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, July 7, 2012

STUDY: Media Avoid Climate Context In Wildfire Coverage [supplemented at 8:00 PM Seattle time]

Click here to access article by Jill Fitzsimmons, Jocelyn Fong, Melody Johnson, and Shauna Theel.

The article provides the details on this study which revealed that...
Only 3 Percent Of Wildfire Coverage Mentioned Long-Term Climate Change Or Global Warming. The major television and print outlets largely ignored climate change in their coverage of wildfires in Colorado, New Mexico and other Western states. All together, only 3 percent of the reports mentioned climate change, including 1.6 percent of television segments and 6 percent of text articles.
We have to go to "Democracy Now!" via Huffington Post to find a discussion about this lack of linkage between the recent catastrophic forest fires, record temperatures, and global warming.  

Democracy Now is an alternative liberal news agency that uses a variety of media including TV, radio, and internet. Note carefully my wordage to describe this news agency: "alternative liberal". Thanks to right-wing ascendency in the US and the influence of Rupert Murdoch's Fox News empire (re-branded as News Corporation) that has successfully used tabloid journalism to seduce its readers, liberal perspectives have largely disappeared from major mainstream media. The only source coming close is MSNBC TV broadcasts which seem to confine their coverage to news and analysis that favors the Democratic Party.

Unfortunately, "Democracy Now!" is not completely independent. In a recent article (You may need to reload the page to get past the funding pitch.) Dr. Stuart Bramhall has confirmed my long held suspicions about this source.  She has uncovered well documented evidence that much of what passes for left media coverage, including "Democracy Now!", in the US is funded, at least in substantial part, by right-wing non-profit institutions such as the Ford Foundation, Council on Foreign Relations, other CIA front organizations, and various liberal foundations

These foundations do this to contain news coverage from targeted media within limits that are acceptable to governing class authorities. Hence, you will never find any questioning of capitalism in Democracy Now!'s programming; and you will note that in their coverage of the fires and global warming, no linkage is made to capitalism. In fact, you will have to look long and hard to find even the word "capitalism" in any of their programs. In other words, given this lack one might easily conclude from following this news source that "there is no alternative"--the mantra of all capitalists.

So, why is a linkage of the present extreme weather and related events to capitalism important? Let me quote some paragraphs written by Paul Messersmith-Glavin from his Foreward to the book entitled Imperiled Life: Revolution against Climate Catastrophe by Javier Sethness-Castro.
The basic structure of capitalism is at the heart of the climate crisis. Carbon emissions, the primary source of our changing climate, are the by-product of industrial production. Capitalism is literally changing the weather. Often, industry is blamed for climate change. People frequently talk about burning oil and coal, or fault cars and factories, but this misses the underlying dynamic that ties all these things together: industry is an expression of a system. Ascending over the last four hundred years, capitalism continues to be the dominant organizing forced in the world, shaping life as we know it. All attempts at slowing--much less stopping--its growth have failed. The emission of climate-changing gases is intrinsic to the capitalist logic. Every day that this continues, the climate will continue to change. The year 2010 saw the highest emission of greenhouse gases in history.
Capitalism is based on a philosophy of "grow or die" and ruthless competition; companies need to continually expand and grow, or they will not survive. It is a system that seeks to maximize profit by exploiting labor as well as treating nature as both a "resource" and garbage dump. Despite all the warning signs--such as news of drought, heat waves, and new species being threatened by changing habitat--and what scientists say, the system marches on, with absolutely no sign of letting up. That is because it cannot change its fundamental nature. It is a form of economic and social organization at odds with nature and human community that has come to shape nearly everything in life, such that we can hardly imagine the possibility of life outside capitalism. It promotes qualities like greed and selfishness, and creates us in its image. Capitalism is more than an economic system; it is a way of life. Maximizing profit at the expense of all else is its very metabolism. To stop catastrophic climate change, we must stop capitalism.  

The Military Solution

Click here to access article by Tom Engelhardt from TomDispatch.

Normally I don't go for sensational headlines, but this one is understated. I think the title should be "Militarization: the New Normal in the US".  The author expresses this as a paradox:
Americans may feel more distant from war than at any time since World War II began.  Certainly, a smaller percentage of us -- less than 1% -- serves in the military in this all-volunteer era of ours and, on the face of it, Washington’s constant warring in distant lands seems barely to touch the lives of most Americans.
And yet the militarization of the United States and the strengthening of the National Security Complex continues to accelerate.  The Pentagon is, by now, a world unto itself, with a staggering budget at a moment when no other power or combination of powers comes near to challenging this country’s might. 

Venezuela: Interview with WRI Council Member Rafael Uzcátegui

Click here to access a transcript of the interview from War Resisters' International. (Although WRI is related, it is not the same as the War Resistors League which, I believe, is based in the US.) 
Rafael Uzcategui is a member of the group that publishes the anarchist newspaper El Libertario in Caracas (Venezuela). As antimilitarist, he is also a member of the War Resisters’ International and works in a Venezuelan human rights NGO called Provea. He is author of the books “Heart of Ink” and “Venezuela: Revolution as Spectacle” in which he reports the so-called Bolivarian process of Chavez and the true face of his “revolutionary” government. Taking advantage of his conference tour in Germany, we interviewed Rafael for the magazine Gai Dao.
Although the transcript suffers a little from translation errors, one can gain important insights on what has really occurred in Venezuela under Chavez. According to this Venezuelan anarchist, despite all the early socialist and radical rhetoric from Chavez and the establishment of grass-roots populist organizations, this frequently lauded "revolution" in Venezuela was only another populist type of regime change that has occurred previously in that country and in other parts of South America. Moreover, the grass-roots organizations have been carefully brought under the political control of this popular caudillo and his administration. Popular measures such as the strengthening of social safety nets and some land re-distribution has occurred, but otherwise the economy is well integrated into the international capitalist economy. This view conforms to my view based on my visit to Venezuela in December of 2005 and subsequent reading material. 

The most relevant sections follow question 2 to the end of the interview.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Democracy from Below in Bolivia: An Interview with Oscar Olivera

Click here to access article featuring the interview by Peter Lackowski and Sharyl Green from Unside Down World. 
Oscar Olivera is an activist, thinker, and writer based in Cochabamba, Bolivia. He was a leader during the uprising in 2000 in Cochabamba in which the people of the city threw out Bechtel, the multinational corporation that had privatized all the water in the city – even the rain that people collected. (His book on that process is listed in the bibliography at the end of this interview.) This interview was conducted in Cochabamba, Bolivia on January 27, 2012.
Although Olivera seems to go out of his way to exculpate Evo Morales--who like Obama promised all kinds of changes, and then changed very little--he does shed light on the role that political actors play to front for the real political decision-makers. The former consist of political parties, caudillos (strongmen) or leaders, and nation states. He argues that the real decision-makers are the transnational corporations and the international banks. Thus, the critical task is to organize a new activism to promote a new social-political model that can challenge this reality.
People want to construct something different.  What we were proposing in 2000 and 2003, a new kind of economy, a way to recover politics for the people.  I think that people in Europe and the United States and here in 2000 and 2003 did not fight for a political party.  They fought to get back politics not understood as a form in which someone rules over other people, but politics as a form to establish a type of relationship, a way of living together.  A new way of living together not based on competition, individualism, but rather on solidarity, equality, complementarity.

Pëtr Kropotkin:The Spirit of Revolt

Click here to access article from Eagainst (Greece). 

This website frequently delves through the dustbin of history to find real gems. This one features an essay by a famous anarchist first published in 1880. It is clear to me that his ideas are as relevant today as they were then. To be sure some conditions have changed and they require different methods of organizing; but the same spirit of resistance to an oppressive, death and destruction based system and class structure is still revealing itself throughout the world. Today, the resurrection of that life-affirming spirit is more urgent than ever before.
Men of courage, not satisfied with words, but ever searching for the means to transform them into action, — men of integrity for whom the act is one with the idea, for whom prison, exile, and death are preferable to a life contrary to their principles, — intrepid souls who know that it is necessary to dare in order to succeed, — these are the lonely sentinels who enter the battle long before the masses are sufficiently roused to raise openly the banner of insurrection and to march, arms in hand, to the conquest of their rights.

There are two kinds of people in this world

Click here to access article by Martin Iqbal from Empire Strikes Black.

The dichotomy of human beings that the author delineates is only a superficial truth which hides much more discriminating insights. Human beings are very much influenced by their social system to behave in certain ways and exhibit certain characteristics, but they are not infinitely malleable. (Erich Fromm has written extensively on this subject.) 

Innate human nature exists independent of society, has a variety of potentials, but it is the interaction of people in society that determines what characteristics and behaviors become manifest. Since the first major agriculture revolution in human history which saw the transition from hunting and gathering into settled agriculture communities in prehistory, societies gradually became subject to the development of class structures. The ruling class has always sought to influence their subordinate classes in ways that would legitimate their rule in order to insure the acquiescence of the latter in this arrangement, and encourage behaviors that supported the interests of the ruling class.

The second type of human the author describes is a perfect example of those individuals who have succumbed to the comprehensive indoctrination of the current ruling class of capitalists. The latter want their workers to only focus on pleasure seeking and their individual interests. This results in consumerist values and extreme individualism that serves the interests of power and profit for the dominant class. The fact that human nature is not infinitely malleable is exemplified by the occurrence of the first type of human that the author describes. This type has been subject to mostly the same influences as the second type, but yet shows remarkably different behaviors.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Western Welfare State: Its Rise and Demise and the Soviet Bloc

Click here to access article by James Petras from Dissident Voice. 

The author lays out an historical argument which explains much of what has happened in both the West and the former Soviet Union since WWII. The intense rivalry that existed after that devastating war initially forced Western elites to provide fairly decent social safety nets. He offers some excellent insights on the process of the unraveling of the latter in relation to what happened in the Soviet Union. 
Immediately following the defeat of fascist-capitalist regimes with the defeat of Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union and its political allies in Eastern Europe embarked on a massive program of reconstruction, recovery, economic growth and the consolidation of power, based on far-reaching socio-economic welfare reforms. The great fear among Western capitalist regimes was that the working class in the West would “follow” the Soviet example or, at a minimum, support parties and actions which would undermine capitalist recovery.

Blockade of the Strait of Hormuz. Iran’s Options: A Historical Perspective

Click here to access article by Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich from Global Research.

An Iranian parliamentary committee has recently issued a bill calling for a blockade of oil tankers in the Straits of Hormuz bound for countries supporting sanctions against Iran. The bill appears to have widespread support in the parliament, but faces other hurdles even if passed. Meanwhile, Western countries are sending warships to the area. Another game of "chicken" that elites like to play, and which have such dire consequences for many in the 99 Percent.

Investigation Reveals True Hazards Of Piping Tar Sands Across America

Click here to access article by Stephen Lacey from Climate Progress. 
America has a new word to learn: Dilbit.
Dilbit, short for diluted bitumen, is a combination of tar sands crude (bitumen) and dangerous liquid chemicals like benzene (the dilutant) used to thin crude so it can be piped to refineries.
And there is a lot of it being piped into America — in some cases through the backyards of communities that don’t even know it’s there.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Diversity of Tactics... and Perspectives

Click here to access article by Mickey Z. from World News Trust. 

The author illuminates the naiveté of many pacifists who tend to be self-righteous while insulated from, and unaware of, the violence that is inherent in all capitalist countries.

God save me from my friends

Click here to access article by Manlio Dinucci from Il Manifesto (Italy) via Voltaire Network. 
All eyes are riveted on Egypt, international showcase of the "Arab" Spring regime change operations. The enthusiasm with which the Western media have been promoting the Egyptian "revolution" is enough to raise serious doubts as to its true nature. In reality, the Empire believed that the Arabs were ripe for the establishment of the most effective social control mechanism under the sun: an alternating two-party system.
The two capitalist party system is the winning formula for capitalist rule, the details of which have been so successfully worked out in the political system of the US. Nevertheless, US ties to foreign military establishments is always ready to take command should this formula fail.  

Actually, now that I think about it, this latter feature is a part of capitalist strategy in the US should the two-party system fail here. Think about the Patriot Acts, the vast prison system, secret agencies such as the CIA, FBI, and NSA, and the growing power of militarized police forces coordinated nationally by the Department of Homeland Security. This feature functions as a kind of political insurance to maintain the system and the class of people who benefit from it. Few people in the US see it as fascism because it lies mostly out of view behind the curtain of fake "democracy" which consists of a comprehensive propaganda machine, managed elections, financed representatives--all under the direction of financial/corporate elites.

Also people tend not to recognize this component because of stylistic differences from the fascism that occurred in the 1930s. They don't see the mass organized demonstrations of loyalty to a leader (fuehrer), they don't see goose-stepping soldiers, and they don't see racist pogroms on anything like the same scale. And finally, people don't want to see the injustice and ugliness all around them. Too often they prefer the comforting lies of their masters.

Trotsky understood fascism far better than most people. In 1932 he wrote:
At the moment that the "normal" police and military resources of the bourgeois dictatorship, together with their parliamentary screens, no longer suffice to hold society in a state of equilibrium -- the turn of the fascist regime arrives. Through the fascist agency, capitalism sets in motion the masses of the crazed petty bourgeoisie and the bands of declassed and demoralized lumpenproletariat -- all the countless human beings whom finance capital itself has brought to desperation and frenzy.
...the fascist agency, by utilizing the petty bourgeoisie as a battering ram, by overwhelming all obstacles in its path, does a thorough job. After fascism is victorious, finance capital directly and immediately gathers into its hands, as in a vise of steel, all the organs and institutions of sovereignty, the executive administrative, and educational powers of the state: the entire state apparatus together with the army, the municipalities, the universities, the schools, the press, the trade unions, and the co-operatives. When a state turns fascist, ...it means first of all for the most part that the workers' organizations are annihilated; that the proletariat is reduced to an amorphous state; and that a system of administration is created which penetrates deeply into the masses and which serves to frustrate the independent crystallization of the proletariat. Therein precisely is the gist of fascism....

Why genetically engineered food is dangerous: New report by genetic engineers

Click here to access article from Earth Open Source. 
The report, “GMO Myths and Truths, An evidence-based examination of the claims made for the safety and efficacy of genetically modified crops”, by Michael Antoniou, PhD, Claire Robinson, and John Fagan, PhD is published by Earth Open Source (June 2012). The report is 123 pages long and contains over 600 citations, many of them from the peer-reviewed scientific literature and the rest from reports by scientists, physicians, government bodies, industry, and the media.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Feds are watching -- badly

Click here to access article by Yael Chanoff and Natalie Orenstein from San Francisco Bay Guardian Online. 

People are examining thousands of documents obtained by the SF Bay Guardain, the ACLU, and The Asian Law Caucus and they are finding that racist stereotypes are being taught to identify various terrorist threats. The latter targets are Muslims, African Americans, Chinese, Russians, "anarchist extremists", and "animal rights/environmental extremists". 
...after 9/11, the FBI prioritized terrorism investigations, a shift from the previous focus on criminal investigations. Classified as national security threats, these investigations are not subject to the same type of privacy and anti-racial discrimination protections that other criminal investigations might be. Terrorist threats, apparently, are to be found in mosques, in online conversations that involve criticism of US foreign policy, in entire populations of African Americans or Chinese Americans in given areas. In recent years, simply speaking Arabic online or being black makes a person a suspect and potential target of surveillance.
Political operatives of the One Percent see enemies everywhere. But what--me worry? As long as they don't come for me, why should I care? (sarcasm) But wait, I think I have criticized US foreign policy in my blog!

Big Media Collapsing? CNN Ratings Hit 20-Year Low

Click here to access article by Jason Nellis from The Libertarian Review.

This may be good news for alternative media activists who are doing work that is so vitally important to counter the ongoing indoctrination of the minds of ordinary people by corporate media.
It may be that the masses are waking up to the existence of the false left-right paradigm that the media moguls hold up to all of us as our only two choices- and that the media is as saturated with propaganda as ever and is the most powerful weapon being used by our governments today- and finding the alternate route of the internet much more reliable and less spoon-fed….

London 2012 corporate sponsors cash in

Click here to access article by Corinna Lotz from A World to Win.

Once again we are witness to the transformation of a celebration of youthful prowess and athletic abilities into a grand opportunity for corporate exploitation. Very little happens any more that doesn't serve corporate/ financial interests. The all encompassing system corrupts everything it touches, and its touch seem to reach everywhere.
Human sporting talent and achievement? Inspiration? Yes, that’s the Olympic spirit – or rather what’s being exploited to the hilt by corporate sponsors, backed by new laws, when London 2012 opens in 25 days.

The world’s richest 22 people own more than Switzerland produces Jun27

Click here to access article by Pete Dolack from Systemic Disorder.

The author describes not only the increasing concentration of wealth, but offers an understanding of how socially produced wealth is appropriated by the wealthy to increase their wealth and power; and finally, how they use their wealth. He writes in a way that any ordinary person can understand.

The Paraguayan coup

Click here to access article by Bill Van Auken from World Socialist Web Site.

Many acute observers agree with this author that the removal of Paraguay’s elected President Fernando Lugo was a coup, however this author elaborates on the reasons for this suspicion. He finds US fingerprints all over the wounded body of Paraguay.
There is every reason to believe that the hurried impeachment of Lugo—forced through both houses of the Paraguayan parliament in barely 30 hours after he was charged by the two traditional parties of the country’s ruling oligarchy—was carried out with the indispensable complicity of US imperialism.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Banker to the Bankers Knows the Numbers Are Lying

Click here to access article by Jonathan Weil from Bloomberg. 
More than four years after the financial crisis began, it’s so widely accepted that many of the world’s banks are burying losses and overstating their asset values, even the Bank for International Settlements is saying so -- in writing. (The BIS’s board includes Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank.) It fully expects taxpayers to pick up the tab should the need arise, too. 
Read this and weep.

And, if that isn't enough to make you weep, I guarantee this piece entitled "How Wall Street Scams Counties Into Bankruptcy" will. It starts off this way:
Lord knows we’ve had more than enough scandals ginned up by Wall Street over the years, and the message that banking executives proclaim after each is: “Don’t worry, we’ve learned that lesson, and it will never happen again.”
It may surprise some people that Bloomberg openly reports on so much of the dirty laundry of financial elites, but then they know full well that working people don't read Bloomberg. And, they are much more aware than most One Percenters that such practices threaten to kill the goose (capitalism) that lays their golden eggs (wealth and power). 

Okay, now that I have you weeping, this this piece entitled "Let's end this rotten culture that only rewards rogues" will have you vomiting. Apparently, banksters just can't stop cheating to feed their easy wealth addiction:
Investment banking is an organised scam masquerading as a business. It is defined by endemic conflicts of interest, systemic amoral behaviour and extreme avarice. Many of its senior figures should be serving prison sentences or disgraced ... It is a tax on wealth generation and an enemy of honest endeavour – the beast that is devouring British capitalism.
"This rotten culture" of investment bankers is not the problem. It is only one lesion, a major one, on the public body caused by the systemic cancer of capitalism that has metastasized throughout every organ and limb of society.

Morsi, SCAF, and the Revolutionary Left

Click here to access article by Hossam El-Hamalawy from Jadaliyya. 

This appears to me to be the best post-election analysis of the political situation that exists in Egypt.
The MBs are not a unified bloc. While the organization is in effect run and controlled by multi millionaires like Khairat el-Shatter, seeking compromise and reconciliation with the regime, their base cadres who hail from middle, lower middle and section of the working class are a different story. Across its history and with every twist and turn the Brotherhood were subject to splits.
It is clear from this article that the class war in Egypt is merely entering a new phase.

Fresh student protests in Chile

Click here to access videos and photos from Eagainst. 
More than 100.000 Chilean students and workers demonstrated in the capital Santiago, demanding free education for all. The protesters walked in front of the Presidential Palace, La Moneda, and the Ministry of Education.
The Confederation of Chilean Students (Confech) accused the police of suppressing the massive march with attacks and tear gas, despite the fact that they had committed themselves not to intervene.
The main motto of the Chilean students protest was: “For a country of equality we should all fight. Free public education to change society”.
Chilean students rival Quebec students in their militant fight-backs against the militarized enforcers of the One Percent. It appears that the Chilean police state relies more on armored vehicles than numbers of police on the streets in contrast to what I have seen in the US and Canada.  

I wonder what Harvard graduate, former NY Times journalist Chris Hedges would have to say about this. No doubt he would prefer a candlelight march at night with participants singing Kumbaya.

For more background on this struggle, see this, this, and this.

Sea Levels Rising Fast on U.S. East Coast

Click here to access article by Charles Q. Choi from National Geographic. 

Sea level is rising much faster in the east coast of the US than elsewhere. But, then, it's all a mystery, folks. Go back to sleep. (sarcasm)
It's still something of a mystery why the U.S. East Coast is bearing the brunt of sea level rise. Maybe, the researchers say, fresh water from Greenland's melting ice is disrupting North Atlantic currents, slowing the Gulf Stream and causing East Coast sea levels to rise.

It's also unclear to what extent humans may be to blame.

India Monsoon Floods Kill 81

Click here to access article by Wasbir Hussain from Huffington Post.
The worst monsoon floods in a decade to hit a remote northeastern Indian state have killed more than 80 people and forced around 2 million to leave their homes, officials said Monday.
You can expect that such articles as this about extreme weather, widespread forest fires, melting glaciers, and other natural calamities will become the new normal in the years and decades ahead. Unless, of course, you, I, and many others can stop the global growth, carbon-belching machinery of capitalism and replace it with a system that is capable of promoting social-economic justice and can function in harmony with nature.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Media moguls prove the importance of alternative media

Click here to access article by Peter Boyle from Green Left (Australia). 

The ever increasing concentration of media by the One Percent is creating a lock-hold on the minds of working people everywhere. In Australia this brave publishing David is taking on the Goliath of mainstream media backed by billionaires.

Online Privacy: The Relentless Pursuit For Your Personal Data

Click here to access article by David Smith from Economy Watch. 
Despite growing public concern, companies such as Google and Facebook continue to demonstrate an insatiable desire to gather and market our personal information to advertisers. Today, these companies are even able to manage our online identities by creating the equivalent of an ID card for the Internet.
This is one of the best articles I've seen on the subject of social media and search engine technology used as data pumps for corporations that want to sell you stuff. (Not mentioned in the article is the access of this information by government authorities.) Like all corporations, internet companies are occasionally caught harming people, but their fines are only a minor cost of doing business and thus do not act as a deterrent. Clearly, this corporate use of our personal information offsets to an unknown extent the advantages of connectivity to promote activist programs.

Western fires: Payback time?

Click here to access article by Tom Yulsman from The Daily Climate.

Scientific evidence strongly suggests that fire suppression during the past 100 years has masked the normal effects of warming temperatures on fire activity that have existed over the past 3000 years. It appears that fire suppression can no longer distort this relationship and the devastating fires we are now seeing. It is likely that we can expect worse fires in the future. 
Recent research...suggests these severe conflagrations could be a prelude. Climate stressors are putting increasing pressure on a "fire deficit" the West has accumulated over the past 100 years, say scientists who have compared today's burn rates with fire activity over thousands of years. As the West continues to warm, that debt will come due – possibly with interest – triggering fires that are fiercer and harder to contain....
From the Guardian read this piece entitled, "US wildfires are what global warming really looks like, scientists warn", and this by Bill McKibben entitled "While Colorado burns, Washington fiddles".

From Climate Central we learn that "Greenland Ice Sheet Melt Nearing Critical ‘Tipping Point’".

Meanwhile the transnational global capitalists continue with their addiction to growth. Capitalists look at the future only as far as the next quarter's profit and loss statement. This attitude among these sociopathic addicts is very well illustrated by this market analyst in his introduction to one of his articles about oil prices:
Just so you know, my interest in oil prices is not because I trade (I don’t), or that I care about global warming, tree-hugging, or America’s bill to buy oil, all I care about is the price; because that drives the value of companies and projects I’m involved in.
The only constructive means of averting disaster for all of us is to remove the system which requires growth and rewards the One Percent with their drugs of power and profit. Time is running out, if it hasn't already.