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, December 1, 2012

Britain and America target DR Congo

Click here to access article by Antoine Roger Lokongo from Pambazuka News (South Africa). 

We in the US have very little information about what is occurring Africa. We get bits and pieces of information regarding the secret deployment of troops in Africa and confusing reports about "civil wars" and other mysterious conflicts going on mostly through alternative internet sources. (See this, this, and this.) Recently we have been reading about new attacks on civilian towns in eastern DR Congo. This African writer's take on the Congo wars has a decided ring of authenticity to it.
What is happening in eastern DR Congo is not a civil war, but continuation of a 16-year aggression by the country’s two neighbours, financed and directed by the United States and Britain.

Bradley Manning: how keeping himself sane was taken as proof of madness

Click here to access article by Ed Pilkington from The Guardian.

I am posting this piece primarily for two reasons. 1) There is extremely scant media coverage of his pre-trial hearing in which he gave testimony confirming widespread reports in alternative media that he received "cruel and unusual punishment" at the hands of the Defense Department for his alleged acts as a whistleblower who transferred files that gave evidence of US crimes against humanity to Wikileaks. 2) To encourage people to support his defense in any way they can.

Friday, November 30, 2012

The People Have Spoken

Click here to access article by Senator Bernie Sanders from Uncommon Thought Journal.
  • At a time when the wealthiest people in our country are doing phenomenally well, we must eliminate the Bush tax cuts favoring the top 2 percent.
  • At a time when corporate profits are soaring, we must end the absurd tax policy that allows about one-quarter of large, profitable corporations to pay nothing in federal income taxes. 
  • At a time when the federal treasury is losing over $100 billion annually because the wealthy and large corporations are stashing their money in tax havens in the Cayman Islands and elsewhere, we must pass real tax reform that ends this outrage.
  • At a time when we spend almost as much as the rest of the world combined on defense, we must cut defense spending. There is also waste in other governmental agencies which must be eliminated.  
Don't let them win. The Bush tax cuts must be allowed to expire. Please sign the petition today. 

Also, economist James K. Galbraith warns on The Real News Network that the so-called crisis has been engineered to scare ordinary people into accepting cuts to social programs.

Paramilitarism and the Assault on Democracy in Haiti

Click here to access article by Adam Tomes from CounterFire (UK).

Hillary Clinton & right-wing Pres. Michel Martelly in 2011

Tomes provides us with a book review of a recently published book by this title authored by Jeb Sprague. It is a very disconcerting story of transnational capitalists and their ongoing rape of a country founded by African slaves who successfully fought for independence from France. It is a neo-colonial story of managed elections, corruption, paramilitaries, exploitation, etc. 

Sprague’s book is very detailed, very analytical and incredibly eye-opening. As a newcomer to the modern history of Haiti, the reader feels enmeshed in the story from below, in the story of Fanmi Lavalas. The reader leaves feeling both angry and enlightened, but the wider story is the tale of how transnational elites support democracy only where it fits their interpretation of it, and that the use of paramilitarism has been an effective method of control used to disenfranchise the popular classes. The observations here can cast light on struggles elsewhere, such as those in Venezuela, Bolivia and Honduras.
See also this, this, this, and this for more information.

Labor Unions Under Attack in Morsi’s Egypt

Click here to access article by Ian Hartshorn from Muftah.
While many have focused on Mohamed Morsi’s recent actions toward the Judiciary and Constituent Assembly, the Egyptian president has quietly consolidated power over institutions affecting the lives of millions of workers, namely, Egypt’s labor unions. 

A Thermonuclear Energy Bomb in Christmas Wrappings

Click here to access article by Michael Klare from TruthDispatch.
Given the hullabaloo about rising energy production in the U.S., you would think that the IEA report was loaded with good news about the world’s future oil supply.  No such luck.  In fact, on a close reading anyone who has the slightest familiarity with world oil dynamics should shudder, as its overall emphasis is on decline and uncertainty.

Take U.S. oil production surpassing Saudi Arabia’s and Russia’s.  Sounds great, doesn’t it?  Here’s the catch:

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Vultures vs Argentina: The Debt Case of the Century

Click here to access article by Nick Dearden from Huffington Post UK.

This author, along with many other liberal commentators, brings up the issue of the legitimacy of some sovereign debts, specifically, those incurred by dictators. This is good. However, I think if one can widen one's focus a bit to see debt as merely one important weapon in the arsenal of class rule, then one should question class rule rather than merely some debts. There have long been creditors and debtors, but until more recent times with the strengthening of the capitalist class, debts have frequently been forgiven when societies saw their harmful effects (see this). 

Under the growing power of capitalist One Percents versus the 99 Percent, the former have long since legalized the enforcement of debts of individuals through the use of contracts. Capitalist ruling classes have succeeded through their organs of indoctrination to sanctify contracts--they must be honored regardless of disastrous social consequences. When debtors failed to honor their contract obligations, capitalists through their control of the state have enforced these contracts when necessary with the use of force. In the past debtors were thrown into jail or workhouses; nowadays they take away their possessions and homes and often threaten their jobs. Under capitalism contracts are very useful for the rich and powerful. As Howard Zinn explained:
To protect everyone's contracts seems like an act of fairness, of equal treatment, until one considers that contracts made between rich and poor, between employer and employee, landlord and tenant, creditor and debtor, generally favor the more powerful of the two parties.
As Dearden noted, entire nations have been treated little differently, although sometimes the use of force is waived by using other means of retribution--trade sanctions, blockades, etc. Under the recent capitalist stage of neoliberalism, large financial institutions have aggressively pushed loans onto governments using whatever means necessary. (See Confessions on an Economic Hit Man by John Perkins)  Many liberal critics such as Dearden are questioning the legitimacy of huge debts incurred by dictators and some other illegitimate governments.

We have also seen a similar operation within many Western societies directed against consumers through the use of creative mortgages to buy houses, by pushing credit cards onto everyone, student loans, etc. With wage increases being suppressed and consumption aggressively encouraged, many people succumbed to these influences. As a result, we have the economic crisis we are witnessing today nearly everywhere. Dearden touches on this with the following statement:
The truth is that the world economy is not in crisis because of debt. It is because too many have too little to buy what has been created. Without a stronger consumer base the capitalists have no reason to invest in making more commodities and creating more jobs. How are they going to realize a profit if few can afford to buy what is produced?
But, worst of all, we have seen large financial institution engage in reckless gambling using the new financial instruments they created and permitted under neo-liberalism. When they lost their bets they forced governments to bail them out. Now they are forcing austerity measures: meaning cutbacks in education, health, and welfare of citizens all, of which, are accompanied by the loss of jobs.

Therefore, shouldn't we question the social arrangement of capitalism rather than merely loan obligations incurred by dictators? Should not an economy support and sustain societies rather than individuals or classes of individuals? Are we not social animals who have evolved under arrangements of mutual obligation, commitments, and support? If so, why should we be burdened with a system than serves only a few?

Lisbon Calling: #14N in Portugal [13:16m video]

Click here if you wish to access the source of this posting authored by Brandon Jourdan and Marianne Maeckelbergh from Reflections on a Revolution.
After three years of crisis and taking the bitter pill of EU/IMF-imposed austerity without much resistance, the Portuguese have finally begun to rebel.

On November 14th 2012, thousands of people took to the streets of Portugal as part of a European-wide general strike. Until recently, the International Monetary Fund held Portugal as an ideal example of the effectiveness of austerity policies, but today, its economy is heading in the same direction as Greece and Spain. This short documentary details the week of the November 14th strike in Lisbon and the events surrounding it.

Because the juggernaut of globalized capitalism is threatening to crush the aspirations of the 99 Percent all over the world as well as trashing the planet, the 99 Percent must become globalized in its strategies to fight back effectively. We must no longer be divided and separated into nations, as immigrants, old versus young, women versus men, black versus white, employed versus unemployed, etc. Divide and conquer is the oldest strategy of ruling classes since the beginning of class rule. We are now witnessing that people in Portugal and Europe are starting to become aware of this ruling class strategy and the necessity of solidarity.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Walmart Forced to Finally Admit Deadly Bangladesh Factory Was Supplier

Click here to access article by Global Justice Ecology Project from Climate Connections.

In this tragic incident the authors see an illustration of why off-shoring of American production and "free trade" policies have been so beneficial for our One Percent ruling class who have shipped American jobs overseas to countries where barbaric sweatshop working conditions still exist.
“The Triangle Shirtwaist fire [in New York City in 1911] galvanized a reform movement in the U.S. that transformed an industry of dangerous sweatshops into one defined by safe workplaces and decent wages. Now, global outsourcing has allowed retailers like Gap and Walmart to turn back the clock to 1911, recreating in places like Bangladesh the brutal conditions and rock-bottom production costs that prevailed in the U.S. at the time of the Triangle fire. 
A piece from the World Socialist Web Site argues correctly that such working conditions in Bangladesh and other poor countries are the new normal for globalized capitalism. Hence, protests against individual companies will not in the long run change anything.
Tragedies like the Tazreen Fashions fire will not be halted by appeals to governments and the transnational corporations. The only way to end such crimes is through the unified struggle of workers around the world to put an end to the barbaric profit system and reorganise society on the basis of a planned world socialist economy. 

Why is Obama Silent Over the New Congo War?

Click here to access article by Shamus Cooke from Worker's Action

Once again we see surface manifestations of deeper economic activities that are playing out in central Africa over its rich supply of minerals. Obama, often described as an African-American president, is, of course, only the public relations officer hired by capitalist decision-makers well-hidden in our shadow government. And his African-Americanism is only literally skin deep. He was mostly raised by his white banker grandmother and further socialized in US elite private schools.

Cooke uncovers the deeper forces at work here--and, guess what? Capitalist corporations in the West and China are competing for access to valuable metals existing in this area.

The electronics industry is one of the main destinations for these metals, which end up in mobile phones, laptops, and other consumer products.  Tin is used as a solder in circuit boards; colton goes into capacitors, small components used to store electricity; tungsten is used in the vibrating function of mobile phones; gold is also used by the electronics industry as a coating for wires.

World prices for each of these metals have been rising over the past year, giving armed groups in the eastern Congo all the more incentive to target or keep hold of the mines.

See also this and this.

Bookchin's Ecology and Assembly Democracy

Click here to access article by Janet Biehl from New Compass.
Murray Bookchin (1921-2006) understood earlier than almost anyone that an ecological crisis was not only looming but posted a challenge to capitalism and the whole social order. In the 1950s and 1960s, before most people even knew what ecology was, he was proposing fundamental solutions. Being ahead of his time, however, meant that his ideas were either ignored or condemned when they were first published; they remain insufficiently recognized today.
If the 99 Percent have any chance of emancipating themselves from the rule of capitalists, they must, first of all, recover their own class history of struggle, and part of this effort is to recognize their class heroes. Murray Bookchin is one such hero. He was a seeker of truth and dedicated his life to the promotion of social justice and a sustainable economic system. 

With his critical mind, he was always examining events and testing theories to see if they explained events. When they did not, he either discarded theories or parts of them, and participated in the formulation of new ideas. He was the finest representative of modern man who had absorbed the legacy of the best that human thought had to offer since the Age of Enlightenment, an era whose legacy has been corrupted and distorted by a new self-serving class known as capitalists. Is it any wonder that most of us have not heard of him?

This author has made a fine contribution to the task of knowing our history and our heroes.

Ten Numbers the Rich Would Like Fudged

Click here to access article by Paul Buchheit from Common Dreams

Class disparity has always occurred in class structured societies which by definition provide access to wealth and power to certain classes over others. What we have seen since the 1980s is an aggressive form of capitalism known as neo-liberalism that is essentially capitalism on steroids. Hence, this version of capitalism is accelerating class differences at such a rate that we are now headed straight into outright fascism if we of the 99 Percent fail to act. The authoritarian infrastructure of fascism is in place, they just haven't used it to a great extent yet.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Focus on the Global South Position Paper on Climate Change

Click here to access article.

Believe it or not, but there is another United Nations Convention on Climate Change and it opened this Monday, yesterday, in Doha, Qatar. After the failures of all the previous ones in Copenhagen in 2009, CancĂșn in 2010; and Durban, South Africa, last year, it is no wonder that this conference is being totally ignored in mainstream media. Despite the growing number of extreme weather disasters that are occurring throughout the world, corporate media directors do not want you to think about even the possibility of changing their system of capitalism to function in a sustainable way. You see, it simply is not possible. "So, get use to it." "This is the new normal." These are the messages, implied or literally stated, that they will be sending out through their media empires. For example, see this piece entitled "Can There Be a Silver Lining in Sandy?".

Apparently this UN convention event--although not even mentioned in the article--prompted people from this organization to present views representing the "global south" which are often juxtaposed to the "global north" and the various conferences on climate change. Evidently this is an alternative, and less threatening to our capitalist masters, way of dividing up the world between highly developed capitalist countries and the lessor developed capitalist, or mixed economies. In addition to presenting their familiar arguments regarding carbon reduction quotas that must be assumed by various countries, the paper surprisingly argues for the "transformation of the unsustainable capitalist system."
The big challenge of putting a process in place for collective and gradual transformation from fossil fuel-addicted system of consumption and production towards a low carbon society requires also the transformation of the unsustainable capitalist system. The carbon, oil and gas sector can’t be led by the logic of private profit. The power of fossil fuel corporations has to be dismantled and societies, not the state-bureaucrats, have to take control over these resources and enterprises.

To change the patterns of consumption and production we need to move beyond the all-dominating, profit-driven and unsustainable capitalist system that exploits people and ruin ecosystems.
Unfortunately, after making this point, the authors then backtrack, apparently to appease capitalist authorities, by making this statement:
A "one size fits all" model like neoliberalism or centralized bureaucratic socialism is not the answer. Instead, diversity should be expected and encouraged, as it is in nature.
If a system is hazardous to the planet's health and human sustainability, then it must be abolished. Period.

The President and the Fatal Trilateral Logic of US, Egyptian and Israeli Relations

Click here to access article by Amro Ali from Jadaliyya.

This provides another view on recent events in Egypt. While Morsi argues that he needs temporary powers free from judicial restraints in order to root out many Mubarak influences from the government, this author argues that he is caught up in business as usual in the lucrative relationship with the Empire.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Fiscal Cliff An Artificial Crisis

Click here to access a 10:37m video featuring an interview with Prof. Michael Hudson, from The Real News Network.  (Amended commentary, 4pm PST)

The only problem that I have with Hudson's view is where he argues that all the Fed needs to do is print money as it did for the Wall Street bailout:
...exactly what it did when it took on the $13 trillion bailout of Wall Street. It just prints the money. There's no need to tax the money to pay Social Security. The government simply spends it into the economy. That's what central banks do.
Well, this is true except that one should understand what this means. The ability to "print money" that is not based on an increase in productivity requires an aggressive foreign policy backed up and enforced by armed forces so that other countries are forced to accept this money in one way or another. That is precisely why the core of any capitalist class has always gone after control of what constitutes money (and/or the issuance of money as debt from their banks) and constructed powerful militaries to enforce their policies. 

In our own War of Independence those two objectives were vigorously pursued immediately by the so-called "Federalists" (they were really nationalists) after the successful conclusion of this war. Robert Morris and Alexander Hamilton in 1782 established a central bank (privately owned as are nearly all central banks) (Bank of North America), but it didn't last long largely because they were unable to enforce their policies on the country which was still ruled under the Articles of Confederation, a decentralized type of government. Most of the states recognized various forms of money or means of exchange: paper money, tobacco, farm animals, local bank issued notes, etc. Hence, to insure the success of a central bank, it was necessary to centralize all authority in the hands of a national government with a powerful army. This they accomplished by secrecy and trickery in a convention in 1787 which the elites called ostensibly to modify the existing Articles of Confederation, but immediately set about, and succeeded, in establishing a new US Constitution that met these requirements. In 1791 they successfully established the First Bank of the United States. (Notice how they always hide private ownership under names that sound like government bodies owned by the public. Today we have the Federal Reserve which has a thin veneer of government participation. Deception is always a major weapon in class rule.)

The newly independent capitalists with their newly created central government saw the huge potential of riches and power that could be derived from the continent--only "savages" stood in their way. To get in the game of exploitation they needed to join in the mercantilist game that the other capitalist ruling classes were engaged in: trading goods from their new manufacturing firms to markets which were secured with the use of, or the threat of, force by their powerful militaries; and the use of slave labor to produce raw materials and food in regions under their control.  However, to engage in commerce with the other powerful capitalist nations (Britain, France, The Netherlands) and to obtain credit (in the form of gold or backed by gold), they had to adopt the use of gold which was the latter's medium of exchange imposed on their countries by their ruling classes.

Hence, the new US ruling class immediately forced citizens, who greatly favored paper money issued by the government as was used during the war, to use gold as a legal currency. Few ordinary Americans possessed gold, and this change caused them considerable hardship. Those that owed debts to banks had their farms and properties taken away from them if they couldn't pay off their debts in gold. They rebelled all over the states, but the ruling class with their new national army suppressed these rebellions.  (Shays' Rebellion, and the Whiskey Rebellion are about the only ones we learned about in school. An excellent source for more information is Toward an American Revolution by Jerry Fresia.)

The class issues in the “fiscal cliff”

Click here to access article by Andre Damon from World Socialist Web Site.

This website continues to cut through all the obfuscation provided by ruling class institutions of indoctrination, by liberals, and other assorted progressives who are more concerned about their careers than telling the truth.
While the ruling class may seek to deny it and the pseudo-left may seek to contain it, the class struggle operates with an irrepressible logic. The interests of the working class cannot be secured except through the revolutionary transformation of all of society, replacing capitalism with socialism.
The much abused word "socialism" must be refined into some basic principles that we working people can rally around. It seems to me that the principles can be condensed into two basic ones: 1) public ownership and control of the economy, and 2) replacement of hierarchical structures with their opposite--bottom-up decision-making ("subarchy?"). The practical details of the second principle remain to be figured out, but I have no doubt that people can work them out once the "privateers" are defeated. In the meantime, cooperative enterprises can serve as an incubator of ideas and practices of the second principle.

Liberal capitalism, crony capitalism and lumpen development

Click here to access article by Samir Amin from Panbazuka News (south Africa). 
Liberalism creates nothing, in the peripheries of the Global South that agree to submit to it, other than a crony capitalism based on a Comprador State in opposition to the National State committed to sustainable economic and social development.
The author provides an excellent summary of the principles and practices of neo-liberalism, a doctrine of the contemporary capitalist ruling classes that are now being implemented all over the world. It is an ideology of a small class of people who lay claim of "ownership" over increasingly concentrated productive enterprises and the currencies which, like oil, enable this machinery to function. While claiming that it serves to benefit societies as a whole, in reality the self-serving doctrine serves only this small class and subjects the rest of us to the miseries of exploitation, poverty, and wars.

Unfortunately, the author offers solutions that require only reforms to this hideous system.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

No Idea(ology), And Paul Hawken's Blessed Unrest

Click here to access article by Michael Barker from Swans Commentary

This could be considered as part 2 of 2 articles which he devotes to Paul Hawken's latest book and more generally his strong influence in liberal environmental circles. I suggest first reading Barker's earlier article entitled, "Paul Hawken's Spiritual Business". 

Hawken has written numerous books and articles, spoken at many environmental events, and is connected with many liberal environmental non-profit organizations. But, has his influence been constructive? There are contra-indications.

For example, he has credited the Gates foundation with helping feed 3rd world countries, but in reality the Gates Foundation is working with Monsanto. That is hardly helpful to the starving people of the world who must use GMO seeds that require Round-Up and other pesticides. 

He is well connected with some prominent capitalists and their propagandists, and many are fond of him and his views. For example, Bill Clinton called Paul Hawken's last book, Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution one of the five most important books in the world today.

His views are rooted in his earlier embrace of mystical New Age thinking of the 1960s, and are loaded with inspiration rhetoric. His influence over environmental issues in the US has been powerful, but it has never challenged the system which drives environmental destruction. In fact, he has served to encourage the belief that we can have the system and thrive--you know, like "having your cake and eating it, too".
[The two articles trace] out some of the ties between Paul Hawken's greening of corporate power and the diverse circle of New Age environmental activists closely associated with the magical Findhorn community, which as observed at the start of this winding article was the topic of celebration in Paul's first book. However, from a critical perspective it is obvious that neither magical thinking, nor its equally irrational counterpart, green capitalism, are going to provide any useful solutions to the serious problems facing human civilization. By outlining the overlapping nature of some of the groups that Paul presently works with that inevitably help mystify the true extent of capitalism's inherent destructiveness, it is hoped that more concerned individuals will begin to explore the necessity of adopting truly radical solutions that address the root causes of our societies problems. The primary problem being capitalism, and with one prominent alternative being socialism.

Three articles on the current Egyptian crisis

by Ron Horn for this blog.

Disentangling the confusion regarding what is currently happening in Egypt is a bit challenging, but the following three articles may provide some understanding until future events can offer more definitive insights. 

During latest war, calls for ethnic cleansing of Gaza and population transfer of citizens

Click here to access article by Patrick O. Strickland from Bikya Masr
During Israel’s most recent military offensive against the Gaza Strip, brought to an end by a tenuous ceasefire on Wednesday night, several Israeli officials and public figures called for the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, and others for the forced population transfer of Arab citizens of Israel.