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, September 8, 2012

“A Lot of People Believe This Stuff”: Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and the Politics of Public Relations

Click here to access article by Andrew Gavin Marshall from his blog. 

This brilliant, young Canadian reveals the history and the methods of the Empire's shadow government in their ongoing effort to create the illusion of democracy. The methods are the sophisticated grandchildren of the public relation industry of the 1920s. These public relations specialists have developed their expertise to such an extent that war crimes and other crimes against humanity can be packaged and sold as humanitarian programs and their economic disasters as the fault of irresponsible home buyers. However, the tremendous gap between their illusions and reality that continues to grow shows signs of undermining the public's belief in the illusions. Perhaps that is why the Empire's political operatives are beefing up their police agencies, surveilling our activities, and maybe planning to convert cities into corporate run enterprises.
Whether Bill Clinton, George Bush, Barack Obama or Mitt Romney, they are all parasites, whose purpose is to manipulate the public into granting them the “consent” to govern, while they govern for the benefit of corporations and banks to plunder, exploit, and profit at the expense of the population, both at home and around the world, which is often facilitated through war, coups, repression of liberation movements, genocide, and impoverishment. To these people, the public – you and I – are nothing but a “bewildered herd” of “ignorant and meddlesome outsiders” who must be kept as the “interested spectators of action.” The more talented a politician is at “manufacturing consent,” the more praise he or she gets from the media, and thus, from the public, itself.
I think that these politicians can more aptly be described as slick used-car salesmen than simply parasites. Except for people like the Bushes and FDR who are/were solid members of the ruling class, many like Obama and Clinton are/were merely employees of the enterprise hired by the One Percent's shadow government (board of directors of the used-car lot).

'Lesser Evil' Voters: Stop Enabling Your Abusers (part 2)

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

The author uses an amusing metaphor about a restaurant with a limited menu to describe the electioneering performance put on by the absurd theater of the One Percent to simulate democracy. 
...the Democracy Restaurant and recognize that what we want -- what we need -- is not on that menu, no matter how many minor tweaks and modifications they promise us. ....

What we’re fighting for will never appear on their menu; they don’t even have the ingredients to make it if they tried.
However, the author seems to suggest that not voting is a very significant political act. I doubt it. What would be significant is some act to inform or organize the 99 Percent to take power away from the One Percent.

Journalists at the RNC Either Suck Up To Power, Or Risk Attack…

Click here to access article by Yasha Levine from The eXiled

Covering a Republican convention honestly can hazardous to ones career. Most journalists don't try. 
One thing I learned from watching last week’s RNC: Being a reporter with a video camera at a GOP convention and doing anything other than sucking up to power . . . well, that just might be the most dangerous journalism job in America today.
Of course, journalists at the Democratic party convention must "suck up to power" also, but they usually don't encounter such blatant racist behavior.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Honduras to build new city with its own laws and tax system to attract investors

Click here to access article by Jonathan Watts from The Guardian.

This article announces a new twist--privatized cities--in the private equity infrastructure investments scheme I cited in my recent posting (check it out if you haven't already). As they say, the devil is in the details, and these were apparently unavailable to the author. However, notice the title of the Honduran official who signed onto this agreement:
"This is the most important project in half a century for Honduras," said Carlos Pineda, head of the Commission for the Promotion of Public-Private Partnerships, which represented the government at the signing of a memorandum of understanding with the business consortium NKG.
Whenever a policy or program is described in terms of a "public-private partnership", all kinds of alarm bells should go off in your head. Hence, it appears to follow the same model as explained in my posting with huge giveaways by the public sector to support corporations and investors while adversely impacting the 99 Percent in Honduras. Honduras is already one of the worst countries in the world in terms of human rights violations, coup d'etats by their military, and CIA activity.

As usual, One Percent political operatives always claim that their proposals will create jobs. They make the additional claim that no one will be displaced. Both claims appear to be the usual deceptions. To get closer to the truth, I recommend that you read the following two critical articles on this story from independent websites in Honduras and Nicaragua: "Agreement for a Model City" and "A Model City for a Society in Tatters".

I've been mulling this over this morning and I've begun to wonder if this Honduran story doesn't represent the future that the One Percent has in mind for all of us. With the recent economic collapse (for the 99 Percent) due to their bad bets and forcing us to bail them out, they have been infected with new levels of arrogance unseen before. Why should they pay for and fool around with long periods of electioneering during which their candidates spout all kinds of lies, bribing government representatives, making up deceptive stories in their media, etc, when they could eliminate all those costly expenses by privatizing our cities, essentially privatizing our country? That way they could govern us through boards of directors that they directly appoint without all the other fuss and expense.

Interview with Eric Laursen on Social Security and The People's Pension

Click here to access article from Infoshop News. 

This author of a recently published tome entitled The People's Pension explains a number of things he has learned about Social Security while preparing to write his book. Here is one:
What's the biggest threat to Social Security today?
Not the right, but the center-right. In researching The People's Pension, I was amazed to learn how close Washington came to drastically restructuring Social Security during the second Clinton administration. His aides collaborated very closely with Newt Gingrich, behind the scenes and even after the Monica Lewinsky scandal hit, to figure out a plan to do it. Then the Republican Congress went ahead and impeached Clinton, and it was basically all over. But what struck me was how determined the leaders of both parties were to make a deal. In a way, the people who are most dangerous to Social Security aren't the Republicans, people like Gingrich and Paul Ryan. Their views are pretty well known, and they usually don't go all-out against Social Security because it would be too dangerous. The real threat is from center-right Democrats like Erskine Bowles, Sen. Mark Warner, and – at times – Barak Obama. They're protected by the fact that the Democratic Party created Social Security under Roosevelt. So voters and the national media tend to assume whatever they do must be with the best of intentions. And they're treated as heroes in the Washington media, which loves anyone who describes themselves as “bipartisan.”

Saudi oil well dries up

Click here to access article by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard from The Telegraph
A 150-page report by Heidy Rehman on the Saudi petrochemical industry should be sober reading for those who think that shale oil and gas have solved our global energy crunch.
...it is for now plugging holes in global supply rather than covering the future shortfall as the industrial revolutions of Asia mature.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

There is no democracy without economic democracy

Click here to access article by Pete Dolack from his blog Systemic Disorder

This piece might also be entitled, "Democracy for Dummies", because after so many decades of indoctrination by the One Percent's mainstream media and schools, many ordinary Americans think democracy is voting in elections managed by the One Percent. The only criticism I have about this article is that a reader could easily infer that we have political democracy in the US.
When we talk about “democracy,” inevitably, it seems, the discussion is about political democracy. Rarely is there discussion about economic democracy. Democracy stops at the entrance to the workplace.

Apple, Drone Strikes, and the Limits of Censorship

Click here to access article by Jay Stanley from American Civil Liberties Union

This report once again illustrates how big corporations serve the needs of the One Percent, their government and Empire by acting as a gatekeeper for what information you can access on those little electronic hand-held gadgets. Read the article to discover what kinds of information they don't want you to be informed about.

Press outlets protest Manning trial secrecy

Click here to access article by Josh Gerstein from Politico
More than 30 news outlets and media organizations lodged an official protest Tuesday against secrecy in the court-martial of Pvt Bradley Manning, the Army intelligence analyst accusing of leaking hundreds of thousands of military reports and diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks.
(Click here to join others in support of Manning.)

Speculating Banks Profit as World's Poorest Go Hungry

Click here to access article by staff from Common Dreams

The ingenious ways that operators of capitalism's casinos have devised to profit seem almost endless. Here we see another example of a casino play that deepens the misery of untold millions across the globe.
Reports over the weekend saw some of the world's most powerful financial institutions accused of profiteering on the backs of the world's poorest people and those most vulnerable to the wild price fluctuations caused by over-rampant speculation on the price of food commodities like wheat, soy beans, and corn.

It's Not Just the LAPD: The Big Lie About Police Brutality is Claiming it's Not Rampant

Click here to access article by Dave LIndorff from This Can't Be Happening

More evidence of an emerging police state in the US where police brutality has become the norm.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Infrastructure-as-asset-class: Financing development or developing finance?

Click here to access article by Nicholas Hildyard from The Corner House (UK)

This British author introduces us to another neo-liberal invention--private equity infrastructure funds. Although the concept has been around for a while and apparently has been used in some form for the privatization of existing state assets, these financial instruments are now being aggressively pursued in new infrastructure projects. Apparently many national restrictions and regulations are impeding this growth industry and agents of the One Percent are launching an aggressive campaign against these barriers through various international bodies. It is the One Percents' last remaining conquest that will put all of the world's 99 Percents into more debt servitude. This investment type has greatly enhanced a type of financial class of investors--what Michael Hudson refers to as the "rentier class" (see this and this).

It is an investment method, advertised as a "public-private partnership", for the world's One Percents to substantially increase their wealth; however, for the 99 Percents of various nations it often means higher prices, inadequate services, being stuck with more debts when infrastructure projects are failures, and more cutbacks in wages and service to pay the debts. It is a partnership where the public sector assumes all the risks and where the private sector receives all the rewards. 

Because the endgame of capitalism is to force most of the world to pay a surcharge to the One Percent for every service they receive such as power, water, health care, education, etc, while exposing the public sector to more debts, it is extremely important for any reasonably educated activist to understand what this is all about. Fortunately, the author shares this concern and writes in a style suited to a more general audience.

The report is in PDF format and 51 pages long (text only, not including the extensive references). However, the content is double-spaced with large margins. (I find it much easier to read lengthy articles by printing them.) To entice you to read the complete article, I am offering the following introduction: 
Political discourse is often conducted in code. Where policy proposals or actions are likely to engender strong opposition or cause affront to the public, euphemisms are used (“collateral damage” for “dead civilians”, “land disturbance” for “mining”, “environmental enhancement” for “canalising rivers”) or concepts are employed that direct the conversation elsewhere.

When therefore the World Bank focused its 1994 World Development Report on “Infrastructure”, it should not have come as a surprise that the Report was not in fact about bridges and roads and dams, but about privatising public goods and services and reducing the role of the state in development. But the “coding” extended beyond the crude, nod-and-a-wink use of “infrastructure” to mean “divesting state assets”. By framing policy choices in terms of an either/or opposition between the “private sector”, on the one hand, and “the state”, on the other, the Report successfully hid its promotion of a new “state/private combo”. A realigned state became the lynchpin of a particular response to a growing crisis of over-accumulation within capitalism, in this instance creating new highly profitable investment opportunities by “selling off” state-owned enterprises (“the family silver” in the words of former British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan) at knock-down prices.

Nearly twenty years later, the crisis of over-accumulation (too much capital chasing too few investment opportunities) is not only still with us but has deepened, erupting acne-like in various manifestations that financial analysts now refer to as the GFC (or “global financial crisis”). Once again, “infrastructure” is back on the international policy agenda, with national governments, multilateral development banks and international groupings, such as the leaders of the Group of 20 major economies (G-20), all announcing support for major infrastructure development initiatives. This time, however, “infrastructure” embodies more than an agenda of privatisation: what is being constructed are the subsidies, fiscal incentives, capital markets, regulatory regimes and other support systems necessary to transform “infrastructure” into an asset class that should yield above average profits. Far from constituting a retreat from neoliberalism or a renewed state commitment to meeting unmet development needs (a constant refrain is the plight of the 1.4 billion people in the world who have no access to electricity, the 880 million people without safe drinking water, and the 2.6 billion without access to basic sanitation), the planned interventions by the G-20 and others are better viewed as a response to the over-accumulation crisis that further entrenches the current state-private settlement, geared to harnessing the state to extracting profit for the private sector. As such, “infrastructure” is less about financing development (which is at best a sideshow) than about developing finance. Indeed, the G-20’s 2011 high-level report on infrastructure makes just seven references to “the poor” in contrast to 184 references to “private” or “public-private partnerships”.


Ecologically Sustainable Development

Click here to access article by Peter Lach-Newinsky (Australian) from his blog memengineering.
Around the time of the UN Rio Conference in 1992 the official four criteria for what was then called ‘Ecologically Sustainable Development’ (ESD) were defined as:
1. Maintaining ecological integrity
2. Intergenerational equity
3. Internalising ecological and social costs
4. The Precautionary Principle
The author then explains how each of these principles are in direct contradiction to capitalism. Hence, they were ignored. For the One Percents of the world, whenever they must choose between the planet and capitalism, the latter always wins. That is simply because most One Percents are addicts. They are drunk on the power and wealth that imbibing the substance of capitalism creates for them. 

What Part of Free Speech Does Whole Foods Not Understand?

Click here to access article by Don Fitz from MR Zine

Actions by police (the enforcers of the One Percent) in Brentwood, Missouri illustrate that property rights, one of the cornerstones of capitalism, always trump civil rights.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

All Eyes on Chicago’s Teachers

Click here to access article by Shamus Cooke from Workers Action. 

This writer, who specializes in labor issues, sees the current struggle by the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) to obtain a decent contract as pivotal for future union battles, especially in the public sector where pressure to reduce employee costs have been pursued most aggressively by the One Percent.

This article is based on a previous report from the CTU and probably should be read first to understand the issues in this union's negotiations with Chicago Public Schools.
CTU has been in contract negotiations with the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) since November 2011. Teachers have been without a contract since June of this year after its five-year agreement with the District expired without a new agreement in place.  Labor leaders have said they are negotiating for a “better day, job security and fair compensation for employees.”
Cooke suggests that this union is offering a positive model for vigorous union organizing and actions that are capable of leading a successful fightback against austerity cutbacks everywhere.

Afghanistan’s Base Bonanza

Click here to access article by Nick Turse from TomDispatch. (Note: if you wish to skip the introduction, you need to scroll down to this article.) 

There are few things that our government hides from us more than military base construction around the world. Turse does his best to cut through all the confusion to secure this information. 

While reading this, think about all the current and proposed cutbacks to health, education, welfare  and our crumbing infrastructure in order to serve the megalomanic fantasies of our Empire builders and the fat profits for the military-industrial complex.
Despite years of talk about American withdrawal, there has in fact been a long-term building boom during which the number of bases steadily expanded.  In early 2010, the U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) claimed that it had nearly 400 Afghan bases.  Early this year, that number had grown to 450.  Today, a military spokesperson tells TomDispatch, the total tops out at around 550.

And that may only be the tip of the iceberg.

The Pacific free trade deal that's anything but free

Click here to access article by Dean Baker from The Guardian.
...the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), a pact that the United States is negotiating with Australia, Canada, Japan and eight other countries in the Pacific region. The agreement is packaged as a "free trade" agreement. This label will force all of the respectable types in Washington to support it
Baker is another writer who finds that the negotiations on the TPP agreement conducted in secret by capitalist elites in these countries represents another stealth attack on consumers by multi-national corporations. Like all the other "free trade" agreements, it is an ingenious way of by-passing national regulations and political processes which often prove to be difficult for the local One Percents.

Game Over? Or Overtime?

Click here to access article by Albert Bates from his blog The Great Change (UK). 
...an international group of scientists, the Arctic Methane Emergency Group has been sailing into the Arctic waters around Norway and Russia to take samples of methane bubbling from ocean clathrates — frozen methane deposits on the sea floor.
...The preliminary reports, if they can be believed, are frightening.
In case you weren't frightened by this, he has more bad news about all the effects of fracking.
Another significant contributor to atmospheric methane is fracking — the explosive fracturing of geological formations to release oil and natural gas (see illustration). While difficult to quantify, we can expect a significant bump from this source for at least the next few decades, just from wells already completed. And once the bottle is uncorked, you can’t put another cork back in.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Capitalism's Ideological Crutches

Click here to access article by Richard D Wolff from Truthout

In this very insightful article the author argues that the capitalist ruling class's propaganda of choice in a long term economic crisis is to blame the government.
The mainstream ideology that works best as capitalism's crutch is blame the government. This interpretation of modern society insists that the ultimate root and cause of economic problems is the government, not capitalism nor capitalists. If you are unemployed, foreclosed, or underpaid, the problem is not the capitalist who refuses to employ you, evicts you, or pays you poorly. It is instead partly your own fault, but mostly that of the government: the politicians and the bureaucrats.
I think his argument works best with regard to the US ruling class. Elsewhere there is much historical and contemporary evidence that capitalists will use any propaganda that is effective in distracting and dis-informing working people from their system's inevitable failures in serving the needs of the 99 Percent by providing a stable, just economy. Chief among these are blaming immigrants and ethnic groups.

But who could argue with this conclusion?
In capitalist societies, corporations and the rich use their resources and power to shape government to their advantages. They also lean on ideological crutches to win enough public support to keep control of the government and society. Workers have been and will continue to be victimized by capitalist controls of economy and politics. To change government policies they need to see through capitalism's ideological crutches. More than that, they will have to organize politically as they did briefly in the 1930s. Yet that, too, was not enough.
Read further to find out what more is needed now to save the 99 Percent.

As Spain's Recession Darkens, Alternative Economies Rise

Click here to access article by staff at Common Dreams

The most pernicious form of private ownership and control is in relation to a nation's money supply. Spanish activists may be the leading edge in building alternative institutions that may undermine this key institution of capitalism.While the Spanish ruling class is continuing with austerity programs and borrowing from capitalist financial institutions, Spanish activists are abandoning their money and creating alternative methods of value exchange.
...as many economists grapple over numbers, and search for signs of hope for a free market revival, many people within Spain have increasingly started to turn to alternative currency systems, or parallel euro-free economies -- giving up the ghost of a neoliberal recovery....

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Shriveling of Democracy

Click here to access article by Dianne Feeley from Solidarity

While I think that her version of socialism is of the social democratic variety, she does good work in this article by exposing the latest methods of One Percent political operatives to diminish even their fake version of "democracy" in the US. 

In the US this version has always been about appearances. By very gradually expanding the vote to other than the original property holders after declaring and obtaining (with the vital help of the 99 Percent) their independence from England, American capitalists have used carefully managed elections as the major stage prop to create the appearance of democracy. Courts, laws, and legal processes were the other props. Until recently, all these devices continued to conceal biases that favor the One Percent and their exploitation of the labor of the 99 Percent. This deception is now wearing a bit thin.

Technological advances, created by the 99 Percent, have made it possible for the One Percent to expand their exploitation of people and resources to most areas of the planet. They are finding it easier and more profitable to exploit the labor of people elsewhere. They are relying less and less on American workers, and those they use are being forced to compete with low wage labor in other lands. They threaten to move more production offshore unless communities provide them with welfare in the form of subsidies, low taxes, trained workers, and infrastructure. 

Naturally, citizens are protesting, fighting back, and generally creating a nuisance for the One Percent through their legal system of laws, elections, and courts. Hence, we are witnessing a growing police state and measures to limit citizen political action. The author's focus on the latter subject is a valuable contribution to understanding the latest assault on what little influence we have over policies and practices adversely affecting our daily lives.

We Are Writing the Epilogue to the World We Knew

Click here to access article by John Atcheson from Common Dreams. 
The data continue to roll in, and they are telling us we are in the process of bringing an end to the world we evolved in, and creating a new, harsher world. We will be forced to devote more and more of our resources trying to adapt to this new world, and less on development.

.... In 1990 we could have averted this disaster and saved money doing it. As late as 2010 we still had a shot at avoiding it.  But now, the die is cast, the future foretold.  What follows will be an epilogue to civilization, as we knew it.