had been openly discussed because a publicly-financed national health program can provide high quality universal health care and control health care costs, something that a private insurance based system cannot accomplish. 

Time out (click on cartoon to enlarge)

The hedge fund parasites

from Socialist Worker. 
While the mainstream media has been agog over the massive payouts to hedge fund managers, few journalists have asked a simple question: What benefit do hedge funds provide for all these riches? And how can it be that a handful of investors are reaping billions at a time when the unemployment rate is still pushing 10 percent, few jobs are being created, and average wages are stagnant or falling?

Special Report: Are regulators dropping the ball on biocrops?

from Reuters news service. Finally, a major news service that is reporting on widespread concerns from independent sources regarding the safety of genetically modified food. However, I doubt very much that many news outlets will pick this up in their coverage. 

It appears to me, and many others, that reliance of the anemic oversight of the official regulatory agencies (FDA and USDA) is comparable to the oversight, or lack thereof, provided by similar agencies over the banking and finance corporations that has led to the economic collapse.
A common complaint is that the U.S. government conducts no independent testing of these biotech crops before they are approved, and does little to track their consequences after.

The developers of these crop technologies, including Monsanto and its chief rival DuPont, tightly curtail independent scientists from conducting their own studies. Because the companies patent their genetic alterations, outsiders are barred from testing the biotech seeds without company approvals.
Then the article cites some independent research that has revealed evidence to suggest serious problems caused by the consumption of GMO products.

Why Are Corporate Groups Funding the Tea Party?

by Shamus Cooke from Global Research.
...only three unifying concepts [of the National Tea Party Federation] were announced: fiscal responsibility, constitutionally limited government, and free markets — all vague terms overused by any corporate Republican.

...Because the three unifying ideas are so vague, special interests will fill in the blanks when needed.  For example, does a “constitutionally limited government” allow the economy to be dominated by giant corporations?  Does “fiscal responsibility” mean that the U.S. should spend hundreds of billions of dollars annually on foreign wars?  Does “free markets” mean that Wall Street should be allowed to do whatever it wants, whenever it wants? The answers to these questions, according to the National Tea Party Federation, will all be YES!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Confidential document reveals Obama's hardline US climate talk strategy

from the Guardian. 
A document accidentally left on a European hotel computer and passed to the Guardian reveals the US government's increasingly controversial strategy in the global UN climate talks.

World Bank's $3.75bn coal plant loan defies environment criticism

from the Guardian. 
The [Obama] administration had come under strong pressure from Democratic leaders in Congress as well as environmental organisations to try to block the loan.

'The Fourteenth Banker,' Anonymous Bank Insider, Describes His Moral Crisis: 'The System Is Built To Be Gamed'

from Huffington Post. There are exceptions to the rule that most high level banking and financial people are sociopathic, but such people have to keep their mouths shut or remain anonymous. The latter may be the case with this banker who tells all from his vantage point.  On the other hand, the article suggests that he is a lower level banker.

In Defense of Public School Teachers in a Time of Crisis

by Henry A. Giroux from Truthout. 3800 words and at this point I've read only a small part of it, but I have a lot of respect for this author.
...teachers are being deskilled, unceremoniously removed from the process of school governance, largely reduced to technicians or subordinated to the authority of security guards. Underlying these transformations are a number of forces eager to privatize schools, substitute vocational training for education and reduce teaching and learning to reductive modes of testing and evaluation.

Can the US dollar collapse? (8:43m video and script)

by Jane D'Arista from Real News Network. This is a first segment of an interview with this economist who appears to have some excellent insights re the US currency and debts.

"Never Even a Whisper" at Fed's Open Market Committee Meetings [FOMC]

from Washington's Blog. The title refers to a statement by William White, a chief economist at BIS who "As far back as 2003, ... implored central bankers to rethink their strategies, noting that instability in the financial markets had triggered inflation, the "villain" in the global economy...." The 18:43m video in the article features a talk by White where he tries to figure out why the warnings were ignored.

As the author writes:
These comments show that the central bankers knew exactly what was going on, a full two-and-a-half years before the big bang. All the ingredients of the looming disaster had been neatly laid out on the table in front of them: defective rating agencies, loans repackaged to the point of being unrecognizable, dubious practices of American mortgage lenders, the risks of low-interest policies. But no action was taken. Meanwhile, the Fed continued to raise interest rates in nothing more than tiny increments....
IMO (and I just heard White on the video say essentially the same thing!), they ignored the warnings because capitalists are sociopaths who are motivated by private short term gain and there were huge gains to be had. The system inevitably filters out normal people who have a social conscience and care about future generations and a healthy earth.

Timeout (click on cartoon to enlarge)

Keynes versus Hayek

by Henry C K Liu from Asia Times Online. (A re-post of an article of his from 1999) The two page article is a good summary of the two schools of capitalist economic theory and the application of each to keep the inherently unstable capitalist system running over the past 75 years. Liu, a highly educated economist, is a Keynesian, but his understanding of socialism is flawed by the historical stillborn birth of socialism in the Soviet Union. Hence "socialism" for many bourgeois educated people has come to mean an economy and society governed by a state bureaucracy instead of the soviet [local worker] councils which was the original intention. Unfortunately, it was the former which actually developed shortly after the revolution in the Soviet Union. Why this happened has been subject to endless debate and obfuscated and distorted by capitalist propaganda.

Nuclear Obama

by Pepe Escobar from Asia Times Online. So, what's behind the current political theater production that might be called, "Nuclear Obama", otherwise known as the 47-nation nuclear security summit. This astute political theater critic tells you his observations, and how much of it has to do with reality.
The not-so-hidden agenda of "nuclear Obama" was basically to gather global support for a tougher round of sanctions on Iran. Obama wants new sanctions in place by June.

Rahm Emanuel and Magnetar Capital: The Definition of Compromised

from Naked Capitalism. Yves Smith casts her penetrating eyes on the sub-prime mortgage debacle to reveal more hidden-from-the-public facts regarding this scandal such as the fact that Emanuel Rahm was a key player. So one can be sure that no new onerous regulations (to the financial industry) will be passed during the current administration, or likely any other under the capitalist system. 
As the Magnetar-Rahm connection highlights, Obama raised more money from financial services players than any previous presidential candidate, so it can hardly be a surprise that he and his minions are happy to give the industry a free pass. Key policy figures maintain that no one was at fault, that there was a pervasive lack of regulation, and there are therefore no bad actors. That party line also means that destructive behavior is and will remain unquestioned, unexamined, uncorrected, and unpunished.

US reaps bitter harvest from 'Tulip' revolution

by M K Bhadrakumar from Asia Times Online. This author follows the new Great Game avidly and authoritatively.
A color revolution against a regime backed by the United States was not considered possible until this week. Indeed, how could such a thing happen, when it was the US that invented color revolutions to effect regime change in countries outside its sphere of influence? 

Save the Internet, But Start a Social Movement (4:12m audio & script)

from Black Agenda Report. 
A federal court has put the FCC’s version of “internet neutrality” in question, encouraging corporate forces that would turn the Net into a toll road. But real activists don’t rely on courts and legislatures to achieve social and institutional progress. “Until we return to genuine grassroots and radically political social movement no technology can be used for liberation."

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Game That Goes On and On: a Swiss Bank, a President, and the Permanent Government

by Russ Baker from Who What Why. The President plays with his golfing buddies and one of which is a member of the ruling class who heads up an institution that benefited greatly from tax payer bailouts. Read what this investigative journalist extraordinaire reveals about the real government. Baker uses the term "the permanent government" instead of the ruling or governing class--the latter terms can seldom be used in polite company among people indoctrinated in the religion of capitalism. This kind of information is critically important for ordinary people if they are to be truly free of exploitation and become self-governing.

How Financial Reporters Create Illusion to Cover Up Wall Street's Scams

from Alter Net. The headline says it all, but read the details of how mainstream media, particularly the financial media, keep us believing in the system and consuming.
For some reason, that desire for great expectations unmoored from reality perseveres, and remains enchanted by a political and economic paradise that is not only incorrect, but impossible. Instead of continuing to rely on those who can't seem to separate their perception from reality, we should be ignoring them outright. If anything, we shouldn't keep paying them for being wrong when it literally counts, which starts with the headlines and ends with our wallets.

The Magnetar Trade: How One Hedge Fund Helped Keep the Bubble Going

from Pro Publica.
According to bankers and others involved, the Magnetar Trade worked this way: The hedge fund bought the riskiest portion of a kind of securities known as collateralized debt obligations -- CDOs. If housing prices kept rising, this would provide a solid return for many years. But that's not what hedge funds are after. They want outsized gains, the sooner the better, and Magnetar set itself up for a huge win: It placed bets that portions of its own deals would fail. 

Washington nuclear conference promotes US campaign against Iran, North Korea

from World Socialist Web Site. The author looks behind the rhetoric of the Obama administration to examine the real strategy for this conference.
The aim, however, is the same: to create the conditions for stepped-up sanctions against Iran, to threaten North Korea with retaliation over its alleged trafficking in missiles and nuclear technology, and to sustain US military hegemony, both in conventional and nuclear weapons, against potential challenges from more formidable powers, including China and Russia.

AFRICOM Backs Bloodshed in Central Africa

by Keith Harmon Snow from Dissident Voice. I regard Snow as the best independent journalist covering African affairs for readers in the Western countries.
The Western media perpetually broadcasts the suffering in Congo, but the propaganda is simplistic disinformation, and the Western “news”-consuming public eats it up and dismisses the Congo, abandoning the people whose lives are determined in part by the raw materials stolen from them in a state of war and organized crime. These include diamonds, gold, columbium-tantalite, cobalt, copper, petroleum, germanium, tin, tungsten, palm oil, coffee and chocolate (sold in Whole Foods groceries stores).
Then he goes on to make this startling allegation:
But the value of Congo’s greatest natural “resource” exceeds the value of all the above resources combined: the biggest western moneymaker in Congo is humanitarian aid, charity and international relief—Save the Children, CARE, UNICEF, UNHCR—a.k.a., and the misery industry. 

Radical Concentration of Wealth is Destroying Both Capitalism and Democracy

from Washington's Blog. 
The fed and Treasury are not giving more chips to those who need them: the American consumer. Instead, they are giving chips to the 800-pound gorillas at the poker table, such as Wall Street investment banks.
So...isn't the capitalist system supposed to be about maximizing private gains? Of course, its proponents argue that by maximizing private gains, everyone benefits. But that is just propaganda. Who can argue against the proposition that money is power, otherwise known as the "golden rule"--those with the gold rule? In other words, they (the gold holders) make the rules that protects and enhances their interests--not society's.

The Fed “Owns Credit-Default Swaps ... On Debt Owed by California and Nevada. So the Fed Would Profit If One of Those States Defaulted on its Debt.”

from Washington's Blog. The moral of this brief report is:
American people's interests - are not necessarily aligned with the Fed's interests.

Time out (click on cartoon to enlarge)

Media Feeds Americans Fake News About Afghanistan

from Center for Media and Democracy.
Americans have been fed a diet of fictionalized accounts about the war in Afghanistan, thanks to our military which cannot be trusted to tell the public the truth about what they do. We can only wonder what might happen to support for the war if Americans got truthful accounts from its military about what happens in Afghanistan, instead of lies that have to be "outed" by the very few brave independent reporters who have the integrity to undertake that task, no matter the cost. 

US military warns oil output may dip causing massive shortages by 2015

from the Guardian. 
"By 2012, surplus oil production capacity could entirely disappear, and as early as 2015, the shortfall in output could reach nearly 10 million barrels per day," says the report, which has a foreword by a senior commander, General James N Mattis.

Washington considers a decline of world oil production as of 2011

from Le Monde. Quietly, in order not to upset American audiences, the Department of Energy is becoming more pessimistic about the forecast for the decline in world oil production. One has to read about this in foreign sources.

Myths and falsehoods from the assault on global warming science

from Media Matters. An excellent summary of myths and facts re the issue of climate change that you can use to confront skeptical relatives and friends about the topic.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Sorry that I am late posting today and with only a few articles. My neighbor had some electrical problems that I helped him with. Fortunately, we corrected the problem. I should be back on a regular schedule of postings tomorrow.

Court Rules Against NSA's Illegal Spying, Illegal NSA Spying Continues

from Anti-Fascist Calling. The article goes into to great detail re the privacy and civil rights of US citizens to illustrate how the transition from Bush Jr's administration to Obama's has been a seamless one. And why not? It is the same governing class. People simply must refuse to be distracted by the Democrat and Republican political shows that keep playing on the media. 

The District Court ruling seems like a victory, but I wouldn't be so sure that it will change anything. It may just be overturned by the Supreme Court, or what I think is more likely, it will simply be ignored. The laws and the enforcement system is for us little people--the governing class is exempt.

Looting Main Street

by Matt Taibbi from Rolling Stone. The author provides the details of the bankster's shakedown of Montgomery (Jefferson Co.), Alabama as an example of what has occurred across much of the US, and similar to what has happened all over the world. The banksters are equal opportunity victimizers.
Once you follow that trail and understand what took place in Jefferson County, there's really no room left for illusions. We live in a gangster state, and our days of laughing at other countries are over. It's our turn to get laughed at. In Birmingham, lots of people have gone to jail for the crime.... But those who greenlighted the bribes and profited most from the scam remain largely untouched. "It never gets back to JP Morgan," says Pack.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Collapse Competitively

by Dmitry Orlov from Club Orlov.
We are heading toward economic, political and social collapse, and every day that passes brings it closer. But we just don't know when to stop, do we? Which part of "the harder we try, the harder we fail" can't we understand? Why can't we understand that each additional dollar of debt will drive us into national bankruptcy faster, harder and deeper? Why can't we grasp the concept that each additional dollar of military spending further undermines our security? Is there some sort of cognitive impairment that prevents us from understanding that each additional dollar sunk into the medical industry will only make us sicker? Why can't we see that each incremental child we bear into this untenable situation will make life harder for all children? In short, what on earth is our problem? 
Once we dispense with the idea that competition is in any sense necessary, or even desirable, new avenues of thought open up.

Easter Island : A Case Study in the Response to Resource Depletion

from The Oil Drum. 
This transportation was an extraordinary feat [erecting huge statues] and could only be performed using vast numbers of wooden rollers, sledges and levers, not to mention the incredible number of man hours per statue. The capacity of the island to provide a relatively easy living (what we would call the EROEI) so as to free up so many workers for seemingly non-productive activity must have been considerable.
But over the centuries, this non-productive use of the forests, combined with increased need for timber due to population growth, would have gradually resulted in progressive deforestation, loss of habitat for a variety of edible plants, birds and animals, loss of protection from sun and wind, loss of fire wood and erosion of soil.
The parallels with today's world dominated by the capitalist system, which produces profits for a few while generating so many unnecessary toys and luxuries, is the obvious, and important point of this article.

We all want to change the world

from The Economist. I suspect that most of the members of the ruling capitalist classes know that there is a collision course coming between their beloved system and the earth's ecological systems. But being addicted to profits, like an alcoholic addicted to drink, they are always dreaming up some excuse for continuing their habit. I think that it is a grotesque form of hubris to believe that humans can manage the earth's ecosystems. This article is appropriately carried in The Economist--the premier magazine of the capitalist classes.