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, February 25, 2012

Why Teaching People to Think for Themselves Is Repugnant to Religious Zealots and Rick Santorum

Click here to access article by Henry A. Giroux from Truthout. 
Santorum and many of his allies dislike any public institution that enables people to think critically and act with a degree of responsibility toward the public. This is one reason why they hate any notion of public education, which harbors the promise, if not the threat, of actually educating students to be thoughtful, self-reflective and capable of questioning so-called common sense and holding power accountable.
Like Chris Hedges this writer can be so eloquent about the subject he knows best--education. When reading articles by either of them, I find myself applauding everything they write. However, after I'm through, I'm left with the feeling that they, like most liberals, don't really see the issues as being constrained within a governing social system that imposes a class structure on society. In other words, one cannot look at serious social-economic issues without considering the nature of the social-economic system in which they occur. 

In this piece Giroux seems to be taking aim only at fundamentalists such as Santorum. If it weren't for them, we could have what he refers to as "critical pedagogy". This is complete nonsense. I love what he writes about what a critical pedagogy should look like, but this is not possible in any class structured society. It is paragraphs like this that gives his limited view away:
Critical pedagogy, that arch enemy of fundamentalists everywhere, must be understood as central to any discourse about educating students to be informed, skilled and knowledgeable critical agents, but, more importantly, it must be understood as the most crucial referent we have for understanding politics and defending all aspects of public schooling as one of the very few remaining democratic public spheres remaining in the United States today.
Education has always served the elites in class structured societies. Nowadays, employers are able to produce profits with far fewer workers due to advances in technology. And because capitalism is all about producing monetary wealth for "owners", they are uninterested in any project that promotes non-profitmaking activities which would make all lives more meaningful and healthy. 

Moreover, this advanced stage of capitalism is approaching ecological and energy limits that make continued growth impossible without destroying the planet for human habitation. Hence, the governing class sees the necessity of dumbing down education in order to more easily pacify a large segment of the population to adapt to a lower standard of living. This is precisely why the ruling class of the One Percent have been so supportive of the Transition Towns movement which seeks only to adapt to more independent but subsistence modes of lifestyles.

Don’t Northwoods Iran

Click here to access article by Jacob Hornberger from The Future of Freedom Foundation. 

The author provides a useful service to all Americans by resurrecting the widely suppressed history of US war criminals and the methods they have used to prepare Americans to go to war. Unfortunately, this liberal author is unable, or unwilling, to see these activities as being perfecting rational within the predatory system of capitalism.
All the buzz over possible war with Iraq brings us a déjà vu feeling, given that U.S. officials prepared Americans with similar pre-war hype in the run up to their war on Iraq. WMDs. Mushroom clouds over American cities. An insane dictator. Threats to national security. Etcetera.

The JFK Factor: Bill O’Reilly on the Assassination, Then and Now

Click here to access article by Russ Baker from Who What Why. 

The author by comparing Bill O'Reilly's journalist activities in the 1990s and in recent years illustrates how honest, ordinary people are often seduced into engaging in corrupt practices to serve the capitalist system and its benefactors, the One Percent. I have personally witnessed this sickening process several times. I'm not referring to the ordinary ethical and moral compromises that many of us have to make just to survive in this amoral system of capitalism, although these can be instrumental in leading people down the road to commit more serious transgressions. It is a process that is used everywhere in the world by political operatives of the One Percent to induce people to commit all kinds of immoral and criminal acts on behalf of the system. The dynamics of capitalism turn many ordinary, decent people into sociopaths. Likewise, people with sociopathic tendencies do very well in a capitalist system. They tend to rise to the top like cream in raw milk.

We see such people most clearly in mercenary armies, but also in brutal police forces, in secret agencies that flout human and civil rights, as informers in activist organizations, in academia to teach capitalist values and views, in Congress to pass laws for the benefit of the One Percent, and in mainstream media illustrated in O'Reilly's career. It is sometimes discouraging to see how easily and how often people succumb to the inducements of the wealthy and powerful. People who are willing to make these Faustian bargains are one of the biggest problems confronting any social change movement. It is probably the most serious flaw in human nature.

All the Memes of Production

Click here to access article by Deterritorial Support Group from New Left Project (UK). 

This is one essay in a book that will be published in July of this year entitled, Occupy Everything! Reflections on Why It's Kicking Off Everywhere. I found this piece interesting in that it gave me some insights on the cyber-youth movement that is an important component of Occupier activists everywhere. Also, the book (100 pages) is available for downloading through a link on this article.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Nazi Exceptionalism; or, How Godwin’s Law Gets It Backward

Click here to access article by Kevin Carson from Center for a Stateless Society.
Nazi repression came about incrementally, in the background, as people lived their ordinary daily lives.  Each new upward ratcheting of the security state was justified as something not all that novel or unprecedented, just a common sense measure undertaken from practical concerns for “security.”
Or the "boiling frog syndrome", all over again.

Remotely Piloted War

Click here to access article by Tom Engelhardt from TomDispatch.

The author shows how political operatives of the ruling One Percent have learned after the debacle in Vietnam that they could no longer depend upon soldier citizens to wage their wars. Something had to be done about this. He shows how the military-industrial complex, which is operated by, and for, the One Percent, adapted to this fact and are now prospering by relying more on high tech, remotely operated weapons in their wars. Also they have established excellent control over the media which has become so adept at both promoting new wars and sanitizing them once they start for the people at home

Back in the 1980s the Empire builders started with small wars like the invasions of Granada and Panama to get people in the mood. But they soon realized that something big was needed to get the Empire project really going--you know, something like a Reichstag fire or a Kristallnacht event. They knew all about Goebbel's discovery of the "big lie". We have to give them credit for a daring imagination and ability to execute because they proved they were up to the task with their successful engineering of the 9/11 event (see this and this). Brilliant! And it worked perfectly.

This greatly induced panic in the American populace which then went along with a much more aggressive foreign policy and reactionary restrictions on civil liberties here at home. Many young people were motivated to sign up for the volunteer military to support the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

Unfortunately for the warmongers the patriotic fervor of soldiers has gradually eroded after a several years and tours of duty where they saw first hand what was happening, from all the leaked reports of atrocities committed by NATO forces (tortures and renditions), and all the other lies that have been revealed about the justifications for these wars and their mission in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

Hence, the new remote controlled wars have arrived just in the nick of time for the warmongers. And, big contracts for the weapons industries to feed more profits to the One Percent! After all, they provide jobs! Who do you think among the One Percent really cares about the fact that these weapons are paid for by ordinary taxpaying citizens of the 99 Percent who must sacrifice to pay for them with cuts to the education, health, and welfare of their families.

Today we learn from the NY Times that we can expect more drones being manufactured to keep watch over our activities. (I wonder if Orwell is laughing or crying in his grave.) So now we see a stampede down on Wall Street among One Percenters to buy stock in companies making these weapons: Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, BAE Systems, and General Atomics. Like their Chinese counterparts, the One Percenters' mantra is "to get rich is glorious" --and they don't care how.

And luck also seems to be with the warmongers. The economic collapse of 2008, brought about by the One Percent's reckless gambling at the Wall Street casino, their packaging and selling all those mortgage packages like snake oil, and the implementation of their neo-liberal policies, has greatly contributed to the success of the so-called "all volunteer" military. The armed forces are now populated with young people who join because they have no good alternatives for jobs in the civilian economy, not because they believe in new wars like the one political operatives have planned for Iran.

Spanish police brutalize student protesters in Valencia

Click here to access article, photos, and numerous short videos from Reflections on a Revolution. 

This piece indicates that class war is raging across Spain. You will see the well armed and trained goon squads of Spain's One Percent attacking Spain's 99 Percent protestors.
Tuesday’s demonstrations, which come a day after over a million Spaniards took to the streets to contest the government's labor reforms, marked the fourth straight day of student protests in Spain’s third largest city. Valencia is one of the most heavily hit regions in Spain’s crippling debt crisis, and with the newly-appointed Rajoy government pushing through even more harsh austerity measures, budget cuts have left most schools without heating.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

US, Egyptian junta seek to arm Syrian opposition

Click here to access article by Johannes Stern from World Socialist Web Site. 
The counterrevolutionary Egyptian junta, which is drowning the Egyptian revolution in blood and remains the main ally of US imperialism in the Arab world, backs the US preparations for imperialist intervention in Syria. Last week high-ranking US officials declared that the $1.3 billion in yearly US military aid to Egypt would not be cut, despite a conflict over US-sponsored NGOs operating in Egypt.

Syria: NATO's Next "Humanitarian" War?

Click here to access article by Michel Chossudovsky from Global Research. 

This piece provides a comprehensive source of information on the preparation of another "humanitarian" type war waged by the Empire's political operatives who, fresh off their victory in Libya, seem to be in the throes of a kind of blood lust to take over Syria using the same winning formula: sponsorship of insurgent and mercenary forces, political and military operatives on the ground directing actions, efforts to co-opt dissidents in Syria, and a widespread propaganda theme emphasizing regime atrocities and humanitarian support for the insurgents.  

Greece is a smokescreen to hide the mother of all bank bailouts

Click here to access article by Nick Dearden from Committee for the Abolition of Third World Debt. 
The central lesson is of urgent importance: that the economic policies pushed on Latin America in the early 1980s were an excellent way of helping US banks out of crisis, but an appalling way of resolving Latin America’s debt crisis, instead creating two decades of more debt, poverty and inequality.
The author makes some very good points about what happened in Latin America in recent decades, but he fails to understand that this is the way capitalism functions. Capitalists cannot learn such a lesson as long as this tiny class of the (less than) One Percent continue to subscribe to that system. It is not that they are stupid, it is the logic of the system. Most of them will continue to support the logic of this system simply because they are addicted to the tremendous wealth and power that it gives to them.

Greece at war in 2012, as Spain was in 1936 for the people of Europe!

Click here to access article by from the Committee for the Abolition of Third World Debt. 

Note: this is an excerpt from a speech by Sonia Mitralia, "member of the Greek Committee Against Debt and the Women’s Initiative against Debt and Austerity Measures, ... delivered at the meeting organised in Marseille [France] on 17 February, by the French campaign for 'a citizens’ audit of the public debt'."

The parallels that this speaker describes between what is now happening in Greece with what happened in Spain in 1936-37 is striking. In the 1930s the economy of capitalist countries collapsed, and, then as now, capitalist elites unleashed the forces of fascism against working people. Working people lost that battle and, as we've seen, really lost that war. Yes, I know that the German fascists lost, but the Anglo-American fascists won. What we have seen since WWII is the development of a vast capitalist Empire dressed in democratic clothing. 

The key organization that engineered this development was the CIA. The CIA was essentially a creature of Wall Street. Its influence spread like a cancer throughout all US institutions after its establishment in 1947 under the naive President Truman and continued under former General Eisenhower when he became President. (There are a number of books on this subject, some of the best that I've read are the following: The Old Boys Network by Hersh, The Mighty Wurlitzer by Wilford, The Secret Team by Prouty.) I think that Ike was just covering his guilty ass when he made his widely quoted (and only) warning on his last day in office about the growing power of the "military-industrial complex".

Under the current economic collapse, the capitalist Empire operated by the One Percent is increasingly shedding its democratic costume to launch an all out attack on working people throughout the world. We must not lose this war...because it may be the last!
Greece is going to become a test-case for us as well, for the labour movement, for the social and women’s movements, for the peoples and the exploited throughout the whole of Europe! Yes, let us make them understand that we are all Greeks indeed, because we are fully aware that the struggle of the Greek people is our struggle now more than ever. Once they break down their resistance and subjugate the Greek people, it will then be our turn, and the turn of all the other European people, one after the other, to undergo the same treatment….

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Fighting for our lives: why we need a revolution

Click here to access article by Talita Soares from Reflections on a Revolution. (The script for her stirring address is contained in the article link.)

Civilisation faces 'perfect storm of ecological and social problems'

Click here to access article by John Vidal from The Guardian. 
In the face of an "absolutely unprecedented emergency", say the 18 past winners of the Blue Planet prize – the unofficial Nobel for the environment – society has "no choice but to take dramatic action to avert a collapse of civilisation. Either we will change our ways and build an entirely new kind of global society, or they will be changed for us".
I could not agree more with this statement and all the recommended in the paper authored by Paul Ehrlich et al and listed in this article. The only hitch is that Vidal, the author in the liberal Guardian, as well as the scientists fail to see the contradictions between the recommendations and the imperatives of the capitalist system.

An "entirely new kind of global society" must replace the dominant system of capitalism that rules the present world. The Occupiers, the Squares activists, and much of the 99 Percent know this. But it is the system of the One Percent, their armies, their police, their media, the propagandists and indoctrinated educators they employ everywhere in society, which gives this class so much wealth and power, who stand in the way of implementing such recommendations, who stand in the way of progress toward a planet that can sustain human and many other life forms.

Mad, Passionate Love, and Violence: Occupy Heads into Spring

Click here to access article by Rebecca Solnit from The Occupied Wall Street Journal.

The author provides a very sensible understanding of the activities of particularly the Occupy movement in Oakland, California. In contrast to Chris Hedges who prefers to moralize from a privileged middle class background and who sees the Oakland Occupiers as victims of a cancer, Solnit cuts through all the mainstream media distortions, humanizes all the participants, and sees the essential features that have brought so many people together in Oakland who have finally had enough of the violence of the One Percent and their system of capitalism.

My only problem with her essay is that she plays the gender card too often and uses the word "system" only twice without naming it. This is typical of the liberal journalists, of which Solnit is one, at Nation magazine.
...it all began with the fountain pens, slashing through peoples’ lives, through national and international economies, through the global markets. These were wielded by the banksters, the “vampire squid,” the deregulators in D.C., the men -- and with the rarest of exceptions they were men -- who stole the world.
When she gets around to underlying causes, she can only state that it is "economic violence", presumably inflicted by men:
...many people who had no firsthand contact with Occupy Oakland inveighed against it or even against the whole Occupy movement. If only that intensity of fury were to be directed at the root cause of it all, the colossal economic violence that surrounds us.

Real cowards go to Tehran

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

The metaphors are rather salacious, but then the latest Empire ploys are rather obscene...don't you think?
...the neo-cons got their New Year's Eve Barack Obama administration's Iran sanctions/embargo package, duly replicated by the European poodle parade. But it was not supposed to be like this. The lap dancer leapt from the stage and applied a neck scissors on the armchair action man; he's suffocating, not her. The whole thing is ... misfiring! Just like the latest neo-con Big Idea - the invasion, occupation and inevitable defeat in Iraq, to the tune of more than US$1 trillion.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

When is an ‘NGO’ not an NGO? Twists and Turns Beneath the Cairo Skies

Click here to access article by Richard Falk from Foreign Policy Journal. 

This is an excellent inquiry into the puzzling developments in the recent conflicts about NGO operations in Egypt between Egyptian's military ruling class and US officials. The author raises some important questions about NGOs, their sponsors, and their operations in foreign countries. Much has already been written about the Empire's use of NGOs to engineer the "color revolutions" (see this and this) in various countries, and also the use of non-profit organizations (NGOs are just non-profits operating abroad) extensively here in the US, the center of the Empire, to guide public opinion behind policies that are consistent with those of the ruling class (see this and this). 

One can easily conclude that NGOs are used as a Trojan horse to shape policies in foreign countries to suit the ruling class of the Empire. In other words as the author suggests, many existing NGOs should be designated as IGOs (informal governmental organizations). 

The author also tries to untangle the real motives behind this puzzling conflict between the two parties--the officials of the Empire and officials of the client state.
...the protests from Washington and the media assessments of the controversy seem willfully misleading. Since when does Washington become so agitated on behalf of NGOs under attack in a foreign country? Even mainstream eyebrows should have been raised sky high when Martin Demsey, currently the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, while visiting Cairo was reported to have interceded with his military counterparts on behalf of these Americans made subject to a travel ban and faced with the threat of prosecution. When was the last time you can recall an American military commander interceding on behalf of a genuine NGO? To paraphrase Bob Dylan, ‘the answer my friends, is never.’ So even the most naïve among us should be asking ‘what is really going on here?’

Monday, February 20, 2012

Limits To Growth And Fractional Reserve Banking

Click here to access article by John Scales Avery from Counter Currents.

The author clearly understands the problems facing the capitalist world within a limited planetary system, but fails to understand that his proposed solutions are impossible under the system of capitalism. Because the author has a strong background in the physical sciences (he is associate professor in quantum chemistry at the University of Copenhagen), he can probably be forgiven for thinking that capitalism can be reformed to offer such solutions.

Massivity: over a million protest labor reforms in Spain

Click here to access article by Jerome Roos from Reflections on a Revolution. 

Hundreds of thousands fill up Spain’s squares in the first mass mobilization against the radical labor market reforms of Rajoy’s new government.
Because millions of Spanish workers, who are already suffering the "slings and arrows of outrageous [neoliberal] fortune", are witnessing the neoliberal attack on Greek workers, they are preparing for their class war.


“No time to waste” on transition to green energy

Click here to access article by Kate Ravilious from Environmentalresearchweb. 
If the entire world adopted ‘green’ forms of energy tomorrow, how long would it take for global temperatures to stabilize? The answer is a good 50 years: even if we "pull out all of the stops" there is little we can do to diminish the impact of climate change during the first half of this century. But choosing to adopt the right technologies now should stabilize the climate by the second half of the century, according to a new study.
And, of course, we are seeing more and more extreme weather all over the world. See this, this, this, this, and this.

Because of the extremely long delay from cause to effect and the addiction of capitalist ruling classes to the continued use of fossil fuels, I am very concerned that humans are capable of recognizing the threat of climate change in time to do anything effective about it.

Tighten fracking regulations, scientists urge US officials

Click here to access article by Ian Sample from The Guardian.
The independent review of fracking by senior academics at the University of Texas in Austin said that the development of shale gas was "essential to the energy security of the US and the world", but that the process had become mired in controversy after claims that fracking causes damage to health and the environment. [my emphasis]
Contrary to this statement, I believe that development of shale gas is essential for the prolongation of capitalism and it growth imperative. Because of this, I fear that there can be no "independent" evaluation of fracking to produce shale gas as long as societies are governed by capitalist elites.

See also this article entitled, "Fracturing natural gas wells requires hundreds of tons of chemical liquids".
A federal health expert on Jan. 9 at a conference in Alexandria, Va., called for a moratorium on fracking because medical experts don’t know enough about the potential risks from fracking liquids, said Dr. Vikas Kapil of the National Center for Environmental Health at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Secret, Corporate-Funded Plan To Teach Children That Climate Change Is A Hoax

Click here to access article by Brad Johnson from Think Progress.
Internal documents acquired by ThinkProgress Green reveal that the Heartland Institute, a right-wing think tank funded by the Koch brothers, Microsoft, and other top corporations, is planning to develop a “global warming curriculum” for elementary schoolchildren that presents climate science as “a major scientific controversy.”

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Egalitarian Structure or Consensus?

Click here to access article by Adrien Alexander Wilkins from New Compass. (Note: This article originated in Norway--there are some translation and/or typographical errors.) 

I'm surprised that I haven't seen more discussion about the issues related to direct, inclusive, or horizontal democracy which attempts to employ various types of consensus. Too often what I have seen is merely mimicking the forms that have been shown on television. For example, the people's mic process was a creative solution to carry on with meetings after police in New York took away their megaphone equipment. The method had nothing intrinsically to do with any practice of inclusive democracy. 

This form of democracy is developing and is still in its infancy. However, it is of crucial importance for the development of an alternative to both representative democracy and the fake forms of capitalist democracy through carefully managed and financed elections. Because I don't necessarily agree with the arguments presented in the article, I am posting this article only to help stimulate thought and discussion about a very important subject.

It seems to me that many difficulties could be removed by building a system of small groups (6-12 persons) starting with the base. I believe this size range has proven to be most effective in providing inclusive participation and also eliminates a lot of the problems mentioned in the article.
In small groups where everybody knows each other, it’s easier to detect dissent, and easier to share it. I also find that the more people there are at a meeting utilizing consensus, the more unmanageable, confusing, and time-consuming the meeting tends to be.
The basic group could be organized around social connections (affinity groups) or geographical proximity. Spokespeople from these groups would be appointed to represent their views in a higher level group (same size range), and so on. Spokespeople would be limited to simply expressing the views of their home group and voting accordingly. Spokespeople would be subject to immediate recall from their home group. 

In any case much experimentation, study, and discussion needs to be done to balance effectiveness with inclusive participation.

Why is the Federal Bureau of Investigation Encouraging Terrorist Activity?

Click here to access article from Media Freedom Intl. 
While the FBI is claiming that they have achieved great success in the war on terror, they appear to be manipulating and entrapping Muslim Americans by implicating them in crimes that they may not necessarily have pursued had they not been cajoled or coerced by the aggressive agents.

Greece: A brutal experiment on people's lives

If you think things are bad here, the Greek people are suffering far worse--in fact, they are fighting for their lives. If they lose, you can expect the same neoliberal treatment in one country after another until they reach our shores.

But the brave Greeks are fighting back. We most show solidarity with them and support their resistance in any way we can. We are all Greeks now!

Below are three excellent articles to show what is going on there.
Love and rage, rage and love. Love has been an important theme in the struggles that have redefined the meaning of politics over the last year, a constant theme of the Occupy movements, a profound feeling even at the heart of the violent clashes in many parts of the world. Yet love walks hand in hand with rage, the rage of "how dare they take our lives away from us, how dare they treat us like objects". The rage of a different world forcing its way through the obscenity of the world that surrounds us.