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, May 15, 2010

The future of money

by Mary Mellor from Red Pepper (Britain). This professor of social science and author of The Future of Money provides some excellent arguments for democratic control over money.
As long as the companies running the banks are driven by capitalist values they must be driven by the drive for profit, and therefore risk. This would not be so important if the activities of the privatised banking sector were not a liability on the public. But the financial system is interconnected and the only way to save some parts is to save the whole. The speculative sector can only be separated if the deposit-based sector is not part of the capitalist system and if its credit creation capacity is brought under democratic control.

Where The Food Revolution Begins

from Civil Eats. 
Until all of our students gather around the same table for organic food grown in their own communities, the parents and teachers talking about it are like the adults we can’t understand in a Charlie Brown movie.

States’ rights revival in CA?

from Watchdog. An interesting development in the US:
Political waters are boiling all across America, including California. One of the areas this is happening is the Tenth Amendment Movement, which takes seriously the last of the Bill of Rights, which reads: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

New target of rights erosions: U.S. citizens

by Glenn Greenwald from Salon. The author provides evidence to show that the Obama administration and right-wing Congressmen are continuing where Bush and Cheney left off--to increase the suppression of dissent by US citizens mostly under the guise of anti-terrorism laws.

How many local governments got sucker punched on fancy financial deals, and how much is it going to cost taxpayers to pay Wall Street? Nobody knows.

from Watch Dog. The author finds that many people in and out of public agencies are concerned about the financial "snake oil" deals that have been sold, and continue to be sold by financial institutions to local governments, municipal authorities, and agencies of state government . According to Pennsylvania Auditor General Jack Wagner, 
We continue to find examples of hard-earned taxpayer dollars going to Wall Street. Money that should be invested in students, classrooms, and fixing infrastructure in Pennsylvania is instead lining pockets on Wall Street.

Time out

Rustbelt Rage

by Noam Chomsky from In These Times. 
An acute sense of betrayal comes readily to people who believed they had fulfilled their duty to society in a moral compact with business and government.

Chris Jordan on Midway Atoll and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (13m audio and 6:24m video)

In the audio "photographer and activist Chris Jordan speaks with Eve Bowen about his recent photographs, taken at one of the world's most remote marine wildlife sanctuaries, of albatross chicks killed by plastic waste that their parents have mistaken for food."

Video showing his photographs  

The second debt storm: Who will bail out the countries that bailed out the world's corporations?

by Alistair Barr from Market Watch.
In early February, the cost of insuring against a sovereign default in Western Europe exceeded the price of similar protection against default by North American investment-grade companies. That was the first time this had happened....
It appears to me that we, the ordinary and working people of the planet, are approaching a scenario that reminds me of the old mining and timber companies in the US where everyone "owes their soul to the company store"--the latter being the world banking and financial elites. In this scenario, everyone works their entire lives to pay off the debts to the company store, but somehow always end up going deeper into debt.

US Warns Pakistan of “Severe Consequences”

by Peter Symonds from World Socialist Web Site. The author examines recent statements from US administration officials and US ruling class media and comes to the following, reasonable conclusions:
Whether directly through an increased US military presence or indirectly by compelling the Pakistani military to go on the offensive in North Waziristan and other areas, the Obama administration is drawing Pakistan into the broader American quagmire in the region. It is no accident that increased pressure on Islamabad comes as the US military is preparing to launch a major offensive to stamp its control over the southeastern Afghan city of Kandahar. The Times Square incident is simply a convenient pretext to demand parallel action on the Pakistani side of the border.

Under the banner of the “war on terrorism,” President Obama has escalated his so-called AfPak war, which, along with the occupation of Iraq, is aimed at securing American economic and strategic dominance in the key energy-rich regions of Central Asia and the Middle East.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Drastic social cutbacks unveiled throughout Europe

from World Socialist Web Site. The article looks at the social cutbacks being proposed in European countries as a preview of what is coming to the US under Obama's Commission on Fiscal Responsibility. See this and this.
On the other side of the Atlantic, the Obama administration’s chief budget official sounded a similar note, warning that Washington must take action to slash its deficit, which is expected to exceed $1.5 trillion this fiscal year, or “wind up facing the sorts of choices that Greece now faces.”

The Bailout of Big American Banks Has Cost Trillions More Than We've Been Told

from Washington's Blog. This outstanding blogger lists all the various ways that the recent government bank/financial reforms are benefiting the banksters, shareholders, etc. Well--surprise, surprise. The reforms were designed by people with close ties to the banking and financial institutions--were they not?

Antwerp’s Ring cycle

from Le Monde Diplomatique. The article looks at the effects of globalization on city habitat by focusing on Antwerp, Belgium.
Urban sprawl, roads choked at rush hour, motorways swamped by lorries, are everyday phenomena. Capitalism in its current form, built around the detached house and the car, around just-in-time distribution and the free movement of merchandise, has also globalised the city. The watchword of modernity, mobility (of things, capital, even people), has superseded all other considerations. Everything must move all the time. This generates gigantic infrastructure projects that turn the city upside down, transforming it into a thoroughfare. Have the architects of this frenzy forgotten that cities are also home to people who want a peaceful life?

Marketing Biotech

by Jim Goodman from Counterpunch. 
When the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) met in Chicago last week they were, no doubt, elated to hear that the U.S. State Department would be aggressively confronting critics of agricultural biotechnology.

Wouldn't you think the State Department might have more pressing issues than carrying water for Monsanto and the rest of the biotechnology industry?

Time out

GM crop use makes minor pests major problem

from Nature News. 
Growing cotton that has been genetically modified to poison its main pest can lead to a boom in the numbers of other insects, a ten-year study in northern China has found.

Gov't Still Approving Drilling Without Environmental Review

from Mother Jones.
In the weeks following the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, regulators at the federal Minerals Management Service granted approval for 27 new drilling plans in the region—and exempted 26 projects from environmental review. While the Obama administration has put the brakes on new drilling, a number of exploration plans already in the works appear to have been green-lighted.

Study finds that effects of low-quality child care last into adolescence

from The Washington Post. The article reports on what appears to be a well designed, long range study of child care and behaviors that include academic achievement. It is clear that people are spinning the results of this study in different ways. Some are emphasizing the small correlation with the number of hours kids spent in daycare and later problem behaviors, while others emphasize the finding of a similar correlation with the size of the daycare groups the child was put in. (Kids in smaller daycare settings did better.) The former emphasis argues for stay-at-home mothers which is popular among conservatives regardless of whether it is a realistic option for many mothers. Nevertheless, the study will probably be used to rationalize cutbacks to any federal funding for daycare.
...they discovered that teenagers who had received higher-quality child care were less likely to report engaging in problem behaviors such as arguing, being mean to others and getting into fights. Those who spent more hours in child care of any kind were more likely to engage in impulsive and risky behaviors. And those who received moderately high- or high-quality care scored higher on tests gauging cognitive and academic achievement.

...The researchers stressed that the benefits of higher-quality care were modest -- a difference of just a few points on standardized tests measuring reading, math, memory and other cognitive abilities, and self-reports of behavioral problems. Other factors, such as the influence of parents and family members, were clearly more important. However, the findings held true even after the researchers took those and other factors into account.  

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Barbara Ehrenreich on the perils of positive thinking (14:00m video)

An interview on Le Monde Diplomatique. She discusses positive thinking based on her recently published book, "Bright-sided". She sees it as tool of corporate culture that protects the ruling class from doubts about their power and privileges, and functions to keep working people believing and participating in the capitalist system.

In Job Market Shift, Some Workers Are Left Behind

from the NY Times.
For the last two years, the weak economy has provided an opportunity for employers to do what they would have done anyway: dismiss millions of people — like file clerks, ticket agents and autoworkers — who were displaced by technological advances and international trade. 
This report provides an excellent illustration of what lies ahead for working people as technology enables capitalists to increasingly dispense with workers in their relentless search for profits. 

It must be understood that this technology has been the result of the creative efforts of many generations of working people since the time when humans first began using tools. Before capitalism came on the scene and after the advent of class based societies, only the wealth produced by working people was largely claimed by their masters or rulers. However, shortly after the Enlightment human intelligence gave humans the ability to harness nature's gift of fossil fuels to replace the most onerous forms of human labor, and technology along with productivity developed at a rapid pace. 

Out of this new development a new ruling class called capitalists took control of societies and laid claim to all the technology that workers developed as they learned how to exploit this new form of energy by inventing machines. These claims constitute the private property laws that capitalists created. (Hence it is still true today that any new technique that workers discover or create is claimed by the owner of the property on which this happened.) Capitalism accelerated this process stoked by the fabulous wealth that could be accumulated by individual owners of productive property. 

As a result we have today a tiny population of owners of all this wondrous technology and productive capacity and the rest of us are becoming increasingly disposable. That, and capitalist outsourcing to cheap labor countries,  is mainly why working people throughout much of the advanced Western world are coming under increasing attacks not only in the form of unemployment, but attacks against social entitlement programs, pensions, and welfare safety nets.

However the impending decline of resources, especially fossil fuels and the climate distortions caused by this form of energy, will be having a major impact on all our futures. Capitalists are increasingly using war as a means to control access to resources. Employment in the military is increasingly being seen by young people as the last opportunity for income security. It is becoming obvious that "these are times that try men's souls"--like never before in human history.


Euro aid package inaugurates offensive against working class

from World Socialist Web Site. 
The working class will now pay for these huge sums of money in the form of welfare cuts, wage cuts and unemployment. With the new euro rescue package, the European governments have placed themselves completely at the mercy of international financial capital. If they do not drastically reduce their budget deficits, the next wave of speculation will inevitably follow. If the financial guarantees are then called upon, the holes in the state budgets will grow, demanding even greater austerity measures.

Taking Back Homes from the Banks

by Bill Quigley from Dissident Voice. 
May has seen an upsurge in local organizations exercising their human rights to housing.  Most people recognize that international human rights guarantee all humans a right to housing.  With the millions of homeless living in our communities and the millions of empty foreclosed houses all across our communities, groups have decided to put them together.

Time out

Terminally Dumb People

by William Blum from Dissident Voice. 

I really don't like the title of this article. I think it should be something like "US ruling class disinformation campaigns since WWII"--and as such it provides an excellent summary of these campaigns that all Americans need to study. The campaigns primary role was to roll back all the gains made in the 1930s by the labor movement and the liberal capitalist reforms advocated under the Roosevelt administration. It is astonishing to me that this old Cold War mentality is still functioning among US propagandists and political figures on the right.

Nowadays this campaign has been surpassed by propaganda associated with the "war on terror", and "anti-immigration" is also finding its uses.

Everywhere and nowhere

from Le Monde Diplomatique. 
A change of lifestyle cannot be imposed; it has to evolve from insight, wise restraint and changes in perspectives on social values. In some areas this is already visible: buying food from ever farther away is no longer quite so popular. Local products – especially food – are already showing that nearness has strengths, and can compete with distance. ...People can find more calm in nearness. Bike rides can reveal undiscovered qualities in closeness, in lieu of sitting in weekend traffic jams on the motorway.

Blood in the Streets! Bank Bailout Protesters Storm Ireland's Parliament (videos)

from The Daily Bail. Now its the Irish who are fighting back against the banking industry. There are several short videos here to show the action that is missing from corporate media reports. Well, they wouldn't want to give US citizens any "irresponsible" ideas, would they? They ignored Greek protests as long as they could.

"It Is OUTRAGEOUS That The Banks Are Coining This Much Money From A Subsidy That No One Even Remembers Any More!" (4:14m video)

from the Daily Bail. An interview in which the guest explains the overlooked ongoing taxpayer subsidy to the big banks.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Biotech attacks French Professor for linking organ damage to GMOs

from Food Freedom. This is what happens when scientists don't conform to the interests of multi-national food companies.
...Prof. Dr. Gilles-Eric Séralini of the University of Caen (France) and his co-workers who came under severe attacks by representatives of the agro-biotechnology industry and aligned scientists.

Genetically Modified Justice: Why Did Elena Kagan Go to Bat for Monsanto’s GMO Alfalfa?

from Politics of the Plate. 
It’s a good thing for Elena Kagan that there’s no non-GMO litmus test for Supreme Court nominees. She’d flunk.

Alice in Videoland

by William Bowles from Strategic Culture Foundation. (Scroll down to the article) 

Bowles looks at the illusory world of TV land and how it assaults our minds, and concludes that we must take back the media.

Listen Tonight! KBOO Special Report: The Insanity Of Our Oil Addiction - Connecting The Dots In The BP Oil Disaster - Tonight 6-7 PM Pacific Time

Air date: Wed, 05/12/2010 - 6:00pm - 7:00pm Pacific Time

Featuring radical Texas populist Jim Hightower, renowned author and activist Antonia Juhasz (‘The Tyranny of Oil’), discussing the real issues behind the BP oil spill currently gushing into the Gulf of Mexico.

Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, writer and public speaker who has spent three decades battling the Powers That Be on behalf of the Powers That Ought To Be - consumers, working families, environmentalists, small businesses, and just-plain-folks.

Help for Those Living the Feisty Life!

from Feisty Life. I don't do commercials on my blog, but this article has a lot of good, free advice that I'd like to pass on.
Pressure: We’ll be facing a whole lot more of it in the future, is my prediction. So instead of cowering and crying “Uncle!” before the action really gets going, I’d like to suggest that you consider what’s coming a sort of tempering of will, a survival challenge, a check on community resilience, and a test to measure your sanity. Don’t bow. Don’t apologize. Don’t back down and say “I’m not up for the challenge.” Be feisty.

Time out

The Role of Fraud in the Financial Crisis

from Economist's View. Jamie Galbraith's testimony before the Subcommittee on Crime on the role that fraud played in the financial crisis.
Ask yourselves: is it possible for mortgage originators, ratings agencies, underwriters, insurers and supervising agencies NOT to have known that the system of housing finance had become infested with fraud? Every statistical indicator of fraudulent practice – growth and profitability – suggests otherwise. Every examination of the record so far suggests otherwise. The very language in use: "liars' loans," "ninja loans," "neutron loans," and "toxic waste," tells you that people knew. I have also heard the expression, "IBG,YBG;" the meaning of that bit of code was: "I'll be gone, you'll be gone."
The basic problem with his conclusion, "Either the legal system must do its work. Or the market system cannot be restored." is patently false. The ruling class has always functioned in this fashion until the system breaks down. This is followed by a lot of hand-wringing, blame laying, Mea Culpas, etc, and then the process starts all over again. 

He perpetuates the myth that the US has a body of laws that are based on a democratic system. The reality is that the capitalist elites essentially make their own laws--obviously to serve their interests. What we have, that is, what they have designed for us, is an elaborate fake democracy behind which they hide their crimes. This will continue as long as the system continues.

So his Mea Culpa for the economist's profession rings false. The reality is that economists under this system serve the ruling capitalist class and their interests. Their careers depend on it.

BP Hearing - What The Traditional Media Did Not Report

from Square State. Read what is missing from corporate media sources regarding the US Senate hearings on the oil spill in the Gulf.

Deepwater Horizon spill update - May 12, 2010

from the Great Beyond. A daily update from scientists on the scene will be available on this Great Beyond website. See also this.

Lost on the Fearless Plain

by Joe Bageant from his blog. I really connect with this guy...I guess because he is of my generation, traveled the roads of my experience. He expresses, in a style that is uniquely his own, the wisdom of this experience with such wit, charm, and insight .
So long as nations have hierarchical leadership, they will have escalating hierarchical greed, power hunger and destructive folly -- and therefore, eventually approach hierarchical evil at some point. It may be an old saw, but power does corrupt.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Fault Lines - Arundhati Roy (22:34m video)

from The Real News Network (original source at Al Jazeera). This features an interview with Roy by Avi Lewis--both are a couple of my favorite people. In the interview she talks about the tribal wars against corporations that are trying to exploit their areas in India--something I wasn't even aware of. She also touches on the greater issues affecting the whole area from Afghanistan to India. Highly recommended.

For more information on this subject, see this.

Preventing Independent Action in the Congo

by Michael Barker from Dissident Voice. The author reveals the little known facts of corporate plundering of the DRC, US government manipulation of their government, and attempts to hide and disguise the facts in media coverage.

8 Reasons Why The Pain From The Gulf Of Mexico Oil Spill Is Going To Be Felt For Decades

from The Economic Collapse. The article lists all the different kinds of damage that this gusher at the bottom of the ocean can cause.

The Cover-up: BP's Crude Politics and the Looming Environmental Mega-Disaster

by Wayne Madsen from OilPrice. The author chronicles the efforts by the Obama administration to collude with BP and associated companies to downplay and limit the information regarding the spill, and to limit the damages to these corporations. Also he looks at the ominous longer term consequences of the spill.
WMR [Wayne Madsen Report] has been informed by sources in the US Army Corps of Engineers, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and Florida Department of Environmental Protection that the Obama White House and British Petroleum (BP), which pumped $71,000 into Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign -- more than John McCain or Hillary Clinton, are covering up the magnitude of the volcanic-level oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico and working together to limit BP's liability for damage caused by what can be called a "mega-disaster."

Time out

It’s worse than you think: plotting global hydrocarbon collapse

from Peak Generation. The author surveys the conventional fuels and finds peak everything. He also worries that there will not be time to transition to a sustainable future.

High Frequency Terrorism: How the Big Banks and Federal Reserve Maintained Their Death Grip Over the United States

 by David DeGraw & Max Keiser at Amped Status. 

This is part 3 of 6 (a link to all parts are in the article), but I found it to be the most interesting, and their explanation for the sudden dramatic drops in the stock market very plausible. I think that they have constructed a very good case for the stranglehold of the US economy and society by the financial elites. 

At the end of the article they provide links to a website devoted to solutions which I feel are only an attempt to reform the capitalist system. Their solutions may provide some short term relief, and as such I would not oppose them. However, I believe the system itself is totally incompatible with ecological limits and social justice, and thus I feel that it must be fundamentally changed.

Monday, May 10, 2010

These kickstart actions can engage folks in your local community!

by Andrew MacDonald from his blog, Radical Relocalization. 
I've been surprised and pleased at how easily doors open to relocalization efforts. It seems like a series of no-brainers, people doing the obvious. People seem ready to move into action. Perhaps that's because the need for it is real and people realize that! 

One Case Against BP, Wall Street, and War

by Tom Hayden from The Nation. 
The current oil spill invites a coming together of many social movements, including those inspired by the recent indigenous gathering in Bolivia and mainstream groups with a new opportunity for principled battle against the Obama administration’s embarrassing energy legislation which green-lights more off-shore drilling. It remains for progressives to move beyond a single-issue focus to make the connections between Wall Street, war, and environmental destruction.
The fundamental connection, of course, is the system of capitalism which Hayden is unable to name.

The international significance of the Greek general strike

from World Socialist Web Site. 
These events have revolutionary consequences internationally. As speculation rises against Portugal, Spain, and other European countries, it is increasingly clear that workers around the world face a common enemy: a parasitic ruling class that has enriched itself through the bailout of the financial system and wants to enforce huge cuts in jobs, pay, and benefits everywhere.

Slouching towards neofeudalism

from The Economic Populist. 

This well argued and supported article that our economic system is leading ordinary Americans into ever increasing debts and poverty illustrates how left political thinkers in the US are unable to name the real economic system. Here it is called by various names: neo-feudalism, peonage, and serfdom. The author came closest when he made reference to "globalization", the current phase of capitalism. 

Whether such authors understandably do this to protect their careers or are simply in denial that the capitalist system could lead to such undesirable effects is not clear.  

Journalism and 'the words of power'

by Robert Fisk from Al Jazeera. This mostly retired, distinguished journalist reveals to us how language is misused by the powerful (mostly agents of the US Empire) to manage the minds (or "manufacture consent") of their audience. 

Those journalists who cooperate in this endeavor are rewarded with lucrative careers. This, of course, is how many journalists are co-opted into serving the Empire. George Orwell foresaw this phenomenon happening over 60 years ago in his novel, 1984.

U.S. retirement benefits to be cut? (8:00m and 9:59m videos)

from The Real News Network. This is coverage on Obama's recently convened Commission on Fiscal Responsibility. The Empire's ruling class, after robbing so many developing countries with Greece being only the latest victim, is preparing a more aggressive "structural adjustment" on the most vulnerable of the American people that will, no doubt, take effect after the Fall elections--if we don't stop it! 

Here is part 2.

New analysis of 40-year-old recording of Kent State shootings reveals that Ohio Guard was given an order to prepare to fire

from The Plain Dealer, Cleveland, Ohio. It takes 40-50 years to find out what really happened to shocking events like this. I hope I live long enough to find out more about the Kennedy and King assassinations. Unfortunately, I won't make it for the revelations regarding 9/11. See also this.

Time out

Economics for the Story of Stuff

from The Daly News. This is an exceedingly naive call to action (talk to economists and politicians) regarding the need to change our economic system which the author never identifies. But the need to change is well described. If you haven't yet viewed Annie Leonard’s The Story of Stuff, a 20:40m video, I highly recommend it (linked in the article).
What a dilemma! The planet can’t sustain our pattern of consumption, but people get steamrolled in the economy when consumption slows down. The solution is to figure out how to structure the economy so that people can meet their needs without trashing the planet.

Kagan in Context: Shafting Progressive Values

by Norman Solomon from Common Dreams. Once again, Obama, the former populist candidate of the ruling class and now President, reveals his true colors. I never cease to be surprised by the gullibility of my fellow Americans.
If President Obama has his way, Elena Kagan will replace John Paul Stevens -- and the Supreme Court will move rightward. The nomination is very disturbing, especially because it's part of a pattern.

We Can Live Without Oil, But Not Without Flora and Fauna

from the IPS news service. The article deals with today's UN agency warnings about damage to bio-diversity.
The biodiversity trends are almost all negative: the declines are exponential and potential tipping points loom, Lovejoy, a leading tropical biologist, told Tierramérica. He led the scientific review committee of the GBO3 and will publicly launch the report Monday at the opening of the Convention on Biological Diversity science meeting in Nairobi.

The Carve-Up in "The National Interest" Begins

by William Bowles from Creative-i. The author's observations regarding the recent election in Britain.
Fundamentally of course there is very little difference between the three parties, thus it’ll be a haggle over things like ‘reforming’ the electoral system, education and perhaps scrapping the ID card. But the buzzword is ‘the national interest’, something the three parties and the media are all agreed on. But with the electorate almost equally divided, what does the term ‘national interest’ mean? Perhaps a visit to Greece is in order after all? The bottom line is that all three parties are agreed that some ‘painful’ decisions are going to have to be made, the only difference being when and who is going to need a shot of morphine and a side order of Valium.

...So this is what is meant by ‘national interest’. ...the ‘national interest’ is newsspeak for preserving the rule of capital and making us pay for it.


Sunday, May 9, 2010

Oil and Larkspur--Personal Reactions to a Disruptive Event

from The Oil Drum. The people of this website and their highly environmentally aware followers are in mourning over the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. As I often do, I found the comments following the article most interesting.

United States: Here come the Suns — sports team protests racist law

from Green Left. This is about the recently passed immigration control law passed in Arizona.
SB 1070 makes it crime to walk the streets of this state without clutching your passport, green card, visa, or state ID. It not only empowers, but requires cops to demand paperwork if they so much as suspect a person of being undocumented.

The bill also makes it a class one misdemeanor for anyone to “pick up passengers for work” if their vehicle blocks traffic. And it makes a second violation of any aspect of the law a felony.

Climate debt: why we’re not all in this together

from Green Left. 
It’s fitting that the notion of climate debt reverses the normal debt relationship between the First and Third worlds. For decades, rich world governments and banks have insisted poor countries repay high-interest loans on time, regardless of the dreadful social outcomes.

When any country has defaulted on its repayments, powerful creditors such as the International Monetary Fund and World Bank step in with privatisation programs and other neoliberal measures. Such programs have benefited Western corporations, while worsening poverty for people in the global South.