It was almost like seeing your own death. You cannot imagine it, but it appears to be happening. I think many people thought they really might see the end of the whole Gulf, just filling up like a river of oil, just wiping out everything. People are very, very upset about it. They don’t know what to do, because what is there to do? They can't leave. Down here you are the 4th, 5th generation fishing or shrimping the same waters. You have a sense of place, and your identity is the place. I've been down here through I can't tell you how many hurricanes, and people don't leave even when they know a storm’s coming.
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, July 24, 2010
She summarizes the history of worker struggles against capitalism from a Marxist perspective. My only comment on this part is to add my view of what went wrong with the Russian Revolution. Her reasons are perfectly valid--the armed invasions by 14 capitalist countries and the starvation and disease resulting from the invasions (and WWI).
But she seems to idolize the Bolsheviks while claiming it was all Stalin's fault. Stalin was a long standing Bolshevik and did not become a dictator all by himself.
She writes correctly about revolutions, "...what strikes you is how rapidly people's consciousness change, compared to how slowly it can move in normal times." But I argue that the consciousness of many Bolsheviks, like all revolutionaries before them, did not change in some respects. They still held to authoritarian methods of rule that preceded them under the Czars. They did not trust workers to rule themselves. They saw themselves as having an exclusive knowledge of socialism. They were the "vanguard"! Hence they immediately took power away from the Soviet worker councils and Soviet society eventually degenerated into the concentrated rule of Stalin alone.
Sacrifice of nature’s scarce services constitutes an increasing opportunity cost of growth, and that in turn means that nature must be priced, either explicitly or implicitly. But to whom should this price be paid?*************
“Value added” belongs to whoever added it. But the original value of that to which further value is added by labor and capital, the value of scarce natural resources and natural services, should belong to everyone.Marxists argue that capital is accumulated surplus value created by labor. Under capitalism capitalists claim this as their private property. If the Marxists are correct, then by the same reasoning as Henry George, because the capitalists did not create this stored value, they cannot legitimately lay claim to it, and it should belong to all working people.
We propose that the East Kentucky Power Cooperative and their 16 distribution cooperatives launch an aggressive, well-funded, five-year energy efficiency and renewable energy initiative—called "Renew East Kentucky"—in the EKPC service area.
This program could create thousands of local jobs and, by diversifying the regional energy portfolio, yield additional economic benefit to struggling families. It would work in collaboration with ongoing regional efforts in affordable housing and more recent efforts to re-tool Kentucky's workforce for green energy jobs. The proposal may serve as a road map for transition in other areas.The only catch is...the plan would need federal dollars to launch it. And as we all know, the US government needs all this money in its unending war against "terrorists".
There are currently half a million Israeli settlers in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank. All of the settlements are illegal under international law and are in violation of various UN resolutions.
Friday, July 23, 2010
All the elected representatives from my State of Washington vigorously defend Boeing Corporation whenever so-called "defense" contracts are up for consideration. They always "sell" this support to the public via corporate owned media by saying that they are supporting jobs and the economy.
This argument always seems to work because it has a small element of truth to it, and corporate media endlessly repeats the argument without allowing any kind of criticism or alternative points of view. Of course, the argument is such a shallow one.
It would only have merit if it could be argued that if corporations weren't allowed to make weapons (usually of mass destruction), they could not make anything else. No, they couldn't build high speed rail systems, build bridges, other mass transit systems, develop alternative energy systems, etc.
Of course, they could; but next quarter's financial statements will be greatly enhanced if they sell highly profitable weapon systems while maintaining the Empire's access to cheap raw materials, cheap labor, and markets so that the ruling classes can become even richer and more powerful.
Also, although little publicized, Saudi Arabia has a terrible human rights record. But that doesn't bother our ruling class. Whereas it does bother them in states they don't like such as North Korea, China, Venezuela, etc.
Torture and ill-treatment persist, as do incommunicado detention, prolonged detention without charge, and unfair trials. There are scores of political prisoners and possible prisoners of conscience. Saudi Arabia continues to use flogging and amputations as punishments. Executions, beheadings with a sword, occur regularly and are disproportionately carried out against foreign nationals. Foreign workers are vulnerable to abuse and exploitation, particularly female domestic workers, who have virtually no protection at all.
Nowhere has the discussion of political reform been more animated than on the issue of women’s rights, though there has been little real progress. Municipal elections were held in early 2005 for half the seats in the Kingdom’s municipalities, but women were excluded for participation, and proposals to allow women to drive have been shelved. Awareness of the problem of violence against women has increased as a result of the severe beating of well-known TV personality Rania al-Baz by her husband, but there have been few changes to prevent or provide redress for such violence. Suspected homosexuals have been subjected to flogging. Though there has been some improvement, freedom of expression remains extremely curtailed, and discrimination on the basis of religion is absolute. Shiites face discrimination in all walks of life, and non-Muslim foreign nationals are subjected to harassment, detention, abuse and summary deportation. Executions have been carried out for witchcraft and apostasy.
Like all their other counterparts in the rest of the US, my Washington State representatives really represent the corporations who fund their campaigns.
This reprinted post from this website illustrates how vexed liberals are to understand the system and to defend it. IMO, they simply don't understand, or unwilling to face the facts, that the fundamental driving forces of capitalism--individual acquisition of wealth, ownership rights over wealth produced by working people, etc--result in behaviors characterized by greed, manipulation, and gaming the system so that it becomes what it is today--economic ruin with islands of wealthy people amidst seas of poor people. Thus the people running this system are perfectly "reasonable", although sociopathic.
Geithner seems like a reasonable guy. And that is what ought to trouble us. He seems to have drunk the Kook Aid by which reasonable people believe it is important to continue to demonstrate reasonableness by assuming that others with great power are also reasonable. Yet, as we’ve seen in the political sphere, that is a fatal assumption. And, I believe we’ll see the same thing in the financial sphere. The folks in charge are not reasonable. They are after profits and wealth for themselves. And, while self-interest has a long storied past as a powerful motive force for the good when it is kept in check by reason, even Adam Smith noted that the assumption that reason would keep it in check was foolish.
It's the economic system, stupid!
The Empire has been exceptionally successful at indoctrinating its own citizens with the virtues of its actions and policies in spite of all the devastation they have caused.
...those who have been imbued from birth by the myth of American Exceptionalism become active collaborators in this censorship of state crime. It is actually a form of self-censorship. There is no need for the state to spend a lot of time and energy jailing or killing or silencing or even discrediting those who tell the unpleasant truth; most people, in their blind adherence to the myth, simply will not hear it.
This Rolling Stone article is very good at providing the details of the usual Congressional charade of dealing with issues that the public wants, but that the ruling class opposes. Thus Congress and the President must go through the motions of appearing to support something the public wants, but somehow things just don't turn out right, and then comes the blame game.
Liberal environmental bloggers are all over the internet commenting on this article and "wringing their hands", and looking for some kind of positive spin on it. Most of these bloggers and the environmental movement as a whole are comprised of middle class people who mean well, but are tied to the coattails of the ruling class and the system that supports them both--capitalism. They will rarely, if ever, question the system that produces this kind of theater in Washington. Some even go so far as to blame the public for the political disaster. See this.
Then they make all kinds of excuses or lame explanations as to why a climate bill is dead. See this, in which the blogger makes the following statements:
Since Obama ignored the call for direct personal involvement on comprehensive climate and energy action, one can only assume he is just not that into it.What the bloggers and much of the environmental movement don't get is that capitalism is the engine that is driving us off the cliffs of climate change, resource exhaustion, and environmental degradation.
Since team Obama sucks at messaging so badly, it's impossible to know whether any strategy would have worked.
Fundamentally, Rahm and Axelrod simply don't get global warming.
"Our ability to evaluate the disaster and write public policy and make decisions about it as a country can be impacted by the silence of the research scientists who are looking at conditions," he said.
"It's hugely destructive. I mean at some level, this is really BP versus the people of the United States."
Read this to find out how US foreign policy really works on behalf of the Empire as seen by this former FBI language specialist and whistle-blower extraordinaire. Or, if wish to avoid doubts about mainstream media myths, don't read it--instead continue listening to CNN, NBC, ABC, etc.
I started this piece on Bakiyev with two cases that may have appeared not related: Turkey’s Ciller & Pakistan’s Bhutto. I could have easily picked half a dozen others, but I think these two sufficed to illustrate our almost-canned foreign policy script and its implementation in countries of interest; the selection criteria and the method to ‘groom & plant’ puppet regimes: The training period in the UK or US, a complete disregard for atrocities and human right abuses, the strong partnerships with the underground industries fully assisted and supported by our operatives..., the joint efforts in fraud and embezzlement, the unconditional protection from accountability & providing safe haven later when needed (both personal and for embezzled funds)…
Thursday, July 22, 2010
The author reports on US preparations for the upcoming climate change meeting in Mexico at the end of this year.
The United States clearly spelled out its agenda for the international climate negotiations in the strategic communications objectives accidentally leaked in April. At the top of the list was "reinforc[ing] the perception (my emphasis) that the U.S. is constructively engaged in UN negotiations in an effort to produce a global regime to combat climate change." The document also compels the U.S. negotiating team to "create a clear understanding of the CA's [Copenhagen Accord's] standing and the importance of operationalizing ALL elements."The author concludes the article with this very perceptive statement:
The Copenhagen Accord embodies all of the major political demands of the United States. Binding commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions have been scaled back to a voluntary "pledge and review" process. The pledges made so far fall short of the 25-40 percent cuts by rich countries that scientists at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change say are necessary to avoid climate catastrophe. Missing those targets carries no legal consequences.
This climate change debate is about much more than ecological stability. Global climate treaties will determine which countries' fossil-fuel-based growth will be constrained and by how much. The resulting international agreements and domestic policies will determine the relative importance of natural resources in the global economy. Because minerals, forests, agricultural soils, and water are not spread evenly across the planet, securing access to these and other resources will be — and in many regions already are — at the center of the geopolitical struggle precipitated by climate change.
The rise to power of Australia’s first female prime minister led to hopes for political change. But early signs indicate that Gillard will do little more than protect vested big-business interests.
This is a developing illustration of how the governing class "pulls the wool" over the eyes of the people in the US. Corporate media will be very instrumental in this deceit by covering the phony withdrawal as if it were real.
Using private forces is a backdoor way of continuing a substantial US presence under the cover of "diplomatic security." The kind of paramilitary force that Obama and Clinton are trying to build in Iraq is, in large part, a bi-product of the monstrous colonial fortress the US calls its embassy in Baghdad and other facilities the US will maintain throughout Iraq after the "withdrawal."
This begs the question, however, if such an over the top display of military muscle is needed now to combat the drug cartels, what will be done in the next few months to make their presence unnecessary? The history of such U.S. military deployments around the world suggests a more credible outcome than what the agreement states. Once the U.S. moves such massive forces into a country, they rarely move them out.
The author zeros in on this astonishing episode where the Obama administration couldn't act quickly enough to fire and trash this heroic women because of its fear of the US right wing. I believe the episode (along with endless others--see this, this, and this) illustrates the power of the incipient fascist forces that exist in the US rather than the incident being merely a careless, ill considered act of the Administration.
The fact that the NAACP acted likewise provides more evidence to show how this organization is so integrated with, and subservient to, the ruling class.
The long-term aim of these policies is to eliminate the welfare state, reestablishing the competitiveness of the older capitalist powers by slashing workers’ living standards to the level of their impoverished counterparts in emerging economies like India and China. That the living standards of the world’s people are to be equalized downward, rather than upward, is an indictment of the capitalist system.
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
While the tax code is extremely unfair, this author focuses much too narrowly on one provision of it. And he doesn't deal with the issue of extending tax cuts to the wealthy passed during Bush's administration.
For the most part corporations are brimming over with cash as are many rich Americans who mostly stash their millions in offshore bank accounts. But then, who writes the tax code? The corporate sponsored representatives in Congress.
A recent trip to Europe has convinced me that the governments of the world have been rocked by the power of the internet and are seeking to gain control of it so that they will have a virtual monopoly on information that the public is able to access.
This excellent investigative journalist has assembled a lot of damning evidence to show that BP continues to act for the interests of its stockholders and against the public interest by using dispersants that cause some very serious health effects on cleanup workers and others near the contaminated area.
Well, isn't that the way all corporations act? Actually most do not when their actions are so dramatically causing health risks, but when a corporation is large and powerful enough such as BP, they can and do get away with serious crimes.
Interesting, isn't it, that so little of these serious health effects have made it into mainstream news.
Energy in Depth and the gas industry are deploying spin doctors to counter a new documentary being aired nationwide on HBO. This time around, the truths unearthed about what the impacts would be of methane gas drilling into the Marcellus Shale unveiled by the film Gasland, by scientists, and by investigative journalists, are all victims of a prolific oil industry smear campaign.Also, see this and this.
This is a home video featuring Netanyahu talking to a family about the Oslo Accords. The film surfaced after nine years and reveals some candid remarks that illustrates how the Israeli leadership deals with the US that provides them with yearly aid packages amounting to at least 3.5 billion dollars.
Netanyahu: Especially today, with America. I know what America is. America is something that can easily be moved. Moved to the right correction.And, of course, he is referring to the powerful Israeli Lobby in the US whose allegiance to Israel seems to be greater than to the US. In other words, the Lobby functions like a "fifth column" for Israeli interests. See, for example, this article published on a US Zionist website.
See also Jonathan Cook's commentary regarding the video.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODOC) state in their 2010 Annual Report that "money-laundering is the method by which criminals disguise the illegal origins of their wealth and protect their asset bases in order to avoid suspicion of law enforcement and to prevent leaving a trail of incriminating evidence," and that financial institutions, particularly U.S. and European banks are key to efforts to choke-off illicit profits from the grisly trade.
The trouble is these institutions, along with U.S. intelligence agencies, are the problem.
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
How to Be Maladaptive: Fourteen Tips for Mental Activities Guaranteed to Enhance your Misery during Bad Times
Those who learn about Peak Oil, climate change, and economic hard times show a series of short-lived symptoms of stress over several months, but these are normal and expected reactions to these stunning findings. Roughly 50-60% of adults in North America are exposed to traumatic events, but only 5% to 10% develop maladjusted PTSD and related problems. What sorts of beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors promote the development of longer-term traumatic reactions? Read on:
-- We'd have real universal health care--that is, everyone gets health care for free. Period.Sounds good to me. But I think that she messes up on her second item. There shouldn't be any bankers in a worker run society. There would simply be democratically elected councils to approve credit to worthy worker enterprises.
-- We'd bail out homeowners instead of bankers. But why stop there? We could also take all the homeless people and put them in houses that are empty. It's not rocket science: Just put the people in the houses.
-- We'd stop throwing away food and get it to people who are hungry.
-- We'd end all wars and use the money for education and social services.
-- We'd devote massive resources and scientific research to saving the environment.
"TARP, zero interest rates, trillion-dollar budget deficits, you name it, we've thrown anything we can at the system. And that has been successful to a limited extent at stopping the bleeding, but it has not really allowed the patient to get up off the table and resume a normal life again."
When independent bookstores were in a healthier state, staff picks and hand selling could bring attention to great books people didn't know they wanted. Now that's much harder."***************
The shrinking of that market share has certainly been severe. The number of independent bookstores in America has more than halved in the past two decades. The pleasure of browsing shelves stocked with care and intelligence by independent owners of stores like Midnight Special in Santa Monica, Cody's in Berkeley and the Coliseum in Manhattan is only a memory.
Blocked at every turn in their attempts to escape this relentless race to the bottom, publishers have seen their revenues fall, forcing many to make cutbacks and concentrate more on lead titles, the blockbusters that, accountants tell them, are the most profitable component of their business. Fewer staff and falling promotion budgets mean that books by less established authors—the "mid-list"—receive ever shorter shrift.***************
"If left unchecked...predatory pricing policies will devastate not only the book industry, but our collective ability to maintain a society where the widest range of ideas are always made available to the public."
We can't afford to extend unemployment benefits but we can afford to pour money into a secret well of inefficiency, turf-wars and sinecures. Really?
Although this article illustrates how ordinary people can participate in news gathering, it is extraordinarily naïve to believe that the existing corporate concentrated ownership of media will faithfully pass on the information over their airways. Corporate media must be returned to the people so that information can serve the latter's interests. Of course, corporate media likes to have citizens reporting news to them because they can cut down on paid journalists while continuing to control what is being broadcast or printed.
Media groups, particularly the Philippines’ two biggest television networks, have embraced citizen journalism through the use of mobile phones to deliver the news.
Now this is real citizen journalism and the way that people can bring down the operations of our governing classes who operate in secret. One small part of the interview has Assange telling an exceptionally interesting story about his activities in Iceland that led to much greater freedom of speech in that country. I haven't seen this reported on anywhere.
About this talk
The controversial website WikiLeaks collects and posts highly classified documents and video. Founder Julian Assange, who's reportedly being sought for questioning by US authorities, talks to TED's Chris Anderson about how the site operates, what it has accomplished -- and what drives him. The interview includes graphic footage of a recent US airstrike in Baghdad.
Why you should listen to him:
You could say Australian-born Julian Assange has swapped his long-time interest in network security flaws for the far-more-suspect flaws of even bigger targets: governments and corporations. Since his early 20s, he has been using network technology to prod and probe the vulnerable edges of administrative systems, but though he was a computing hobbyist first (in 1991 he was the target of hacking charges after he accessed the computers of an Australian telecom), he's now taken off his "white hat" and launched a career as one of the world's most visible human-rights activists.
He calls himself "editor in chief." He travels the globe as its spokesperson. Yet Assange's part in WikiLeaks is clearly dicier than that: he's become the face of creature that, simply, many powerful organizations would rather see the world rid of. His Wikipedia entry says he is "constantly on the move," and some speculate that his role in publishing decrypted US military video has put him in personal danger. A controversial figure, pundits debate whether his work is reckless and does more harm than good. Amnesty International recognized him with an International Media Award in 2009.
Assange studied physics and mathematics at the University of Melbourne. He wrote Strobe, the first free and open-source port scanner, and contributed to the book Underground: Tales of Hacking, Madness and Obsession on the Electronic Frontier.
Monday, July 19, 2010
The political environment seems grim, not only for Obama, but for all progressive change. That moment may have passed. This does not mean the public is not angry, only that’s its anger is deliberately being channeled by our media in a false direction, into bashing deficits and Dems, not the men in the shadows who are calling the shots.The "men in the shadows" are always with us pulling the strings behind the puppet show which is called, "Democracy in America". Until we see through all the corporate media garbage and look at the real show, the real people pulling the strings, we will continue on the road to economic chaos and environmental degradation.
Our addiction to oil is now blowing back on the civilization that can't do without its gushers and can't quite bring itself to imagine a real transition to alternative energies.
...corporations presume that it's their right to control this planet and its ecosystems, while obeying one command: to maximize profits. Everything else is an "externality", including life on Earth. "What we conclude from the Gulf of Mexico pollution incident," says Nnimo Bassey, "is that the oil companies are out of control. In Nigeria, they have been living above the law. They are now clearly a danger to the planet."
Think of oil civilization in its late stages as a form of global terrorism.
In this editorial from the leading newspaper of record in the US we learn that educational institutions are being attacked by various groups who feel that they are being discriminating against. With an ever increasing concentration of economic ownership by a class whose only interest is increasing profits, we will continue to see outsourcing of jobs, greater use of technology to eliminate jobs, and increasing numbers of disposable workers especially in the West.
Thus we can expect that the class that benefits from this trend will use the old divide-and-conquer strategy against working people by encouraging greater inter-group rivalries and blame.
If one realizes that technology is a legacy created by many generations of working people, then it is easy to understand that it cannot be owned and managed by the 1%, and used for their benefit. If that labor saving technology were social property--as it should be, working people would only have to work about 20 hours a week to sustain a reasonably comfortable and sustainable lifestyle.
Read the horror stories of unemployed workers going back to school for retraining, taking on huge educational loans, and then facing more unemployment. Contrast these stories with government reports that retraining is working just fine.
Having been employed for about five years in two state agencies, I have seen first hand how government agencies lie about statistics when it is in their interest to do so.
Governments lies are always about protecting the interests of their managers and overseers--the ruling capitalist elites.
It may take a decade or more to reveal the truth about this incident. Right now there are a number of plausible suspicions. The author reports on some of them.
Three years ago, ABC News, quoting US and Pakistani intelligence sources, reported that Jundallah, which was created in 2002 and carried out its first attacks three years later, had been "secretly encouraged and advised by" US officials since 2005.The same tactic was applied to Iraq. See this, this, and this.
The author does indeed take the long view, but the view, though long, is terribly narrow. He sees evolutionary adaptation only in terms of technical adaptations. Such thinking, I believe, is an excellent illustration of the insular focus on contemporary issues that is permitted by the institutions of higher learning and media in the Western world governed by the system of private ownership of their economies. Such thinking diverts attention away from the real human adaptation that will lead to species and environmental destruction--capitalism.
His conclusions which follow are excellent, but there is no way that such positive adaptations can occur under this system:
The wiser course may be to return to the type of systems that have shown themselves to be more resilient through history: smaller settlements with more decentralized production of goods and services, broader participation in the growing of food and the production of goods, reliance on renewable energy such as wind and solar, and a society that designs its objects to make the full cycle from "cradle to cradle." This doesn't mean abandoning all new technology. It means developing technology that will stand the test of time based on known principles of resilience and sustainability and will do so without risking the wholesale destruction of humanity.
Sunday, July 18, 2010
...there is a segment of education that does have the freedom, the ability, and the will to fully engage in a wide variety of educational experiments. That segment is generally called homeschooling, although we prefer the term “family education” because most of it is not schooling and does not happen at home. By now, the practice of family education has expanded and diversified so much that some of the most exciting and forward-thinking experiments in educational reform are happening as small scale models within individual families, small coops, regional support groups, and virtual networks of home educators around the globe.
...it's troubling that PBS is airing a documentary funded by corporations with distinct ties to the subject of the film. In the past, PBS has rejected films for distribution based on these apparent conflicts of interest: The 1997 film Out at Work was refused because it received funding from labor unions and a lesbian group. The 1993 documentary Defending Our Lives addressed domestic violence--but one of the producers was affiliated with a support group for battered women, so PBS wouldn't air it (Extra!, 1-2/98). Even Lost Eden, a historical drama about a 19th century textile strike, was turned away because of labor funding (Extra!, Summer/90).
One the most important contributions of this book to the debate on education is the way Sachs has rooted the problems of education within the wider economic system. You cannot solve the growing inequalities and problems in our education system without also addressing these underlying issues of economic disparity, class and a capitalist system falling into deeper and deeper crisis. Any ‘solution’ to the educational crisis has to address the issue of families overwhelmed by poverty, often working massive numbers of hours or juggling two or more jobs, low wages and now the growing crisis of mass unemployment.
Green campaigning really does work. Illegal logging in deforestation hotspots like the Brazilian Amazon, Indonesia and central Africa has fallen by between 50 and 75 per cent in the past decade, according to a new study by the international affairs think tank Chatham House in London.
The author summarizes the many responses he received after asking people to report on how they cope with the anguish of living in a world in collapse. I was particularly moved by those who found difficulties in coping because of all the people around them who were in denial.
The article provides some evidence that influential people, especially in Asia, are beginning to question increasing GDP and consumption as a worthy goals of their economies--encouraging, but may be too little, too late.