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, January 29, 2011

Egypt protests: America's secret backing for rebel leaders behind uprising

by Tim Ross, Matthew Moore and Steven Swinford from The Telegraph.

The Empire's leaders, knowing how unpopular many of their puppets are throughout the Empire, always have contingency plans ready for popular uprisings like this, that is, they always have other carefully groomed puppets available should the people demand change as they are now doing in Egypt. As usual Obama and Clinton are making noises about democracy and human rights, but their main concern is to manage the rebellion so that the outcome serves the Empire. So, you can forget about any significant change if it comes from the Empire, not from the people themselves.
...the documents showed that the activist had been approached by US diplomats and received extensive support for his pro-democracy campaign from officials in Washington. The embassy helped the campaigner attend a “summit” for youth activists in New York, which was organised by the US State Department.

Washington facing the ire of the Tunisian people

by Thierry Meyssan from Voltaire.

Excellent article describing attempts by the US to manage the revolution in Tunisia.
While western media are celebrating the "Jasmine Revolution", Thierry Meyssan lays bare the U.S. plan to curb the anger of the Tunisian people and salvage this insconspicuous CIA and NATO backwater base. According to him, the insurrectional process is still ongoing and could rapidly give rise to a real Revolution, to the great dismay of Western capitals.

Marshall Auerback Speaks on BNN About Implications of Unrest in the Middle East

from Yves Smith's blog, Naked Capitalism.  (BNN is a Canadian version of Bloomberg TV.)

This very popular blog among investors is by a woman who has had an extensive career in the financial services industry. She is no flaming radical, but she is a decent person who is outraged by the gross excesses and injustices of the current capitalist system. It has always appeared to me that she and her followers have always insisted that the system could be reformed, that is, it could be tamed from that of a predatory wolf to a vegetarian one. Judging from the comments following the article, I'm not so sure--their perspectives may be changing!

You may want to pass up the 9:02m video featuring the views of Auerback, a prominent financial analyst, who looks at the implications for investors that the current events in the Middle East and North Africa may pose. But be sure to read the comments following the video.

With Arab Despots on the Run, America Remains Hypnotized

by Russell Mokhiber from CounterPunch.
All throughout the Arab world, the despots are on the run.

Fueled by Facebook and Twitter, the Arab street is aflame.

In the United States, instead of fueling the resistance, social media is like a hypnotic drug.
See also Washington's Blog and his take on complacency in the US in the article entitled, "Inequality In America Is Worse Than In Egypt, Tunisia Or Yemen".

Ayn Rand Railed Against Government Benefits, But Grabbed Social Security and Medicare When She Needed Them

by Joshua Holland from AlterNet

In case you don't know, Ayn Rand is a kind of patron saint for the neo-con leaders in this current, and hopefully, final stage of capitalism. They justify their total domination over working people throughout the world with the sociopathic tenets of her teachings.
"...when you see them taking their razor blades to the last remaining programs protecting the middle class from total abject destitution—Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid—and bragging about how they are slashing these programs for ‘moral’ reasons, just remember Rand’s morality and who inspired her.”
One of Rand's most ardent students, Alan Greenspan, became one of the most powerful actors on behalf of this philosophy and neo-liberalism. In 1974 he told the NY Times:
What she [Rand] did--through long discussions and lots of arguments into the night--was to make me think why capitalism was not only efficient and practical, but also moral.
See also this post.

For Manhattan’s Rich, It’s Too Cold to Party

by Jamie Johnson from Vanity Fair

Once again Jamie keeps us in touch with our fellow Americans among the "one percent". Today he reports that they, during the current series of snow storms in the northeastern part of the US, have rediscovered the simple pleasures of playing in the snow--something that most of us take for granted. They, in their warped pursuit of status display played out during the endless and boring rounds of opulent, alcohol fueled parties, had lost touch with the simple, but real pleasures that life has to offer. Hooray for them! Sometimes, we ordinary working people forget how advantaged we are.
...you’re never too old to have fun sledding, so the desire to bomb down hills—even stunted urban hills—isn’t surprising. What’s uncommon is to hear these discussions among affluent hipsters. In all fairness, many of these outings, I’m told, are whiskey-fueled, but that they happen at all is still remarkable. People accustomed to spending most of their free time at glamorous parties and ultra-chic bars don’t normally veer from that routine, especially in Manhattan.

Friday, January 28, 2011

One U.S. Corporation's Role in Egypt's Brutal Crackdown [late post]

by Tim Karr from Save the Internet.

President Obama, say the 'D-Word'

by Mark LeVine from Al Jazeera.
It's incredible, really. The president of the United States can't bring himself to talk about democracy in the Middle East. He can dance around it, use euphemisms, throw out words like "freedom" and "tolerance" and "non-violent" and especially "reform," but he can't say the one word that really matters: democracy.
Since the American and French revolutions, the crucial problem for ruling capitalist elites has always been to create the appearance of supporting the dreams of working people for social justice, democracy, and equality while doing precisely the opposite.

See also article by Stephen Gowans from his blog, "New York Times: "Democracy is Bad for US Foreign Policy". The author looks at the spin of US mainstream media regarding the unrest in Egypt, and finds hypocrisy and duplicity in its relations with various countries: 
The key to this duplicity is that Mubarak has sold out Egypt to US profit and strategic interests, while Mugabe has sought to rectify the historical iniquities of colonialism. Clearly, from Washington’s perspective, Mugabe is serving the wrong interests. Indigenous farmers don’t count. Western investors do.
Also read what the WikiLeaks cables reveal about the close relationship of US ruling class and their Egyptian puppet, by Luke Harding from the Guardian.

Human Rights Watch condemns US prison system, immigration policy

by Kate Randall from WSWS.

Whenever US government leaders meet with Chinese officials, the issue of human rights in China is always a mandatory topic promoted by US media. With US's record on human rights in relation to their torture prisons scattered throughout the world, the attacks on protesters here in the US, and reports such as this, it almost causes one to vomit.
In its annual world report, Human Rights Watch condemns the United States on a broad range of civil liberties abuses. In particular, the human rights group slams the US prison system, immigration policy, and the treatment of suspects in the “war on terror.” HRW also points to the US’s dismal record on women’s rights and the treatment of child laborers. 

The FCIC, in Lockstep with the Officialdom, Refuses to Use the “C” Word

by Yves Smith from Naked Capitalism.

Read how the US government investigates the ruling class which owns it. I am referring to the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission report issued yesterday on it findings about the latest economic collapse. Guess what? They found the banksters, not guilty! As Smith concludes:
The FCIC report is destined for the...dustbin of history.... It is a document of and by well-meaning insiders that just can’t deal with the corruption they were supposed to investigate. It’s a psychological crutch maybe, or perhaps a denial mechanism, but it doesn’t really matter. This report is just a cover-up, the same kind of cover-up that is allowing the thieves to escape with their loot.

Nothing will come from the generation in power who created this mess. They just don’t have it in them. The bad guys will steal again. I mean, crime pays. Besides, who’s going to call it crime, anyway?
Listen/view Michael Hudson's assessment of this report from Real News (8:28m video).

What if We Stopped Fighting For Preservation?

by Tom Butler from CASSE
Tim Murray’s essay “What If We Stopped Fighting for Preservation and Fought Economic Growth Instead?” is provocative for sure. Murray is a compelling writer, and I admire his unflinching focus on the root causes of ecological collapse including human overpopulation, consumerism, mass migration, and the religion of endless growth. He’ll get no argument from me about these factors as systemic drivers of biodiversity loss, and I share his frustration that many reform-minded environmentalists and large NGOs often are unwilling to acknowledge the fundamental contradiction between wild nature’s flourishing and the intrinsic logic of a techno-industrial growth society based on corporate capitalism.
This blogger, in contrast to Murray, correctly identifies the root problem of capitalism, but continues to support efforts to ameliorate the inexorable logic of capitalism--growth. Their disagreement is like two physicians arguing whether to treat pains due to cancer with aspirin or codeine, instead of removing the cancerous tumor. Too many activists in the US have bought into the neo-liberal notion that "there is no alternative" to capitalism.

Climate change related reports

from Climate Progress a World Meteorological Organization report:
2010 "characterized by a high number of extreme weather events"
from The Guardian: ExxonMobil warns carbon emissions will rise by 25% in 20 years

from Reuters: Greenland ice melt sets a record — and could set the stage for sea level rise

Clearly capitalism's addiction to profits (riches for a few) continues to cause unstable and extreme weather patterns that will likely result in the extinction of human and other species on Earth.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Reagan's Ghost

by David Glenn Cox from OpEd News

I am posting this article today to examine the political consciousness of middle-class America, a middle-class that came of age in the 1960s and 70s, was well educated, and mostly liberal as illustrated by the author of this article. 

He grew up in the post WWII period when the middle-class had such great expectations for economic advancement. The US industrial plant was intact--about the only one in the world that was--the US military was in great shape and, above all, they had the atomic bomb--the ultimate weapon. The capitalist ruling class was drunk with a sense of omnipotence. The only enemies that stood in their way of world domination were the Soviet Union and the domestic and foreign radicals who entertained dangerous ideas of social justice.

Without missing a beat, the US ruling class immediately went on the offensive against all of these actual and potential enemies. In the US they purged militant labor leaders and left-wing intellectuals during the McCarthy period. They drew a line of containment around the "socialist" countries of the Soviet Union and China, they established a secret organization known as the CIA to subvert left-wing governments, to terrorize leftist militants, to assassinate leaders who stood in their way (including US leaders), and to engage in proxy wars. (See this for a good summary of all these activities.) Their actions resulted in two major wars: the Korean War and the Vietnam War and millions of lives lost.

Like many in this large subset of Americans, the author is beginning to see the current political drama starring Obama as completely out of touch with the author's reality. Unfortunately, his reality has been shaped by post WWII indoctrination that was applied to American educational institutions after left-wing intellectuals were purged. As a result, he has a warped understanding of his own history. 

He has little understanding of what his country has been doing, and he romanticizes the New Deal programs of the Franklin Roosevelt administration of the 1930s that were reluctantly used by the ruling class to ward off more radical actions of militant labor and civil rights organizations. He doesn't see or understand that the ruling capitalist class has been moving in this direction of total control of working people since the system began in the late 1700s. Only now, since the American ruling class has gone global and doesn't need most American workers anymore, does he realize that things have really changed, that his government under the current "acting" leader, Obama, is not concerned with the issues that concern him. 

His best understanding is that it has something to do with Ronald Reagan! Well, maybe this is not too far off the mark. Reagan's presidency did launch the neo-liberal phase of capitalism, however this is only the logical development of the capitalist system itself; and with it the attacks against American working people and the planet that its perpetrators are all too willing to use.

Anchors Away! – The ‘Stability’ of U.S. Puppet Dictatorships

by Nima Shirazi from Dissident Voice

This writer knows how to see beyond official US propaganda to see the real motives and interests that drive US foreign policy.

The corruption game

by Juan Cole from Asia Times Online

This liberal US intellectual is quite willing to point out all the "blunders" (crimes) of US foreign policies that support corrupt, anti-democratic governments, but sees them as only mistakes that do not serve "US interests"--interests which he never spells out. This kind of analysis is as far left that acceptable left discourse is allowed to stray in US intellectual circles. Here are some good illustrations:
It would surely have been smarter for Washington to cut the Ben Ali regime off without a dime, at least militarily, and distance itself from his pack of jackals. The region is, of course, littered with dusty, creaking, now exceedingly nervous dictatorships in which government is theft. The US receives no real benefits from its damaging association with them.
As usual when Washington backs corrupt regimes in the name of its "war on terror", democracy suffers and things slowly deteriorate.
Here's a simple rule of thumb in such situations: bad policy creates even worse policy. The Obama administration's mistake in ramping up its Afghan war left it needing ever more supplies, worrying about perilous supply lines through Pakistan, and so vulnerable to transit blackmail by the ruling kleptocracies of Central Asia. When their populations, too, explode into anger, the likely damage to US interests could be severe.
...US backing
[of corrupt regimes] has a significant probability of boomeranging sooner or later. Elites, confident that they will retain such backing as long as there is an al-Qaeda cell anywhere on the planet, tend to overreach, plunging into cultures of corruption and self-enrichment so vast that they undermine economies, while producing poverty, unemployment, despair, and ultimately widespread public anger.
 What is never discussed are the contradictions between more democratic or legitimate governments and US interests. He concludes his essay with this absurd statement:
It's time for Washington to signal a new commitment to actual democracy and genuine human rights by simply cutting off military and counter-terrorism aid to authoritarian and corrupt regimes that are, in any case, digging their own graves.

Middle East: the Undoing of America’s Mendacious Foreign Policy

by Finian Cunningham from Global Research.

Very insightful and concise perspective on the current turmoil in North Africa and Middle East.
What we are seeing across the Arab world is not just the undoing of corrupt regimes. We are seeing the undoing of America’s entire foreign policy in that region. No wonder there must be deep misgiving in Washington over the recent turmoil in this key energy-producing region. For decades, US administrations have, through a cocktail of ignorance and arrogance, deluded themselves that they could get away with a mendacious contradiction. That contradiction is the espousal of democracy and peace in the Middle East while at the same time sponsoring regimes that act in every way to undermine any path to democracy and peace.

Insurrection in North Africa: the story so far

by Django from Libcom

I just came across the article which is a bit dated for these fast moving developments, but they offer some very interesting details and sound perspectives on the protests and revolts in North Africa.

How Corporate Journalism Happily Lost Interest in Climate Change

from Media Lens
In the media’s coverage of climate change, are we really still stuck on square one of some ghastly board game?

Global warming was recognised as a hugely serious problem as far back as 1988 when the United Nations set up the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Since then the science has become more solid, more detailed, in fact irrefutable: the risk of dangerous climate change has risen alarmingly, and the corporate media has continued to bury serious debate on what to do about it.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Memo to Congress: Show us the M-O-N-E-Y!

by Geraldine Perry from Online Journal

Although she lacks credentials (only a Master's degree in Education) that would give one confidence in her views, she has been endorsed by the American Monetary Institute. I, based on my own studies, feel that most of her views are valid regarding a subject that is often obscured in mainstream media. The only problem is that people like her see the elimination of the Fed as a cure-all. It is only one problem related to the capitalist system. It is only one scam among many. 

Based on my fairly extensive readings, Jefferson and Madison were not really very active in opposing Hamilton's plans. Jefferson was mostly in Paris as Ambassador to France when Hamilton and the "money aristocracy", as they were popularly referred to, were arranging things. Madison was only mildly opposed.

Hamilton, Robert Morris, and friends set up the first central bank called the Bank of North America which was mostly privately financed, but they also helped themselves to US Treasury funds when they didn't have enough money. George Washington, one of the richest of Americans, largely went along with whatever Hamilton wanted.

National Security Letters and Gag Orders [8:30m audio and transcript]

from NPR's On the Media

Warning: this article may be hazardous to your peace of mind because you will be reminded that you are living in a country that increasingly resembles a police state.
The most serious kind of subpoena - called a 'National Security Letter' - used to have a lifetime gag-order automatically attached. That is until Nicholas Merrill appealed his and won the right to talk about it. Despite 50,000 national security letters a year there are only three organizations who have ever won the right to say they got one. Nick Merrill explains why he's the exception and the rule.
See Merrill's website, The Calyx Institute, for more details. Also, ACLU's website for their report on this case.
...as OTM notes, 50,000 NSLs and their accompanying gag orders are still being served by the government every year. And last summer, the Obama administration proposed expanding — yes expanding! — the NSL statute to allow the FBI to get even more electronic records without court approval or even suspicion of wrongdoing.
(For more information about preventing government agencies and others from accessing your use of the internet, there are VPNs that can provide this security. I have little knowledge of these methods, but if you would like to explore further, this website, vpnMentor, has four pages of posts that should be able to answer your questions.) 

Climate change: Barack Obama less interested than Bush, analysis reveals

 by Suzanne Goldenberg from the Guardian.

The graph below says it all, but read the article if you need more details. Clearly Obama's ruling class bosses are no longer interested in climate change issues.

Aggregate mentions of 'climate change', 'global warming' and the 'environment' in the state of the union address [and other speeches] since 1990. Photograph: Mat Hope, University of Bristol 

Also, you may be interested in reading the "Climate sceptic [who] 'misled Congress over funding from oil industry'".

Economic forum kicks off in Davos [2:28m video]

Emma Hayward reports on the scene in Davos, from Al Jazeera.  

Our capitalist masters are meeting at a swanky ski resort in Davos, Switzerland to decide on their, and our, economic fates. Guess whose interests will take priority?

World Social Forum: “The challenge of a global solution outside the system”

Eric Toussaint is interviewed by Sergio Ferrari, from CADTM.

While our masters meet in Davos, Switzerland, some activists are meeting in early February at Dakar, Senegal to look at ways of countering the ongoing assault on working people throughout the world.
The World Social Forum (WSF) is practically the only space for convergence of social movements on a planetary scale, so it is essential to continue strengthening it. This is the stance of Éric Toussaint, global justice analyst, who knows the World Social Forum from the inside as he has been a member of its guiding body since its founding, the International Council. Éric Toussaint is a Belgian historian and political scientist, and in Belgium, chair of the Committee for the Abolition of the Third world debt (CADTM www.cadtm.org). This organisation, very active in many countries, in particular in Africa, is one of the groups taking part in preparing the upcoming Dakar forum in 2011. Interview.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Tunisia and the world: roots of turmoil

by Paul Rogers from Open Democracy.
The relevance of Tunisia to this larger picture is that the uprising has come from a complex mix of economic problems involving food-price rises and high unemployment together with a hatred of an autocratic and plutocratic regime that has exercised violent control of public order for decades. The key question is whether this is a significant marker for likely future events, as a different phenomenon such as the Naxalites in India have proved to be....
I think he reaches some astute conclusions in the article.

See also Al Jazeera's report on protests currently happening in Egypt, or Guardian's detailed coverage that includes protests in Lebanon and Tunisia. See this report from Euronews regarding riots in Albania.

Early Lessons from the Tunisian Revolution

by Eva Galperin from Electronic Frontier Foundation

There are new issues being posed for political activists in their use of social networking--there are positives and negatives.  This article looks at some early lessons from the recent Tunisian revolution.

See also this report by Nate Anderson from Solidarity Economy.

Social Media and Law Enforcement: Who Gets What Data and When?

by Jennifer Lynch from Electronic Frontier Foundation

There has been a lot of concern expressed on various blogs regarding government and corporation surveillance of social media and the problems this poses for privacy and one's civil rights. This article appears to have a lot of good advice.

Also, check out security issues for users of mobile devices.

The True Meaning of Keith Olbermann

by Will Bunch from The Huffington Post

The author on this liberal website claims to have intimate knowledge of the personality and character of Keith Olbermann, a popular liberal TV commentator. That may be, but he misses the more important issues in his removal from NBC.
Olbermann's dismissal from NBC following immediately after the FCC approval of the Comcast purchase of NBC, raises all sorts of speculation. It seems that corporate media can no longer tolerate even liberal views to contaminate the Empire's messages.  The limits of political discourse that are acceptable in mainstream media continue to narrow as the concentration of the media continues. 

However, this commentator only touches superficially on those issues and leaves us with the comfortable impression that Olbermann accomplished his mission, the Bush administration was stopped, the lies of the far-right has been exposed, and all is well with the world. Check out this ridiculous statement:
Olbermann might have felt that now was the time to go. What he inspired during Bush's presidency was nothing less than a revolution, and it's often hard to adjust when the romance of revolution fades.
The lack of concern shown by this liberal commentator for the ongoing agenda of the Empire , illustrates how much the political center has shifted to the right in the US.

The Gutsy Food Sovereignty Movement Helps Shape Policy And to Rekindle and Model Democratic Principles at Work

by Olga Bonfiglio from her blog

She reports on some local efforts in the US, Africa, and Canada to take back control of the production, distribution, and consumption of food from corporations. 
Food sovereignty means that people have the right to decide what they eat and to ensure that food in their community is healthy and accessible for everyone.... It also means that producers receive a fair price for their products and that local family farmers and fishers should have the first right to local and regional markets.

With this mission in mind, food security advocates have been successfully changing food policy not only in the United States but all over the world. 

Monday, January 24, 2011

Anarchism and Psychology [Videos and article]

by Dennis Fox from CapitalismCrisis's Channel on YouTube. This is a two part presentation that the author gave at the recent conference of the North American Anarchist Studies Network.

Fox is an Emeritus Associate Professor of Legal Studies and Psychology at the University of Illinois, Springfield. He has had considerable involvement in left politics and identifies with anarchism.

He attempts to address the core issue of "personal and political" that have posed problems for generations of activists. In other words, how to be true to one's political principles and act on those principles in one's personal and political relationships. We have all been indoctrinated in the beliefs and practices of capitalism with its extreme emphasis on individualism. Hence we haven't learned the tools of behaving in a more cooperative and socially affirming way. He looks at the field of psychology to see what it has to offer regarding this issue.
...despite the significance of psychological assumptions about reciprocal links between the personal and the political, it remains unclear to what extent any of psychology’s various guises – academic discipline, therapeutic profession, psychoanalytical understanding, or force of popular culture – can help advance liberation and community.
Part 1  (9:03m)

Part 2  (4:18m)

The paper on which this presentation is based can be found here.

My own view is that a new subculture must be created to provide the soil to nurture egalitarian and social values. But, of course, that begs the question: how do we do that?

The jobs vs. war dollars dilemma

by Ben Grosscup from Gazette Net.

This article from the US State of New Hampshire reveals how the ruling class undermines anti-war dissent by rationing-out military contracts, and the high paying jobs they provide, throughout the country. 
While firms, that produce goods that people use for life, outsource their factories to countries with the lowest wages, the industries that make the equipment for threatening and bombing other countries keep their production centers sited largely in the United States.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Violent Rhetoric Has Consequences—Just Ask Abortion Providers

by Cynthia Samuels Care2
Abortion opponents have a long history of using violent rhetoric to attempt to justify their crimes and incite others to violence. They regularly refer to abortion providers as “murderers” in interviews and articles and utilize imagery associated with murder such as “wanted” posters and “hit lists” in their campaigns to end legal abortion. Unfortunately, instead of marginalizing these extremists, other opponents of abortion have picked up on this dangerous rhetoric to advance their political agenda.
She continues with examples of numerous physicians that have been murdered.

The right-wing's use of violent rhetoric is a form of terrorism used to advance their political agenda of limiting civil rights and creating a fascist state. They know that there are always weak, unstable people around to act out these impulses.

See the latest campaign against 78 year old Frances Fox Piven by Glenn Beck of Fox News.

Preparing for Life in a Peak Oil World

by Gail Tverberg from Oil Price. (Gail Tverberg is a writer and speaker about energy issues. She is especially known for her work with financial issues associated with peak oil. Prior to getting involved with energy issues, Ms. Tverberg worked as an actuarial consultant. This work involved performing insurance-related analyses and forecasts.)

On her website I found a further explanation regarding this article:
[1/17/2011] For a few days, I am working on an academic article. Since I don’t have time to do research and write something new, I thought I would post an article I wrote in 2007 on how to prepare for the impacts of peak oil, together with a few updates for 2011. This article was previously posted on The Oil Drum and was a chapter in what I called a Peak Oil booklet (found here).
I have followed her articles for a number of years on the Oil Drum website, and have always had a lot of respect for her judgment regarding energy issues. In this article she offers some sound tips on creating a lifestyle to help people cope with coming age of energy scarcity.

As I was reading the article, I was about to fault her for not mentioning any type of political activism, when she offered this disclaimer:
It would also be helpful to make changes at higher levels of government, but these are beyond the scope of the discussion in this chapter.

Silencing the media in America

by Paul Balles from Redress.
Paul J. Balles views the Zionist lobby's stranglehold over the mainstream media in the United States which has succeeded in bullying, threatening or bribing journalists into silence over Israel’s crimes.

Extreme floods are just the beginning

by Renfrey Clarke from Green Left
If a city drowns beneath a once-in-a-hundred-years flood, that's weather. Such things have happened in the past.

But when hundred-year floods start happening every few decades, that's no longer just weather. The dice have become loaded for different outcomes. Climate — that is, the average of weather — is changing.