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, December 4, 2010

Wrong country blamed for artillery exchange on Korean peninsula

by Stephen Gowans from Voltaire.
Keeping Pyongyang under constant military pressure has been part of a long-standing goal of the U.S. - in tandem with its South Korean ally - to bring North Korea to the brink of collapse by pushing Pyongyang into accrued defense spending to the detriment of its economic development.
After the conflict between rival capitalist powers was settled in 1945, the US assumed the leadership in the defense, and promotion, of capitalism by absorbing the British Empire into an empire under its control (read The Anglo-American Establishment by Carroll Quigley). At the same time the new US hegemony went immediately after its primary adversary, the Soviet Union. There was a seamless transition from the defeat of their capitalist rivals--Germany, Italy, and Japan--to the war against the USSR whose resources, labor, and markets were not accessible by Western capitalists due to the nature of their command economy under the control of a centralized bureaucracy.

In southern Korea, soon to become South Korea under US control, this new war against USSR informed US policies for this country by supporting the previous repressive police and government structures that had characterized capitalist and landlord class rule when they were under Japanese control. The US made considerable use of all Koreans who had faithfully served under the Japanese imposed regime and even used some former Japanese officials. Both groups were extremely hated by all Korean patriots and soon there were uprisings all over southern Korea against the US imposed government. From 1946 till the outbreak of the war the South Korean government under the US puppet, Syngman Rhee, used the most brutal methods of suppression imaginable against these populist movements. 

As 1950 approached, they had largely succeeded in wiping out the opposition, and as a result, the US and its South Korea regime turned their attention northward. (To read all the details of this tragedy, read the extensively documented book by Bruce Cumings entitled, The Origins to the Korean War, v.1. Unfortunately, the book is not easily obtainable, and I suspect for political reasons.)

Thus, one can see that the Korean War never ended either formally or in reality. It is still being fought because the US Empire cannot tolerate opposition to, or independence from, its influence and its economic system.

Obama, Afghan, and that Infernal Drip

by Russ Baker from Who, What, Why

This astute observer knows how to read between the lines in mass media reports. The only problem I have is the way he poses the concluding question:
And it raises this question: if an elected president is truly in control, then why are “US military and intelligence officials” going around doing their own thing?
As I see it, Obama was selected, or hired like most Presidents, to sell the main policies of the ruling class. There are always rival factions within this class who try to influence strategies. 

This brings to mind my recent reading of the Korean War and the post-WWII events in the Far East when there was a rather powerful China lobby that wanted to pursue aggressive policies against the newly established People's Republic of China (PRC) and North Korea. The Secretary of State, Dean Acheson, was in charge of foreign policy strategies under the Truman administration. Truman deferred to his judgment because he lacked much experience or knowledge of foreign affairs. Acheson wanted a less aggressive policy of containment of these nominally socialist states. He favored the promotion of splits between the USSR and the PRC, while he wanted to gradually put pressure on North Korea to the point that they would attack South Korea. From my reading of volume 2 of Bruce Cumings book entitled, The Origins of the Korean War, it appears that the machinations of the China lobby greatly accelerated the start of the Korean War, but it probably would have happened anyway.

Military leaders and their followers always have a much narrower view of things and tend to pursue aggressive policies which may backfire if the public is not sufficiently prepared to back them. Obama is very attuned to the various political factions of the ruling class, but it is difficult to tell which ones are in the ascendancy at this time.

Julian Assange: Wanted by the Empire, Dead or Alive

by Alexander Cockburn from Counterpunch.  

Cockburn offers some interesting perspectives on the recent Wikileaks, and mass media coverage of the event.
Millions in America and around the world have been given a quick introductory course in international relations and the true arts of diplomacy – not least the third-rate, gossipy prose with which the diplomats rehearse the arch romans à clef they will write when they head into retirement.
Funny, how the government assumes the right to literally and virtually strip-search people at airports, scan their emails and track their website activities, peruse their medical and banking records, but is outraged when the tables are turned and the people have access to a few of their minor secrets. This would not happen if capitalist governments were run by true representatives of the people. 

I just came across this Democracy Now program video (31:47m) which brings us up-to-date on what is happening with this episode and a debate about the WikiLeaks exposures. The debate features Glenn Greenwald and Steven Aftergood, the long-time transparency advocate with Federation for American Scientists and Secrecy News. Haven't have time to listen to it all, but it appears to be very interesting.

Mapping America’s Factory Farms

from Food & Water Watch

This article provides a very interesting map of the factory farms across the country. I was surprised by my local area near Bellingham, Washington: I thought that mostly small, family farms existed here. So why should we care?
Across the nation, while the number of farms raising livestock has decreased, the size of farms raising livestock has increased. In some places this is due to leniency in environmental regulation.  And the growth of factory farms directly threatens independent farmers through unfair pricing and lack of competition. It also threatens consumer health through pollution and widespread contamination like last summer’s egg recall. That’s the price we pay for our food to be cheap and convenient.
I've just discovered this website and am impressed with the amount of important information regarding food and water--the basic stuff of life.

Friday, December 3, 2010

From the "Wealth of Nations" to the "Debt of Nations"

from Washington's Blog

Let me direct your attention to the following author's statements toward the end of the article:
As I wrote in October, in a post entitled "The Founding Fathers' Vision of Prosperity Has Been Destroyed":
The ability for America and the 50 states to create its own credit has largely been lost to private bankers. The lion's share of new credit creation is done by private banks, so - instead of being able to itself create money without owing interest - the government owes unfathomable trillions in interest to private banks.
America may have won the Revolutionary War, but it has since lost one of the main things it fought for: the freedom to create its own credit instead of having to beg for credit from private banks at a usurious cost.
The so-called "founding fathers" is a term frequently used to refer to those people who established the main institutions of the US shortly after the War of Independence. The term has taken on an almost religious-like meaning. These historical figures are now regarded as almost demigods whose virtue is beyond criticism. 

What this otherwise brilliant blogger misses is the reality that many of them were the first in the US to privatize banking in the form of the Bank of North America. According to The Lost Science of Money they used as their model the Bank of England. This institutional arrangement has been referred to as a "central bank".  They create the nation's money supply by lending money to their respective governments.

Private individuals, mostly "founding fathers" contributed some of the start-up money, but this fell short a bit and government money ended up contributing about 63%. Essentially it was managed by the private owners, and of course, for their benefit. Except for brief periods in US history, the money supply has been under the control of private banks, and in more recent history in a similar central bank arrangement by the Federal Reserve with some superficial participation by the federal government to provide a cover of legitimacy. Nowadays The Fed creates money "out of thin air" with the government's sanction (fiat money).

From the article one can see how there are layers upon layers of banks. 
Of course, there is no bright line between private and central banks, since big banks own the Fed, and the world's central banks - in turn - own the BIS.
At the bottom of this banking empire are the individual banks like Citibank that are owned by private individuals and institutions. Some of the individuals are major investors and members of the ruling class.

The corporate takeover of American schools

by Paul Thomas from the Guardian

The best part of this article are the citations to research that shows that schools can only, at best, have a limited positive impact with children who suffer the disadvantages of poor backgrounds. Such studies are always ignored in US mainstream media--for obvious reasons. 

Under capitalism society exists to serve one class, those who"own" and control all significant economic enterprises in the economy. The tendency for direct corporate involvement in education, in my opinion, reflects the general shift to more direct control by the ruling class of all institutions in society. For education specifically they probably see this involvement as necessary to downsize the greater commitment to education that existed previously. 

The increasing global nature of capitalist rule necessarily means the abandonment of commitment to the home base. Highly educated and skilled workers can be moved around the globe at will by corporations regardless of worker origins, and be paid much lower wages which, of course, enhances the wealth and power to this class. 

The subtitle, "The trend for appointing CEOs to the top jobs is symptomatic of a declining commitment to public education and social justice", provides a liberal slant to their piece by suggesting that there has been a time when there was a true commitment to education and social justice. Education under the rule of this class always served their needs for obedient, non-questioning, well indoctrinated, and skilled workers. And, of course, social injustice is built into the system of class rule. The ownership and control of the wealth produced by working people, that is bestowed under the rules of capitalism to a class of investors, is inherently unjust.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

In The Wake Of Victory

by John Michael Greer from The Archdruid Report

Because the author appears to be among the most influential intellectuals in US environmental circles, I think this piece may be worth examining as a strategy to alter the destructive path that the "political class", to use his words, is leading us down. 

Also, he interests me because his roots are in my backyard. He was born in Bremerton, Washington, attended Western Washington University, here in Bellingham (where I currently live), and obtained a BA degree in Comparative History of Ideas from the U. of Washington in Seattle. Judging by his numerous writings related to mysticism and the occult, he seems to have a peculiar fascination with these subjects. (For biography, read this.) 

His recent popular influence in environmental circles seems to stem from a number of essays and especially his recent book entitled, The Long Descent: A User's Guide to the End of the Industrial Age, in which he reassures us that we are not faced with an  immediate apocalyptic future and that we can prepare for it with mostly individualistic measures like gardening, re-learning earlier low-tech, agrarian skills. Here is how the Amazon website summarizes his themes:
The Long Descent examines the basis of such fear through three core themes:

    * Industrial society is following the same well-worn path that has led other civilizations into decline, a path involving a much slower and more complex transformation than the sudden catastrophes imagined by so many social critics today.
    * The roots of the crisis lie in the cultural stories that shape the way we understand the world. Since problems cannot be solved with the same thinking that created them, these ways of thinking need to be replaced with others better suited to the needs of our time.
    * It is too late for massive programs for top-down change; the change must come from individuals.
In this article he suggests a strategy that the enlightened few can use to outsmart the "political class" by playing off the "subsets" of this class against each other. In other words, he is saying that his strategy will enable us to essentially "game" the existing system and win. Read the article for the details.

Unfortunately, he hides so much of reality behind the use of the concept "political class". Apparently no understanding is necessary for this concept, and none is offered. It is clear to me that he doesn't understand it, or the basis of its power, that is, what enables this class to rule. He does offer that the "subsets" of this class are the Democrats and the Republicans. Lacking a deeper, systemic understanding of power in relation to societies, to my mind, presents a major obstacle to any real progress in averting the many disasters that lie ahead due to climate change and peak energy.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Why President Obama Won't Deliver On His Network Neutrality Promises

by Bruce A. Dixon from Black Agenda Report
It's not just that the presidential candidate who needed our votes smiled at us, told us what we wanted to hear, and now intends to forget those promises. It's far worse than that. By owning the media, and managing broadcast airwaves, cable, telephone and internet networks as their private property, telecommunications companies have become the literal owners of our public and even our private conversation. Communities have no right to hear their own voices if some telecom executives can't reap a profit. 
The assault on net neutrality by the telecommunication corporations is a very dangerous one. If they win, this wonderful medium of communication will be under private control to serve private interests. We simply cannot allow that to happen.

Boston-Area Union Will Block Factory Auction to Save Jobs

by Jane Slaughter from Solidarity Economy.

In a move to save factory jobs that evokes shades of the ’30s, the United Electrical Workers are asking supporters to block a December 14 auction of presses and equipment from a plant south of Boston. The UE is calling for mass picketing and blockading of entrances to the 80-year-old plant if necessary.

Esterline Technologies Corp. of Bellevue, Washington, has refused to hold off on selling the equipment till another buyer can be found. The union’s request to buy the closed plant, which would create an employee-owned factory, has been ignored.
Another plant closure that illustrates, once again, the deep contradictions between a capitalist system and the needs of communities and societies. The system is designed to serve private needs not social needs, and the end result is that society functions to serve private interests--wealth and power. Collectively, these private interests create a class of people, also known as a ruling class, who govern society and insure that society functions to serve their interests.

In this latest example in Massachusetts, we see that the 80 year old plant is "owned" by a corporation in the State of Washington (not far from where I live). 

Under the rules of capitalism--not ordained by some god, but a system created by people, powerful people in the past--this plant became a thing, a commodity, that could be owned by some people with money whose interest was making more money. 

The plant, of course, was the end result of endless generations of working people that created the technology and the wealth that created the form of this plant 80 years ago. Since then workers in the plant created wealth for the various owners of the plant, but they also created wealth for the community that sustained it and helped it grow. The community and the larger society, in turn, sustained the workers by educating them, providing them with health care, entertainment, media, culture--in reality, this entity is a social organism. 

Capitalism, on the other hand, is essentially an asocial system. Capitalists deny the existence or importance of the concept of "social organism". That is why a capitalist leader, Margaret Thatcher, made this statement:
...there is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women, and there are families.
Thus capitalists must deny the reality of collective decision making and collective welfare that sustained humanity for more than 98% its existence.

Now this community in Massachusetts, and to some extent the larger society, is threatened because the "owners", whose only interest in the plant is to make money, want to make more money elsewhere. Because they "own" the plant under the rules of capitalism, they are permitted to do this. Why should they "sell" the plant to the workers? The plant might compete with products they want to produce in Mexico and southern California, and thus cut into "their" profits. Thus the workers face an uphill struggle to win the battle to take over the plant.

This is the pattern in the US that has been playing out most dramatically in the last 30 years. More and more plants have been moved to other countries where cheap labor and weak environmental laws provide greater opportunities for capitalists to make more money. Because they govern their societies, capitalists can get away with it. 

We are now witnessing the devastation caused to communities and the larger society in the forms of unemployment, deskilling of American workers, families torn a part, more crime and drug addiction, poverty, mental illness, etc. 

Meanwhile, the "owners" fear that the "natives" may be getting restless and will fight back. Hence, we are seeing more and more repressive police measures and surveillance of citizens which could lead to a police state.

Cancun, and more Consequential C Words

by Michael M'Gonigle and Louise Takeda from The Tyee.

The authors look at the rather dismal prospects for progress at the upcoming UN sponsored meeting on climate change, and the resistance by major powers to any substantive change from the Copenhagen Accord. The latter's emphasis is to incorporate a climate change strategy in the form of carbon trading into markets like Wall Street that will only create the illusion of doing something about the problem, but in reality will allow capitalists to continue their plunder of the Earth. However, there is some hope as evidence keeps surfacing that more and more people are becoming aware of the basic contradiction between the capitalist system and Earth's ability to sustain human and other life forms.
Consider the constricted discourse that prevents any real discussion on the trap of (shhh... capitalist) dependence on growth and commodification. A few brave souls tip-toe around the word with more palatable terms like 'de-growth'. However expressed, the reality is that there is no hope of escape from our planetary momentum without a whole bunch of folks willing to confront the evidence, and the power of denial, and admit that the emperor has no clothes.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The FBI successfully thwarts its own Terrorist plot

by Glenn Greenwald from Salon

In this piece the author builds a good case for suspecting that the Portland, Oregon incident was brought about by the FBI's use of entrapment. And, to be sure, this enforcing arm of the ruling class certainly has the motivation to do this--spreading more fear among citizens to distract from the social spending cutbacks, to justify the "full-spectrum" surveillance of Americans, and more spending on "security services" that will inevitably lead us down the path to a police state.

As Greenwald points out, the real mystery is why the American people wonder why some people from the Middle East hate Americans and easily succumb to such terrorist fantasies.
We hear the same exact thing over and over and over from accused Terrorists -- that they are attempting to carry out plots in retaliation for past and ongoing American violence against Muslim civilians and to deter such future acts.  Here we find one of the great mysteries in American political culture:  that the U.S. Government dispatches its military all over the world -- invading, occupying, and bombing multiple Muslim countries -- torturing them, imprisoning them without charges, shooting them up at checkpoints, sending remote-controlled drones to explode their homes, imposing sanctions that starve hundreds of thousands of children to death  -- and Americans are then baffled when some Muslims -- an amazingly small percentage -- harbor anger and vengeance toward them and want to return the violence.   And here we also find the greatest myth in American political discourse:  that engaging in all of that military aggression somehow constitutes Staying Safe and combating Terrorism -- rather than doing more than any single other cause to provoke, sustain and fuel Terrorism.

Winning the Class War

by Bob Herbert from the NY Times
The class war that no one wants to talk about continues unabated.Even as millions of out-of-work and otherwise struggling Americans are tightening their belts for the holidays, the nation’s elite are lacing up their dancing shoes and partying like royalty as the millions and billions keep rolling in.
This opinion piece is probably the most anti-establishment article that will ever be permitted by the owners and editors of this establishment publication. However, notice that his recommendations for change are very conventional:
What’s really needed is for working Americans to form alliances and try, in a spirit of good will, to work out equitable solutions to the myriad problems facing so many ordinary individuals and families. Strong leaders are needed to develop such alliances and fight back against the forces that nearly destroyed the economy and have left working Americans in the lurch.
For detailed evidence of class discrimination in the US, read this.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Big Lie: Governments Have to Save the Big Banks

from Washington's Blog

The author reviews some discourses on the effectiveness of big lies followed by some recent research to explain why ordinary people believe these lies. Then he concludes that big lies also apply to the recent moves by the US ruling class to justify making ordinary people pay for the bad bets of the banksters.

I think that ruling classes have always made great efforts to instill in the minds of their subjects, ordinary people, the belief that their masters are looking out for their best interests and should never be questioned. Thus, under monarchy they propagated the belief that kings ruled by Divine Right

In modern times we are indoctrinated with the belief that authority figures are always right and should always be obeyed. Disobedience usually brings swift punishment. People in authority are portrayed as superior human beings. For example, judges in courtrooms are always positioned on an altar-like edifice above ordinary people. When judges enter the room, people are expected to stand to demonstrate their obeisance. In educational institutions children are taught not how to think critically about information, but to merely memorize. Obviously people are not inherently stupid, but are thoroughly socialized this way by ruling class institutions to believe and act as they do.

Dire messages about global warming can backfire, new study shows

by Yasmin Anwar from UC Berkeley News

The results of the first experiment described in the article are completely compatible with previous knowledge found in "death and dying" research. The same dynamics of denial function when one feels doomed. You can't expect climate scientists to offer solutions, they can only report on what they observe.
...if scientists and advocates can communicate their findings in less apocalyptic ways, and present solutions to global warming, Willer said, most people can get past their skepticism.
The problem with offering solutions to the climate crisis is that real, effective solutions are incompatible with the ruling political-economic system of capitalism. Therefore no convincing solutions can be offered by the propaganda organs of the ruling class. Hence, their propensity to engage in denial or to offer false solutions which are usually unconvincing and without scientific support.

Climate change will cost a billion people their homes, says report

by Robin McKie from The Observer.
A special report, to be released at the start of climate negotiations in Cancún, Mexico, will reveal that up to a billion people face losing their homes in the next 90 years because of failures to agree curbs on carbon emissions.

Cutting the Deficit: Sacrificing Workers to Save the Rich

by James Petras from Global Research.

The scheduling of the press releases until after the recent elections by this ruling class "bi-partisan commission" is not coincidental. They did not want their orchestrated elections and their candidates to focus on the issues of cutbacks in social programs. The timing kept these issues from the public's attention while entertaining them with false issues like "fiscal responsibility" and the side show of Tea Party antics. Of course, the ruling class ploy of organizing these attacks on the most vulnerable populations using  a "bi-partisan commission" attempts to give them a legitimate or objective quality.
The deficit proposals put forth by Obama’s Bipartisan Commission threaten to push the one-third of retirees who depend mainly on their social security payments into the food kitchens or destitution.  The added cost and reductions in health care will increase the mortality rate among working families.  The increase in retirement age will result in “work until you die”, with no time for leisure, travel or grandchildren.  
It is clear that the ruling capitalist class is now prepared to accelerate the class war in the US. Are we prepared to fight back as the Europeans are doing?

by Henry McDonald and Andrew Clark from the Guardian
One of the largest demonstrations in the Irish Republic's history brought more than 100,000 people on to Dublin's streets in protest over the international bailout and four years of austerity ahead.

Also, read this for more coverage on the Irish protests.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Dancing With Dangl

by Clifton Ross from Counterpunch

This is the third book review that I have posted for Dangl's new book entitled, Dancing with Dynamite. (See this and this.) The book deserves all the attention it is getting because many on the left are experiencing disenchantment with progressive movements that continue to be swallowed up or co-opted by ruling classes. 

Dangl surveyed many progressive movements throughout the Americas and concluded that...
“...the state and governing party is, by its nature, a hegemonic force that generally aims to subsume, weaken or eliminate other movements and political forces that contest its power.”
However, experience reveals again and again that after so much time, energy, and commitment has gone into the building of these movements, they seem to result in only minor gains, at best, in the lives of ordinary people. Their credo is best expressed by this statement from Howard Zinn:
Democracy is social movements. That’s what democracy is. And what history tells us is that when injustices have been remedied, they have not been remedied by the three branches of government. They’ve been remedied by great social movements, which then push and force and pressure and threaten the three branches of government until they finally do something. Really, that’s democracy.
I believe that it is time--indeed, a long overdue time to re-evaluate this perspective--and, Dangl also thinks so. Progressives everywhere must wake up to the facts that this is leading us down a dead-end road. Hierarchical social arrangements and technological prowess has resulted in the system of capitalism that will end in the exhaustion of energy resources, environmental destruction, climate change and the end of human and other life forms. 

The first task, in my opinion, is to destroy this system which automatically provides huge advantages to people who "own" productive property and has resulted in a class of people over and above all others. An economy is always social in nature. It is a legacy that has been handed down to us from many generations of working people. Thus, all significant economic units must be publicly owned. This eliminates the economic basis for hierarchy. Then there remains the addiction to power that can afflict individuals and produce systems of oppression.

As I have argued before, at least 98% of human existence has been organized around small groups where decisions were made collectively. That is our fundamental human nature. As soon as you elevate people to a higher level decision making group, they are absorbed into a new group that creates its own identity and interests which are often different from their original group affiliations. As people rise in a social hierarchy, this process keeps repeating until you have people at the top whose interests have little to do with their social origins (assuming ordinary social origins). 

People who rise in such a system tend to lack moral constraints. Thus the people with the most sociopathic tendencies tend to rise to the top. Their new group references are at, or near, the top and together they establish their own group norms and interests. Groupings like this tend to regard people at the bottom of this heap as expendable when they get in the way of their interests. 

Thus, we see under capitalism that they have little difficulty in deciding to close down a factory and move it where they can find cheaper labor regardless of the consequences to the people living in the community. They have little difficulty deciding to engage in all kinds of financial scams to enrich themselves that have ended in the devastation of whole economies. They have little problem lying to their citizens to justify invading other countries to kill their people and steal their resources. They always do this with their peer's support. It is the social nature of the human beast always to be guided by their referent groups.

It seems to me that the solution that follows from this analysis is that we must do away with these elaborate hierarchical social systems by designing highly decentralized societies that require a high degree of political participation by people at the grass roots. Dangl senses this when he writes:
For progressive changes to take place in the US, more people need to become participants in politics rather than spectators. And by this I mean making revolution a part of our everyday lives, not just something we watch on TV or a vote we cast for a politician.
What is there to lose by not trying to do this? By continuing down the same path as we have in the last three or four millenniums, we will surely end up destroying our habit and ourselves.

January-October 2010: The Warmest Period on Record

by Andrew Glikson from Dissident Voice.

Let us pray that we have not yet passed significant tipping points.

Ignoring reports by the world’s major climate science organizations (NASA/GISS, NCDC, Hadley-Met, Potsdam, BOM, CSIRO), governments continue to consider the issue almost exclusively in economic $ terms, the ultimate Faustian bargain.