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 21, 2012

Financing development or developing finance?

Click here to access article by Nicholas Hildyard from Bretton Woods Project. 

Although I found his presentation a bit oblique, it's clear to me that the author is essentially arguing that bankers and private financial institutions, having now saddled governments with their gambling debts, are now intent upon entering into highly profitable infrastructure investments which bankrupt states can no longer fund.
Governments argue that the sheer size of the 'infrastructure gap', coupled with the lack of government funds due to huge costs of propping up the banks in the wake of the financial crisis, means that they have no choice but to bring the private sector into infrastructure development.
The method of choice they are using are state/private partnership ventures:
...The policy choice is not between the private sector, on the one hand, and the state, on the other. There is a new state-private combo, in which a realigned state is the lynchpin in creating new highly profitable investment opportunities through selling off state-owned enterprises at knock-down prices.
Such state/private ventures are encouraged by international banking institutions (run by the One Percent) to rollback environmental and other regulatory restrictions and provide tax breaks in order to induce private parties to invest. For example, in India:
To attract infrastructure investors, the Indian government (like many other governments) is rolling back hard-won environmental and social regulations, particularly those protecting poorer people against forced evictions. It also set up a high-level committee (including investment bank Goldman Sachs' India director) to identify "regulatory or legal impediments constraining private investment in infrastructure" and to "issue specific recommendations for their removal". Other incentives now being offered by the Indian government include tax breaks and an $11 billion fund to provide debt finance through tax-free infrastructure bonds. Legislation is also being introduced in many countries to encourage public pension funds (which could be a major source of public finance for infrastructure) to invest in privately-funded infrastructure, for the profit of the private sector. Private investors in the North, particularly private equity firms, are leaping onto the bandwagon, increasingly looking to infrastructure investments in the South as a new source of profits.
The fleecing of the 99 Percent never seems to end! Ain't capitalism grand?

The Terrifying Background of the Man Who Ran a CIA Assassination Unit

Click here to access article by Conor Friedersdorf from The Atlantic.

The author uncovers evidence that the CIA and President Bush Jr. secretly set up and authorized private assassination teams to serve their policies in order to shield them from any accountability. 

This reads like an exposé, but in fact it is old news--at least 50 years old. The CIA has a long history of outsourcing assassination to organized crime and criminal elements beginning, as far as we know, with hundreds of assassination attempts on Fidel Castro. This latter target furnished years of training in assassination techniques under the control of the CIA in collaboration with criminal organizations which were ultimately used against President J.F. Kennedy. Following this success secret government agencies went on to use similar methods to dispatch Malcolm X, ML King, Robert Kennedy, and other lessor known people. See this, this, this, and this.) US secret agencies rarely, if ever, use official members of their own agencies to assassinate people. Although one might dispute that given that the president is getting in on this action with his Tuesday morning sessions assigning people to a kill list for drone attacks.

Friday, July 20, 2012

US hawks rally to defend defense

Click here to access article by Jim Lobe from Asia Times Online. 

The author provides a clear written article about the "circling of the wagons" of the military-industrial hawks around the issue of automatic cuts to their welfare programs. They, as usual, are pushing two themes: cuts will threaten US security and jobs.

The only problem I have with the article is his suggestion that there is a big difference between Republican and Democrats on this issue in Congress. 
The Act was designed to spur both parties to compromise, since Republicans have generally been adamantly opposed to cuts in the defense budget, while Democrats have no less vehemently tried to protect favored social, educational, and health programs from the budget axe. 
Democrats try to make a big impression about their support of the latter issues, but these are mostly poses for public consumption. For example, here in Washington state the majority of Comgressmembers are Democrats, but when push comes to shove, you can be sure that most will not go against the interests of Boeing Corporation, a major military contractor. 

Although not justified on a cost effective basis, the wide dispersion of military production facilities across the country was an intentional strategy of these "defense" contractors in order to insure political support. You see, jobs in these industries are some of the highest paying; and most jobs, for obvious reasons, are not outsourced to cheap labor countries.

The Afghan bottomless pit

Click here to access article by Manlio Dinucci from Voltaire Network. 

With the support of military contractors, war hawks, and Zionists, Empire operatives continue to turn Afghanistan into a prime military base for further expansion of the Empire. Meanwhile...
To convince Americans and Europeans, already severely affected by cuts in social spending, that it is necessary to remove from public funds more billions of dollars and euros to spend in Afghanistan, they are told that these amounts serve to improve the lives of the Afghan people, especially their women and children. That is the fairy tale told by Hillary Clinton, accompanied by the sound of birds in Kabul and by the chorus of those who benefit from these funds.  

Millions take to the streets as Spain unites against austerity

Click here to access article by Santiago Carrion from Reflections on a Revolution. 
Struggles converge as miners, firefighters, judges, public employees, the unemployed and even the army step up their resistance against EU-enforced cuts.

Post-Carbon Postcard #2: New York City

Click here to access article by John Wiseman from Climate Code Red.

This Australian climate advocate and professor (U. of Melbourne) is visiting in the US. Here he reports on the views of prominent US climate advocates.
Over the last few months I’ve had the privilege of listening to a range of leading climate change policy advocates in Australia, the US, Canada and Europe reflect on priority actions for reducing the risk of runaway climate change.
This has included interviews with many of the lead authors of the strategies reviewed in the Post Carbon Pathways report. In this Post Carbon Postcard #2, written from New York City, I’d like to highlight a few of their responses to two of the most common questions in the minds of people who have been working on climate change and environmental issues for many years: Is it too late? And...So what should we do now?
Their responses are not at all encouraging to me. First of all, the consensus is that we now cannot escape the deleterious effects of climate change, we can only mitigate them. (By the way, I agree with this.) Second, the responses indicate to me that there are no new practical ideas about how to effect policies that can mitigate the effects. Some examples:
  • Be prepared to write letters to your Congressman to lobby, to demonstrate, in front of a coal- fired power plant if necessary or in front of a utilities office. 
  • One priority would be eliminating subsidies to fossil fuels and shifting some of those subsidies to renewables, clean energy, technologies.... The only way to get rid of them is through passing a law....
Third, there is no mention of the necessity of system change, that is, changing a system whose dynamic results in ecosystem destruction. These advocates are all well-indoctrinated academics that were brought up through the rigorous indoctrination systems of universities. It appears that real change agents will have to come from the ranks of grass-roots activists and the few renegade academics that exist.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Zombies, vampires and capitalism

Click here to access article by Margaret Kimberley from Intrepid Report.

The author examines Hollywood's mass production of films depicting blood-sucking, devouring creatures and finds that they are providing an escapist substitute for the inability of most Americans to understand the economic crises that are tormenting them. Most do not see their problems as a system problem.
...millions of people resort to frightening themselves on the big or small screen to make sense of their experiences. We can grasp a frightening world where characters must escape from gruesome deaths, because we are living those experiences on a daily basis.

Americans are not only becoming increasingly impoverished but they are also deeply delusional about the true nature of their insecurity. They still have faith in a system which will inevitably fail them, and ignorance of that fact makes for insanity of various kinds. The conscious mind says that if we have a different president, we may escape from a rotten, and completely broken system.

New report foreshadows post-election assault on pensions, social programs in US

Click here to access article by Jack Hood from World Socialist Web Site. 

The author reviews a recently released report from the State Budget Crisis Task Force organized by, and consisting of, some very prominent members of the ruling One Percent. Once again we see clear evidence that elections don't matter, because whichever candidates wins the contests for president and Congressional seats, you lose! People on this task force are solid representatives of the ruling class situated in both parties, some have close relations with the labor aristocracy. 

The report ignores the real causes of the fiscal crisis. In the nearly 100-page document nothing is said about how state, local, and federal government coffers have been emptied by corporate tax giveaways, multi-trillion dollar bank bailouts, and multiple wars and overseas interventions. The economic breakdown that followed the Crash of 2008 hardly merits a mention even though it led to a plunge in tax revenues as millions lost their jobs, home values plummeted and small businesses, starved of loans, went bankrupt.

The lily-pad strategy

Click here to access article by David Vine from Asia Times Online. 

After witnessing a gruesome scene of wounded US soldiers at an airbase in Germany, this professor of anthropology started asking questions about where they were coming from. He learned a lot about the mostly secret expansion of smaller military bases throughout the world. 
Unknown to most Americans, Washington's garrisoning of the planet is on the rise, thanks to a new generation of bases the military calls "lily pads" (as in a frog jumping across a pond toward its prey). These are small, secretive, inaccessible facilities with limited numbers of troops, spartan amenities, and prepositioned weaponry and supplies.
Around the world, from Djibouti to the jungles of Honduras, the deserts of Mauritania to Australia's tiny Cocos Islands, the Pentagon has been pursuing as many lily pads as it can, in as many countries as it can, as fast as it can.

The Brotherhood's one per cent

Click here to access article by Wael Gamal from Ahram Online (Egypt). 
What lies between the president and social justice is the elite of the Brotherhood, the one per cent, who are set to pursue the same neo-liberal policies which led to the revolution.
Another way to characterize the election charades sponsored by Empire elites and collaborators is that "the more things change, the more they stay the same".

Although I have seen scattered reports of people charging fraudulent processes during the election proceedings in Egypt, what I would like to see are detailed studies of how elites engineer elections to produce the outcomes they achieve which is to continue the rule of the One Percents, but with different actors. Thus, their elections are simply a way of re-packaging neo-liberal capitalist rule with different wrappers. Such operations are designed to preserve a patina of legitimacy to the ruling One Percents of various nations.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A revealing exposé of the US assets leading the Syrian opposition

Click here to access article by Chris Marsden from World Socialist Web Site. 

It is laudable whenever a prominent liberal media site offers accurate information to counter the lies of mainstream news reporting. Marsden recognizes the Guardian piece by Charlie Skelton as such an example. Exposés such as Skelton's rarely make it through the filters of editorial rooms of major media; but, occasionally they do. It's interesting to note that a major editor of The Guardian followed this piece the next day with a denunciation.
It is this that accounts for the scathing denunciation of Skelton in the next day’s edition of the Guardian by diplomatic editor Julian Borger
“US manipulation of news from Syria is a red herring,” the headline declares, “The big picture is clear.”
Accusing Skelton of “innuendo,” a heavy use of quotation marks to denote skepticism, “banal prose” and other literary crimes, Borger defends the various intelligence assets identified by Skelton as “people who have devoted a substantial share of their working life studying Syrian society and politics.” 

Hard rain on the parade

Click here to access article by Charlotte Du Cann from her blog (UK). 

Clearly the author has not let her attention be diverted from the developing disaster, the signs of which, are appearing all around us.
History depends on our attention. Where we place our attention confers value and significance. ...Attention can keep the flags flying and the illusion of supremacy going, it can hold people on pedestals up as small gods. Or it can focus on the real facts of the matter and see climate change happening in the backyard. Distracted by entertainments, you can't see what is happening in front of your eyes. You don't notice the weather. You don't see the London allotments torn down to make a hockey stadium, the people displaced in Guatemala for EU biofuels, you don't see the treatment of the cows, or the dairy farmers, when you buy your cheap milk, you don't see the scam of the banks who have created 97% of our money supply out of thin air.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Anarchism, Or The Revolutionary Movement Of The Twenty-first Century

Click here to access article by Andrej Grubacic & David Graeber from Eagainst (Greece). 
Everywhere from Eastern Europe to Argentina, from Seattle to Bombay, anarchist ideas and principles are generating new radical dreams and visions. Often their exponents do not call themselves “anarchists”. There are a host of other names: autonomism, anti-authoritarianism, horizontality, Zapatismo, direct democracy… Still, everywhere one finds the same core principles: decentralization, voluntary association, mutual aid, the network model, and above all, the rejection of any idea that the end justifies the means, let alone that the business of a revolutionary is to seize state power and then begin imposing one’s vision at the point of a gun. Above all, anarchism, as an ethics of practice — the idea of building a new society “within the shell of the old”....
A very good read to bring oneself up-to-date on anarchism that is playing such a prominent role in revolutionary activities in this century. The authors are prominent contemporary anarchists who examine the history and roots of anarchism, its present configurations, and projected future

Militarization of the World -- the Case of Iran

Click here to access article by Ismael Hossein-zadeh from Pakistan Defense.

This astute observer of international affairs shines his intellectual light through the fog of US propaganda to provide a clear understanding of how US Empire policies are promoting military-industrial oppressive states all over the world. 
...President Obama's or Secretary Clinton's or other U.S. policy makers' bellyaching about the rise of the power of the armed forces in Iran represents a case of gross obfuscation, that is, a case of barking up the wrong tree: instead of blaming IRGC they should blame their own imperialistic foreign policies, which nurtures militarization and curtailment of civil liberties not only in Iran but also in many other parts of the world. Indeed, militarization of the world and the resulting proliferation of many (relatively smaller) military-industrial complexes around the globe are unmistakable byproducts of the monstrous U.S. military-industrial complex. The inherent dynamics of this monster as an existentially-driven war juggernaut compels other countries around the world (both "allies" and "enemies") to embark on paths to militarism and authoritarianism.

Spanish workers on the march

Click here to access article by Lee Sustar from Socialist Worker. 

The author provides the latest scoop on the class war going on in Spain. Striking Spanish miners have inspired renewed militant demonstrations against the austerity measures, the bank bailouts, and the predatory takeover of newly acquired state assets at bargain-basement prices.
...as Spain spirals downward, big multinational corporations are poised to grab Spain's main corporate assets, taking advantage of European Union rules that limit state ownership of private corporations. Since the Spanish government, having bailed out big banks, is now part owner of several key companies, it will have to sell its stock in those companies at cut-rate prices. 
The class war in Europe is clearly heating up.

Botched DEA Raid Exposes How Militarization Terrorizes Communities Around the World

Click here to access article by Sandra Cuffe and Karen Spring from AlterNet.

The authors illuminate the hidden story (from Americans) of the ongoing effort to secure access to raw materials in Central America under the guise of the "War on Drugs". This integration of the military forces of a targeted country with the Empire is the favorite method of US political operatives. In Honduras the integration appears to be complete--no doubt as a result of the major campaign under the Reagan administration to arm and train Honduran mercenaries to attack and destabilize the Sandinista government in nearby Nicaragua in the 1980s.

US geoengineers to spray sun-reflecting chemicals from balloon

Click here to access article by Martin Lukacs from The Guardian.
Experiment in New Mexico will try to establish the possibility of cooling the planet by dispersing sulphate aerosols
This is a clear indication that the world's One Percent have recognized that they can't "have their cake and eat it too", that is, that they can't have their growth addictive system of capitalism and a stable ecosystem. Because they are addicted to the system that lays their golden eggs, they deal with this contradiction like any typical delusional addict would do: refuse to give up their addiction and pretend that they can control the ecosystem. So, on they go with reckless determination to fiddle with the ecosystem with their puny geo-engineering toys.  

They have ordered their scientists, whom they haven't believed regarding the inevitability of global warming, to run experiments on the planet. Yes, in their madness they think that they can control nature as well as working people! Shall we sit idly by to find out where their madness takes us? Could it be that the world's One Percents are so intoxicated with the drugs of power and wealth that they should be institutionalized? Stay tuned, or better yet, stay active.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Lure of Obedience

Click here to access article by Mat Little from New Compass.

There are so many insights offered and inspired by this article which re-examines the classic Milgram experiment of 1961. It is well worth reading all the way to the end. 

It appears that nowadays, people are more obedient than ever. Some critics have referred to America as a nation of sheep or American people as "sheeples" (see this and this).

Although I might argue with his reading of labor history (my view is that workers' attitudes started to change toward conformity after WWII), it generally seems to confirm what this author argues: this inclination on the part of Americans to be obedient to authority has markedly increased over time.
Liberal capitalism was under greatest threat in the nineteenth century when the Left espoused the concept of “wage-slavery”, the idea that when a person is compelled under pressure of need, to rent themselves to a company and give away all control over what they do, their position was similar to that of a chattel slave. Then working people powerfully contested obedience and employers had to enforce it. Today obedience is, to a large extent, voluntary and the values of liberal capitalism are internalised. We are bound, by ideological bonds that can be broken, to our roles.  We are, as the title of a recent book put it, “willing slaves.”
How can this be explained? Well, I certainly don't feel capable of offering a definitive answer, except to say that this entire blog has been trying to offer explanations for this phenomenon for the past two and one-half years. Postings I've submitted have emphasized the growing control of ideological institutions--education and media--to dumb down citizens, to weaken critical thinking skills. (See this, this, and this.)

I was particularly inspired by an idea after reading this author's observation:
Noam Chomsky has distinguished between people who, for good or ill, are moral agents and institutions, “structures of power” that are basically amoral. But this distinction between people and institutions is hard to accept because, as Milgram says, society promotes the ideology that a person’s actions stem from their character. Bad outcomes are the result of bad people. [my emphasis]
One weakness in any critical thinking about political topics is to use abstractions like "society" or "nation" when attributing actions or causes in relation to political events. This is a favorite method used by indoctrinated academics who are encouraged to obscure social-political issues so that a penetrating class analysis is prevented. This diverts attention away from looking at society realistically as riven by conflict due to the class structure. Class interests are often not the same--frequently they are in conflict. Only by looking at the above apparent contradiction, pointed out by Chomsky, from a class perspective can one arrive at a realistic understanding.

One thing I've noticed about mainstream media news reporting is the huge focus on deviant behavior, the more deviant the better. They want the public to feel that there are many among us who are inherently evil, that human nature is defective. Thus, it follows that force and discipline are often required to keep people civilized and well behaved. Hence, the need for powerful police forces to protect "decent" citizens, and the need for a huge prison system and onerous punishments. Also, such reporting keeps people suspicious and distrustful of each other which works against cooperative and organizing efforts.

Moreover, this view of deviant behavior diverts attention away from social factors that support deviant behavior: social injustice, poverty, strong materialist values propagated by media, police brutality, poor educational opportunities, etc., all of which are promoted by the capitalist ruling class. Hence, it is not "society [that] promotes the ideology that a person’s actions stem from their character", it is the ruling One Percent.

Kucinich Explains “LIBOR”

Click here to access posting source, video by Dennis Kucinich from Transcend Media Service.

What has happened with Ohio Rep. Kucinich illustrates how the ruling class deals with a liberal who has been a bit too critical of US ruling class policies ranging from foreign wars to labor issues to gay rights. He was gerrymandered out of Congress earlier this spring. (See this.) It is another method that political operatives of the One Percent use to control who serves in political offices, especially when all their other methods have failed to screen out such "troublemakers" during the election process before taking office. 

In this excellent video post he demonstrates his populist bent by explaining to the 99 Percent the latest method that financial elites use to game the capitalist system for their benefit and usually to the huge disadvantage to the rest of the economy--that means us. Neither the corporate media or public education provides explanations of how financial institutions function, the various financial terms, the obscure financial instruments the One Percent uses that end up wrecking the economy and leaving taxpayers (mostly workers) with their gambling debts, and even the private nature of the Federal Reserve. Many "educated" people think that the latter is a governmental institution. 

Is OWS in your DNA?

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

The author uses an encounter with someone taken in by a mainstream media "news" report to introduce some powerful truths and ideas.

Listen, You Can Hear the Sound of Direct Democracy, or Orchestroles

Click here to access article by Cindy Milstein from Occupy Wall Street.

The author provides a vivid description of the new spirit of resistance inspired by direct democracy and the self-organizing power of the ongoing Occupy movement in Montreal and Quebec. 
LISTEN. That’s what direct democracy sounds like. A whole lot of listening, to each other, and what we need, desire, and feel good about doing. Maybe that goes a long way to explaining why neither tactics, strategies, or aspirations go stale. People here in Montreal, in building toward and moving forward with this student-social strike, have made use of and/or are creating deliberate spaces for listening, from assemblies to the wake-up calls of casseroles and now orchestroles.

The wet side of Greenland

Click here to access article by Neven from Arctic Sea Ice Blog.

This blogger has put together some dramatic data and on-the-scene videos, like the one below, to show that the melting of the ice sheet in Greenland is accelerating and the resulting local effects of this melting. (You will need to learn a new term--albedo: a measure of reflectivity.) This scene in Greenland is occurring with increasing frequency as a result of diminishing albedo of the ice sheet.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

NOAA releases comprehensive 2011 State of the Climate report

Click here to access article by Matt Daniel from EarthSky. 
Bottom line: NOAA released the State of the Climate 2011 report that was compiled by 378 scientists from 48 countries around the world. The report shows human fingerprints identified in more than two dozen climate indicators examined by climate scientists.
I spent some time examining various parts of this NOAA report, and I can't find any indication in the report that the scientists linked human activity with the overwhelming evidence they present of dramatic climate changes that have occurred and will likely accelerate in the future. The report provides tons of data, all of which indicates climate change, but not linkage to human activity. (Here is a good place to see the highlights of the report.)

Yes, it's true (see this) as the author states...
...the vast majority of climate scientists believe humans are influencing climate change in the recent decades. Even after looking at natural cycles – such as solar cycles and volcanoes – it appears that something else is influencing our climate. Studies have shown again and again that the vast majority of climate scientists believe we humans are the something else: human activities, specifically the increase in greenhouse gases, are causing Earth to warm.
However, it is much more important what the public believes, and what they believe is to a considerable extent influenced by the information they receive from the One Percent's mainstream media. Recent evidence suggests--no doubt because of numerous recent extreme weather events and related catastrophes (widespread forest fires)--that public attitudes are shifting from climate change denial to acceptance. A recent poll suggests that a majority of the public are beginning to not only believe that climate change is real and poses a serious threat, but they also are vaguely linking it to human activity. In spite of these recent changes, major media continues to ignore nearly all references to climate change in their news reports.

Unfortunately, most environmental advocates are placing emphasis on "mitigating" the effects of climate change through measures that will ameliorate the damage and increase coping methods after the damage has occurred. (See this) Thus, they are encouraging people to simply accept the inevitability of extreme weather, and learn ways to cope with, and mitigate the effects of it. They somehow fantasize that during this effort they will come to accept human activity as a cause and do something more effective--whatever that is.

Unless things change dramatically, there is still a long way to go before most people see that the most powerful factor driving human ecology-destroying activity is the basic organizing system of capitalism which requires growth for its existence. And, to be sure, the world's ruling One Percents will do their best to make sure people don't make this critical connection.

Evidence that Oil Limits are Leading to Declining Economic Growth

Click here to access article by Gail Tverberg from her blog, Our Finite World.  
In this post we will examine evidence regarding declining economic growth and discuss additional reasons why such a long-term decline in real GDP might be expected.
She provides abundant evidence that declining economic growth lies in the future. However, she doesn't explore the implications of this which portend a future characterized by a descent into barbarism if the ruling One Percents and their self-serving system of capitalism is allowed to continue. Many people in various parts of the world are already experiencing this. Ask Iraqis, Pakistanis, Sudanese, Afghans, refugees eking out an existence in foreign lands, and the homeless everywhere. 

Unless we are able to change the system of the One Percent that is destroying our world into something that is sustainable and socially just, all of us in the 99 Percent will descend into a nightmarish world where the rich One Percent live in zones behind heavily fortified walls and barbed-wire fences surrounded by the rest of us existing in squalor. If you want to see the future under capitalism, see the Mexican film called "La Zona". Israel and its relationship with the Palestinian territories offers another model of such a future:crossing through checkpoints, being stopped to prove that one has permission to be where they are, and general police harassment and humiliation.