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, October 2, 2010

I need to take today off.

Friday, October 1, 2010

American Workers Versus the Tea Parties

by Jane Slaughter and Mark Brenner from Labor Notes
Bill Fletcher of the Center for Labor Renewal, who authored an economics education package for the AFL-CIO in the 1990s, says that because the union movement has not confronted racism seriously nor talked about how capitalism works, that failure leaves some members receptive to other explanations of their problems. 
For more about what union people are up against as they cope with the Tea Party, read Matt Taibbi from Rolling Stone about his recent experience hanging out with Tea Partiers.
So how does a group of billionaire businessmen and corporations get a bunch of broke Middle American white people to lobby for lower taxes for the rich and deregulation of Wall Street? That turns out to be easy. Beneath the surface, the Tea Party is little more than a weird and disorderly mob, a federation of distinct and often competing strains of conservatism that have been unable to coalesce around a leader of their own choosing. Its rallies include not only hardcore libertarians left over from the original Ron Paul "Tea Parties," but gun-rights advocates, fundamentalist Christians, pseudomilitia types like the Oath Keepers (a group of law- enforcement and military professionals who have vowed to disobey "unconstitutional" orders) and mainstream Republicans who have simply lost faith in their party. It's a mistake to cast the Tea Party as anything like a unified, cohesive movement — which makes them easy prey for the very people they should be aiming their pitchforks at. A loose definition of the Tea Party might be millions of pissed-off white people sent chasing after Mexicans on Medicaid by the handful of banks and investment firms who advertise on Fox and CNBC.

Distrust in media hits record high

by Andy Barr from Politico

At first this looked like very good news, but after delving deeper into the article I found otherwise.
Forty-eight percent believe the media is too liberal while only 15 percent of find that it tilts too conservative. Just 33 percent believe coverage is “just about right.”
It is an unpleasant reality that the bulk of Americans are so bamboozled by corporate media, following their indoctrination in an educational system that taught them what to think rather than how to think, that they haven't a shred of understanding of the source of their current problems. 

Spain: Ten million workers take part in general strike

by Paul Mitchell from World Socialist Web Site.

European workers continue to fight back.
Nearly 70 percent of Spanish workers—10 million—took part in Wednesday’s general strike. In some sectors, such as mining, metal, auto manufacture, electronic, fishing and other industries, participation was nearly 100 percent. The movement also encompassed many self-employed workers and small businesses.
And more coverage--three short videos from RT on the European protests. Watch especially the interview with F. William Engdahl.

Be a Citizen Journalist

from the The Awareness Initiative

Although this site is mostly about a new film entitled, Deceptions, I liked this segment the most because we as working people need, as a prerequisite to taking back power, to take back access to information away from corporate media giants.
Citizen journalism (also known as "public", "participatory", "democratic", "guerrilla" or "street journalism" is the concept of members of the public "playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analyzing and disseminating news and information."  (Wikipedia)
While at the site you may want to check out the film, which is about to be released, but only to schools and theaters only. They, however, have made it available for viewing on this site by breaking it up into seven segments which you can watch on your computer. Each segment is around 12 minutes. I've sampled some of the segments and can't say that I have learned anything that I didn't already know. They present alarming information that has been presented many times before.

Also, I am not fond of an "evil doer" way of looking at contemporary economic, political, or historical events. I insist on looking closely at the system of capitalism which, by its nature, produces so many sociopaths that rise, like scum, to the surface of power structures.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Casting Out: Exploring the Racialization of Muslims

A book review authored by Fatemeh Fakhraie from Islam on My Side of the book entitled, Casting Out: Exploring the Racialization of Muslims by Sherene H. Razack.

The reviewer starts with this statement:
I just finished reading Sherene H. Razack’s [book]. And I gotta say, it blew me onto my ass. 
...She uses plenty of theory and excellent cross-racial examples to illustrate that what’s currently happening to Muslims in the West (racialization that results in “the expulsion of Muslims from the political community, a process that takes the form of stigmatization, surveillance, incarceration, torture, and bombing”) has happened to other groups before.
This looks to me like a very important book to aid in our understanding of the apparent widespread phenomenon here in the US to stigmatize Muslims. I was made more aware of this dangerous trend from a recent trip to a rural area in central Washington state--Methow Valley. I picked up the small local newspaper in that area and read one hate filled letter to the editor regarding Muslims and a featured opinion piece that targeted Muslims by a local writer.

Derek Sivers: How to start a movement

For your entertainment, watch this 3:10m video:

A High-Risk Fossil Fuel Boom Sweeps Across North America

by Keith Schneider from Environment 360

This article reports on some little known facts that are mostly not covered by mainstream media which, instead, trumpets the efforts of big energy companies to promote the development of "green" energy sources.
At a time when the country should be embracing a renewable energy revolution, it is hurtling in the opposite direction, developing on a massive scale sources of energy that cause considerably more environmental harm than conventional oil and gas drilling.
It is clear to me that ruling circles are intent upon preserving the capitalist system regardless of the consequences for the vast majority of people and other creatures on this planet. Such is the desperation of a small number of people who are addicted to the power and wealth that the system brings them!

Financial Fraud and the Global Derivative Casino

by Matthias Chang from Global Research

This article focuses on the operations of big financial institutions that support the small capitalist ruling class to the detriment of the vast majority of people in the world.
$Trillions have been wiped out but hardly anyone of substance has demanded criminal prosecutions. Fraud, massive frauds have been committed by top bankers, lawyers, accountants, regulators and politicians of all hues but none had to pay for their crimes.
But, the guy who robs the corner shop down the road for a couple of bucks is incarcerated for five years or more, buggered and abused in prison. There is no pity for such a scumbag, no matter what are the circumstances that drove him to commit the crime.
I believe that Chang writes in a way that explains financial concepts and issues that many ordinary people can understand. Thus, I believe it is an important article to read and study thoroughly if you are to become an informed citizen and intelligent activist. (I always print out important articles like this for further study.)

America’s China Bashing: A Compendium of Junk Economics

by Michael Hudson from his blog.

The author attempts to cut through the fog of economic thinking (propaganda?) that mainstream US economists put out to shape economic and political policies. It appears to me that the "dismal science" of economics is so little understood because the financial experts of the ruling class want it that way. This may sound a bit paranoid, but it certainly makes sense to me. I think that they understand it very well, and they use their knowledge and our ignorance to their benefit. 

Anyway, Hudson makes a rather bold claim: 
I realize that balance-of-payments accounting and international trade theory are arcane topics, but I promise that by the time you finish this article, you will understand more than 99% of U.S. economists and diplomats striking this self-righteous pose.
I understand about 50% of his arguments, but enough, I think, to feel that he knows his subject well. His article suffers a bit from a lack of proofreading to make it easier to read, but that is a problem for all bloggers who dash off material under time limitations with little compositional support. I think the main problem with Hudson is that he only talks to other academics.

I feel that what is most urgently needed are writers who can explain economic issues in terms that ordinary people can understand. Board and computer games could be designed to illustrate many basic concepts and issues in capitalist economies. The game of Monopoly is somewhat useful, but is much too simple to explain very much.

For an author who writes to a more ordinary audience, I recommend another article I featured today by Matthias Chang.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Why the US doesn't talk to Iran

by Ismael Hossein-zadeh and Karla Hansen from Asia Times.

...US foreign policy, especially in the Middle East, is driven not so much by broad national interests as they are by narrow but powerful special interests - interests that seem to prefer war and militarism to peace and international understanding. These are the nefarious interests that are vested in military industries and related "security" businesses, notoriously known as the military-industrial complex. These beneficiaries of war dividends would not be able to justify their lion's share of our tax dollars without "external enemies" or "threats to our national interests."
The imperial drive of the Empire is not only driven by the narrow economic interests of the military-industrial complex, but also the whole capitalist enterprise that feeds the One Percent's addiction to profits by securing their access to resources, markets, and cheap labor. Yes, it's profits über alles--über peace, über stable communities, über sustainable economies, über a stable climate.

The military-industrial complex serves as the goon squad for the One Percent. They, like their Mafia counterparts, go around "breaking the legs" of those nations that refuse to cooperate with the criminal operations of the capitalist Empire.

UK government's oil shock warning

from Peak Generation

The capitalist engine of our economies is constantly looking for more stuff to produce and sell in order to increase private wealth; meanwhile...
A slew of reports published this year have pointed to a coming tightening of global oil supplies. I recently considered six reports written by groups as wide ranging as UK business leaders, the US military, insurers Lloyds, Kuwait University engineers, the German military and an Australian think tank. Taken as a whole they refer to aging oilfields, oil industry underinvestment, the limited output of unconventional sources such as oil sands, increasing global demand and the possibility of the world being close to peak oil, the geological natural maximum output.

Anti-austerity protests hit Europe

from Al Jazeera
Wave of strikes and protests held in major cities and outside EU headquarters as anger over spending cuts escalates.
While in the US activists are being intimidated by a variety of "security" services (also read this), working people in Europe are organizing ever larger militant protests against public spending cutbacks.

GM maize 'has polluted rivers across the United States'

by Steve Connor from The Independent
The insecticide is the product of a bacterial gene inserted into GM maize and other cereal crops to protect them against insects such as the European corn borer beetle. Scientists have detected the insecticide in a significant number of streams draining the great corn belt of the American mid-West.

The researchers detected the bacterial protein in the plant detritus that was washed off the corn fields into streams up to 500 metres away. They are not yet able to determine how significant this is in terms of the risk to either human health or the wider environment.
I have little doubt that any studies designed to determine the risks associated with GM maize will be effectively opposed by the GM food industry. 

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

High Profits, High Unemployment

by Gene DeNardo from Dissident Voice

This is an excellent description of how the Federal Reserve (the US central bank that issues money "out of thin air" and owned by private parties) has served different, but important functions in different time periods. 

In more recent times this money has been used to increase capital, that is, the implements of production to reduce labor costs. This plus the outsourcing of production and jobs to low-wage third world countries has created both high unemployment and high profits to the owners of capital in the US. The author goes on to explain how the ruling class of the capitalist system is attempting to manage this potentially explosive situation.

Silent Coup in Haiti

by Darren Ell from Unside Down World (original source from The Dominion (Canada). 

Get the latest update on events in Haiti and learn how the power elite's in the US, Canada, and France are continuing to manage the political events in this tragedy-ridden country. The reporter discussed "the crisis of democracy" with "some key political on the ground in Haiti and abroad."

I was particularly interested in their responses to this question:
Is it fair to say that the international community does not want to see democracy in Haiti? And if so, why, especially considering Haiti’s great need and the sums of money promised for reconstruction by the international community?

The Road To World War III: The Global Banking Cartel Has One Card Left To Play

by David DeGraw from Amped Status

Guess what that card is--
For those of us who have been paying attention to economic imperial operations that have been carried out against countries throughout the world, this looks all too familiar. The IMF and global bankers have conquered the second and third world, and they have now moved on to countries within the first world. Western European and American working classes are in the cross-hairs now.
I differ with DeGraw on certain background assumptions and tone, but the numerous details he provides to support his thesis are impressive. 

For example, I do not believe that there is a "financial terrorism network" that has taken over the US government--or, at least, I would not put it that way. His tone seems to be informed by an evil people theory of history, and as such, is much too sensational and paranoid. It is not that I don't believe that the US working class is being preyed upon; it is simply that framing the issue in such sensational terms diverts attention away from the system itself which supports the actions of key players in the financial institutions. 

I believe that this distinction is important for how we cope with the continuing economic attacks of the capitalist class against the interests of working people and the health of the planet. Framing the issue in such sensational terms tends to incite extreme and ineffective responses. 

Capitalists are merely acting according to the logic of their system which requires them to seek ever greater sources of wealth. They have effectively plundered the 2nd and 3rd world countries, and now the first world is left. 

Capitalists no longer identify with the interests of a particular country. Capitalism has become globalized. Many capitalists have numerous homes scattered all over the world and they often see themselves as global citizens. Their investments are anywhere they can make a profit, and they frequently stash their money in off-shore banks to avoid taxes. They play at Aspen, Monte Carlo, Davos (Switzerland), and Dubai.

So, with these caveats in mind, I recommend reading this excerpt which is Part I to his new book, The Road Through 2012: Revolution or World War III.

US Fish and Wildlife Service unveils climate change plans

from The Great Beyond

A US government agency just released a plan by this revealing title--"Rising to the Urgent Challenge: Strategic Plan for Responding to Accelerating Climate Change". 

There you have it. An official US government agency, although not one that is used for public relations purposes, sees climate change accelerating and is making plans accordingly to deal with it. Doesn't it also mean that because climate change is accelerating that we are past the tipping point on climate change?

You might also be interested in this 11:15m PBS podcast of an interview with the director of a current play in London entitled, “Earthquakes in London” regarding climate change suppression of evidence and how the issue plays out in a particular family.

New Scientific Evidence Undermines Afghanistan War

from Reuters news service. 
In a striking show of unity, representatives of "Scientists for 9/11 Truth," "U.S. Military Officers for 9/11 Truth" and "Actors & Artists for 9/11 Truth" presented their findings and unveiled their eye-opening websites. Each non-profit group has launched a petition calling for a new, transparent investigation. 

Monday, September 27, 2010

Obama administration invokes “state secrets” doctrine to defend the assassination of US citizens

by Tom Carter from World Socialist Web Site
As the global crisis of capitalism intensifies, the ruling class in the US is faced with rapidly eroding support for its policies of endless war abroad and self-enrichment at all costs at home. As popular opposition intensifies, the political establishment and all of its official institutions march towards more and more dictatorial forms of rule. In this context, the Obama regime’s assertion of the power to unilaterally issue a death warrant for any person anywhere in the world, and for that decision not to be reviewed by any court, should be taken as a dire warning of things to come.
So, what's the difference between the change candidate, and now President, Obama and Bush Jr?
Jon Stewart of The Daily Show has an amusing take on this question in this 4:16m video from last year.

In my opinion, the best way to view government in the US is to see it as political theater. The producer is the ruling capitalist class, the director is collectively made up of  the political operatives like Carl Rove, Henry Kissinger, Richard Perle, Peter G. Peterson, and Charles Koch inside and outside of official government. The actors are the those who play the official roles in this production--the President, Congress people, Supreme Court and heads of government agencies. If this scheme is correct, you can easily see who is in control of all the political plays.

The Founding Fathers Weren't Anti-Islam

from Washington's Blog.

This great blogger delves into some early US history and attitudes expressed at that time with regard to Islam and other religions and comes up with some rather surprising stuff. This piece is a good antidote to all the right-wing hate propaganda that is now being implanted in the minds of so many Americans. 

During a visit to Methow Valley in central Washington state a few days ago, I read some opinion pieces in the local paper that truly shocked me. It is apparent, far more than I previously thought, that the far-right nut fringe is having a lot of success in rural America in fostering hate against Muslims. Read about it in this link (not a permalink, so read it now) which shows in the last two items a letter to an editor followed by a featured opinion piece by a local writer, William Slusher.

Anger as a Private Company Takes Over Libraries

by David Streitfeld from NY Times

Just when I thought that things couldn't get much worse for life in the US, this report comes along. 
A private company in Maryland has taken over public libraries in ailing cities in California, Oregon, Tennessee and Texas, growing into the country’s fifth-largest library system. 

Localism vs globalism: two world views collide

by Michael McCarthy from The Independent.

This is a liberal source of news and information. Thus it follows that their coverage of this "Sustainable Planet Forum" reflects this point of view which is essentially that "we [capitalists] can have our cake and eat it too". Because liberal leaning capitalists want desperately to keep their system which provides them with unearned wealth and power, they show up at forums like this to argue that we can have a sustainable planet too.
He said that...the only solution was to grow in a different way – that was what sustainable development meant – and the only institutions who could enable us to do that were major companies, with innovations.
He avoids looking squarely at why capitalism cannot do other than it has always done--accumulate more wealth and power in the hands of a few people. The system is designed that way. It's like he thinks that a wolf can be trained to become a vegetarian.
And notice how the Tory spokesman refers back to what he considers "human nature":
Humans are acquisitive; we always have been. It's a fair bet that when we originally crawled out of a cave in prehistory we went looking for stuff to accumulate. Another pelt; a better home; a sharper weapon; a longer stick. Stuff: it's what people like.
Of course people like stuff that enhances their lives, builds sustainable communities, and doesn't trash their environments. Is that what capitalism does? Look at the track record. Are we going to keep hoping that it will change into something it isn't until the planet can no longer sustain human life?

F.B.I. Searches Antiwar Activists’ Homes

by Colin Moynhan from The NY Times

The report indicates that "security" services in the US are increasingly intent upon intimidating people who protest war and other nefarious government policies and actions.
The searches in Minneapolis took place early in the morning at the homes of people who have helped organize demonstrations against the war in Iraq and protests held two years ago during the Republican National Convention in St. Paul. 
Indeed, some people are stating that the US is already a police state. Check out Paul Craig Robert's article entitled, "It Is Official: The US Is A Police State". And Burghardt's piece entitled, "FBI Raids Activists' Homes in Sinister COINTELPRO Replay".

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Algeria and Vietnam all over again

by Djelloul Marbrook from his blog

While I agree with his parallels about all the other imperialist military adventurers, I think that he has been taken in by the agencies of indoctrination. He writes: 
...it is the job of a democracy to distinguish those interests and make sure that when it goes to war it goes to war to defend its people and not to fatten its elite. And that means imbuing its military with a love and dedication to democratic process....
Such "democracy" that we have heretofore enjoyed is only a shadow version of a true participatory, inclusive democracy that, for me, is the only genuine one. Capitalist elites have through their educational and media institutions of indoctrination made sure that we grow up thinking that this version is real democracy. With their elaborate legal and electoral institutions they have created a facade of "democracy" that is much like those constructed facades of wild west towns we find in Hollywood Westerns.

Should the US ruling capitalist class in the course of their compulsive pursuit of profits find that maintaining this facade is just too much trouble or too costly, they will not hesitate to turn to some form of a police state.  

Need, Trust, Realism and Well-Chosen Allies -- Day 5 Mondragon

by Carl Davidson from his blog.

This is the author's final report on his tour of the facilities of the Mondragon Cooperative Corporation in the Basque region of Spain.
Our first stop is another component allied with Mongragon University called SAIOLAN. It's an incubator project for helping to launch new coops and high-tech businesses.
From there they attended talks regarding innovation of new technologies, and finally an overseas assistance program for coops in other countries. 

In these sessions a lot of interesting questions were asked of the Mondragon spokes-people. For example:
Have you had any inquiries from those countries trying to define a new 21st century socialism, in whatever way, such as Venezuela, Cuba, China, Vietnam or even South Africa, on how they might use Mondragon's ideas and services? Do you think you have something to offer here?
 Those of you who have found this series of interest may want to read an academic report entitled, Commons and Cooperatives, featured in today's blog.

Commons and Cooperatives

by Greig de Peuter and Nick Dyer-Witheford from Affinities: A Journal of Radical Theory, Culture, and Action.

The article is from an academic journal and as such is written at a fairly high level of abstraction. Nevertheless, it presents an in-depth review and analysis of cooperative enterprises that can contribute to an understanding by an ordinary educated or well read person of cooperatives located in societies dominated by a capitalist system. I think it is a particularly suitable article as a followup of the series on the tour of the Mondragon facilities as reported by Carl Davidson and carried on this website. 
When worker-owned firms must compete in goods, labour, and financial markets with capitalist firms which adhere to the bottom line there is relentless pressure on worker-owners to abandon prioritizing the quality of work life and fair systems of compensation, and to succumb to exploitative relations with suppliers, customers, external parties, and the environment.  
(For articles such as this I find that they are much easier to read by converting them to a printed hard copy.)

What is Obama’s Education Agenda?

by Katie Quarles from Socialist Alternative

The answer according to this author is that it isn't much different than Bush's.
More and more, parents, teachers and civil rights activists are seeing Obama’s policies as a continuation of Bush’s NCLB. Obama, like Bush before him, likes to blame “bad” teachers and teachers’ unions for the poor state of education. This is an attempt by the bosses and their politicians, including Obama, to divert blame for the destruction of the young people’s futures - particularly the wholesale destruction of jobs - by their system. Everyone who has been in school knows that some teachers are more skilled than others. Nevertheless, the quality of schools is determined far more by the wealth of the community than the skills of teachers. By heaping blame on teachers, the bosses seek to divide us when we should be uniting to defend and improve public education.

Obama, like Bush and Clinton, likes to present charter schools as the answer to the problems of education. There are charter schools that perform well and those that don’t. But by removing many of the more motivated students and parents from the public schools, they are guaranteeing that the remaining public schools - especially in inner cities, where the charters proliferate - will go from bad to worse.
The article goes on to report activist campaigns in various parts of the country to fight back against cutbacks and school closures.