We’ve lived so long under the spell of hierarchy—from god-kings to feudal lords to party bosses—that only recently have we awakened to see not only that “regular” citizens have the capacity for self-governance, but that without their engagement our huge global crises cannot be addressed. The changes needed for human society simply to survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions through direct engagement. Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive to yield to directives from on high.
—Frances Moore LappĂ©, excerpt from Time for Progressives to Grow Up

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Because of many distractions today, I've decided to take the day off to enjoy them. I believe that balance in one's life is very important.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Will our generals ever shut up?

by Tom Engelhardt from Asia Times Online.

The author looks at the recent firing of General Stanley McChrystal as "the exception that proves the rule"--the rule being that the military is taking over the government which he illustrates in his article.
 Let's face it, though: deference has become the norm for the Pentagon and US military commanders, which is not so surprising. After all, in terms of where our money goes, the Pentagon is the 800-pound gorilla in just about any room. It has, for instance, left the State Department in the proverbial dust. By now, it gets at least $12 for every dollar of funding that goes to the State Department, which in critical areas of the world has become an adjunct of the military.
However, this liberal political observer only really captures a small part of the reality in relation to the military-industrial complex which rules the Empire. You see, the generals and the corporate executives run in and out of the revolving doors between the military and the war contractors

These people are not the most important of the political actors in the US. As I see it, the ruling class is like an onion with numerous layers--the core being mostly the pure capitalists followed by people in the banking/financial industry which, in turn, are followed by their enforcers in the military-industrial complex.

These layers constitute a ruling class whose powerful influence has permeated all areas of civilian life during this never-ending "war on terror", and is especially focused on young people to prepare them to serve the Empire. During this period the influence of the "enforcers"--the military, security services, and related private contractors--are exercising much more influence over US society.

The civilian areas of control are becoming less and less important in our society. Bill Moyers saw this all happening way back in 1987. For his excellent background on this development, you must view his 21:43m video entitled, "The Secret Government".

Nobody expects the American inquisition!

by Pepe Escobar from Asia Times Online. This amusing theater play by the author presents a parody of what passes for political life in the USA. Better to laugh than to cry.

How the World Changed After 9/11--A Symposium of Critical Thinkers  

Get all the details of this event which is currently being held in New York here. You can view the live proceedings with a small contribution. These two videos below also explain what is happening. The link website he refers to is entitled, "Engineers and Architects for 9/11 Truth".

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Why Millions March in France, But Not in the US [Prize offered for best answer]

by Rick Wolff from MR Zine

By merely blaming the left in the US, the author really doesn't answer the implied question in the title. But the article does report on the fight-backs by European workers (see this and this) which is almost totally missing in US media, and there are gems in the article like this:
Lenders to governments threaten to stop lending or even to pull their loans unless governments guarantee that they will pay interest on all their new debts as well as repay them.  The guarantee that lenders everywhere demand is the same: governments must set aside funds -- by either raising new taxes or cutting government payrolls and spending -- that will go to the lenders.
So let me get this straight...sections of the capitalist class through their derivative housing scam created the economic collapse and many lost money in the process. Many were financial institutions who made bets on these phony derivatives and lost a lot of money and, because they were too big to fail, the tax payers had to bail them out. Now the winners in this scam won't lend the taxpayers, who had to borrow to bail out the loser banksters, any more money unless government slashes all public/social spending (of course, not military spending). And they want their reduced Bush tax rates continued! (I think my head hurts.)

Meanwhile on Mainstreet USA unemployed working people are applying for food stamps and fighting off foreclosures on their homes, young people who can't afford higher education go into the military, and the elderly worry about cuts to their Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

Anyway, to brighten up this piece, I am offering a prize to the viewer of my blog who provides the best explanation for the puzzle posed by the title of this article. The prize is a DVD entitled, "Capitalism Hits the Fan". Contest ends Sunday, Sept. 12 at midnight (Seattle time).

The Great Pakistani Deluge Never Happened

by Juan Cole from Tom Dispatch. (You may want to skip the introduction at the top and scroll down to the article.)

Many people, including myself, have been curious as to why US mainstream media largely ignored the devastating floods in Pakistan. The author explores some interesting answers to this question.
Few Americans were shown -- by the media conglomerates of their choice -- the heartbreaking scenes of eight million Pakistanis displaced into tent cities, of the submerging of a string of mid-sized cities (each nearly the size of New Orleans), of vast areas of crops ruined, of infrastructure swept away, damaged, or devastated at an almost unimaginable level, of futures destroyed, and opportunistic Taliban bombings continuing.  The boiling disgust of the Pakistani public with the incompetence, insouciance, and cupidity of their corrupt ruling class is little appreciated. 

Supreme Court: Corporations Can Buy Judges

from Washington's Blog
You've heard that a recent Supreme Court decision said that corporations can give unlimited funds to politicians.

But did you realize that it said that corporations can give unlimited money to judges?

The Anniversary of 9/11

from Washington's Blog. Great read! 

And great summary of the information related to the event that was used to justify the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, the so-called Patriot Acts, and instill fear in Americans about terrorism used to justify a number of other restrictions on our civil liberties and to invade our privacy.
If even our country's top intelligence officers don't buy the official story, why do you?

Groups Sue Over Suspicionless Laptop Search Policy At The Border

from American Civil Liberties Union. More infringements on American citizen's right to privacy that continues the descent of the US into a police state.
DHS [Department of Homeland Security] asserts the right to look though the contents of a traveler's electronic devices – including laptops, cameras and cell phones – and to keep the devices or copy the contents in order to continue searching them once the traveler has been allowed to enter the U.S., regardless of whether the traveler is suspected of any wrongdoing.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Revenge of Main Street

from The Economic Populist. The best part of this article is that the author provides an excellent description of capitalism as organized crime rather than a legitimate economic system.
There's been a lot of joking comments recently about the criminal activity on Wall Street. The term "banksters" has been thrown around a lot. 
But is it really a joke?

Book review of ‘Rainbow Pie: A Redneck Memoir’ by Joe Bageant – So different yet so familiar

by William Bowles from Creative-i

This is a great review of a recently published book by Joe Bageant who writes about some of the most victimized Americans--ordinary people he grew up with in the heartland of the USA.
...over the past two hundred-plus years of capitalism rampant, Joe’s experience is the third such auto-destruction to take place in the so-called developed world, where entire cultures and communities have been erased from the face of the earth. All in the name of ‘progress’ of course as capital yet again must revolutionize the means of production or die.
And as Bowles correctly observes, Bageant's book makes an important contribution because it...
explains in part why so many people can be screwed over and over again and yet never revolt. The other part is the simple fact that they are mostly illiterate and deliberately under-educated, fed on a diet which is literally killing them physically and mentally.

Does Our Economy Really Have to Run on Fraud?

by Michael Hudson from CounterPunch

Hudson puts the bailouts in a perspective that the current Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission is unwilling to do. His description of the recent activities of the banking/Wallstreet elites illustrates how capitalism is a criminal enterprise.
At issue is the concept of capital. Does money that is made by short-term, computer-driven financial trades qualify as “capital formation” and hence deserving of tax breaks? Are the billions of dollars of “earnings” reported by Wall Street speculators to be taxed at the low 15 per cent “capital gains” rate? That is only a fraction of the income-tax rate that most workers pay....

Time out

Strikes in France, London foreshadow more protests

by Angela Doland from Associated Press. Europeans continue to fight back.
French strikers disrupted trains and planes, hospitals and mail delivery Tuesday amid massive street protests over plans to raise the retirement age. Across the English Channel, London subway workers unhappy with staff cuts walked off the job.

In a Misguided Effort to Weed out the Bad Eggs, the Food Safety Bill Punishes the Safest Farmers in the Country

by Barry Estabrook from Politics of the Plate.

The author's examination of the recent egg contamination scandal illustrates how the Federal regulatory agencies fail to protect US consumers from the crimes of major corporations whether they be Wallstreet banks or giant factory farms. Any enforcement of regulations is always directed to the little guys on main street. Why do you think this is? 
...the cause of the current salmonella outbreak is industrial-scale factory farming, which has also been the cause of virtually every instance of bacterial food contamination the country has experienced in recent years. Huge farms and processors that ship their products across the nation have given us E. coli in ground beef and spinach, Salmonella in peanut butter and fresh salsa, and Listeria in processed chicken. Scanning this list of foodborne illness outbreaks  in the United States for the last 15 years, I can find only one instance, listeria-tainted milk from Whitter Farms in Massachusetts, where a small, local operation sickened its customers.
In the mainstream media coverage that I saw never mentioned this connection, never mentioned the deplorable conditions that exist in these factory farms.

Take Back the Land, Give Root to Democracy

a book review  by Alex Knight from The End of Capitalism

The book, written by Max Rameau, appears to focus on some critical issues that any movement faces when it attempts to solve major social problems while confronting representatives of the ruling class whose priorities are the maintenance of the capitalist system, which in turn, creates those very problems. The reviewer does a good job of pointing out these issues that the author expands on in his book.
Ultimately, it is a question about “revolutionary reforms” – theoretically a change in policy (reform) that leads to the empowerment of a movement, and therefore the ability to carry on further campaigns towards revolution. But what does that actually look like in a capitalist society that has successfully undercut and co-opted grassroots social movements for the last century or more, and which even more skillfully ignores and silences those movements so that they feel powerless and marginalized?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Ultra-Rich in Finance Are Meaner Than Rest of Us

by Matthew Lynn from Bloomberg.

The author supplies evidence to support his headline:
There is an increasing amount of evidence that the rich are a vicious tribe of people. One study last year from the University of California, Berkeley, found that the rich are ruder than others. Another piece of research, conducted at the same institution, concluded they were less likely to give to charity than poorer people were. A third study, carried out at the Humboldt University in Berlin, concluded they were “nastier,” in the sense of being keener to punish others.
And suggests an interesting thesis to explain this phenomenon:
The investment bankers and hedge-fund managers who make up most of the new rich elite don’t have much contact with ordinary people. They assume their wealth is entirely the result of their own brilliance. And they cut themselves off from normal life. 
I think that this can be expanded into a more general thesis: that the more distance (not only geographical, but social and political) that a person has from others, the more sociopathic a person can become. I think that this explains the development of ruling classes and their sociopathic behaviors in this period of civilization (about 2% of human existence) who often engage in criminal acts, acts of war, and exploitation of working people.

If this is correct, and I think it is, then the solution is to design, or choose, a social system where such "distancing" cannot exist. The systems I have listed in the above right-hand corner are, I believe, such systems. 

Blood Tests Show Elevated Level of Toxic Hydrocarbons in Gulf Residents (article and 2 videos)

from Washington's Blog.  
A number of different chemists are finding elevated levels of toxic hydrocarbons in the bloodstream of Gulf coast residents.

What is most disturbing about these results is that people who simply live near the water are showing higher than normal levels of toxic chemicals. These are not fishermen, shrimpers, oil workers or others who work on the water.

Life vs. Productivity: "What Would You Live and Die to Protect?"

by Dahr Jamail from Truthout

The author surveys various measures about the state of the world which strongly suggests a suicidal course for humanity and other species. He also surveys methods of resistance used throughout history to cope with sources of oppression that range the gamut from non-violence to violence. 

Mostly he focuses on Derrick Jensen's views and questions about what is to be done to avert catastrophe, and what it will take for people to realize that something must be done. Unfortunately, Jensen's only offering here is for "people to think for themselves" and to do something. I don't fault Jensen for this because no one has yet found a definitive answer, but he does pose the most critical questions for our time. 

To his credit Jamail does occasionally point to capitalism as the culprit, or at least, more often than most observers do. But to be more consistent, his article should have been entitled, "Life vs. Capitalism". Derrick Jensen, whose views he quotes from extensively, often uses words like "culture" and "social structure" which I think tend to obscure the issues. 

I have previously addressed this phenomenon: the inability or resistance to naming the problem--capitalism. I believe it is a result of the intensive indoctrination by capitalist ruling classes that all citizens have been thoroughly subjected to in their educational institutions and media. Because capitalist ruling classes have been so successful at doing this that, especially in the US, it has assumed the role of a religion without being identified as such. It is taboo to even speak of it. Yet capitalist values and beliefs inform nearly all of our thoughts and actions. This is a major problem that needs to be focused on first before we can make any progress in changing the system.

Also I think that it is necessary to wake people up from their apathy, their denial, the "learned helplessness, and their unconsciousness of the real issues. Jensen, McKibben, Jamail, and many others are trying to do this--and hurray for them! Once that happens, then I am confident that the human race will find the appropriate solutions. But it is a race against time. The outcome is very uncertain.
"Do you believe that our culture will undergo a voluntary transformation to a sane and sustainable way of living?" asks Jensen.

"For the last several years I've taken to asking people this question, at talks and rallies, in libraries, on buses, in airplanes, at the grocery store, the hardware store. Everywhere. The answers range from emphatic 'No's' to laughter. No one answers in the affirmative. One fellow at one talk did raise his hand and when everyone looked at him, he dropped his hand, then said, sheepishly, 'Oh, voluntary? No, of course not.'

"My next question: how will this understanding - that this culture will not voluntarily stop destroying the natural world, eliminating indigenous cultures, exploiting the poor and killing those who resist - shift our strategy and tactics? The answer? Nobody knows, because we never talk about it: we're too busy pretending the culture will undergo a magical transformation."

Monday, September 6, 2010

Labor Day

I am taking today off, but I will post this brief, but accurate article on the history of the real Labor Day that originated in the US: May Day - the Real Labor Day.
By covering up the history of May Day, the state, business, mainstream unions and the media have covered up an entire legacy of dissent in this country. They are terrified of what a similarly militant and organized movement could accomplish today, and they suppress the seeds of such organization whenever and wherever they can. As workers, we must recognize and commemorate May Day not only for it's historical significance, but also as a time to organize around issues of vital importance to working-class people today. 

Haymarket Martyrs Monument in Forest Home Cemetery in Chicago, USA

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Peak Oil is History

by Dmitry Orlov from Culture Change

Unfortunately two of the three graphs are unreadable, but still the essay is well worth reading for Orlov's perspective on post peak oil supplies that differs from many other views. 

If you are familiar with his writings at all, you know that he has a very pessimistic view of the future with declining oil supplies. In short, he is often referred to as a "doomster". However, he assumes, at least in this article, that we continue with the same economic system of capitalism which can only exist within a world of unlimited resources. Our world has never been that, but we have been blessed with a lot that has provided many humans with the delusion of unlimited resources. 

Now surely with humans having such a marvelous brain, they can easily figure out that continuing with capitalism is asking for doomsdays, and then decide to design a system that allows them to live within ecological and sustainable limits.
...Peak Oil theory has been quite good at predicting the depletion profile of certain stable and prosperous countries and provinces. But these predictions become meaningless when extrapolated to the world as a whole, for one very obvious reason: the world cannot import oil.

What is Socialism?

by Philip Locker from Socialist Alternative.

Have you noticed that all political-economic systems advocate "democracy"? It is the most used and abused word in the lexicon of Western countries. That is because humanity yearns for it and have struggled for it for thousands of years. Rarely do the advocates make any effort to define what they mean by the word. The writer of this article does.
Socialism would mean a massive expansion of democracy. Instead of simply voting for representatives every few years, while the real decisions are made behind the scenes in corporate boardrooms, socialist democracy would bring collective decision making into the day-to-day functioning of every workplace, neighborhood, school and university. Elected workplace committees would replace bosses. Neighborhood, workplace, and school councils, holding regular meetings, would send representatives to expanded city and regional councils. In turn, such regional councils would elect national representatives.
In contrast to this description are the implied descriptions of capitalist spokespeople that democracy is voting in elections. Because capitalist ruling classes have learned how to hold elections in which they select who gets to run for office, they strongly equate elections with democracy. But, of course, we know better.

Middle East Loses Trillions As U.S. Strikes Record Arms Deals

by Rick Rozoff from Stop Nato

Military exports directly feeds the US military-industrial complex that is at the command center of the Empire. This is a good summary of its activities in the Middle East that have had so many devastating impacts on people's lives in that unfortunate region. The article is based on a recently released...
study conducted by the Strategic Foresight Group in India. The latter, a report published in a book entitled The Cost of Conflict in the Middle East, calculates that conflict in the area over the last 20 years has cost the nations and people of the region 12 trillion U.S. dollars.