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, June 4, 2011

Europe's New Road to Serfdom

Click here to access article by Michael Hudson from CounterPunch.

The author explains how the capitalist predators in Europe are encircling what is left of a democratically controlled "commons" and preparing their working populations for a final attack that will leave them in complete debt servitude.
At issue is whether Greece, Ireland, Spain, Portugal and the rest of Europe will roll back democratic reform and move toward financial oligarchy. The financial objective is to bypass parliament by demanding a “consensus” to put foreign creditors first, above the economy at large. Parliaments are being asked to relinquish their policy-making power. The very definition of a “free market” has now become centralized planning – in the hands of central bankers. This is the new road to serfdom that financialized “free markets” are leading to: markets free for privatizers to charge monopoly prices for basic services “free” of price regulation and anti-trust regulation, “free” of limits on credit to protect debtors, and above all free of interference from elected parliaments.  

Israel and the British Media - Winning the Propaganda War

Click here to access article from New Left Project (UK) featuring an interview with Greg Philo, co-author of More Bad News from Israel.

Philo provides some insights on how news coverage of Israeli-Palestinian events are carefully framed and interpreted to shape the views of the British public. Of course, the methods are the same as used in the US and Canada.
The journalists are under tremendous pressure to not criticise Israel.  As soon as they start to criticise Israel from the Palestinian point of view they get into all sorts of problems.  If they do that it’s very difficult.  So what they tend to do is to stay on the strongest ground, or what they see as the strongest ground, which is civilian casualties.  They would show lots of Palestinian civilian casualties and that would be their version of the Palestinian side and against that they would give the Israeli point of view of why it was all happening.  And of course that means that people in a sense become inured to the casualties and say, ‘Oh yes it’s sad isn’t it, but if only the Palestinians would stop starting the trouble’.

The WH/Politico attack on Seymour Hersh

Click here to access article by Glenn Greenwald from Salon.
Seymour Hersh has a new article in The New Yorker arguing that there is no credible evidence that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons; to the contrary, he writes, "the U.S. could be in danger of repeating a mistake similar to the one made with Saddam Hussein's Iraq eight years ago -- allowing anxieties about the policies of a tyrannical regime to distort our estimates of the state's military capacities and intentions."  This, of course, cannot stand, as it conflicts with one of the pillar-orthodoxies of Obama foreign policy in the Middle East....

Friday, June 3, 2011

Time to be honest [Revised commentary]

Click here to access article from Red Pepper (UK) featuring an interview by writer Nick Buxton with Tim DeChristopher, an environmentalist extraordinaire.

One of my initial reactions to this article was surprise that I hadn't heard about these events related to Tim DeChristopher, a serious American environmental activist. I spend about four hours every day perusing articles on the internet, particularly ones referring to environmental concerns, social justice, and peace. I had entirely missed any reports of the events reported here which were happening virtually in my back yard. I apologize. I think that I was too distracted by dramatic news coming out of the Mid-East and the labor struggles in Wisconsin and nearby states.

I think...the problem is that we have too many rich people in the leadership of the environmental movement, who have benefited from the status quo. It is hard to change the world when you have little personal investment in changing it.
I find it hard to express how inspiring this piece was after reading yesterday's mainstream media announcement that we must simply adapt to a "new normal", hotter climate in which we will experience more, and much worse, devastating floods, droughts, tornadoes, hurricanes, etc.
The turning point for me was when Terry Root, a lead author of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, told me privately after an event at Stanford University that it was too late to stop a climate crisis, that her generation had failed mine. I was shocked and asked why she had not said that on the public panel. And she said that she was scared that saying the truth would paralyse people. And it is true, what she said did first put me into a dark place of despair. I found myself mourning my own future, knowing it could be nothing like my parents. But sharing that grief with others, I found knowing the truth also empowered me to fight back in a more serious way.
Clearly DeChrisopher, and people like him, are extremely dangerous to the capitalist system, or any system that is based on endless growth. The most effective weapons we have to confront this suicidal system is the raising of the public's consciousness--and that is precisely what he intends to do. It is finally, and most decisively, an ideological battle. 

Remember how suddenly the Soviet Union collapsed? It happened because people simply stopped believing in it, and then stopped cooperating with it. The huge mistake that the Soviet citizens made was to adopt capitalism. Apparently they saw all the glittering stuff we had and thought that capitalism was the answer. Once people stop believing in the capitalist system, it will collapse virtually overnight. I don't think that anyone has expressed this phenomenon better than Mario Savio:
"There's a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious—makes you so sick at heart—that you can't take part. You can't even passively take part. And you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop. And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all."
For Tim DeChristopher, and others like him, the time is NOW.

Why is the United States waging perpetual war against the Cuban people's health system?

Click here to access article by William Blum from his Anti-Empire Report. (The first section entitled, "God Bless America. And its Bombs", provides a good introduction to this second section of his report.)

His first two essays in this report illustrate how desperate capitalist political operatives are to discredit and destroy any system that does not allow investment opportunities for capitalists. You see, private investment opportunities, and the wealth and power derived from them, is their system's highest ethical value.  This raises a few questions in my mind.

Can a system that places such a value at the highest level be sustainable over the long run? It seems to me that the system's proponents have been able to impose their system on the rest of us because they have been able to establish a near monopoly of instruments of violence and the control of vast resources and wealth, and the willingness to use either or both to kill or starve people to death if they refuse to cooperate. But can such a system endure for a long time when it is based on threats to life? Will most humans, who having arrived on the planet around 150,000 years ago and having survived so many threats to their existence, continue to accept such a system? When there is now overwhelming evidence that the system's requirement for endless growth and its profligate use of fossil fuels is destroying their own habitat, will the species continue its adaptation to this sick system and become extinct?

‘I Want to Be a Farmer’

Click here to access article by Randall Amster from New Clear Vision.

I'm posting this article simply because it is life affirming as well as being well written--and I need material like this.
As Evaggelos Vallianatos recently wrote in Truthout, “the EPA has been licensing toxic and cancer-causing farm chemicals that, essentially, poison our food and drinking water while causing harm and death to wildlife…. And many of these pesticides injure or kill wildlife at extremely low amounts, contributing to a massive extinction of species, which is unprecedented in history.” In addition to the wanton use of pesticides and biocides in food production, we have to grapple with the potentially-disastrous effects of untested genetic modification, unregulated additives, and unchecked centralization of our essential food supplies.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Are You Ready for More?

Click here to access article from Newsweek.

It's official, folks! Yes, corporate sponsored mainstream media has announced that climate change is real! Read all about it! (Sarcasm)

While they do a good job of describing what is happening...
Even if the world went carbon-neutral tomorrow, we’d be in for more: because of the CO2 that has already been emitted, we’re on track for another 5 degrees of warming. Batten down the hatches. “You can no longer say that the climate of the future is going to be like the climate of today, let alone yesterday,” says Judi Greenwald, vice president of innovative solutions at the Pew Center on Global Climate Change. “In all of the plausible climate scenarios, we are going to have to change the way we do things in ways we can’t even predict.”
...the emphasis of the article is clear that climate-caused devastation is the "new normal", and we had better learn how to adapt. They even pose as severe critics of Big Oil and Big Coal.
So what lies behind America’s resistance to action? Economist Sachs points to the lobbying power of industries that resist acknowledgment of climate change’s impact. “The country is two decades behind in taking action because both parties are in thrall to Big Oil and Big Coal,” says Sachs. “The airwaves are filled with corporate-financed climate misinformation.” But the vanguard of action isn’t waiting any longer. This week, representatives from an estimated 100 cities are meeting in Bonn, Germany, for the 2nd World Congress on Cities and Adaptation to Climate Change. The theme is “Resilient Cities.” As Joplin, Mo., learned in the most tragic way possible, against some impacts of climate change, man’s puny efforts are futile. But time is getting short, and the stakes are high. Says Daniel Sarewitz, a professor of science and society at Arizona State University: “Not to adapt is to consign millions of people to death and disruption.”
I find this a bit much! For years and years they have been telling us that there are two sides to the argument about climate change, and anyway, more research is needed. Then they went on to tell us to concern ourselves only with buying low energy bulbs and appliances and hybrid cars.  

Forget about renewable energy and forget about living simpler--learn to adapt! We must keep feeding the profit addiction of the ruling class! It's capitalism über alles!

God, this article is making my head hurt!

The secret life of Arabia

Click here to access article by Pepe Escobar from Asia Times Online. 

I'm not too fond of his glib writing style, but I think he has a very good grasp of the political dynamics that are shaping events in the MENA region.
As far as Washington and selected European capitals are concerned, "stability" prevails; as in Israel and Saudi Arabia, as pillars, now that Egypt has wobbled; and the oil-drenched Gulf Counter-Revolutionary Club, also known as Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), is solid as Himalayan rock. No revisionism allowed. "Democracy", yes - as long as it is not a threat to "Western interests".

Saudi Arabia and Western Hypocrisy [11:14m video & transcript]

Click here to access video from The Real News.

Paul Jay interviews Madawi Al-Rasheed who provides some very insightful information on this obscure country.
Madawi Al-Rasheed is Professor of Social Anthropology at King's College, London. She is originally from Saudi Arabia and currently lives in London. Her research focuses on history, society, religion and politics in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf. Her recent publications include Politics in an Arabian Oasis , and A History of Saudi Arabia. 

America at War and the Debt Crisis: Hail Caesar

Click here to access article by Paul Craig Roberts from Global Research. 

The author argues that the centralization of political authority in the US has made the issue of the debt ceiling merely political theater designed to gain support for the elimination of all vestiges of the gains made by working people in the 1930s following the 1929 collapse of the economy. Such gains consisted most notably of Social Security, Worker's Compensation, and union organizing rights (the Wagner Act). Contrast this with the current period since the 2008 collapse which has seen mostly the corporate sponsored right-wing Tea Party trying to eliminate those gains of the 1930s (as well as Medicare passed by Lyndon Johnson in 1968 to stifle opposition to the Vietnam War).

Okay, so am I overlooking the labor struggles among State workers in Madison, Wisconsin and other mid-western States? At the moment I am concerned that they are being successfully contained by legal processes and elections which, I believe, will ultimately be very damaging to worker interests. The laws and the electoral machinery were designed by the ruling class to contain and defuse opposition; thus, I see little hope for any positive outcomes by limiting activism to these processes. 

A major difference in favor of the current ruling class of capitalists, is that there is no access to mainstream media by militant spokespeople as existed in the 1930s. At that time radio was still quite new, station owners more decentralized, and they had a lot of radio time to fill. Thus, they were much more open to speakers who could command large audiences regardless of their views. 

In the 1930s people such as Huey Long and Father Coughlin in their radio broadcasts launched vigorous attacks against the concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a few which they saw as a major cause of the devastation to the economy and the lives of working people. They were by no means radicals, but they were listened to by many millions of people across the country and likely, along with militant socialist type movements and radical labor unions, forced Franklin Roosevelt to support the progressive laws that he did.

Nowadays, access to mainstream media is carefully controlled to eliminate any militant opposition to elite policies. In fact, the media is carefully crafted to engineer support of these policies and otherwise to entertain, obscure, and divert attention away from the serious issues facing working people. It follows from this argument that it is absolutely essential that working people in the US establish their own means of communication in order to mobilize people to support actions that serve their real interests.

Of course, the author of this article is no radical either. He mainly sees the current concentration of power in the Executive branch as extremely dangerous. Of course, his statement that "The Bush/Cheney regime brought democracy and accountable government to an end." is extremely naive. Democracy has never existed in the US for anyone except for members of the ruling capitalist class. It is just that now the latter are becoming more aggressive and less concerned about preserving appearances.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Myanmar Targeted by Globalists

Click here to access article by Dr. K R Bolton from Foreign Policy Journal.

This astute author first provides an introduction to the propaganda that is used by political operatives hired by global capitalists to gain support for regime change in various parts of the world whenever it is in their interest. Following this, he goes into considerable detail to illustrate how this strategy of "cultural subversion" is actually happening in Myanmar.

I mostly scanned the rest of the article regarding Myanmar because I am so familiar with the process of subversion. But for those of you who are not, I highly recommend that you study this piece.
It seems clear now that whenever a regime is damned as repressive by “world opinion” then it is being marked for “regime change” in the interests of global capitalism. One should consider this before getting too enthused when the masses “spontaneously” pour out onto the streets demanding “democracy,” which should be interpreted rather as “plutocracy.” The same pattern has been followed in Eastern European, Central Asia, North Africa and adjacent areas, and Myanmar. Venezuela and Belarus are also particularly of interest to the globalists.
Well, I hardly believe that all uprisings are the work of these political operatives, but one must be aware that even the most genuine uprisings will likely be contaminated by such tactics in order to influence their outcome.

NATO Wants to Free Africa From the Africans

Click here to access article by Glen Ford from Black Agenda Report. [4:02m audio and script]

I've seen nothing in mainstream media about this: 
South African President Jacob Zuma made a second trip to Libya this week, on behalf of the African Union, seeking a diplomatic end to NATO’s war against Mouammar Gaddafi’s government.
Ford concludes his essay with this bitingly satiric statement:
And so it makes perfect sense that a peace proposal from the president of South Africa, Black Africa's most powerful and wealthy country, acting on behalf of the organization that includes every nation on the continent, counts for less than nothing in the imperial scheme of things. The West encourages South African President Jacob Zuma to help bring chaotic Black countries into line, but Zuma and the African Union are not authorized to interfere with imperial wars on the continent. That's “white folks business.”

"V for Vendetta": The Other Face of Egypt's Youth Movement

Click here to access article by Linda Herrera from Jadaliyya.

This article shows how the creative youth of Egypt used the British film, "V for Vendetta", to create cartoons and a short film entitled,“Khaled for Vendetta”, all posted on Facebook to help mobilize opposition to the Mubarak regime.

I love this powerful message from the film:
“Beneath this mask there is more than flesh. Beneath this mask there is an idea…and ideas are bulletproof.”

Thinking About Anarchism: The State

Click here to access article  from InfoShop News.

This is a brief take on a bottom-up arrangement for a new society that is a genuine democracy.
...there will always be a need for administration, planning, defence and so on. We don’t need the old structures for this. The way we will tackle these tasks will have to reflect the new society. Certainly specialists will work at their jobs but they will be under the supervision of delegates elected from the workers’ councils. Power will come from below with everyone able to have their say about decisions that affect them.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Egypt's 'orderly transition'? International aid and the rush to structural adjustment

Click here to access article by Adam Hanieh from Jadaliyya. 
The press releases accompanying the announcement of these financial packages [offered by key financial institutions] have spoken grandly of “the transition to democracy and freedom”, which, as several analysts have noted, conveniently obfuscates the previous support of Western governments for the deposed dictators in Tunisia and Egypt. This article argues, however, that a critique of these financial packages needs to be seen as much more than just a further illustration of Western hypocrisy. The plethora of aid and investment initiatives advanced by the leading powers in recent days represents a conscious attempt to consolidate and reinforce the power of Egypt’s dominant class in the face of the ongoing popular mobilizations. They are part of, in other words, a sustained effort to restrain the revolution within the bounds of an ‘orderly transition’ – to borrow the perspicacious phrase that the US government repeatedly used following the ousting of Mubarak.
I think I will nominate this as the best article of May because it explains the real concepts that lie hidden behind the euphemisms and framing of concepts that mainstream and other media typically use to hide the real war that is ongoing between the capitalist ruling classes of the world and the underclass--working people who actually produce wealth. 

Capitalism is a system which supports a ruling class whose power is based on "ownership" rights over productive property from which all wealth produced by workers is under their control.  Although capitalists cooperate vigorously in defense of their advantageous system, they also compete aggressively against each other for the extraction of wealth and power; so much so, in fact, that their competitions often result in disasters for working people. Under this system we have witnessed ongoing oppression of working people, economic upheavals, and devastating wars. Moreover, the system is also threatening our lives due to resource exhaustion, environmental pollution, and climate change.

In this article the author goes to great lengths to explain the economic devices used by capitalists to insure their access to the wealth of Egypt. These methods are classic methods of neo-liberalism which are being used nearly everywhere in the world where wealth can be extracted by private interests, and this includes many underdeveloped, developing, and Western capitalist countries. Thus, it is critically important for us as citizen-activists to understand how these policies work, how they manifest themselves politically, and to be able to de-code reports relating to these issues in mainstream media.

The IMF versus the Arab spring

Click here to access article by Austin Mackell from the Guardian.
This failure to appreciate the revolutions as a rebellion not just against local dictators, but against the global neo-liberal programme they were implementing with such gusto in their countries, is largely a product of how we on the western left have been unwitting orientalists, and allowed the racist "clash of civilisations" narrative to define our perceptions of the Middle East. We have failed to see the people of the region as natural allies in a common struggle. [My emphasis]
Its good to see that some people are waking up.

Offshoring has Destroyed the US Economy

Click here to access article by Paul Craig Roberts from Global Research.
Sir James called it correct, as did Roger Milliken.  They predicted that the working and middle classes in the US and Europe would be ruined by the greed of Wall Street and corporations, who would boost corporate earnings by replacing their domestic work forces with foreign labor, which could be paid a fraction of labor’s productivity as a result of the foreign country’s low living standard and large excess supply of labor. Anytime there is an excess supply of labor, or the ability of corporations to pay labor less than its productivity, the corporations bank the difference, Share prices rise, and Wall Street and shareholders are happy.
None of the people whose observations on the contradictions of capitalism cited in this article are anti-capitalists. They are just honest people who see where this system is leading to--multiple crises. But contrary to some of their arguments, globalization is a natural extension of capitalism. It is following exactly the same basic motivation: the private appropriation of wealth on the basis of "ownership" rights to wealth created by working people. National boundaries have nothing to do with the system. 

Worst ever carbon emissions leave climate on the brink

Click here to access article by Fiona Harvey from the Guardian.
"I am very worried. This is the worst news on emissions," Birol [chief economist of the International Energy Agency] told the Guardian. "It is becoming extremely challenging to remain below 2 degrees. The prospect is getting bleaker. That is what the numbers say."

Monday, May 30, 2011

Al-Jazeera footage captures 'western troops on the ground' in Libya

Click here to access article by Julian Borger and Martin Chulov from the Guardian.

The authors offer evidence that NATO is breaking the "UN resolution over any 'occupation force'". Of course, they have already broken the UN mandate to provide only humanitarian protection to the rebels. It seems to me that there is a definite trend on the part of the Empire's political operatives to show less concern over legal pretexts to cover their war crimes. If this is true, it may suggest that they are becoming more confident in their ability to use force with impunity in order to establish the New World Order--the goal of the financial and corporate Empire builders.

One can see the influence of these purveyors of organized violence against local populations in many areas of the planet, especially those parts that are strategically important to the Empire. There is one common thread that appears to run through all of these forces of violence--a mercenary quality. 

There appears to be three main types of forces used by the Empire. First, the official armies of NATO member countries, used either in an overt or covert manner. Second, the sponsoring of client state's armies by NATO countries, especially by the US as seen in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Iraq, Honduras, Afghanistan, South Korea, Philippines, etc. Third, the use of private military contractors like those of Blackwater Corporation: see two videos (9:01m and 6:56m) from Democracy Now.

The largest contingent in NATO is, of course, military forces of the US. This all volunteer army is essentially mercenary due to the lack of alternatives in the US economy for the majority of young people. I suspect that the lack of concern shown by the US ruling class for employment and educational prospects of young people is precisely because they want them to enter the armed forces. Before the recent economic collapse, armed forces recruiters were having a difficult time filling their quotas. Now, that is no longer a problem. 

“Only the Names Have Changed” The Continued Struggle for Democracy in Egypt

Click here to access article from Socialist Project (Canada) featuring an interview with Mamdouh Habashi. 
The army of Egypt has been turned around 180 degrees. Its transformation has been a long-running process. Originally, the army fought anti-colonial battles; it was a patriotic army that took its duty seriously. Now the army stands shoulder to shoulder with the USA and accomplishes the opposite. It fights with the USA against the people. This turn around took several decades and is related to the Camp David Accords (1979). 

The Sky Really Is Falling

Click here to access article by Chris Hedges from TruthDig.
The rapid and terrifying acceleration of global warming, which is disfiguring the ecosystem at a swifter pace than even the gloomiest scientific studies predicted a few years ago, has been confronted by the power elite with two kinds of self-delusion. There are those, many of whom hold elected office, who dismiss the science and empirical evidence as false. There are others who accept the science surrounding global warming but insist that the human species can adapt.
Unfortunately his solution is, like most US progressives, very short sighted:
...the rapid dismantling of the fossil fuel industry...
He, and Bill McKibben whom he quotes extensively, both completely miss the fact that growth oriented capitalism cannot exist without the continued use of fossil fuels.
“The only way around this is to defeat the system, and the name of that system is the fossil fuel industry, which is the most profitable industry in the world by a large margin,” McKibben said.
Of course, the name of the system is capitalism, fossil fuels is only a source of energy. But academics such as McKibben would be severely punished by academic authorities if he were to name the system accurately. I'm not sure what Hedges' excuse is.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

A Lower Order of Being

Click here to access article by David Glenn Cox from OpEd News. 

The author provides a useful class-based perspective on famous revolutionaries in history by comparing George Washington with Che Guevara.

US Congress Becomes a Mob of Mindless, Cheering Sycophants

Click here to access article by James M. Wall from Veterans Today. 

The author describes a shameful day at the US Congress as Zionist influence rules the day.
The American mainstream media found nothing out of the ordinary as the US Congress enthusiastically embraced the words of Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, in a refutation of the long-standing American understanding that “partisanship stops at water’s edge”.

In this instance it was not a partisan deviation. It was, instead a total capitulation of both parties to a foreign leader who stood before the members of Congress and ignored the ugly and costly results his own country’s policies have brought to both the Middle East and to the United States.
But the author is totally off-base with this statement:
This Congress is also guilty of a despicable act of defiance of the President of the United States, who is currently engaged in delicate negotiations to find peaceful solutions to the Middle East quagmire.
Obama is just preparing the liberal soil to grow support for next year's campaign for re-election. Just like his recent calls for the repeal of tax breaks for the oil industry as well as an Israeli-Palestine peace agreement, it is clear that he is not serious about either. There isn't the slightest chance of repealing any tax breaks for the oil corporations, it just appeals to liberal voters. As for a peace agreement, he has made it clear that his administration will continue with an "iron-clad" support for Israel.