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 19, 2011

Coming soon to each nation, its own internet

by Philip J Cunningham from Bangkok Post

The writer is addressing a recent article in an influential, US military oriented publication, "Strategic Studies Quarterly" in which the writer is advocating the establishment of border-like controls over the internet, much like what China has today. (See this piece for the latest move by the government of China.)
Just as a handful of hijackers can burden millions of jet flyers, in the communication commons the bad behaviour of a few can change the rules of the game; trolls lurk in comment sections, spammers clog up your inbox, data-miners violate your privacy, hackers close your system down.

These problems are being addressed on an ad hoc basis, mostly by the private sector, to make the cooperative, interdependent venture known as the internet safe for commerce and communication.

And then there is the US military, which has bigger fish to fry.
Whose interests with regard to the internet do you think the military-financial-industrial complex would be protecting and serving?

In Egypt, a New Guard

by Stephen Gowans from VoltaireNet

Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, known to Egyptians as “Mubarak’s poodle,” may be calling the shots in Cairo as head of the country’s military-led government, but the man who sits at his right hand side is the Pentagon’s poodle, and he’s likely to continue to play a key role in Egypt even after a civilian government succeeds the current military one.

The author spotlights the Pentagon's hold over Egyptian politics using the same imperialist model it developed in Latin America--wed a country's military elite to the US military-industrial establishment. Clearly the removal of Mubarak was only the first step in Egypt's revolution, but to assume it stops there ignores the fact that Egyptians have experienced real power and are not likely to merely submit to new dictators. 

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Club Med war

by Pepe Escobar from Asia Times Online.
History may register that the real tipping point was this past Tuesday when, in an interview to German TV, the African king of kings [Gaddafi] made sure that Western corporations - unless they are German (because the country was against a no-fly zone) - can kiss goodbye to Libya's energy bonanza. Gaddafi explicitly said, "We do not trust their firms, they have conspired against us ... Our oil contracts are going to Russian, Chinese and Indian firms." In other words: BRICS member countries.
Escobar cynically asks, "What about Bahrain?" And I would add, what about the Palestinians in Gaza, the Yemens, the insurgents in the Ivory Coast?

It is clear that NATO countries are once again imposing their control over countries that have oil resources, especially where Western oil companies are active. Given the recent outburst of democratic aspirations in the Middle East and North Africa, this use of military force by mostly NATO countries and their oil-rich, extremely unpopular, Medieval satraps upon Libya is likely to backfire in the long run. And, I suspect that is precisely why Russia and China, although opposed to intervention, abstained from the UN Security Council resolution.

US Tries to Block Aristide Return, Derail Democracy

by Murphy Woodhouse from Americas Program
South Africa, Aristide’s home for most of his exile, has been under intense pressure to prevent the immensely popular former president from leaving the country. President Obama called South African President Jacob Zuma personally on Tuesday and expressed his “deep concerns” about Aristide’s return. According to the Miami Herald, Obama’s call, as well as a call from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, did not change the South African government’s decision to not interfere with Aristide’s return.
The US, as usual, is trying to protect corporate interests in Haiti. See this, this, and this.

Seed Treaty Legalises Theft

by Penny Cole from A World to Win.
The farmers state:
We cannot conserve biodiversity and feed the world while our rights to save, use, exchange and sell our seeds are criminalised by laws that legalise the privatisation and commodification of seeds.

The Lesson of Fukushima: Nuclear Means Catastrophe

by Daniel Tanuro from La Gauche via Climate and Capitalism
...energy transition is only possible if energy demand decreases dramatically, at least in developed capitalist countries. In Europe, this decrease should be about 50% by 2050. A reduction of this magnitude is not feasible without a significant reduction in material production and transportation. We must produce and carry less, otherwise the equation will not balance. This means that such a transition is impossible in the capitalist system, because the pursuit of profit under the whip of competition inevitably means growth, ie capital accumulation, which inevitably leads to an increasing quantity of goods, putting increased pressure on resources.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Three-minute Cliffs Notes of U.S. foreign policy [3:00m video]

by Glenn Greenwald from Salon.  (a must-view video)

Greenwald provides an excellent 3 minute clip in which a former CIA operative and terrorist contractor is interviewed by John Pilger. The interviewee gives a no-bullshit, concise summary of US foreign policy as it actually is. 

Revealed: US spy operation that manipulates social media

by Nick Fielding and Ian Cobain from the Guardian
The US military is developing software that will let it secretly manipulate social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter by using fake online personas to influence internet conversations and spread pro-American propaganda.
The authorities assure us that this technology (Operation Earnest Voice) would be illegal to use in the US--so why should we worry? See this, this, and this.

On the other hand, there are some skeptics, like myself, who believe that the ruling class clearly saw what happened in Egypt, and are preparing to use social media to manipulate the minds of Americans as they have done so effectively, although more subtly, through their control of education and mainstream media.

Still, many politically astute people believe that we can use social media to organize. Maybe so. In any case, we must be aware of the dangers.

Pvt Manning proves 'slippery slope'

by Lisa Hajjar from Al Jazeera.
Torture advocates opined that the use of non-maiming techniques (i.e., "torture lite") is a lesser evil, and might be legitimately employed by American interrogators to break a recalcitrant terrorist suspected of possessing valuable intelligence (e.g. the whereabouts of that ticking bomb) in order to keep Americans safe. In those years, torture advocates never envisioned the use of such tactics on a US soldier....
What has made the slope so slippery is that anyone who threatens the Empire's ruling class is, in the minds of the latter, essentially "terrorists". The leaders of the ruling capitalist class in the US are becoming more and more insecure as their domination of most of the world is increasingly being threatened. 

This class is now feeling so threatened by those who oppose, or fight back against the Empire that they are willing to treat their own citizens as they do so-called "terrorists". Hence, they have no reticence about using the same methods as they use against any foreigner who fights back against the Empire. This means that the ruling capitalist class is perfectly willing to cast aside all pretenses about the rule of law and Constitution which they have used to obscure their control of our society. 

In a very real sense, it follows that all of us who oppose the rule of capitalists, or in any way inhibit their pursuit of power and profits, are now "terrorists", and can be dealt with accordingly. This is the message they are sending, and not too subtly, to the American people by their treatment of Bradley Manning.

Clearly, this is a desperate move on their part. Desperate people do desperate things. That is precisely why in the 1930s Germany's capitalist class turned to the Nazis to save them.  However, this can set into motion a disastrous train of events for the ruling class. Once the smoke and mirrors of the rule of law is cast aside, all legitimacy of their rule comes into question by the people which, in turn, can result in wide-scale opposition. What they are counting on is that we will be intimidated. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Ten reasons why new nuclear was a mistake – even before Fukushima

by Alexis Rowell from Transition Culture.

The author reviews ten arguments against nuclear energy. However, his "solutions" lack validity. 

This liberal opinion source totally misses the fact that a capitalist system requires cheap energy to feed its growth imperative. Thus, to exist the system only has one alternative, and that is to use nuclear power. Alternative sources such as wind, solar, bio-mass cannot provide this. That is precisely why we will continue to see corporate sponsored media and corporate sponsored political leaders like Obama pushing nuclear power. 

The same avoidance of the core problem is illustrated by the article entitled, "Unsafe at Any Screed: Can People Power Overcome Nuclear Power?". This author does go a little further by timidly making reference to a "military-industrial complex" and the need for "citizen action". As an academic employed at Prescott College, it may be that he doesn't dare go further in order to secure his employment and standing in the academic community which are closely supervised by capitalist authorities.

Capitalists are like hard core heroine addicts, they will go to their deaths (and ours) to preserve their addiction--in this case, their addiction to profits and power; and directly associated with the latter is the exploitation of working people, global domination, and wars.

There are alternatives to this system which, if we are to avoid the scourges of climate change, environmental destruction, resource depletion, and associated social disasters, we simply must create before it is too late. (See the alternatives on the right-hand side near the bottom of this blog-page.)

MR Original -- Re-Creating Revolutionary Communities

by Abby Martin from OpEd News

The author reports on Cindy Sheehan's call for people to start organizing in their communities to take care of their basic needs. I think that this ultimately must be the direction that we have to go in. I just question whether it is yet possible given the level of political consciousness existing thus far in the US.

There needs to be a kind of critical mass of a political consciousness to develop before the existing social-economic system and its masters can be challenged. Then it might be possible for an organized, politically aware grass-roots to bring about fundamental change to a new system. I don't believe we in the US are there yet. Too many people still believe the information delivered to them from corporate managed media, and are resistant to critical views.

I'm also bothered a bit by Sheehan's apparent need to always be in the spotlight of activity. The extreme individualism promoted by capitalism in the US has frequently spilled over into even more radical types of political activism. Too often, we see individuals trying to make a name for themselves in the media by making dramatic political statements, and putting much less effort into working toward collective organizing. After learning of her trip a year ago to Venezuela and her "audience" with Hugo Chavez, my doubts about her political consciousness have increased. Her political consciousness may be evolving, but I am skeptical that she is where she needs to be. 

Japan's Nuclear Calamity Compounded by History of Neglecting Safety, Downplaying Accidents

by Kevin Gosztola from OpEd News

Capitalism works the same the world over: corporate profits trump every other consideration. Why capitalists are allowed to run dangerous nuclear facilities like any other profit oriented business is quite astonishing to me. But then, why should I be astonished? Capitalists own and control their governments.
...BBC reported years ago, "A pervasive culture of secrecy that is commonplace in corporate Japan, and traditional hostility to whistleblowers, make it hard for the industry to change." It seems like it was going to take a disaster of this magnitude to shock Japan into changing or maybe an international diplomatic crisis brought on by WikiLeaks to alter how the industry functioned in Japan.

In another report, the BBC expounded on accidents & secrecy in Japan. Satoshi Fujino, public relations officer at the Citizens' Nuclear Information Centre in Tokyo, mentions an "extremely lax" safety appraisal process and "very haphazard" inspections carried out after the process all make the industry prone to accidents.

International Citizens Radiation Monitoring Network

from Washington's Blog
If we could rely on the Japanese and American governments to inform us of any danger, we wouldn't have to be so vigilant.
While mainstream media mostly assures us that we in the US have nothing to worry about in relation to the ever-worsening nuclear disaster in Japan, the author here has given us some useful sources of information, and advises on how we can take action to protect ourselves.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Tax Haven USA attracts over $3 trillion in foreign dirty money

by Nick Shaxson from his blog.
The number comes from a letter to Tim Geithner, US Treasury Secretary, sent by every single member of the Florida Delegation to the House of Representatives. 
The world's capitalists work together to keep their money from being taxed. Maybe that is why there are so many national and local governments in debt: little revenue coming in because rich people don't pay taxes.

Redefining Governmental 'Power Grabs'

by Steve Benen from Washington Monthly

And you thought Governor Walker of Wisconsin was the worst right-winger--he has competition from Michigan's Governor Snyder. 

The fact that these right-wing political assaults are all coming at the same time in many other States suggests coordination and planning. See this and this. Nah, that sounds too much like a conspiracy. And, we all know that unlike shit, conspiracies don't happen.

Crisis casts doubt on nuke industry P.R. campaign

by Justin Elliott from Salon
Years of well-funded public-relations efforts have asserted that nuclear power is completely safe. 

Tokyo Electric to Build US Nuclear Plants: The no-BS info on Japan's disastrous nuclear operators

by Greg Palast from his blog

The author reports on the history of fraudulent tests and claims of the nuclear industry, and the likely media damage control of the effects of the unfolding crisis in Japan's nuclear disaster. 
I need to speak to you, not as a reporter, but in my former capacity as lead investigator in several government nuclear plant fraud and racketeering investigations.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Dozens of US states declare war on workers’ rights

by Tom Eley from World Socialist Web Site
An analysis of pending legislation in dozens of US states makes clear that both the Republican and Democratic parties are pursuing an agenda whose central aim is to eradicate the ability of workers to resist wage and budget cutting. The primary difference is that the Democratic-sponsored legislation maintains a role for the union bureaucracies in implementing the cuts, while a number of Republican bills aim to weaken or destroy the unions outright.
This latter point is very well expressed. Since WWII when a massive attack was waged against militant labor leaders as a part of the McCarthy right-wing campaigns to rid the US of most of the labor and civil rights gains made by ordinary people in the 1930s, the US ruling class has steadily weakened the unions over the decades to where they largely consist of privileged union bureaucracies who preside over mere vestiges of what once existed. The right-wing mostly ensconced in the Republican Party want to get rid of these vestiges while the Democrats want to preserve them. The Democrats presided over the globalization of capitalism that has resulted in the shipping of much of our economy and jobs to cheap labor overseas. The two parties are simply two branches of the ruling capitalist class, and pursue slightly different strategies to extract more profits from working people.

The recent aggressive attacks of public workers may be exactly what is needed to wake up working people to the war that has been waged against them since WWII. This stealth attack aided and abetted by the Democratic Party has been very successful. It has obscured the reality of the class war and weakened unions to an empty shell of what they were while greatly increasing the power of corporations and their owners, the one-percent of Americans who now essentially "own" the US. 

We presently face a powerful ruling class that has used the so-called "war on terrorism" to create a legal framework of a police state (the Patriot Acts). This has given them an arrogance and sense of omnipotence that, I believe, has fueled their current coordinated drive to crush public worker unions as a first step to destroy what is left of organized labor.

WH forces P.J. Crowley to resign for condemning abuse of Manning

by Glenn Greenwald from Salon

Believe it or not, there are some decent people in government. Here I am referring to US State Department spokesman, P.J. Crowley, who resigned in protest over the abusive treatment of Bradley Manning. Unlike our beloved President Obama who was satisfied with the assurance given him by the Pentagon that Manning was being treated appropriately, Crowley could no longer stomach it.
So, in Barack Obama's administration, it's perfectly acceptable to abuse an American citizen in detention who has been convicted of nothing by consigning him to 23-hour-a-day solitary confinement, barring him from exercising in his cell, punitively imposing "suicide watch" restrictions on him against the recommendations of brig psychiatrists, and subjecting him to prolonged, forced nudity designed to humiliate and degrade.
As I have argued many times before, Obama is merely a figurehead like all recent Presidents. He was carefully selected and groomed because ruling class operatives saw in him a person with weak moral principles and someone who would be perfectly willing to make a Faustian bargain in order to gain a little fame and likely fortune. He was the perfect candidate: having been raised by a white banker grandmother who probably worked for the CIA in Indonesia and who instilled in him the corresponding values of serving power. See this for the details of Obama's family connections with the CIA.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Censored scientists, dirty politics and the nuclear distraction

by Erik Curren from Energy Bulletin.

With the present tragedy of Japan's earthquake, the ultimate effects of which are still unknown, this is an exceedingly timely article.

The author of this article is reacting to James Hansen's latest book entitled, Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity. While lauding, as I do, Hansen's many activities and views in opposition to the use of fossil fuels, he is highly ambivalent about Hansen's embrace of nuclear energy. This is where I part company with both.

To be sure, Hansen is one of our greatest warriors in opposition to the fossil fuel industry, and has used his widely recognized scientific expertise to argue convincingly that the continued use of fossil fuels at even present rates will end in catastrophic climate change. On the other hand, I believe that his arguments for nuclear power lack conviction, and are based more on hope than science, and very little on sound economics. See this, this, and this.

Without clean, virtually unlimited quantities of power capitalism, which demands growth and increasing consumption, simply cannot continue. Hence, like a terminal heroin addict, capitalists will insist on continuing their killer habit until we all are in peril. I believe that Hansen's thinking is informed by this same belief in capitalism and the widespread assumption "that there is no alternative" (TINA). 

The capitalist ruling classes have been highly successful in propagating this view through their comprehensive control of information media, education, and the film industry. And, if we continue to believe in TINA and act accordingly, humanity will surely perish from the Earth.  IT IS SIMPLY NOT TRUE!

There are alternatives. See the ones listed at the top right hand side of this blog.

Get Ready for The Nuclear Energy Spin Assault

by Rob Kall from OpEd News
The tragedy in Japan will quickly produce an army of PR flacks, fighting to protect the interests of those who have a stake in the building and maintaining of nuclear reactors and related nuclear energy facilities.

...The industry's primary corporations will work together to establish teams assigned to minimize damage and control message.
The author goes on to cite examples of this damage control that is already happening in major media outlets.