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, May 5, 2012

Common Sense: What We Choose Now Matters

Click here to access article by Dan Hind from New Left Project. (This is the introduction to his new book entitled, Common Sense: Occupation, Assembly and the Future of Liberty, which unfortunately for me is available only in the Kindle edition.)

I think that this British author really captures the spirit of our times (zeitgeist), probably better than anyone else. I haven't read the book, but this introduction makes a very important statement: there is now occurring a real revolution in the minds of many ordinary people. 

However, there is also much confusion and pain that people are experiencing because of this latest capitalist economic bust, the never-ending wars, the full spectrum surveillance over our communications, and the dissonance between the reality of our experience and the discourse carried over corporate media networks. Our past complacent understanding of reality (weltanschauung) that has been propagated by the media and educational institutions of the One Percent is now being seriously challenged. It is an ideologically challenging time for many people. Some simply give up and go along with their programmed thinking.  Some vacillate, and others, such as those in the Occupy movement, are actively exploring new ideas to gain some measure of control over their sense of confusion.
The pursuit of truth in defiance of widely accepted errors is a kind of self-harm. If those whose opinion must be taken into account say one thing, it is painful for us to believe another. And there is more to it, even than this. We have made ourselves out of claims that are unsafe. To call things by their proper names makes a revolution in us, before it changes anything else. If we are to be free, we must change, and to change is to kill some part of ourselves. It is no wonder that we hesitate.

The Power of Plutocracy

Click here to access article by Rob Urie from CounterPunch. 

The author provides a good assessment of the current reign of the plutocrats, and the broad reforms they could enact if they were at all serious about turning our economy around. But then he errors fundamentally by proposing a set of more specific reforms that should be instituted to start the process of "undoing the existing economic / political order that has created current conditions...." 

This is a liberal prescription for change. It assumes 1) a rational ruling class (plutocrats) that could be interested in strengthening the US economy, and it assumes 2) the possibility of creating fundamental change within their existing system. These are profoundly wrong assumptions, and they are assumptions which retard any progress toward changing the system and preventing it from devolving into a dystopia for most people and the destruction of the planet.

The error in number one is that the ruling class has, or could have, any interest in improving the US economy. They are globalists. Capitalism, in case you haven't noticed, has gone global. They don't need American workers any more to reap their profits and associated power. American workers are more expensive and more organized than workers in countries such as Bangladesh, China, and Indonesia. Also, the latter countries have much less in the way of environmental regulations that hamper the pursuit of profit. From their limited perspective informed by their addiction to power and profits, plutocrats are acting rationally in the pursuit of their interests. Hence, for them pursuing our interests is irrational.

They find such efforts at reforming the system laughable. They heap scorn on, and mock the recent efforts of the Occupy movement to change political-economic arrangements. The following commercial running almost hourly on Bloomberg TV illustrates this attitude of smug arrogance and scorn:

Publicly they like to voice their affirmation of "democracy" and "human rights", but behind closed doors they frankly boast about their newly created "plutonomy" as revealed in leaked documents such as the following from Citigroup:
Regarding the author's 2nd assumption, only a fool would think that the ruling One Percent will permit any such reforms to the existing arrangements. Around election time they sometimes allude to such reforms, but they are completely forgotten afterwards. In fact, what we have seen after elections are accelerated efforts by the One Percent to attack Medicare, Social Security, any efforts to increase taxes on the wealthy while they pursue more foreign wars and military interventions abroad.

Only an organized, inclusive, grassroots movement such as the Occupy movement has the potential to force fundamental changes on our nation and other nations of the world. Because capitalism, and the Empire which enforces the system on the world, is global, we, as working people, must organize globally in order to fight effectively for new classless societies in which we can live in harmony with each other and with nature.

The Corporate Hijacking of America’s Land-Grant Universities

Click here to access article by Tim Schwab from Civil Eats. 

This fairly brief article shows how the One Percent is taking over public educational institutions of higher learning in the US to serve their interests. With the focus of this website on food, their treatment of this subject is limited to corporate control over information and research about the food we eat. Their recommendation for correcting this insidious trend of private influence is the following:
So how do we weed out the agribusiness influence?  A good place to start would be increasing federal support for agriculture research—and directing this money to projects that serve the public interest.  This would go a long ways toward reducing land-grant university’s dependence on corporate funding and allow researchers more independence.
This is another example of a very superficial analysis that informs thinking about solutions. First of all, the privatization of education not only affects the food we eat, but even more importantly the ideas we hold. Secondly, the One Percent is taking control of all our institutions including the government. So, to advocate less direct funding from private sources will change little. Finally, private interests will never retreat from taking direct control of institutions unless forced to by an aware, militant, and organized public.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Of Conspiracies, Critics, and the Crisis: Reflections on the 99% Spring

Click here to access article by Edmund Berger from Dissident Voice. 

This is a highly intelligent examination of various groups in the US trying to co-opt and distract the Occupy movement into more acceptable actions that will not interfere with business as usual. Some among them are simply are not conscious of the fundamental problem that informs so many disasters awaiting us if we fail to change the capitalist system.
Recent and influential treaties, such as The Shock Doctrine and The Corporation, or the articles published in progressive magazines such as The Nation and Mother Jones, have raised awareness about the destructive tendencies of neoliberalism, showing how they dissolve national boundaries, exploit poor and undeveloped countries, and curtail representative democratic practices by buying off politicians. Yet these publications, for the most part, tend to equate capitalism with its current neoliberal incarnation, and also serve to position corporations – not the underlying structures of the capitalist mode of production – as the problem.
Only groups and people who support horizontal democracy deserve our support and, more importantly, our participation. See this, and this.

Do You Know Who Owns Your Congressional Representative?

Click here to access article by Robert Oak from the Economic Populist. 

Even Bloomberg News, the premier TV news program of US capitalists, find bank funding of the astroturf Tea Party as a bit over the top. I can clearly imagine capitalists having a good chuckle over playing the 99 Percent for fools once again.

Otherwise, the article is about this:
To see how little the people matter and elections are more about voting for the least objectionable corporation, check out open secrets. Look up your own representative. Following the money can finally explain your representative's nonsensical voting record.
Bottom line elections and representation, including legislation, is the battle of the corporate lobbyists and big money special interests. Regular people, or what plain makes common sense, doesn't stand a prayer's chance. The only difference here is a new twist, manipulating you so severely you actually vote for your own economic destruction.

US Health Care Still Radically More Expensive Yet Not More Effective

Click here to access article by Jon Walker from FireDogLake.

Few issues in the US can illustrate the contradiction better between capitalists' concern about cost-effective programs and the public good as does medical insurance for its citizens. The apparent contradiction reveals that capitalists are much more interested in the private accumulation of wealth, not the public good. In other words, capitalism only serves one small class of people--the One Percent. 

Of course, the other countries are run by capitalists, but they were forced to compromise with much more militant members of the 99 Percent than has existed here in the US.

However, the article from this liberal source misses the point with its exclusive emphasis on regulation of prices. All of these countries, including Japan, have some major form of government involvement in medical coverage of its citizens and have excluded the private sector believing correctly that profit-making enterprises have no place in healthcare. Looking at the Japanese plan, according to Wikipedia the government does regulate prices, but it also forbids private ownership of hospitals; and from my reading of the Wikipedia entry, it also forbids private health insurance for employees--they are covered by non-profit plans such as the following: 
  • Union Managed Health Insurance
  • Government Managed Health Insurance
  • Seaman’s Insurance
  • National Public Workers Mutual Aid Association Insurance
  • Local Public Workers Mutual Aid Association Insurance
  • Private School Teachers’ and Employees’ Mutual Aid Association Insurance

A Maple Spring?

Click here to access article by Jane Gatensby from Ceasefire. [Part 1 of ?]

 Quebec is a place where people fight for the things that matter to them. That’s something you don’t see very much any more in North America, and it, along with Quebecers’ stubborn insistence to go on speaking French while surrounded by Anglo-American cultural dominance, is what makes this Canadian province (or nation, as it often refers to itself)  unique.

New Study Predicts Frack Fluids Can Migrate to Aquifers Within Years

Click here to access article by Abrahm Lustgarten from ProPublica. 
A new study has raised fresh concerns about the safety of gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale, concluding that fracking chemicals injected into the ground could migrate toward drinking water supplies far more quickly than experts have previously predicted.
(Note: Fracking or hydraulic fracturing is the blasting of water with chemicals additives in underground rock layers such as sandstone, shale, limestone, etc. to create fractures in order to release natural gas and oil. According to Wikipedia, 
"Although hundreds of chemicals have been used, some that are known are: benzene (causes cancer, bone marrow failure), lead (damages the nervous system and causes brain disorders), ethylene glycol (antifreeze, causes death), methanol (highly toxic), boric acid (kidney damage, death), 2-butoxyethanol (causes hemolysis).")

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Punishment and Profits: Immigration Detention [23:52m video]

Click here to access 23:52m video from Al Jazeera, a Fault Lines production.

The system based on the private appropriation of socially produced wealth is now into the business of exploiting immigrant labor. The video shows how corporations commit a variety of other crimes against humanity while pursuing their exploitation of immigrant labor. 

Because Al Jazeera is essentially owned by the Emir of Qatar which has close ties with the US Empire, the video does not make any direct connection to the fact that immigrants are people forced out of their countries of origin by the destruction of their home economies under neoliberal policies.

Let the Games begin: London’s Dystopian Olympics

Click here to access article by Matt Carr from Ceasefire. 
The largest peacetime security operation in British history cannot be simply attributed to paranoia and an overzealous desire to protect the public. On the one hand it reflects an overlap between homeland security and corporate profiteering that has become a feature of the post 9/11 world.

Occupy May Day: the march on Wall Street — in pictures

Click here to access pictures from Reflections on a Revolution.

"Connecting the Dots" Between Extreme Weather and Climate Change

Click here to access article by Jamie Henn from Huffington Post.

...in the United States, 82 percent of Americans say that they've experienced a natural disaster or extreme weather event first-hand.
Yet, despite a few notable exceptions, the mainstream media has failed to connect the dots between this string of extreme weather events and global warming. Instead, coverage of climate change has dropped precipitously.

Of course, mainstream which is owned by the One Percent, can never connect climate change with the imperative of growth built into the system that provides them with so much power and wealth.

The author goes on to argue what needs to be done to connect the dots. (Clue: it's up to us.)

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

May 1st and an Independent Workers Movement

Sourced from Real News where you can follow the transcript of this 15:33m video discussion with Leo Panitch and Sam Gidin. 

They discuss the necessity of bringing in workers to support the activism started by the Occupy movement.


Only a Populist Movement Will Lead to True Freedom and an Inclusive Democracy

Click here to access article by Greg Ruggiero from Buzzflash. 

This is a revised introduction to a new book by Noam Chomsky entitled, Occupy, which attempts to assess the accomplishments, explain the significance and the possibilities of the Occupy movement.
Underlying Occupy's success has been its focus on the daily details of organizing. Major protests, civil disobedience and arrests are key parts of movement strategy, but the day-to-day activities of discussion, working groups and general assemblies are the deep structure, the ongoing forces adding mass and momentum to Occupy's wave. ...It's truly gone global, even reaching places like New Guinea. And online technology, like that used to create InterOccupy.org, is connecting Occupy forces around the country and helping to facilitate regional gatherings, strategies and actions.

Unemployment in Europe. Where will it stop?

Click here to access article by Merijn Knibbe from Real-World Economics Review Blog.

What I think is really significant here are the high rates of unemployment for youth (under 25 years of age)--they are usually double the rate for the general working populations across Europe. Thus, it seems reasonable to expect to see the most militant activism taking place in Spain, Greece, and Portugal as well as in Europe in general. However, in this age of instant communication and electronic social networking, ideas and methods to combat the ravages of capitalism and imperialism will spread rapidly from one country to another.

The Business of War in Afghanistan

Click here to access article by Antony Loewenstein from Al Akhbar (Beirut, Lebanon). 

It appears that private militias and spy services in alliance with a local bought-and-paid-for oligarchies is the model being used by the Empire to secure its newly won colonies in the Middle East. The end result is chaos, social disintegration, and widespread suffering by ordinary people. The author describes the model as applied in Afghanistan.
Privatized security and intelligence is now a natural part of Western war making. America simply cannot and will not launch missions without the backing of often unaccountable companies that compliment its defense industry.
The story is similar in Pakistan as described by the same author in the last half of this report.
It is a nuclear-armed nation which is seemingly always on the verge of collapse due to both a desperate need for American money and its need to secure its regional position against India and Afghanistan. The result is a quasi-police state, backed by private security, silencing critics of its politics of capitulation toward militants and Washington. Courageous journalists and human rights activist are lone voices of dissent.
Over a decade of manoeuvring has left the state divided by ethnic tensions, insurgent activity, corruption, and self-censorship. Both the Bush and Obama administrations have compounded the problem by treating the nation as little more than a testing ground for new weapons against supposed terrorists. Tragically, civilians have born the brunt of the onslaught and turned the country into a cauldron of poverty, resentment, elite disdain, and silence.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Mayhem 2012: gearing up for a global spring of discontent

Click here to access article by Jerome Roos from Reflections on a Revolution.
In May, the 99 percent will open up new avenues of resistance as activists around the world gear up for the intensification of popular protest and direct action. 

The Working Class Hero Takes a Bow

Click here to access photos celebrating Lebanese workers from Beirut based Al Akhbar. 

This is an illustration of how international May Day is: workers all over the world are celebrating it. It all began in Chicago in 1886 with the one of the first battles of the class war against capitalists called the Haymarket riot and massacre.

Workers' Rights

A poem by David Chalk. 

So far I haven't been able to find out much about this British poet except that he has written some great poems.

Workers’ Rights

In the not-so distant past
Workers had no rights
To achieve them they organised
To win them they had to fight

From Tolpuddle and Unions
And the right to strike
Working folk won their rights
Against greedy financial might

But what they won was a victory
In a battle not the war
As some seek to re-set the clock
To what there was before.

What they won was fairness
And dignity for all
But these rights were limited
And then restrained and worn

And slowly these rights were reduced
Gradually made weak and small
And now financial privilege claims
They should not exist at all.

They say removing rights is necessary
It’s what our country needs
They say it’s to restore the economy
That such rights are economic weeds

Thus does greedy financial might
Try to steal what has been won
With lies and excuses about our plight
And what must be done.

Those who believe in justice
Those who support what’s fair
Must fight these lies with honesty
And forever remain aware.

Here is David Chalk reading his poem.

A short history of May Day

Click here to access article from Libcom. 
The history of the world holiday on the 1st May - May Day, or International Workers Day, held in commemoration of four anarchists executed for struggling for an 8-hour day. 
There is also a 3 part PBS video series that does quite a good presentation of the history of this event. Because PBS is under US government control (which, of course, is controlled by the One Percent), you need to make allowances for statements such as in Part 2 where carefully selected narrators and historians, while making reference to public reactions to the Haymarket riots, make statements like "Labor's largest paper called them [rioters] 'wild beasts'". Very likely this was in the newspaper of the AFL, a very conservative, pro-business labor union. Most other labor newspapers in the US, and indeed throughout the world, were very sympathetic to the protesting workers in Chicago. All were shocked by the barbarous response of the police and the extreme reaction by the legal establishment of the One Percent.

Then there were other statements made in the PBS program such as "It was very frightening to many people throughout the world" which implied that they were frightened by rioting anarchists. They were frightened mostly by the police repression. And, "Throughout the nation Americans were almost unanimous in the repression of the anarchists...they were seen to be a threat of the first order." This refers to mainstream media coverage and spokespeople for the One Percent. As you can see, some things have not changed much since 1886.

Generally, I think that too much emphasis was placed on the conflict at the McCormick Harvester plant which tended to suggest that the strikers were Luddites, that this was what caused the riots. This emphasis served to downplay the fight for an eight hour workday that workers had been struggling to obtain starting in 1863 when workdays for many were 12 hours. The conflict at the McCormick plant was a spark, but the fuel behind worker protests was the eight hour day objective.

Many working people felt that the bomb thrown at the police was by an agent provocateur to justify the extreme police crackdown.

PBS Part 1: Haymarket Martyrs--Origin of International Workers Day  [5:13m]

PBS Part 2 [4:50m]

PBS Part 3  [5:17m]

Monday, April 30, 2012

The Egyptian Revolution and Neo-Liberal Economics

Click here to access transcript from Real News.
Since early 2012, international financial institutions have been negotiating loans for what they say will help rebuild Egypt’s ailing economy. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, [also called the EBRD], is awaiting approval from its shareholders to provide $1.5bn in annual loans to Egypt. This will be the first time since its establishment that the EBRD has lent to the Middle East. On February 2012, the EBRD published its technical assessment of the country, recommending the continuation of more than 20 years of privatization policies.

Egypt has received more in US aid more than any other country except Israel in the past 35 years. (Total of $28 billion.) Most, of course, has been military "aid" tied to business with the US military-industrial complex. But, there has also been substantial non-military aid, but clearly this has ended up benefiting the Egyptian oligarchy to insure their support of privatization policies, which, in turn, has resulted in the concentration of wealth and power. 

The Egyptian uprising last year succeeded in removing Mubarak, but it is clear that the problem was not Mubarak. It was and remains the close ties of a concentrated wealthy Egyptian elite with US imperial interests. It appears that many Egyptians are connecting the dots.

10 Big Businesses That Barely Pay Taxes

Click here to access article from MBA. 
While the average American may be shelling out thousands of dollars each year in taxes to the federal government, many businesses are paying incredibly low tax rates, or none at all, despite raking in hundreds of millions in profits. What allows this to happen? While corporations may be considered people in other ways, they are given tax breaks and loopholes that the average person just can’t get, and with huge teams of lawyers and accountants on staff, they’re more than ready to game the system to get all they can.

West Coast Unions Cave In to Democrats [Taxing the Rich]

Click here to access article by Shamus Cooke from Workers Action.
The big public sector unions of California and Oregon had their courage examined recently — both were found lacking. The unions backed down from a challenge from their respective Democratic governors, before any fight could be waged. The issue at stake was whether to tax the rich of both states to offset the state deficits caused by the Great Recession, itself caused by the rich.

Why I refused to return to fight in Afghanistan's brutal occupation

Click here to access article by Joe Glenton from The Guardian. 
Those sending our young men and women to die or be mutilated for nothing have no authority to say what is honourable, courageous, heroic, or cowardly. You can volunteer, and you can un-volunteer.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Apple: Mega-Profit, Curiously Modest Taxes

Click here to access article by Kristina Chew from Care2. 

Investors have made piles of money from Apple stocks, but governments that fund education, health, and welfare have not. Aren't austerity policies of the One Percent wonderful? Well, they are...for the One Percent.
Apple avoids paying billions of dollars in taxes to the US and other countries thanks to a number of legal strategies that include setting up subsidiaries far from its headquarters in Cupertino, California. According to the New York Times, Apple has set up offices in low-tax places like Ireland, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and the British Virgin Islands to reduce the amount of taxes it pays.

Banks cooperate to track Occupy protesters

Click here to access article by Max Abelson from San Francisco Chronicle.

So, what else is new? Banks and other industries have a long and infamous history of collaborating with public and private police agencies to intimidate workers. The Pinkerton company, a prime example of the latter, has the longest history of all, and is still at it. (See this, this, and this.)
After evictions and arrests from Manhattan's Zuccotti Park to London that began last year, the movement against income inequality and corporate abuse will regain strength, said Brian McNary, director of global risk at Pinkerton Consulting & Investigations.
He works with international financial firms to "identify, map and track" protesters across social media and at their assemblies, he said. The companies gather data "carefully and methodically" to prevent business disruptions.
Intimidation hasn't worked in the past and I don't think it will be successful this May Day. People all over the world are seeing through the lies of mainstream media, are becoming aware of the theft of the wealth they create, the social havoc and environmental disasters that capitalism causes, and are tired of the never-ending wars. Workers are increasingly aware of the illegitimacy of rule by, and for, the One Percent. They are fighting back everywhere in the world.

Mind the Gap

Click here to access article by David Ruccio from Real-World Economics Review Blog. 

Sometimes a graph is worth a thousand words. 

The author's conclusion is great, but not possible within a capitalist system. Thus, the system needs to be changed.

“I do have an opinion. I just haven’t been told what it is”

Click here to access the brief article and 1:05m video. By Hicham Yezza from Ceasefire (UK). 

I think the author's perspective is a bit short-sighted. This video reports on an incident that clearly illustrates how control of speech functions in hierarchically organized societies to shape what authority figures say in all areas of society. Being immersed in such milieus will over time serve to shape even the thoughts of ordinary people about public issues. 

This example strikes us as comical only because it is so obvious. In most cases a person will already know what the acceptable answers (to authority figures) are when asked any question. Those who are more independent minded can be subject to discipline ranging from verbal reprimand, to social isolation, and to loss of career and income.

Thus, it follows that it is complete nonsense to talk about democracy in such hierarchically organized, class-structured societies.

In New U.S. “Bioeconomy”, Industry Trumps Environment

Click here to access article by Carey L. Biron from Inter Press Service.

It's clear that capitalists must have energy to feed their addiction to profits regardless of the consequences for others.
The White House on Thursday announced the formulation of the National Bioeconomy Blueprint, aimed at shoring up the U.S. commitment to bioscience-related research.
But critics warn that the new programme focuses too much on economic concerns, placing too little emphasis on either social issues or on the environment itself.
Meanwhile, scientists see things differently as reported in this piece entitled, "Scientists call for rethink on consumption, population".

May Day Events!

Click here to access report from InterOccupy. 

A list of May Day events in major cities across the US. 

Progressive Media Outlets Pledge Coverage Of May Day Protests Read more: http://www.care2.com/causes/progressive-media-outlets-pledge-coverage-of-may-day-protests.html#ixzz1tSAKmoli

Click here to access article by Beth Buczynski from Care2. 

Although OWS has been in full effect since September, 2011, mainstream media outlets have consistently refused to cover its actions, or intentionally distorted coverage by focusing only on participants who thwart the movement’s mandate against violence and vandalism. That’s why more than 25 independent media outlets belonging to The Media Consortium are collaborating to provide coordinated, national coverage of the nationwide May Day strike and other related events.