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, October 30, 2010

Class War in America

by David Rosen from CounterPunch

The author provides an excellent overview of the history of class war in the US. His history makes clear that as the rich increasingly win this war, so has the class war been increasingly hidden from its citizens.  

For those of us who have maintained their grasp on political reality, the ignorance of our fellow Americans about this issue has created a nation where it often resembles an insane asylum. We can only hope that the inmates stop taking their corporate media drugs and break out of the asylum. It is our duty to assist them to escape, and this task should become easier as the spread between media delusions and reality widens.
Today, class war no longer dare speak its name. Manufacturing has given way to financial capital as the defining sector of the global economy. And one of Standard Oil’s progenitors, Citibank, strongly influences the decisions determining federal economic policy. Sadly, today’s super-rich, whether members of the country club set, contributors to the Republican party, subsidizing a right-wing think tank or financing the “populist” Tea Party movement, are rarely derided as robber barons.

Today’s robber barons know that the media matters and have effectively bought-off the popular opinion makers. Stylishly groomed corporate executives and financiers, who are morally no better then slick thieves, have become celebrities. They are flattered on reality TV shows, praised on business programs and voyeuristically celebrated by the popular media. The American media knows better then bite the hand that feeds it.

Electric Evasion

by Michael Dawson from CounterPunch

The author does a good job of punching holes in all the hype about electric cars. 

Also, I can never get over the implied assumption in all this hype that somehow electricity is free of pollution, that is, the implication that electricity is a source of energy rather than a means to distribute energy whose source continues to be mostly fossil fuels. 

I presume that concentrating the burning of fossil fuels at certain plants, converting the fuels to electricity, and distributing the electricity to various outlets is less polluting than burning the fuels in vehicles--but how much is never discussed. Then, of course, this process results in the inevitable loss of energy through the various steps of conversion and distribution.

Clearly all the hype is designed to give capitalists another big opportunity to pursue profits while reassuring everyone that this is the "green" thing to do, that it will save the planet.

Rich nations to wreck climate talks

by Simon Butler from Green Left
No legally-binding agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions will be made at this year’s big United Nations climate conference in Cancun, Mexico from November 29 to December 10. And that’s just the way the rich nations want it.
The Empire will have its way as long as "we, the people" do not organize and mobilize alternative institutions to counter capitalism--the foundation that the Empire is built upon.

Against mainstream economics: The Kick It Over Manifesto [A Call to Action at Universities]

from Climate and Capitalism
An international student movement to free the economics curriculum from its neoclassical straitjacket was launched last week at the University of California at Berkeley.

For its first action, students worldwide are being encouraged to post the following manifesto, preferably printed on brightly colored paper, on the doors and bulletin boards of their university's  economics department.
This might be a good way to stir up some political activity and raise consciousness on university campuses regarding capitalism's role in destroying the Earth's habitat for humans and other living things.


Yes, the Rich Are Still Quite Different

by Jamie Johnson from Vanity Fair

Occasionally on Saturday I like to keep up with the lives of the one percent of Americans by featuring a post by the author who is an heir of the Johnson and Johnson estate. I think that it is important that we share in the problems and concerns of all our fellow Americans.
Ever since the economy collapsed and the government bailed out Wall Street, flagrant exhibitionism has been steadily losing its outward appeal. The wealthy no longer flaunt their out-sized fortunes and elevated social status with pride. Instead, they put on middle class airs and disingenuously espouse mainstream values, hoping to avoid the populist fury that has been spreading throughout the nation.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Time for a New Theory of Money

by Ellen Brown from her website

I have found her writing on the subject of money to be most understandable and informative. In this piece she provides a brief history of money, current problems with money supply, and a recommended solution. For more information on this topic, I recommend reading her book entitled, Web of Debt.

The Man Behind the Throne

by Shay Totten from Seven Days

This article was forwarded to me by a friend in Vermont who felt that it revealed a lot about how politically powerful people function behind the scenes. Indeed, it is a rare report that, at best, can only be found in independent sources like this small weekly newspaper in Vermont.

This article focuses on the State of Vermont and how a particular, well-connected individual functions behind the scenes to enhance and discourage would-be political players.  My sense is that he is a trustworthy agent of the rich and powerful in Vermont who are determined to keep well out of public view.
Sylvester’s secretive ways have also earned him a long-standing, and perhaps at times unfounded, reputation as a puppet master, the proverbial “man behind the curtain.” The man some insiders call the “Prince of Darkness” declined to be quoted for this story.

“He’s got access to people with real money, and those people with real money will invest in politicians who will protect their interests,” says Garrison Nelson, a University of Vermont political science professor and longtime political observer. “Harlan’s basic goal has always been to keep the tax rates low for his high-end clients, and he’s found congenial Democrats and Republicans to go along with him.” 

I've argued before that political power in the US is much like an onion where you find many layers of powerful people. The deeper you go to the core of the onion, the more difficulty you encounter because of all the protective secrecy barriers that exist. You see, the ruling class must protect the "democratic" mythology that gives their regimes the important veneer of "democratic" legitimacy.   

Notice that the political labels of "Democratic" and "Republican" are easily interchangeable. Of course, the two parties serve the same ruling class. They are needed, once again, to serve the false "democratic" mythology with which the American people have been indoctrinated.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Manufacturing Mayhem in Mexico: From Nixon to NAFTA and Beyond

from Chris Floyd's excerpts from London Review of Books article.  

The article goes a long way to explaining how the Empire uses, and has used, the "war on drugs" as a cover for greater militarization, greater profits, and expansion of the Empire.
Whatever shape it takes, the war on drugs continues to be even more profitable than the drug trade itself. All the killing keeps prices per gram high, so the cartels do fine, as do the legions of sicarios and the funeral directors they help to feed. The bankers who launder the money also win, as do the businessmen into whose enterprises the newly laundered funds are funnelled. The American weapons manufacturers stand to do nicely, as do the US security consultants and military contractors who will deposit almost all of the Merida funds into their own accounts, and who can expect to make billions more from the militarisation of the border on the American side: someone has to make the helicopters, the cameras, the night-vision goggles, the motion sensors, the unmanned drones, as well as build the private prisons that hold the migrants. Finally politicians too stand to gain....

Reappearance of Huge Plumes of Oil is Making It Hard to Pretend that the Problem Has Disappeared

from Washington's Blog

The blogger lists numerous sources of evidence that the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico is being widely observed. Funny, but we don't hear much of this in mainstream media.

Foreclosure Lawyers Go to Gardner's Farm for Edge on Lenders

by Prashant Gopal from Bloomberg

Okay, some lawyers are making a mint off of other people's misery, but skills and information is necessary if foreclosure activists choose to fight foreclosures legally. And the article is quite slanted toward making money by lawyers off this new industry. Still, there is a lot of useful legal information in the article for people fighting foreclosures.

Washington's Blog has been closely following the mortgage frauds and here are two articles that may be of interest to you:

"The Fraud Perpetrated Upon Investors and Insurers Due to Multiple Pledges of Collateral Could Be Massive"

Why Did Banks Give Home Loans to People Who They KNEW Couldn't Pay?

Worlds Collide at Cancun Climate Talks

by Laura Carlsen from Foreign Policy in Focus.
...two worlds will collide in Cancun. The first is a world in denial where profits come before people and the planet, and the most threatening environmental crisis in history is viewed as a business opportunity. This world will be heavily represented by most developed country leaders and representatives of corporations hawking green projects as they continue to trash the environment and pursue unfettered access to ever-scarcer natural resources.

The second is a world of small farmers, indigenous peoples, poor urban communities, and islanders that are suffering unprecedented droughts, water scarcity, and storms. Thousands of people from organizations throughout the world will travel to Cancun to make their voices heard. They are far from being just victims. The citizens of this second world are closely tied to local ecosystems, and in many cases their stewardship has guaranteed the conservation of the planet’s remaining forests (redefined by climate-change conservatives as “carbon sinks”), biodiversity, and watersheds.
Learn about the mobilization of working people to oppose the false and dangerous solutions that are likely to be proposed by the ruling elites at this upcoming conference.

Time out

French pension strikes halt flights

from Al Jazeera.  

The latest update on the battle waged by French workers vs the French ruling capitalist class. The latter are banking on protest fatigue and resignation to set in.

Also from AFP:  French strikers rally in last ditch bid to halt pension bill

Globalization Creates Unemployment: American Job Loss Is Permanent

by Paul Craig Roberts from Global Research.

I love it when this former official of the Reagan administration exposes all the lies of the current capitalist spokespeople. It would be interesting to know how his conversion to truth came about.

Here he exposes all the falsehoods and diversions propagated in the media about the unemployment problem in the US. 

What is unmentioned, and maybe even a more serious consequence, is the de-skilling of American workers. Many skilled workers with training and experience behind them will lose those skills by extended periods of unemployment. Newly trained workers will have little chance to hone their training with on-the-job experience. Younger people won't bother pursuing expensive training without jobs to go to.

The Debt Crisis Hits Harder in Europe Than in the Emergent Countries of the South

by Ram Etwareea from the Committee for the Abolition of Third World Debt

Scattered here and there in rather obscure sources are bits and pieces of the truth which is withheld from us by capitalist controlled media. In this piece we find some of these bits and pieces regarding the causes of the debt crises in Greece. Remember the mainstream media stories about how profligate those damn Greeks are?
‘Many of the loans were granted to Greece to buy military material from France and Germany,’ Eric Toussaint explained. ‘After the crisis became manifest, the military-industrial lobby even succeeded in maintaining the defence budget while social expenditure was slashed by more than 20%.’ He recalled that in the very heart of the Greek crisis at the beginning of the year Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Prime Minister of Turkey, i.e. a country with tense relationships with its Greek neighbour, went to Athens and proposed a 20% reduction of the military budget in both countries. The Greek government did not respond for it felt the pressure of the French and German authorities that wanted to support their arms sales.
And the other observations about countries defaulting on debts and surviving, if not thriving, is very unusual. Likewise the advantages enjoyed by those countries that maintained governmental control over their industries instead of following the dictates of the neo-liberal capitalists.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Economic Crisis and The Protest Movement: French Lessons for U.S. Workers

by Shamus Cooke from Global Research

The events in France related to the austerity cuts are seen as pivotal for working people. Because France is seen as a test case, the capitalist ruling classes everywhere are watching and waiting to see how far they can push working people. If they can get away with it in France where workers are more class conscious, they figure they can apply the cuts in every capitalist country. I think the author is absolutely correct.
The world watches as France once again erupts in protests, demonstrations, and strikes. So much is at stake. If France's corporate-dominated government is able to increase the retirement age, other governments will be empowered to follow through with their plans to do the same.

If labor, student, and community groups succeed in stopping the pension reform -- or toppling the government -- workers in other countries will likewise be inspired to fight back and organize in the French fashion.

The worldwide recession has encouraged business-focused governments to pursue the kind of anti-worker policies they've been discussing for years. There is common agreement among these governments on a global scale as to the necessity for these polices. Working people disagree.  

For the Conservatives, this is not a financial crisis but a long-awaited opportunity

by George Monbiot from the Guardian.

The author sees a pattern being played out in the UK with many cutbacks related to quasi-governmental organizations (quangos). 
Public bodies whose purpose is to hold corporations to account are being swept away. Public bodies whose purpose is to help boost corporate profits, regardless of the consequences for people and the environment, have sailed through unharmed. What the two lists suggest is that the economic crisis is the disaster the Conservatives have been praying for. The government's programme of cuts looks like a classic example of disaster capitalism: using a crisis to re-shape the economy in the interests of business.
He then continues on to reveal how the ruling capitalists see the current economic collapse as an excellent opportunity to use "shock therapy".
...35 corporate executives wrote to the Telegraph yesterday, arguing, just as Milton Friedman used to do, for a short, sharp shock, before the window of opportunity closes. The policy might hit their profits for a while, but when we stagger out of our shelters to assess the damage, we'll discover that we have emerged into a different world, run for their benefit, not ours.

The Tory 'big society' relies on women replacing welfare

by Selma James from the Guardian

The author reviews the history of social spending in the UK after WWII how the capitalist ruling class saved capitalism which was threatened by worker aspirations for socialism. 
The welfare state was a legacy of the second world war. After the misery of the great depression and the slaughter that followed, people demanded change: the welfare of people, including working-class people, was to be central. Millions demanded socialism – and the welfare state was what we got.
Now with the capitalists running up huge debts from their reckless bets at their capitalist casinos, they feel that they can no longer afford the welfare state.

The authors sees the cutbacks as impacting women and families the most.
It has been noted that families with children will bear the brunt of cuts, while the childless two-income family will not. It is the carer who will carry the heaviest load because she has the greater responsibility. And not only for children who will lose education and other allowances, but for relatives with disabilities and pensioner parents whose local services will either be directly cut or contracted out, to be done by workers paid slave wages not to care, but to meet targets.

Coming Soon to America: Big Push for Austerity

by Roger Bybee from In These Times

The fight-backs in Europe that is currently being led by French workers portends the same battles here in the US. Unlike capitalist who are organized globally, there has been little effort to organize workers globally. As a consequence workers are being picked off one nation at a time: Iceland, Latvia, Greece, Portugal, England, and France.  If the French workers cannot stop the spread of capitalism's worker killing virus there, it will be spreading to the US in the near future--probably right after the November elections.

I thoroughly disagree with this comment by the author:

In the US, the intensity of the Austerity-For-Workers program will
depend partially on the size of Republican gains in the November 2 mid-term elections. More seats going Republican—particularly the loss of
the House—means more momentum for attacking working families'
social safety net.
The author is clearly a capitalist liberal. As such he believes in a kinder, gentler capitalism--a cruel hoax, an oxymoron. The Republican and Democratic parties in the US function exactly like "good cops and bad cops"--they both want to hang you.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The World Liberal Opportunists Made

by Chris Hedges from Truthdig

I'm not sure if he is merely announcing the demise of politically liberal capitalists, bemoaning that fact, or celebrating it. Personally, I celebrate it--because it is "Time for Progressives to Grow Up" (Francis Moore Lappé).

Liberals have always served to preserve capitalism--that was their function. Because capitalism has now gone global, the US ruling class thinks globally--that's where the profits are--and doesn't care about its local constituents. It is depending on its many powerful organs of propaganda (schools, media, and Hollywood) to keep people misinformed and misdirected. Hedges seems mostly worried about the right-wing:
The collapse of the constitutional state, presaged by the death of the liberal class, has created a power vacuum that a new class of speculators, war profiteers, gangsters and killers, historically led by charismatic demagogues, will enthusiastically fill. It opens the door to overtly authoritarian and fascist movements.
It is also quite possible that many people will wake up to see the system for what it is--a system designed to accumulate wealth in the hands of a few people--and change it.

The Violence Debate: Teaching the Oppressed How to Fight Oppression

by Ramzy Baroud from Foreign Policy Journal.

The author provides a refreshing look at the issue of using violence or non-violence against an oppressor. 

Personally, I wonder at all the preaching in anti-war organizations about non-violence in the US, a country that has used violence on a massive scale beginning with Native-Americans until the present day against 3rd World people. At times the amount of this preaching has, it seems to me, exceeded the protests against the violence of the Empire. 

Could it be, stemming from a fear of its own people, that the Empire's ruling class and its political operatives have launched a stealth campaign to undermine any thoughts by its own working people to use such methods against them? Something to think about.
Violence and non-violence are mostly collective decisions that are shaped and driven by specific political and socio-economic conditions and contexts. Unfortunately, the violence of the occupier has a tremendous role in creating and manipulating these conditions. It is unsurprising that the Second Palestinian Uprising was much more violent than the first, and that violent resistance in Palestine gained a huge boost after the victory scored by the Lebanese resistance in 2000, and again in 2006.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Climate change v capitalism: the feast is almost over

by Jerry Mander from the Guardian

Even this liberal capitalist newspaper recognizes that the contradictions between capitalism and Earth's ecology demonstrates conclusively that the feast is over.
The whole situation is something new for capitalism, a shock. For two centuries it's been like a closely guarded secret that the entire economic system we live in, and assumed was forever, is actually part of another larger system, but with only so many resources and dump sites. But the secret is out. We are eating up the materials that sustain us, and the feast is almost over.
And there are some very encouraging signs that people are waking up to the necessity of changing things.
Already there are many hundreds of groups, from every continent, at work defining the ingredients of an alternative economic system, one that can live within the carrying capacity of the planet.
So, the big question is, "are we going to wait for the capitalist ruling classes to stop the party, in which case it might be too late, or are we going to stop it?"

Tracking Changes Global Conditions Over Time

from NASA

NASA has a number of clarifying graphs and charts on their website to track various climate change indicators.

Fairness: The Academy vs. the Electorate?

by Paul Sagar from Bad Conscience.

UK's Prime Minister recently made comments to his Conservative Party's colleagues regarding the deserving poor as justification to cut back welfare payments. Meanwhile his party supports lower inheritance taxes and private education that function in direct contradiction to any fairness principle. The author of this piece justifiably looks into how fairness might apply to the undeserving rich.

Here in the US, the rich are fighting back against any notions of ending their tax breaks given to them by Bush, Jr. And did you know that there isn't any federal inheritance tax in the US at the present time? Jamie Johnson from Vanity Fair explains:
There’s also the issue of the phenomenal, but temporary, quirk that exists in the world of the estate tax. Bizarrely, in what remains a surprise to virtually everyone familiar with the topic, a full estate-tax repeal has existed for the entire calendar year 2010. Thanks to a lapsed law, no estate, not even those worth many billions of dollars, has been taxed this year. The aberration is so odd that wealthy people aren’t really able to consider how to plan for it. They just morbidly joke among themselves that it’s a terrific year to die.
Well, I'm sure that it was just a Congressional oversight--those folks are so busy.

Food and Finance

by James Kwak from The Baseline Scenario.

The author comments on the recently published book by Michael Pollan entitled, In Defense of Food. We learn that capitalist incentives result in the poor quality of the food that most Americans consume.
...you have an industry that earns profits by convincing people to do things that are not in their long-term interests; that, in the process, creates negative externalities for the rest of society; and that has cowed regulators into submission, if not outright cheerleading.
I haven't read this latest book by Pollan, but I have read his earlier book entitled, The Omnivore's Dilemma, which profoundly impressed me. Pollan is an excellent, easy-to-read author who knows his subject well. 

The Revolt Shaking France

from the Socialist Project

There is widespread support in France for the protests against the latest cutbacks against working people.
...the idea is that democracy from below is more important than the institutions of formal democracy. Of course, all of the mainstream parties and the media say that real democracy is what happens in parliament. But the strike movement has raised the question: Where is the power? Who decides? Is it only in the central apparatuses of the government, in parliament or the presidency? This is utterly decisive about the current situation.
See also the latest report from Al Jazerra entitled, "French fuel blockades lifted".
"I think that this is what Sarkozy is banking on. That workers all over France may be suffering from demo fatigue, and that the whole movement will be losing some of its momentum.

"The real day of reckoning for the unions will be this Thursday. They have called a day of national mobilisation. The real question will be in what sort of numbers people will respond to their call."

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Not-For-Profit Corporate Power: An Interview with Darwin Bond-Graham

by Michael Barker from State of Nature. This week's must-read!

Bond-Graham uses the re-formulation of Clauswitz's famous axiom that "war is the continuation of politics by other means", to explain a lot of current political realities.
Thinkers like Foucault, however, turned this aphorism upside down because they were concerned about all kinds of power, not the narrow range of power Clausewitz was looking at: intra-elite struggles to seize state power, state alliances, and exercise of sovereignty over a territory. Looking at everything from the most mundane forms of subjective power, as well as the exercise of state power, Foucault said that politics is basically the continuation of war by other means.
I'm sure that if we were able to trace the origins of the rich and powerful we would find their sources in war.

Taking the Public Out of Public TV

from Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting.

I am posting this only to illustrate how progressives-who-refuse-to-grow-up write on subjects such as PBS. I'd like to contrast this extremely bland report with one written over three years ago, and not from some rabble rousing fount of radical rhetoric, but from the Baltimore Chronicle

The latter does a much better job of understanding how a quasi-public broadcast service has devolved into serving the right-wing agenda of the Empire. Like all other important institutions, the ruling class knows how to control PBS in its interest which it does through appointments to their Board of Directors by the President and through money appropriated by Congress.

From Agribusiness to Agroecology?

by Juan Reardon from Venezuelanalysis

It is interesting that the nationalization of the privately held agri-business reported on in the article is questioned as to whether it really makes a difference. One would not encounter such ambiguity in the earlier years of the Chavez administration. 

The article really doesn't answer the question in the headline. Instead the author prefers to cite ideological statements in support of nationalization and bringing enterprises under worker control. But mixed in with revolutionary ideology are many concerns as to what the transfer of ownership really means: a much more ecological and sustainable agriculture for Venezuela under the control of the people or more conventional agriculture under bureaucratic control.
...the contradictory statements coming from government representatives (celebrating chemical inputs while calling for environmental conservation) are to be rectified – if they are to be rectified at all – by the efforts of agroecology and food sovereignty advocates on the ground. This will depend on, in large part, the Venezuelan people being respected in their right to live out this democratic exercise in peace and self-determination.

Afghan feminist: Why foreign troops should leave

by Malalai Joya from Green Left
The documents released by Wikileaks prove what we have been saying about war in Afghanistan. There are more massacres by NATO forces than they wanted us to believe. Now the whole world should know this war is a disaster.

These are the reasons that, throughout Afghanistan, more and more people are taking to the streets to protest the US occupation.

Obama’s surge of the war also puts more from the US and other occupying nations at risk. Why are Obama and [Canadian Prime Minister Stephen] Harper wasting so much money on this war when they cannot give jobs or even houses to their own poor people? 
The Afghans are clear about the election games that the Empire likes to play on their people; we in the US must also refuse to collaborate with ruling class deceptions by not voting, except possibly for local candidates and measures to protect our communities.

Kyrgyzstan: Melting Glaciers Threaten Central Asia’s Ecological and Energy Future

by David Trilling from EurasiaNet
By some estimates, Kuzmichonok says, only 10 percent of Kyrgyzstan’s glaciers will remain by the end of the century; many smaller ones will be gone within a generation. “Since our hydro energy system works on the basis of river runoff, our energy production will be reduced” by approximately the same amount.

The situation is dire, observes Nikolai Kravtsov, an energy expert and director of Yustin, a consumer rights advocacy group in Bishkek. “In 20 to 30 years, glacial melting will get to a critical point where there will be no ice left. And 90 percent of our rivers’ water comes from these glaciers. It will be a critical moment for our energy system as well,” Kravtsov cautions. 
Global warming...what global warming?