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, December 25, 2010

Grooming Children for Profit

from New Left Project (an interview with Agnes Nairn is co-author of Consumer Kids: How big business is grooming our children for profit.)
She spoke to Samia Aziz about how children are targeted and manipulated by today’s corporate marketing strategies, and the social and psychological impacts of this rapidly intensifying phenomenon. 

ROK President Lee heats up cold war on Korean peninsula

by Stephen Gowans from Voltaire.

This piece is an excellent antidote to the propaganda in US media.
There are three key facts that place the brinkmanship being played out on the Korean peninsula into perspective.

Zimbabwe and the Steep Road to Vindication: Myths and Realities

by Netfa Freeman from Voltaire

This is another antidote for the poison of Empire propaganda.
...the major study of 10 years of land reform in Zimbabwe actually exists and was released in mid November. As we said, if one assumed it would get big media coverage they would assume wrongly since such a study doesn’t conform with the acceptable and imposed imperial narrative.

Making the Rich Happy

by Alexander Cockburn from CounterPunch. (Focusing on material only down to "The Day of the Beast" in this essay.)

The author explains how the rich ruling class uses the Democratic Presidents to do the real dirty work involved in dismantling social safety nets for working people while heaping gifts onto the rich. All of this bitter medicine is swallowed with a few sweeteners for the compliant "liberal" crowd to cheer about. It's amazing to see how the ruling class manages public opinion much like a conductor directs an orchestra.
The Commentariat now gravely applauds his recent victories in the US Congress:  repeal of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell inhibitions on gays in the military;  Senate ratification of the new START treaty on nuclear weapons with the Russians;  passage of a $4.3bn bill – previously blocked by Republicans - providing health benefits for emergency rescue workers in the 9/11 attacks of 2001.

Something missing from my list?  You noticed? Yes indeed: first and absolutely foremost, the successful deal with Republicans on taxes, better described as a $4 trillion gift to America’s rich people, by extending the Bush tax cuts. With the all-important tax surrender under their belts the Republicans don’t seem too upset in having allowing Obama’s his mini-swath of victories.
It [the tax bill] was a deal of refined cynicism, containing the poison pill of what has been billed as a generous gesture to working people - a $120 billion reduction in Social Security contributions by labor – reducing the rate of contributions to the Social Security pension fund from 6.2 per cent of wages to 4.2 per cent. But in fact this is a tripwire, setting up an onslaught on Social Security a year down the road as underfunded and going swiftly bankrupt and ready to be auctioned off to Wall Street.

Bradley Manning Speaks About His Conditions

by David House from FireDogLake

 Bradley Manning, the 23-year-old Army private accused of leaking classified information to Wikileaks, has been held in the brig at Quantico Marine Corp Base for five months in inhumane conditions, with severe restrictions on his ability to exercise, communicate, or even sleep. Manning has not been convicted of any crime. Nor is there a date certain for any court hearing.

See also Glenn Greenwald's latest report on Manning's imprisonment, entitled "U.N. to investigate treatment of Bradley Manning", which contains some very interesting videos.

New FDA Numbers Reveal Food Animals Consume Lion’s Share of Antibiotics

by Ralph Loglisci from Civil Eats
Antibiotics, one of the world’s greatest medical discoveries, are slowly losing their effectiveness in fighting bacterial infections and the massive use of the drugs in food animals may be the biggest culprit. The growing threat of antibiotic resistance is largely due to the misuse and overuse of antibiotics in both people and animals, which leads to an increase in “super-bacteria.” But people use a much smaller portion of antibiotics sold in this country compared to the amount set aside for food animals. 

Uninspired Gifts of the Rich and Disinterested

by Jamie Johnson from Vanity Fair

On this Christmas day let us pay a visit to the One Percent who shape so much of our experience in capitalist America. Let us see how they, who have so much and can get anything they want, give each other gifts. It would seem to be quite a challenge. Jamie Johnson, heir of the Johnson & Johnson pharmaceutical fortune, will guide us. (Be sure to see his wonderful film entitled, "The One Percent".)
For all of its familiar drawbacks, Christmas, remains an exceptionally satisfying holiday. For one thing, it’s one of the very best times of year for embedded voyeurs like me to watch immensely rich patrician families display their signature idiosyncratic behavior and commitment to awkward traditions. Never are these peculiar habits presented better than during formal Christmas gift exchanges.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Hailing 111th Congress, Obama prepares further shift to the right

by Joseph Kishore from World Socialist Web Site

This is a very sensible performance review of the 111th Congress and Obama administration. Also, an excellent antidote to all the media hoopla about all their accomplishments. 

I think Obama's main focus is on ingratiating himself with the ruling class so that he can be elected for a second term. If you use that criteria, he has performed very well. Of course, that is why they hired him to be President.
As the 111th congressional session came to a close, the Obama administration and the US media have stepped up the propaganda offensive over the past two days to justify an even further shift to the right by the political establishment next year.
Find out here what Obama is reading over the holidays.

The Social Security Fraud Has Finally Been Exposed

by Allen W. Smith from Dissident Voice

This is the best article that I have ever seen on this issue. 

The only problem I have with it is that the author seems to be saying that he and a few others warned us about the problem in the past because they were able to run a few articles in the media and make a few speeches in Congress. And now he thinks that by running his article on Dissident Voice that the system is exposed. Again we see the naivete of progressives about the realities of the class based system whose media and educational institutions make sure that we don't understand anything about the realities of the system.

The reality, of course, is, as he points out, that the ruling capitalist class stole our "piggy bank" that we were saving for our old age. They used, and are still using, the money to finance all their wars in which we working people are ordered to invade all sorts of strange places to kill their people and steal their resources.

Obama’s Liberty Problem

by Bill Quigley and Vince Warren from Dissident Voice.

I see the importance of this liberal perspective only for what it illustrates: many American progressives are much too naive to bring about any significant change. They keep harping on the same themes of civil rights while ignoring the system that is the root of civil rights issues and all other significant issues like social-economic justice, peace, living on a planet that can sustain human and other life forms, etc. As Francis Moore LappĂ© wrote, "[it is] time for progressives to grow up!" 

The facade of the rule of law is part of the theatrical production erected by a class of people who want to protect their system because it serves them so well. The US Constitution was mainly about the protection of private property regardless of who actually created the wealth associated with that property. At the time of the passing of the Constitution, much of the wealth was created by slave labor and the near slave labor of indentured servants. The founders of the Constitution only threw in some civil rights to sweeten the deal with the vast majority of the population. As it is clear today, even the civil rights articles have been twisted into the support of mostly corporate rights by making corporations into persons.

Laws are for us working people, they don't apply to the capitalist ruling class unless one of them screws their fellow capitalists as Bernie Madoff did. That was the big mistake he made. If like all others of his ilk, he had confined his nefarious schemes to bilking working people, he would be a celebrated capitalist hero.

The huge question in my mind is: can the human race throw off the scourge of ruling classes and create truly egalitarian societies whose people can live in harmony with each other and nature?

The Media is the Message

by William Bowles from Creative-i

The author takes a hard look at the WikiLeaks controversy and uncovers some details that don't fit together very well. 
Even if my jury is still out on the real nature of Wikileaks, what is revealed is the fact that all ‘news’ is now entirely mediated by a state/corporate cartel, working closely together. Between them they have re-defined what Wikileaks is all about.

It’s entirely possible that the cables release was engineered in order to justify even more repressive laws under the guise of protecting the agents of the Empire or fighting the ‘war on terror’. Whatever the truth, no longer is it about the cables, it’s all about Julian Assange. Mission accomplished.

Wikileaks News Archive 28 November – 21 December, 2010

from Creative-i

This site appears to be a good one-stop shopping center for the leaks and related news up to Dec. 21.
This is a continuously updated list of stories connected to the Wikileaks release of US diplomatic cables covering the period 28 November – 21 December, 2010.

Economics Is Simple ... The Fat Cats Just Want You to Think It's Complicated So That You Won't Demand Change

from Washington's Blog.

His analogy with water supplies works very well to understand the banking industries' venture into gambling and the resulting economic chaos. 

However, capitalism's periodic busts are caused by other factors also: over production of profitable items whether useful or not, reducing the pay of working people as much as possible, after each economic bust we have more concentration of industries (monopolies) that accelerates the harm the system can cause, and extracting profits from the environment while destroying it. 

In the future we will see the exhaustion of resources, extreme weather patterns, and more economic crises. If we allow the system to continue, at some point in time the capitalist system will cause so much ecological instability that it will threaten the very survival of the human race and other life forms.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Inside Job’s Charles Ferguson on the Corruption of Academic Economics

from Naked Capitalism

Here are two excellent videos. The first one is a short 1:54m excerpt from the film "Inside Job" about the economic collapse and related topics. In this clip the film's director, Charles Ferguson, grills former Federal Reserve vice chairman Frederic Mishkin on some "dubious work he did touting Iceland as a well run banking center not long before its implosion." Quite entertaining.

But the 2nd video, approximately 20 minutes long, is a must-see interview with Charles Ferguson where he expands more on his views. Of particular interest, is the opening segment where he discusses the corruption of academia that results in the control of ideas favoring the capitalist ruling class. To learn much more about this and how it affects students, I highly recommend that you read the book entitled, Disciplined Minds, by Jeff Schmidt.

The only criticism I have of Ferguson's views is when he suggests that Obama could have done something about it. As I see it, Obama, like most other recent Presidents, is only an employee, a PR person used as a front person to sell the policies of the ruling class. Like the others, he was carefully vetted for this role and he has performed very well. That is precisely why you don't see any real change happening. The transition from Bush to Obama was seamless. If he were to decide not to serve this function, you can be sure he would be removed from office one way or another. 

A book that I am currently reading by L. Fletcher Prouty entitled, The Secret Team, clearly explains how, once a President assumes office, this arrangement has shaped some major events after WWII. The Secret Team is essentially the political operatives of the ruling class. He writes:
The power of the team [key decision makers] derives from its vast intragovernmental undercover infrastructure and its direct relationship with great private industries, mutual funds and investment houses, universities, and the news media, including foreign and domestic publishing houses.
I have not yet had the opportunity to see the film. Apparently it is not being very widely shown and people are having difficulty buying the video. It is being shown in some large metropolitan areas. To see if it is being shown in your area, I suggest you use this NY Times link.

Climate Change and ‘Balanced’ Coverage

by Justin Gillis from the NY Times (free registration required).

The author contrasts the findings of scientists about the slim prospects for the prevention of dramatic climate change with the reassuring reports in mainstream media. I do not read the NY Times often enough to know how they contribute to this disparity, but I have my suspicions.
In an article this week on the relentless rise of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, I outlined one of the canonical projections of climate science: if the amount of carbon dioxide doubles, the average surface temperature of the earth is likely to increase by 5 or 6 degrees Fahrenheit, a whopping change. I contrasted that with a prediction from skeptics of climate change who contend that the increase is likely to be less than 2 degrees.

A Shadow Government of Kindness

by Rebecca Solnit from Tom Dispatch. (You may want to skip the introduction by scrolling down to the article.)

This inspiration piece may be what you need to counter all the capitalist themes that portray human nature as governed by the lowest impulses of laziness, irresponsibility, and selfishness. Perhaps the propagandists of the ruling classes are merely projecting their own sociopathic qualities on to us.

However, this may not be enough to put you in a good mood. Perhaps you are dealing with frustrations and anger in your life. This 4:02m video might help you vicariously to rid yourself of these demons.

Britain's Police State: London arrests based on CCTV identification.

by Nathan Allonby from Global Research

Despite no evidence that CCTV technology reduces crime, its use is strongly supported by policing authorities in the UK, US, China, and elsewhere. Why do you think this is?

In my opinion I think it is seen by ruling classes as an effective weapon to stifle dissent, to intimidate their populations into passivity and compliance to increasingly onerous social cutbacks and more wars. Frightening people with the "terrorist" boogieman may not be enough. The biggest threat to ruling capitalist classes are their own populations, not "terrorists".

Private debt, public pain: lessons for Ireland

by Nick Dearden from CADTM.
The banks have not always won over the last 30 years, and in 2001 Argentina did exactly what many economists are now urging Ireland and Greece to do. On Christmas Eve 2001, Argentina defaulted on its debt originating from an overvalued currency which had been pushed by the IMF. Along with devaluation and introduction of capital controls to prevent money leaving the country, the economy soon began to grow rapidly. Welfare payments were increased to help the poorest cope, while non-IMF approved taxes on exports and financial transactions were introduced to increase government revenue. In 2005, Argentina reached a deal with its creditors where it paid just 35p for every pound that was owed.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Naked Face of Capitalism: Goldman Prizewinner Shoots Up Foreign Mining Firms in Mongolia

by Keith Harmon Snow from Conscious Being

Your ruling class media won't report the capitalist crimes of mining companies supported by Western government agencies and corrupted NGOs. The article is comprehensive and lengthy, but it tells the complete, tragic story of how neoliberalism functions all over the world on behalf of private interests while causing so much devastation to local societies, culture, and the environment. All the weapons of neoliberal mass destruction are illustrated in this article.

In my opinion the author is one of the finest independent investigative reporters in the world.
Keith Harmon snow is a war correspondent, photographer and independent investigator, and a four time (2003, 2006, 2007, 2010) Project Censored award winner. He is also the 2009 Regent's Lecturer in Law & Society at the University of California Santa Barbara, recognized for over a decade of work, outside of academia, contesting official narratives on war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide while also working as a genocide investigator for the United Nations and other bodies.
Keith Harmon snow traveled by mountain bicycle across central and northern Mongolia,east to west, and then back across southern Mongolia, west to east, September to October 2008. He stayed with nomads in traditional gers, or slept in a tent in remote areas, all along the way.

Washington’s incendiary role in Asia

from World Socialist Web Site
What is the US ruling elite after in its pursuit of an increasingly bellicose policy on the Korean Peninsula, where nearly 34,000 US troops, at least 114,000 Chinese soldiers and as many as four million Koreans died in a brutal war half a century ago?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Are We Too Dumb for Democracy? The Logic Behind Self-Delusion

by Stephen Dufrechou from AlterNet.

Although the article contains some important psychological insights, they are hardly new. It is clear that in the US, educational institutions are used to create a firm ideological foundation in its citizens to prepare them to accept uncritically any information that promotes the interests of the ruling capitalist class, and likewise to reject other information. But when this isn't sufficient to support war policies, more dramatic measures are used. Read The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein.

President Franklin Roosevelt was well aware that US citizens were intent on staying out of another European war (WWII). He very much wanted to enter the war, and I won't speculate here as to why, or argue about the merits of US involvement. But he knew that it would take an attack on the US to bring us into the war. Thus, while doing everything he could to support England, and constantly saying to the American public that he didn't want war, he set about luring the Japanese into attacking the US. See this. Read Day Of Deceit: The Truth About FDR and Pearl Harbor by Robert Stinnett.

Shortly after WWII, the China Lobby wanted a war against Red China and other hawks wanted a rollback of Communist influence on the Korean peninsula. After unilaterally establishing South Korea, they pursued very aggressive policies against North Korea until the latter was provoked into a war. Read at least volume I of The Origins of the Korean War by Bruce Cumings.

Then the Empire builders were intent on escalating the war in Vietnam. Conveniently, the Gulf of Tonkin incident was arranged to get the American people behind the effort. See this, this, and this.

In the 1990s the neocons in the US were intent on expanding the Empire into the Middle East, but they were well aware that...
A transformation strategy that solely pursued capabilities for projecting force from the United States, for example, and sacrificed forward basing and presence, would be at odds with larger American policy goals and would trouble American allies.

Further, the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is
likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor. 
["Rebuilding America's Defenses" from Project for the New American Century]
On Sept. 11, 2001 the twin towers were attacked and the stage was set for the US adventures into Iraq and Afghanistan. See this, this, and this.

That snow outside is what global warming looks like

by George Monbiot from the Guardian

The UK is currently experiencing a horrendous snow storm.
There were two silent calls, followed by a message left on my voicemail. She had a soft, gentle voice and a mid-Wales accent. "You are a liar, Mr Monbiot. You and James Hansen and all your lying colleagues. I'm going to make you pay back the money my son gave to your causes. It's minus 18C and my pipes have frozen. You liar. Is this your global warming?" She's not going to like the answer, and nor are you. It may be yes.
Meanwhile, in southern California they are seeing record rainfall and floods.

UE and Taunton, Mass. Set Own Course in Fight Against Job Outsourcing

by Roger Bybee from Solidarity Economy

Some workers in the US refuse to let corporations ship their jobs elsewhere. Read how they are fighting back in Massachusetts. 
...regardless of the cynical deals and manipulation of public opinion being directed by the White House, workers in places like Taunton, Mass. are continuing their struggles at the grass-roots level against the destruction of America's productive base and its dwindling supply of good jobs. 

FCC Net Neutrality Order a ‘Squandered Opportunity’

from Free Press.
By a 3-2 vote Tuesday, the Federal Communications Commission approved new rules intended to prevent Internet providers like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon from acting as gatekeepers on the Web. The rules, however, heavily favor the industry they are intended to regulate, and leave consumers with minimal protections. 
Today's FCC decision is explained in more detail at Democracy Now.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Cover-ups, Coups, and Drones – A Holiday Sampler of What Wikileaks Reveals about the US

by Bill Quigley from Information Clearing House

This coverage of the leaks is one of the best I've come across. While the US government insists on knowing everything about us, it demands secrecy for itself. But, more importantly, the author contrasts the revealed illegal acts and war crimes that the US government commits with impunity with the treatment of those who reveal these acts. 
The US claims broad authority to secretly snoop on the lives of individuals inside and outside of the US. It also works tirelessly to prevent citizens from knowing what is going on by expansively naming basic government information "state secrets." The government says it has to have the right to keep things secret in order to prevent crime.

But when it comes to revealing evidence of illegal acts and war crimes by the US government, it seeks the most severe sanctions against any transparency.

Inside the Mortgage Monster

by Michael Hudson from Global Research.

This is an excerpt from Hudson's new book entitled, The Monster: How a Gang of Predatory Lenders and Wall Street Bankers Fleeced America--and Spawned a Global Crisis. In this excerpt he illustrates how the capitalist system recruits people, such as Travis Paules, who have sociopathic tendencies:
It was a case, he said, of an unprincipled personality finding a place that encouraged his self-serving instincts. “It’s hard to have a guilty conscience if you don’t have a conscience,” he said.
Then this company used him to use others, turning all into monsters to exploit somewhat naive or unknowledgeable people who applied for mortgages. An entire pseudo-industry was built around this scam by the large banking and Wall Street firms.

Big Win for America's Super Rich [5:16m video]

from Real News Network. 

Paul Jay interviews Thomas Ferguson who is Professor of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts, Boston and a Senior Fellow of the Roosevelt Institute. 

I think this is a very good assessment of Obama's tax bill.


Money Is Still the Name of the Game

from Michael Parenti's blog

Of course, it is not only "still the name of the game", it is even more so than ever before. However, Parenti supplies the arguments that counters the pseudo arguments of those who deny this or try to hide the role of money to corrupt elections. If one agreed with the pseudo arguments, one would have to assume that the rich are stupid by giving their money away to candidates. The rich, for the most part, invest their money only where they can expect a return.

Financial Interests Dictate Sovereign Policy

by Michael Hudson from his blog
Real experts would follow the advice that John Maynard Keynes gave in the 1920s regarding German reparations and Inter-Ally debts. It is better to wipe out bad debts than to try to pay creditors at the cost of reducing capital formation, living standards and public spending on education, health care and other basic infrastructure. A wise government would subordinate the financial sector to promote economic growth, capital formation and rising living standards.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

WikiLeaks: Networked Action for a Networked Age

by Tomas from P2P Foundation
[Julian Assange] begins by positing that conspiracy and authoritarianism go hand in hand, arguing that since authoritarianism produces resistance to itself — to the extent that its authoritarianism becomes generally known — it can only continue to exist and function by preventing its intentions (the authorship of its authority?) from being generally known. It inevitably becomes, he argues, a conspiracy....
It would be much more accurate and clear if something like the term "class rule" were substituted for the more abstract term of "authoritarianism".

From an earlier, lengthy article on Assange's strategy, this quote stands out as his core principle:
[Assange] decides...that the most effective way to attack this kind of organization would be to make “leaks” a fundamental part of the conspiracy’s  information environment. Which is why the point is not that particular leaks are specifically effective. Wikileaks does not leak something like the “Collateral Murder” video as a way of putting an end to that particular military tactic; that would be to target a specific leg of the hydra even as it grows two more. Instead, the idea is that increasing the porousness of the conspiracy’s information system will impede its functioning, that the conspiracy will turn against itself in self-defense, clamping down on its own information flows in ways that will then impede its own cognitive function. You destroy the conspiracy, in other words, by making it so paranoid of itself that it can no longer conspire....
It is an interesting idea, but I wonder how effective it can be when only those levels of secret information below "top secret" can be accessed and revealed. See this, and this.

What We Learn From WikiLeaks

from Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting

The article illustrates how ruling class media in the US tries to frame the leaks in as positive a light as possible.

Zionist lobby’s new orders for Obama

by Alan Hart from Redress
Alan Hart argues that new instructions issued to President Obama by Israel through its stooges in Congress, in the form of House Resolution 1734, might be a sign of panic that the White House is about to end its veto of UN Security Council resolutions which are critical of Israel and/or call for the recognition of a Palestinian state inside 1967 borders.