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, March 12, 2011

From "Morning in America" to the Nightmare on Main Street

by Henry A. Giroux from Truthout

I find that Giroux is one of the most insightful observers of world events. In the article he tries to warn us that the...
...policies that informed Reagan's neoliberal agenda have given way to the intense assault now being waged by his more extremist governmental descendants on all vestiges of the democratic state. This brutal evisceration includes a rejection and devaluing of the welfare state, unions, public values, young people, public and higher education; and other political, social and economic institutions and forces in American life that provide a counterweight against the political power of mega-corporations, the rich and the powerful.
In the middle of the article is an audio link to a 54 minute interview he gave on a recent broadcast from Santa Fe Public Radio station. (This is separate from the text in the article.) In this interview he looks at the protests across Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East as a growing global fightback by mostly youth against the crushing neo-liberal policies being implemented in many places of the world by the global capitalist elites.

Higher Learning

by Chris Lehman from New Left Project

This excerpt from the author's book describes the neo-conservative trends of higher education in the US. With all the talk coming from Obama, the "change" President, about the importance of higher education, one would think that the state of higher education in the US would be quite rosy. This piece shows the continuing reality of reactionary forces at work on higher education.
...the once-noble dream of a universal higher learning has been transformed, as have so many other social goods in America, into a brutally class-segmented market.
The big money still goes into the elite Eastern Seaboard schools—and students at those institutions get customized, grade-inflated, kid glove treatment in lavishly appointed campuses and physical plants.
Meanwhile, at the under-regulated frontier reaches of the college market, students are thrown largely back on their own resources—and systematically lied to by recruiters - mainly to furnish market subsidies in the form of federal aid to benefit a group of private investors. These shareholders evince no particular interest in educational quality, let alone the benefits that a liberal arts curriculum might bestow on a democratic citizenry. Indeed, it would be utterly irrational for them to cling to such notions, since doing so would only increase the company’s production costs while dramatically narrowing its consumer base. 

Inching Towards Intervention

by Graham Usher from Al-Ahram

This writer provides a much broader view of Libyan events than what mainstream media in the US reports as "news".
Libya is a media as well as a ground war. Diplomats admit one of the reasons the council has moved with such unwonted speed against the Gaddafi regime is less because of verifiable events than because of domestic pressure on governments fed on media reports that describe skirmishes as "battles" and moments of armed violence as "massacres".
Of course, Western governments and mainstream media represent precisely the same interests, and are presently busy preparing their populations for intervention in Libya.

Upheaval and the Return of Pan-Arabism

by Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya from Voltaire

I'm not sure how useful his categories of Arab states are, but this article provides a very useful and succinct report on the current state of unrest in the various countries of the region. It also illustrates the favorite strategy of the US-European-Israeli axis, like all hegemonies, to maintain their rule in the region: divide and conquer. He suggests that a new pan-Arabism is forming to counter this.
The interests of the U.S. government, Brussels, and Israel are to keep the Arabs in a feeble state and divided. There is, however, a new dynamic that is emerging in the Arab World. It is this new dynamic that is emerging from these upheavals and protests that will challenge the Yinon Approach that is continuously being implemented against the Arab peoples. Pan-Arabism is this new dynamic and it has made its return as a potent force. The trend of decades of divisions can eventually be reversed. Nor will the issue of Palestine be left in the hands of outside powers for much longer.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Big Data mining: Who owns your social network data?

by Paul Krill from InfoWorld.
An attractive application of Hadoop and other Big Data technologies is to analyze users' social activities, sometimes without their express knowledge
Investors are always looking to places where they can "make a killing", and many are training their sights on software that is capable of mining information from Facebook, Twitter, emails, etc. They know that money can be made by selling information. However, such sources present difficult problems regarding "ownership" which, of course, is one of the foundations of the capitalist religion. I'm sure they'll sort it out and make big profits. 

You didn't know that capitalism was a religion? Yes, indeed. It is faith-based: the followers believe in the beneficial "invisible hand" of the market. Just ask Ken Fisher, columnist with Forbes Magazine
I believe in capitalism. Capitalism to me is a spiritual concept. Democracy just gets in the way. Democracy is annoying. Let them buy stuff and eat cake. Where I come from if you don't believe in capitalism you're going to hell.
You didn't really think that social networking software was devised to merely bring people together, did you? In a capitalist theocracy, nearly everything ends up by providing a few people with profits. Capitalist worshipers believe that nothing can possibly happen unless people can make money from it. And the money made from creating something usually does not go to the creators, but to the "owners" of enterprises where the creation happens. 

Many people who do not subscribe to this religion believe that all creative activity cannot be merely a product of individual efforts, but derived from the work of other contemporaries and, especially, from the efforts of many past generations of people (workers) who contributed time and creativity in solving other related problems. Hence, they believe that such creations are social property. And, they also believe that solving problems, creating things which make life easier, more secure, and happier are intrinsically rewarding for their creators.

Pentagon Places Its Bet on a General in Egypt

by Elisabeth Bumiller from NY Times (free registration required).

As you read this article, notice the close relationships between Egyptian military leaders and the Pentagon. This is the way the US Empire controls its satellites: through the lavish support of the military of these countries by providing them with military weapons, training, junkets to the US, etc. This strategy serves to insure that the military in the various regions of the Empire are wedded to the US military-financial-industrial complex. With this relationship comes shared interests, perspectives, and support of global capitalism.
Today General Enan, a favorite of the American military, is the second in command among the group of generals moving toward some form of democracy in Egypt. In meetings of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, he sits to the right of its leader, the 75-year-old defense minister, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, and is considered his potential successor. In the meantime, American officials say, General Enan, 63, has become a crucial link for the United States as it navigates the rocky course ahead with Cairo.

The Film: "Inside Job" and an Offer

by Ron Horn.

I viewed the documentary film, "Inside Job", a few days ago and found that it provided an excellent examination of the banking-mortgage scam which brought down nearly every Western capitalist economy. Although it won an Oscar in the Best Documentary category, I fear that it will not be widely distributed to cinemas in the US outside of college towns. And, I believe it is essential viewing to educate people on the origins of the current economic crisis that the ruling class is using to engage in further attacks on working people.

THE OFFER: I will have DVDs of "Inside Job" sent (free of charge) to the first ten people in the US who feel that they cannot otherwise access this movie. This offer assumes that supplies of the DVDs will be available. Contact me through the "About Me" section of this blog with your address and whether you want the film in DVD or Blu-Ray format.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Do or die in Wisconsin

by Lee Sustar from Socialist Worker

The writer argues that the weak responses by union leaders has motivated Governor Walker of Wisconsin and his corporate backers to pursue their latest attack on public workers.
Whether or not the anger of the union rank and file will push union officials into action is unclear. "Right now, what I am seeing from the labor leadership is a lack of response," said J. Eric Cobb, executive director of the Building Trades Council of South Central Wisconsin. Top union leaders have been in a reactive mode, rather than leading, he said.
And concludes his analysis with this:
If union leaders won't move face up to this battle, then the rank and file that has already showed so much strength and determination must take the initiative again. Unions have to respond to Walker by fighting as if their lives depend on it--because they do.

When Will You Fully Engage in the Class War?

by Sherry Linkon and John Russo from New Haven Advocate
For the last month, the attacks on public sector unions in Wisconsin, Ohio, and elsewhere dominated national news. The target is not just unions but on labor in general. But state bills barring or restricting collective bargaining are just one battlefront in a growing war on the working class — a war that will have consequences for the middle class, too.
There are now some signs in the US that working people who are being directly targeted for cut-backs and union smashing, as is now happening in Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana, are beginning to wake up to the realities of this class war. 

But the ignorance of most Americans about the important issues of today is appalling. Whether working people can wake up soon enough to wage a successful war to save themselves is a big question. Especially since WWII, they have been subject to the most sophisticated campaigns of information management through the ruling class's control of media, educational institutions, and the film industry (see this). Only now when workers are being directly targeted can they see the realities of this class war that is so hidden and distorted by mainstream media.

As always, the strategy of choice is divide and conquer. Right-wing mainstream media are attempting to separate out public workers from the workforce for their first attack. For example, see this. Likewise, they are stepping up their campaigns to target American Muslims.

The more liberal section of mainstream media will frame it as a political battle between Republicans and Democrats. Both, of course, represent the interests of the capitalist ruling class simply because they both are sponsored by this class in order to maintain the illusion of choice, of "democracy". This technique has been very effective as we have seen in the past few years. (If you have nearly 2 hours to spare, and you need further details about capitalist style "democracy", I suggest you view this documentary.)

In 2008 Obama made all kinds of promises about "change", and he and many Democrats were voted into office. But, as usual, very little change has occurred. (See this and this.) The pattern has been repeated many times over the decades, and as a result, many working people no longer bother to vote. 

Others that do vote, merely vote to "throw the [current] rascals out". This is precisely what happened in last year's Congressional and US state elections, and as a result, many Republicans, who nowadays are rabid right-wingers, were voted into office and are now engaged in aggressive class war. So, you can see how the ruling class uses these managed elections to provide a veneer of legitimacy to their governments and justify their attacks on workers. 

Stealing from Social Security to Pay for Wars and Bailouts

by Paul Craig Roberts from Foreign Policy Journal

This former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury under the Reagan administration, as a former insider, knows of what he writes. In this piece he reports on how Social Security Trust funds have been used to finance wars and for bailouts of banksters.
Alas, Social Security is an unfunded liability, because all the money working people put into it was stolen by Republicans and Democrats in order to pay for wars and bailouts for mega-rich bankers like Goldman Sachs.
I surmise that he is an old fashioned conservative who, from having been inside the government, saw the rise of neoconservativism in the US and has been thoroughly disillusioned by it.

As I see it, the latter, as a political philosophy, is really only an intellectual cover to hide a naked class war waged by the "one percent", who own every significant economic enterprise in the US, against US workers who they no longer need--they have found much cheaper workers elsewhere.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Refusing to Accept Concessions in Wisconsin: United we can win!

Ordinary people get it immediately when presented with the facts about the growing inequalities in wealth, the ever-decreasing taxes on the rich and the corporations, and the increasingly difficult struggle of working people to maintain a dignified standard of living. Instead of capitulating to the polls, unions must launch their own offensive, stand up for what is right, educate the public by purchasing one-page ads in Wisconsin newspapers across the state, lay out all the facts clearly, and then let the people of Wisconsin make an informed decision. Union officials must not abandon public opinion to the corporate-owned media.

Tripoli under fire in media information war

from Russia Today.

This source has been providing excellent coverage of events in Libya. In this article they provide numerous short videos of interviews with knowledgeable independent journalists. 

Hillary Clinton: US Losing Information War to Alternative Media [3:43m video]

from Russia Today.

In the video you will see Clinton and the Voice of America representative using the term "we" when they mean US ruling class interests. It is clear that the ruling class is losing the fight to control the minds of working people the world over, and they are panicking. Hence, the aggressive attacks on WikiLeaks.                            

The perfect (desert) storm

by Pepe Escobar from Asia Times Online.
The problem now is that the West is simply clueless on what post-Gaddafi Libya could turn out to be. The "rebels" include everyone from progressive, secular intellectuals to hardcore Islamists and neo-liberal-addicted businessmen. Libya is not Tunisia or Egypt - which can be monitored and even relatively tamed by Washington/Brussels.

Libya without Gaddafi could be a complex collection of clannish tribes with no experience of Western-style political culture slouching towards "anarchy". Thus the reasoning for a NATO intervention; so "we", the enlightened, can control those barbarians' worst impulses, facilitate an "orderly transition" (US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, anyone?) and profit from their energy wealth. Besides, the Mediterranean is a NATO lake already.

US Counter-Terrorism Training 'presents Islam as inherently violent'

by Ed Pilkington from the Guardian.

Evidence is surfacing that the...
US government is ... pumping millions of dollars into unregulated training schemes for local police officers and other law enforcers that give a distorted, dangerous and inflammatory picture of the Muslim faith.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Introducing another alternative to capitalism

The basic name of this alternative is "resource-based economy". I recently discovered this alternative on the internet and the recent film based on this system entitled, "Zeitgeist: Moving Forward", a 2 hour and 41 minute film which can be viewed over the internet or purchased as a DVD. 

I purchased it and viewed it yesterday. I think the film is excellent and highly recommend it. Subsequently, I started looking into other internet material on the Venus Project and the Zeitgeist Movement and was less impressed. But, these are only my initial reactions. If this movement continues to gain traction, I likely will be furnishing more material and comments on it. Having said that, I don't think that this alternative precludes the other alternatives that I've listed on the upper right hand section of this blog.

After viewing the film, I was left with the startling impression that we may be presently on the verge of a new Renaissance very similar to what began in the late 13th and 14th centuries. Then, scholars and astronomers began to use evidence-based methods to unlock the mysteries of the universe and discovered truths that were at considerable variance with the truths approved by the Catholic Church and lay authorities. 

Gradually, over time as rigorous scientific methods were refined, many more discoveries were made that resulted in the application of labor saving machines powered by wind or water. With the discovery of fossil fuel energy, the industrial revolution took off under the system of private ownership (capitalism). This new powerful dynamic has brought great productive benefits, but also tremendous carnage in the forms of wars, famine, and social dislocations. Now we are facing the prospects of energy/resource exhaustion and dramatic changes in climate that will not support human life.

Once again, it appears that there is a huge gap between the knowledge that humanity possesses and those who rule over societies and prevent the beneficial applications of that knowledge. The first Renaissance took hundreds of years to break the hold of religious and aristocratic authorities. Unfortunately, today we have very little time available to break the hold of current capitalist authorities over the vitally needed scientific applications to preserve humanity and the health of the planet. (See the next article for an example of recent scientific research, the findings of which will not be applied under the current regime of capitalism.)

Eco-Farming Can Double Food Production in 10 Years

from Climate and Capitalism.

I am not a trained scientist, nor have I surveyed scientific literature to see if this research has been peer reviewed and approved, but the fact that it has been endorsed by the UN and translated into four other languages in addition to English leads me to believe that it has credibility. 

So, proceeding with some confidence that the findings are correct, what do you think the chances are that any action will be taken to implement them to prevent the current millions of people from starving to death each year? They are nil...that is, they are nil as long as the current system of capitalism exists. Why? In the words of one expert quoted in the article:
Private companies will not invest time and money in practices that cannot be rewarded by patents and which don’t open markets for chemical products or improved seeds.”
Thus, he calls for public funding and philanthropy to step in. What chance is there for that happening with the increasingly aggressive neo-liberal strategies of the ruling classes? NIL. The only hope for working people the world over is to deconstruct the capitalist system and create a system that promotes the best science to serve the health, welfare, and happiness of everyone.

Mexico's Hot Money Challenge

by Manuel Perez-Rocha from Foreign Policy in Focus

The article illustrates how international "free trade" agreements restrict the options that individual governments have to provide stability for their economies. An economy is merely the systems whole societies use to supply the material needs of its citizens. Free trade policies have been imposed on many nations by the Empire to serve the interests of its ruling capitalist classes while reigning havoc on the lives of working people.
For a country like Mexico, which is suffering from the escalating violence of President Felipe Calderon’s drug war, the volatility of financial flows could have a devastating impact on long-term stability.

Pro-Democracy Protests Spread to Oman

by Stephen Zunes from Foreign Policy in Focus

While US media focuses almost exclusively on the Libyan uprising, there are more troubling, and unreported, developments for the Empire' satraps on the Arabian peninsula affecting the Empire's vital interests.

Although most Americans may not be familiar with Oman, Omanis are certainly familiar with the United States and its support for the sultan. The growing unrest will make it difficult for the United States to remain silent about the severity of the country’s problems. Oman is yet one more test of whether the Obama administration will continue to back an autocratic status quo in allied Arab countries or respect the wishes of their people, manifested through large-scale nonviolent action.

The "Badger Advocates": Corporate Advocates, Not UW-Madison Advocates

by Steve Horn from The Center for Media and Democracy

Corporations, calling themselves "Badger Advocates, are stepping up their attacks on not only State workers, but on the University of Wisconsin in their drive to place everything under the control of "market forces." The real aim is, of course, to further reduce their taxes that support public enterprises by privatizing the latter.

They frame this latest move as creating greater "autonomy" and cutting red-tape for the University of Wisconsin. Here is the essence of what they are proposing:
...the state would reduce funding to the universities; in exchange, the universities would be given new outcome-based autonomy in their day-to-day operations. The universities would be given more flexibility to set tuition, negotiate faculty contracts, and undergo capital projects, pursuant to meeting a number of accountability goals. As more goals are attained, more autonomy is granted by the state.

...Wisconsin, ...has traditionally had a “high state aid, low tuition” system of financing its university system. Currently, state government appropriates slightly over $1 billion per year to the University of Wisconsin System, which allows it to have the second-lowest tuition in the Big Ten Conference.

Since the merger of the UW System in the early 1970s, the taxpayer subsidy to the state’s public universities, which currently stands at over $1 billion annually, has served to insulate the UW from market forces.

Fox News' "Madison Protest" Footage Aims to Deceive [2:09m video]

by Anne Landman from The Center for Media and Democracy

Just when one thinks that Fox News can't get any worse, along comes fake news coverage like this.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Standoff in Wisconsin [3:18m video]

An interview with a Wisconsin protester from Real News.

Hopefully, the thinking of this worker-protester is representative of a large section of the workers in Wisconsin. If it is, it represents a tectonic shift away from worker trust of mainstream media. Such a development would be extremely dangerous for the ruling class.
 ...I think it has to do with just all of us having come together and discussing this issue and probably talking to one another rather than listening to the mainstream media and realizing more broadly where these problems emanate--from where they emanate and what are the true solutions.

Ronald Reagan: "Where Free Unions and Collective Bargaining are Forbidden, Freedom is Lost"

from Washington's Blog. [9:55m video]

This blogger does good by digging up this fine example of what passes for the "democratic" process here in the US. The ruling class hires personable speech-givers like Reagan, Clinton, and Obama to pander to the dreams of working people while continuing business as usual or worse--stepping up the attacks on working people. I wonder which political operative wrote this speech.

Working people have to understand that Presidents are essentially puppets, and the people who pull their strings always function behind the staged scenes. They may be likable people themselves, but some weakness in their character permits them to be used by others in exchange for the fame of being "President".  What they really are, are super-salesmen for the financial-industrial-military complex.

The Reagan administration was laced with the rising fascist-Zionist operatives like Paul Wolfowitz, Doug Feith, and Richard Perle. Under their influence and others of their ilk, policies and activities were crafted that resulted in the invasions of Middle East countries. Alan Greenspan was appointed Chairman of the Federal Reserve, and his bubble economic policies caused the huge economic collapse.

BP: While collecting windfall profits, oil giant backs away from its commitments to restore the Gulf Coast

by Michael Conathan from Climate Progress
...BP is doing everything in its power to drop the curtain on last spring’s fiasco as quickly as possible, allowing a return to the kind of business as usual that led to the disaster in the first place. Simultaneously, the oil giant is failing to follow through on its promises.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

An empire of lies: why our media betrays us

by Jonathan Cook from Redress.

The author starts his explanation by using the recent media disclosure in the Guardian about the confessions of an Iraqi exile, code-named "Curveball", who gave false information eight years ago to the CIA regarding weapons of mass destruction in the hands of Saddam Hussein. This was a major lie that was widely and uncritically disseminated in the Western press and used by the Empire to launch its invasion of Iraq.

He uses this illustration to develop his thesis that...
“...the media cannot fulfil the function of watchdog of power, because in fact it is power. It is the power of the globalised elite to control and limit the ideological and imaginative horizons of the media’s readers and viewers.”
He concludes this excellent essay by holding out hope for the new media of WikiLeaks, and presumably, independent online reporting and information that is disseminated over social networking media.

I think he is too hopeful because it appears that he doesn't really understand the crucial role of propaganda to insure the vital interests of capitalists. The latter must control and shape information in order to maintain the system of capitalism which provides this tiny minority with so much power and wealth. Already we are seeing signs that the ruling class will be making strenuous efforts to control and contain this new media. (See this.)

Thus, he misses the most crucial point of all: only the destruction of this system will allow the free flow of reasonably honest information, a world free of war crimes, the possibilities of social justice, and most important of all, the possibility of creating an economic system that can sustain human life within the limits of the Earth's ecosystem. 

Could it be that Cook is also constrained by the same "power of the globalised elite to control and limit" his own imagination?

Is "shale oil" the answer to "peak oil"?

by Gail Tverberg from The Oil Drum

There are some technical terms that she uses that may throw the average reader, but this knowledgeable author zeros in on the current crucial issues facing the energy extraction industry and the economy as organized under capitalism. The article also provides a useful antidote to all the rosy pictures that the managers of the economy attempt to portray in mainstream media about the future of energy. She approaches the question posed by the title by looking at the evidence related to the following specific questions:
1. Is this really a new drilling technique?

2. How likely is the 2 million barrels a day of new production, and the 20% increase in US production, by 2015?

3. Can this additional oil supply really reduce the US’s imports by over half?

4. How much of a difference will this oil make to “peak oil”?
One crucial aspect of shale gas that she omits from this inquiry is the pollution of ground water caused by mining and drilling operations. See this, this, and this.