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 11, 2010

The "Great Game" and the Conquest of Eurasia: Towards a World War III Scenario? - Part 1

by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya from Voltaire

The author looks at current trends in The Great Game which, as in the past, pose great capitalist confrontations that do not bode well for world peace. 

Inter-capitalist rivalries have always existed. England dominated for a long time, followed by challenges from Germany that resulted in two world wars. The US emerged from WWII as the dominant power that absorbed the old English ruling class and its empire. They immediately went after the Soviet Union that had an economic system which did not allow for capitalist penetration. With the collapse of that country, we now see new powers and alliances emerging to confront the US Empire.

For some strange reason there is a lingering Cold War attitude that seems to inform ruling circles in the US Empire. The end result is that they continue with aggressive policies and actions against Russia and China especially, and also Iran. Thus these policies may force these countries to forge alliances for their own protection.

Washington’s Geopolitical Nightmare: China and Russia boost economic cooperation

by William Engdahl from Voltaire

Engdahl, in my opinion, is one of the most astute political observers in the world. Not that I always think he is right, but his observations and analyzes should never be ignored. 
...there are clear signs of late that both Beijing and Moscow are moving decisively after long hesitation to strengthen strategic economic cooperation in the face of the obvious disintegration of America as the sole Superpower. If the recent trend is deepened it will create Washington’s worst geopolitical nightmare: a unified Eurasia landmass capable of challenging America’s global economic hegemony.

Iceland offers risky temptation for Ireland as recession ends

by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard from The Telegraph

This noted financial editor looks at countries who refused to bail out their banks.
Iceland has finally emerged from deep recession after allowing its currency to plunge and washing its hands of private bank debt, prompting an intense the debate over whether Ireland might suffer less damage if adopted the same strategy.

Cancún Summit Gives Fossil Fuels a Free Pass

by Stephen Leahy from IPS
 The main cause of climate change is the burning of fossil fuels, so why are billions of dollars being invested to find and produce more oil, coal and natural gas?

Like All Rich People, Louis C.K. Hates Spoiled Rich Kids

by Jamie Johnson from Vanity Fair.
Access to unlimited resources consistently undermines any sense of normalcy in the household, and parents fail to restore balance by neglecting to teach their offspring that basic human values are far more important than an attachment to material wealth.
This author is my favorite from the 1% class that holds sway over the Earth's billions of people through their control of the Empire. In this piece he discusses the perils of growing up in a rich family, and for parents it poses...
a difficult dilemma: parents raising children born to privilege run the risk of creating self-satisfied little cretins.
Maybe that explains George Bush, Jr.

Johnson knows his subject well by growing up in a family who are heirs to the Johnson & Johnson pharmaceutical fortune. He is also the creator of the film, "The One Percent", a film that I highly recommend if you are going to have much understanding of the class of people who largely rule the world.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Wikileaks: A Big Dangerous US Government Con Job

by William Engdahl from Global Research.

The author presents a very good argument that the WikiLeaks event may be essentially a COINTELPRO type of operation. I, for one, have been expecting an attack on the open, equal access internet for some time. It is one of the last bastions of free, open media that anyone like myself can access and have our voices heard, and, as such, it is a major challenge to the power of capitalist ruling classes. The latter can never tolerate threats to their power, and it is probably the last remaining threat to the control of their respective populations that are becoming increasingly antagonistic to their rule. 

Because the internet is so extremely popular among ordinary people, I have been wondering how they would attack it and bring it under their complete control. There have been moves by corporations to be able to limit access. See this and this. Just as the 9/11 disaster (read this) prepared the American population to launch aggressive wars in Eurasia, so may the WikiLeaks affair provide a perfect excuse to accomplish the takeover of the internet to serve only private interests. 

Of course, it is too early to tell if this thesis is correct. But we, the people, must be ever vigilant in this class war that we keep losing. Remember, it is no longer only a matter of social justice, our survivability as a human race is also now at stake.

Others in addition to Engdahl are skeptical. Read this from a former FBI translator and whistle-blower who was stationed in Turkey.

Companies Cling to Cash

by Justin Lahart from The Wall Street Journal.

Money, money: (Sung to the tune of "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?") where has all the money gone, gone to bankers and corporations everyone. Oh, when will we ever learn, oh, when will we ever learn.

Remember when Adam Smith was explaining his theory of value, he wrote: 
...in a more advanced society the market price is no longer proportional to labor cost since the value of the good now includes compensation for the owner of the means of production....
Maybe he forgot to mention that the compensation that the "owner" receives is solely decided by him, and what we get is decided by him, as well as what work is done, who decides how the work is done, and if work is done at all. Nowadays they have decided that little work should be done because they expect little profit from it. In other words, the economy exists only for the benefit of "owners" that their ancestors established in law by their lawyers, enforced by police and military forces under their control.
The cash buildup shows the deep caution many companies feel about investing in expansion while the economic recovery remains painfully slow and high unemployment and battered household finances continue to limit consumers' ability to spend.
With few prospects of making profits in the short term, they've decided to give the money to their investors many of whom are the people who drove the economy into collapse with all their hedge fund gambling with packaged mortgages.

Miami Rice: The Business of Disaster in Haiti

by Beverly Bell and Tory Field from Toward Freedom
As we file this article, Port-au-Prince is thick with the smoke of burning tires and with gunfire. Towns throughout the country, along with the national airport, are shut down due to demonstrations. Many are angry over the government’s announcement on Tuesday night of which two presidential candidates made the run-offs: Jude Célestin from the widely hated ruling party of President René Préval and the far-right Mirlande Manigat. This is another obvious manipulation of what had already been a brazenly fraudulent election. A democratic vote is one more thing that has been taken from the marginalized Haitian majority, compounding their many losses since the earthquake of January 12.

What is at stake in Haiti? What interests underlie the grab for power in the country? One answer is the large amount of aid and development dollars that are circulating. Among those benefiting handsomely from the disaster aid are U.S. corporations who have accessed U.S. government contracts. Below is the tale of one U.S. corporation and its subsidiaries, who have received contracts which involve both a conflict of interest and harm to one of Haiti’s largest and most vulnerable social sectors, small farmers.
It is business as usual in Haiti with American and other corporations continuing their rape and plunder of this tragedy-ridden country to satisfy their addiction to profit.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Obama tax deal with Republicans is insane

from Real Economics

Currently there is a big issue before Congress which, as an agent of the ruling class, is about to extend the Bush tax cuts for the rich. The rich always argue that the rich need tax cuts to create jobs. (Of course, jobs are the last thing that the rich want: jobs add to the cost of doing business which cuts into "their" profits. Besides, workers are needed in the Imperial Army.)  Well, if you are one of those who have been fooled by that argument, then you simply must read this article.

However, this blogger doesn't appear to understand that the "central premise of U.S. economic policy" is to serve the rich. It has always been this way in capitalist America. It is not that this generation of the rich are stupid in contrast to earlier generations when wealth was invested in US infrastructure, education, and enterprises; it is because the rich US ruling class has gone global. They want to invest their untaxed money where labor is cheap, environmental and labor laws are weak or unenforced, and profits are high.

Of course, extending the tax cuts for the rich is insane from the perspective of what is good for this country. It is so obviously insane that many in the ruling class controlled Congress can't quite stomach it and are refusing to go along with the tax deal.

The World Socialist Web Site gives a lot more details on Obama's deal.

Naked emperor hails sex by surprise

by Pepe Escobar from Asia Times Online.

The author in a lighthearted manor shows the delight that many of us share looking at the naked Emperor and his pathetic attempts to get the guy who tore his clothes off.
World public opinion has not failed to notice the spectacular crossover between WikiLeaks founder Assange's bizarre Swedish sex saga charges and the emperor's (and his minion's) fury.
Here is one of the latest embarrassing revelations, but not terribly surprising given the Cold War mindset that refuses to die.

Meanwhile, many supporters of WikiLeaks are fighting back against the Empire. See this and this (free registration required) and this and this for the latest scoop on the information war between all peace-loving working people and the Empire. And non-hackers can join the fight here.

Some humor to cure whatever ails you

This was posted on Naked Capitalism's blog, origin is unknown.
     The English are feeling the pinch in relation to recent terrorist threats and have therefore raised their security level from “Miffed” to “Peeved.” Soon, though, security levels may be raised yet again to “Irritated” or even “A Bit Cross.”

    The English have not been “A Bit Cross” since the blitz in 1940 when tea supplies nearly ran out.

    Terrorists have been re-categorized from “Tiresome” to “A Bloody Nuisance.” The last time the British issued a “Bloody Nuisance” warning level was in 1588, when threatened by the Spanish Armada.

    The Scots have raised their threat level from “Pissed Off” to “Let’s get the Bastards.”
    They don’t have any other levels. This is the reason they have been used on the front line of the British army for the last 300 years.

    The French government announced yesterday that it has raised its terror alert level from “Run” to “Hide.” The only two higher levels in France are “Collaborate” and “Surrender.”

    The rise was precipitated by a recent fire that destroyed France ’s white flag factory, effectively paralyzing the country’s military capability.

    Italy has increased the alert level from “Shout Loudly and Excitedly” to “Elaborate Military Posturing.” Two more levels remain: “Ineffective Combat Operations” and “Change Sides.”

    The Germans have increased their alert state from “Disdainful Arrogance” to “Dress in Uniform and Sing Marching Songs.” They also have two higher levels: “Invade a Neighbor” and “Lose.”

    Belgians, on the other hand, are all on holiday as usual; the only threat they are worried about is NATO pulling out of Brussels .

    The Spanish are all excited to see their new submarines ready to deploy. These beautifully designed subs have glass bottoms so the new Spanish navy can get a really good look at the old Spanish navy.

    Australia , meanwhile, has raised its security level from “No worries” to “She’ll be alright, Mate.” Two more escalation levels remain: “Crikey! I think we’ll need to cancel the barbie this weekend!” and “The barbie is canceled.” So far no situation has ever warranted use of the final escalation level.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Environmentalism and political struggle

by Frank Rotering from Energy Bulletin.

I know nothing of Saba Malik other than what is reported in this article, but I am fully in agreement with her orientation as described. It is my position that the localization movement by itself cannot dismantle the Goliath of the capitalist world. At best, it will improve people's ability to survive under conditions of near poverty. The latter is precisely why the establishment has no problem with the localization movement. For example, the Transition Towns movement has enjoyed moderate support in establishment circles. While the financial and corporate operation of capital devour the remaining resources of the planet and destroy its ecosystem, people will be scurrying about at the local level organizing the leftover scraps to sustain their existence. Such people will present no threat to capitalism's death spiral that will bring with it human and other life forms.

As Malik is quoted:
"Numerous organizations are doing lots of great work - permaculture, relocalization, etc. This is wonderful, and I’m involved in it. But everything measurable is going the wrong way. So whatever we’re doing is not working. ... Unless all this community work is linked with a broader political struggle, we’re not really going to get anywhere.”  
What is needed is a comprehensive theoretical framework that informs localization efforts, the dismantling of capitalist structures, and the creation of new societies on an ecologically and socially sustainable basis. 

The Peak Oil Crisis: The Future of Government

by Tom Whipple from Fall Church News Press.
A completely new paradigm of what we do to sustain life is going to have to emerge or things will become far worse than most of us have ever known. Modern civilization simply cannot stand a situation in which a substantial share of its people is destitute. The potential for social disorder is too great.

If current trends continue, somewhere in the next five years a critical mass of us will realize that new foundations for civilization, and new ways of life must be found and implemented if we are going to survive with a modicum of comfort, economic, and political stability.
Well put. I hope that he is right about a "critical mass" in the next five years. However, he makes no mention of climate change, and I think that it is a race against time to "establish new foundations for civilization" to avert the devastating consequences of climate change. Maybe that is why he gives us only five years.

Hackers seek to 'avenge' WikiLeaks

from Al Jazeera

In a new 21st century method of fighting the ruling elites, internet activists are hacking websites of those corporations and organizations that are attacking WikiLeaks. So far, they have demonstrated some success.
An anonymous group of internet activists appear to have launched a series of cyber attacks to shut down the websites of Mastercard, a Swiss bank and the Swedish prosecutor's office in an apparent retaliation for action taken against WikiLeaks.

Selling America’s wars to the people [videos and articles]

from Russia Today (RT)

One often has to go to the media of rival capitalist countries to obtain this kind of analysis of US indoctrination campaigns. 

Meanwhile, as these disinformation campaigns keep Americans ignorant and docile, their European counterparts are acting. See this.

Wikileaks and Media Disinformation

by Gearóid Ó Colmáin from Global Research

The author cautions us to read critically the WikiLeaks exposures as reported by mainstream press. The latter, own and controlled by ruling capitalist classes, are engaging in as much media damage control as they can muster. They will do everything they can to reconstruct, frame, and distort the information to suit their interests, just as they do with all other information related activities of the culture such as in education, books, films, and entertainment.

His arguments about propaganda attacks on Iran, Korea, and Belarus are right on the mark. These attacks illustrate an argument I've made many times: that capitalists view all national systems that do not allow unrestricted access to their countries' resources, markets, and labor as their enemy, and thus they will do everything they can to discredit, destabilize, and overturn those countries. 

This has been the major theme that has informed the Empire's policies and actions after WWII and especially since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Over this period the US ruling capitalist class has become so intoxicated with their near monopoly of military weapons, particularly weapons of mass destruction. The US ruling class also insists on being the dominant capitalist class which means that they put pressure on other capitalist countries that wish to pursue more independent policies such as China, Russia, India, and Brazil. The latter countries are increasingly threatening the dominance of the US ruling class. 

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Big Banks Are Stifling Economic Growth & Taxing Consumers

by Dian L. Chu from EconForecast

The author appears to have a good understanding of the effects of QE2 on the economy. Not surprising, but the banks and capitalists are using the cheap money to invest in commodities and inflating the prices of all goods made from these commodities. Did you really think that The Fed was serving your interests? The Fed is owned by the banking industry which are in business to serve their stockholders. Oh well, maybe some of that wealth will trickle down. 
And what are they doing with all this cheap money? Nothing productive from an economic standpoint. Instead of lending the money to entrepreneurs, business projects, and venture capital initiatives which actually create jobs and foster much needed economic growth, the big banks are just taking this cheap money and pouring it into commodities like crude oil, copper and grains.

Why do we need the rich?

by Dan Russell from Socialist Worker

The author provides an easily understood Marxist perspective on jobs, wealth creation, and capitalist myths. A good primer on how the capitalist economy doesn't work for workers. and how it should be organized by workers, for workers.

However, his solution is hardly innovative or helpful:
When workers fight collectively and strike for a larger piece of the pie--whether for higher wages or higher taxes on the rich to pay for social or employment programs--they demonstrate that their labor is what drives the economy, and they begin to march down a path toward a different society.
We can't solve current problems of a dysfunctional, climate altering, and resource depleting economic system under the control of a powerful, small class of people using methods from the 19th and 20th centuries. Not that those methods aren't useful, but many more need to be created. Most critically needed are methods to take control of information and its dissemination. WikiLeaks is a good, but not a sufficient, example of a new method. And any attempts by corporations to control or limit access to websites must be fought vigorously. 

Some questions to ask our quaint little Teaparty friends

by William Blum from Foreign Policy Journal

The author provides some unsettling questions for all those anti-government propagandists out there. Of course, the reality is that the ruling class only wants government to serve its interests--which, of course, it does most of the time. The anti-government propagandists want the government to serve business interests ALL of the time.
The Teaparty folks never tire of calling for “smaller government”. How sweet. Most other Republicans repeat the same mantra ad nauseam as well, as do many liberals (not to be confused with progressives). So for all these individuals I have some questions:

Climate change scientists warn of 4C global temperature rise

by Damian Carrington from the Guardian

A hellish vision of a world warmed by 4C within a lifetime has been set out by an international team of scientists, who say the agonisingly slow progress of the global climate change talks that [restarted] in Mexico [Nov. 29] makes the so-called safe limit of 2C impossible to keep. A 4C rise in the planet's temperature would see severe droughts across the world and millions of migrants seeking refuge as their food supplies collapse. 
"There is now little to no chance of maintaining the rise in global surface temperature at below 2C, despite repeated high-level statements to the contrary," said Kevin Anderson, from the University of Manchester, who with colleague Alice Bows contributed research to a special collection of Royal Society journal papers published tomorrow. "Moreover, the impacts associated with 2C have been revised upwards so that 2C now represents the threshold [of] extremely dangerous climate change."
Also, read this for one solution offered by climate scientists at Cancun, Mexico.

Also, read a WikiLeaks report about US strategies used to sabotage last year's Copenhagen Accord. 
The US diplomatic cables reveal how the US seeks dirt on nations opposed to its approach to tackling global warming...and how the US mounted a secret global diplomatic offensive to overwhelm opposition to the controversial "Copenhagen accord",


Monday, December 6, 2010

Adam Smith critiques the Deficit Reduction Commission

by Michael Hudson from his blog

This liberal, astute economist, like many others on both the liberal and conservative wing of capitalist thinking, are often critical of contemporary capitalist practices. Frequently they refer back with reverence to the early days of capitalism when, in their view, markets were really free and small entrepreneurs had a lot more freedom to succeed by combining labor, resources, and wealth to produce more wealth. You see, at the present stage of capitalism one finds Goliath corporations who, in large part, control markets and access to resources. 

Hudson refers to Adam Smith's and others condemnation of feudal land rents as unearned income and, thus, not justifiable. Thus, Smith argued for a labor theory of value except that it had a certain twist to it...
...in a more advanced society the market price is no longer proportional to labor cost since the value of the good now includes compensation for the owner of the means of production....
Thus, they argued that such land should be taxed along with natural monopolies like roads, utilities, harbors, etc., but not income derived from labor produced wealth, that is, wealth that they received through their capitalist enterprises.

Much of feudal land had been inherited or conquered or both, and comprised most of the land in these European countries. The class that owned and controlled the land constituted the feudal aristocracy and landlord class. The new rising class of capitalists were learning how to use rented labor (wage slaves) and/or actual slaves, and rudimentary forms of mechanization to transform natural resources into goods which were sold at a profit and appropriated by capitalists. Under feudal laws, land was not a commodity to be bought and sold; and the serfs were not available for wage slavery. This put roadblocks in the way of capitalists who needed land and labor markets for their activities. This conflict eventually resulted in dramatic changes by revolutions in France and the US, and more gradual assumptions of power by the new class in most other European countries.

That natural propensity of capitalism, to grow incessantly, inevitably produces increasing concentrations of capital and control over labor, resources, and societies as a whole. What these liberal economists regard as the "cute little baby" of capitalism has simply grown up to be the monster that it is. 

However, what we are now seeing is a new phenomenon. The huge scale of capitalist enterprise is now coming up against the limits of resource exhaustion and the consequences of climate change caused by their polluting industries. Hence, the capitalist class is finding it easier to get their wealth fixes by...
turning the U.S. economy into a neofeudal economy increasingly indebted to creditors, enjoying their revenue and “capital” gains (mainly land-price gains that John Stuart Mill’s generation called the “unearned increment”) at the top of the economic pyramid.
And if we continue to let them have their way, we will experience one catastrophe after another until human and other life forms will be threatened.

Australia Floods Damage Crops, Force Evacuations; Coal Shipments Disrupted

by Wendy Pugh from Bloomberg

It is reports like this, and last summer's drought in Russia, floods in Pakistan, that has me worried about tipping points for climate change. I keep seeing more and more extreme weather patterns all over the world.

No Economic Recovery in Sight: Seven Reasons Why Global Capitalism Can't Recover Anytime Soon

by Shamus Cooke from Global Research.
As the recession grinds on, politicians in most industrial countries have an incentive to make exaggerated claims about the supposed coming economic recovery. Some say the recession is over. Obama is in the group that claims we're on "the road to recovery,” while other nations can only spot recovery "on the horizon.” Below are seven important social phenomena that point to a more realistic economic and political outlook. 
I keep wondering about how much suffering it will take before US citizens stop believing these claims of recovery and start fighting back. Are they going to let themselves be chased down the chutes to the slaughterhouse by the dogs of right-wing propaganda?

Is Christmas Imploding?

by Michael Collins from The Agonist

He gives his answers to the question.
The ownership of Christmas by corporations – indeed the perversion of Christmas by corporations – seems to be running its course. We may be witnessing the implosion of Christmas as a marketing, retailing, and consumption phenomenon. What are the tell-tale signs?


Sunday, December 5, 2010

We have a right to know

from Green Left
...Wikileaks is doing precisely what investigative journalists are supposed to do, but generally don’t. It has exposed abuses of power that hide behind the veil of government secrecy.
If the so-called "democratic" governments ruled with the informed consent of citizens as they pretend to do, they might have some claim to legitimacy, otherwise not. The fact is, they are ruled by small minorities who command all important institutions within their respective societies, and rule with impunity, often engaging in unlawful acts and crimes against humanity. It is their secrecy about such acts and crimes that they must at all costs protect. However, we, the ruled, must always attempt to expose their lies. Whether WikiLeaks exposes any really significant lies still remains to be seen; and if they do, will the lies be reported unreconstructed in mainstream media? It appears that various authorities are making it difficult to access, and even closing down direct access to the WikiLeaks website.

Lunch With the CIA

by Mad Hedge Fund Trader from Oil Price

I thought that it might be worthwhile to pay a small visit to the world of the rich and powerful, AKA  capitalists or ruling class. This piece written by a hedge fund manager describes, in a very casual style, his meeting with members of the CIA, not just any, but the head of the CIA, Leon Panetta, and four others ("five gorillas built like brick shithouses") who I gather are something like bodyguards. 

I don't know a whole lot about hedge fund managers, but I do know that they manage the money of the rich, very influential, and well-connected. Despite the name "hedge fund", these people often place high-risk bets for their clients at the Wall Street casino using borrowed funds. They do this because the rewards are often very great for everyone involved. Risk is greatly reduced because they, the fund managers, have access to powerful people that can influence the outcome of their bets as well as access to valuable insider information. As we have seen, when their bets go terribly wrong, they merely have their powerful friends and servants in the government bail them out. Hence, we, the people, are stuck with the bill.

The article provides a good illustration of the access that these fund managers have to the powerful and knowledgeable, in this case, to Mr CIA, as I mentioned above. Then you may have a queasy feeling when you read this:
The long term outlook for supplies of food, natural resources, and energy is becoming so severe that the CIA is now viewing it as a national security threat. Some one third of emerging market urban populations are poor, or about 1.5 billion souls, and when they get hungry, angry, and politically or religiously inspired, Americans have to worry. This will be music to the ears of the hedge funds that have been stampeding into food, commodities, and energy since March. It is also welcome news to George Soros, who has quietly bought up enough agricultural land in Argentina to create his own medium sized country.
You will notice how the rich even bet on the suffering of the poor to make themselves richer, and it is "music to [their] ears". Of course, when he writes that with so many people suffering, "Americans have to worry", he really means that the American ruling class has to worry. And in the next paragraph he reports on learning about the fact that US currency is in danger of losing its value. This is another piece of "red meat" for his investors ("profits [on bets] from falling Treasury bond prices!") 

After mentioning a few other tidbits from Mr. CIA that don't appear to have any investment value, he fantasizes about how wonderful it would be to have access to all their CIA data and to manage their pension fund with this knowledge--a hedge fund manager's wet dream!.

Isn't the internet wonderful?