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, January 5, 2013

Latvia’s Economic Disaster as a Neoliberal Success Story: A Model for Europe and the US?

Click here to access article by Jeffrey Sommers and Michael Hudson from NYTimes eXaminer.

Let us hope and pray that Latvia is not a model for the US to follow!
Today’s most highly celebrated anti-labor success story is Latvia. Latvia is portrayed as the country where labor did not fight back, but simply emigrated politely and quietly. No general strikes, nor destruction of private property or violence, Latvia is presented as a country where labor had the good sense to not make a fuss when faced with austerity. Latvians gave up protest and simply began voting with their backsides (emigration) as the economy shrank, wage levels were scaled down, and where tax burdens remained decidedly on the backs of labor, even though recent token efforts have been made to increase taxes on real estate. The World Bank applauds Latvia and its Baltic neighbors by placing them high on its list of “business friendly” economies....

War Addiction Default

Click here to access article by Dave Lindorff from CounterPunch.

I am posting this article primarily because it is written by a popular American leftist who, I hope unknowingly, further promotes misunderstanding about the huge deception of Social Security and Medicare programs. He is describing these programs as advertised, not the way they actually function. Secondarily, his article otherwise does offer a good perspective on our national "unbalanced" budget in the sense that it is heavily burdened by military spending, not for self-defense, but used to threaten and invade, or send drones over, other countries and kill their people.

The following sentence perpetrates the huge deception:
Social Security is not part of the tax take or the federal budget, as it is all paid from the Social Security Trust Fund, which in turn has been financed by the dedicated payroll tax paid by working people and employers.
To counter this misinformation, I advise you to read this posting of Michael Hudson's article and my commentary which contains additional links to other accurate sources.

Arundhati Roy speaks out against Indian rape culture

Click here to access source of video from Channel 4 (England) via YouTube.

This English TV station interviews Arundhati Roy regarding her views of the recent rape and killing of Indian women that has been in the news recently. She, unlike the way it has been reported in mainstream media, sees it as an unexceptional example of class war that frequently is committed by the military and police forces in India.

Jamie Johnson: Fable of Fortune

Click here if you wish to access directly the source of the 12:40m video below produced by The Moth via YouTube.

In October of 2010 I started a practice on Saturdays to run stories about our fellow citizens of the One Percent (actually .01 of the 1%, or one out of every 10,000 of us) hoping that by doing this that we wouldn't lose touch with their world and their concerns--you know, to promote understanding. Unfortunately, for some reason they tend to hide their lives from the rest of us behind walls of secrecy, literal walls of guarded gated communities, private clubs, esoteric publications, by traveling with private jets, etc.

But then I discovered Jamie Johnson who wrote a weekly column in Vanity Fair on lifestyles of the rich, and in October of 2010 I began running many of his articles on Saturdays. But then I discovered in--I think it was--August of 2011 that they stopped running his articles. Oh oh, I thought, this might be some sort of backlash for exposing their secrets during this year when protestors were targeting the One Percent for criticism in relation to the austerity measures and bankster bailouts. Johnson, of course, is well known for one of his famous documentaries entitled The One Percent. (If you haven't seen it, I urge you to do so. Incidentally, I hope to start up this feature about life among the One Percent again on Saturdays, with this being the first.) 

This morning I was wishing that Jamie was doing his column on the rich when I decided to google his name. I came up this recent video which I found very interesting, and I hope you do to:
When the heir to the Johnson & Johnson fortune makes a highly acclaimed documentary about being rich, his father's unexpected feedback is what sticks with him.
Jamie Johnson is a documentary filmmaker and the great-grandson of the founder of the Johnson and Johnson pharmaceutical company. His HBO productions, Born Rich and The One Percent, examine wealth and social class in our culture.

Friday, January 4, 2013

America’s Deceptive 2012 Fiscal Cliff, Part IV [revised commentary at 8:00 pm PST]

Click here to access article by Michael Hudson posted on Naked Capitalism. (Note: this website has separated the longer piece posted on Hudson's website into four convenient postings, with this being the final one. I've noticed that the last seven paragraphs of the original were revised for this post.)

As I understand his view, it is a much more sophisticated version of the 19th century political economist Henry George's advocacy of a single land tax. Hudson has expanded this to all forms of income that do not derive from productive activity such as interest on loans, capital gains, value extracted from nature, etc. Hence, all income which he refers to as "rentier" income as opposed to earned income. Logically this should include currency issued by central banks on which interest is charged to sovereign governments, although I don't think he stated that directly in this piece. Thus, he is suggesting that most current debts that provide such income should be forgiven and that this type of income should be taxed at a higher rate to restore consumer demand and stimulate productive enterprises. This, of course, indulges in pure fantasy.

Also, it seems to me that it is quite confusing and futile to try to separate out productive from non-productive income. All income from productive capitalist enterprises involves some rentier type of wealth extraction. Where wealth comes from certainly doesn't matter to major capitalists including industrial capitalists who are currently sitting on piles of cash. Neoliberal policies and technology has enabled the latter simply to move their enterprises to other countries that can provide them with cheap labor and weak environmental laws. Thus, in Western capitalist countries the One Percent ruling classes have dramatically shifted to the remaining opportunity to extract wealth from an excess labor force--financial capitalism. Thus, the One Percent's pursuit of rentier type of income within Western capitalist countries is an effect, not a cause, of perfectly normal capitalist activity.

Although it would certainly be beneficial to relieve most people and governments of debt, it simply ain't gonna happen under our present system. You see, capitalism wasn't established to serve most people! For things to change, we, the people of the 99 Percent, must organize to deconstruct this exploitative system and replace it with one that serves all the people.  

Late Stage Capitalism and the Shame Haunted Life

Click here to access article by Phil Rockstroh from Dissident Voice

The author explores the shame that infiltrates the souls of many Americans in a class struture social system in which people are judged by outward signs of wealth or the present state of the economy that that has little use for them. He recalls from his childhood the many ways that he as a member of a poor family experienced this shame. He looks at the many ways people, especially men, cope with this shame.
Anger dwells as deep as the pain leveled by being shamed and humiliated. From road rage, to internet trolling, to the compulsion to humiliate women in certain forms of porn, to right-wing radio ranters, to violent video games, to gun-sown episodes of mass murder — the shame-besieged psyche of the American male, in vain, attempts to mitigate a psychologically devastating sense of powerlessness.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The fiscal cliff deal

Click here to access article by Barry Grey from World Socialist Web Site.

The author provides a much needed early summary of the temporary deal worked out between the two capitalist parties which mostly consists of tax give-aways to the One Percent. Meanwhile, they are revving up their media engines to prepare their assault on our programs in the coming months. Yes, folks, the class war continues. What? Did you expect something different?
Part of the process is the creation by the media of a synthetic “public opinion” that has nothing to do with the real concerns and views of the population. Already on Wednesday, the morning news programs were speaking of a groundswell of popular anger over the failure of Congress to enact “real” deficit-reduction measures and serious cuts in social programs—this in the face of repeated polls that show a large majority of the population opposed to such cuts.
Also, Kevin Zeese provides more details here.

Debate: Occupy versus the Bank of England

This was posted by Inka Stafrace on CounterFire (UK).

The "debate" format for the 10:55m video below consists of a bank representative from the Bank of England responding officially to demands by the Occupy movement in England followed by responses from knowledgeable Occupy activists. 

Although this is focused on British banking, their banking practices are essentially the same as in the US and other capitalist countries. The so-called "Bank of England" established by private bankers in 1694 created the model of banking that exists throughout most of the world. This topic is most useful to people who have at least some understanding of how money is created by banks including central banks. Others may have their curiosity piqued sufficiently to delve into the subject more.  

The best online source I've found is this one, organized as a series of lessons designed by someone by the pseudonym of "Smithy". Smithy has degrees in mathematics and economics, and she works as a consultant calculating investment risk for financial institutions. For this reason, she can't reveal her real name. One needs to be aware that accurate knowledge about the money scam is difficult to obtain simply because it is so profitable for those powerful private parties known as bankers who control it. They have ways of punishing people who reveal too many of their secrets.
Ben Dyson from Positive Money and Richard Paton from Occupy respond to five measures suggested by Andy Haldane of The Bank Of England, after he claimed that the Occupy movement was right.

Bradley Manning, the small man who wrote big

Click here to access article by Ellen Graubart from CounterFire (UK).

Bradley Manning's case as been almost totally ignored by mainstream media; what little they have recently reported planted doubts about his mental stability. This author provides the best perspective that I have seen on the issues involved, his courageous stand, and more details on his background. I believe he is still in a pre-trial hearing phase with a court-martial scheduled for March.
Bradley Manning's crime is of revealing the truth about how the US carries on its business around the world, committing crimes against humanity on a gross scale. For a crime such as his there must be no mercy.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

America’s Deceptive 2012 Fiscal Cliff, Part III

Click here to access article by Michael Hudson posted on Naked Capitalism. (Note: this website has separated the longer piece posted on Hudson's website into what looks like will be five convenient postings. The subtitle of today's Naked Capitalism's posting is actually only the section heading where it continues Hudson's much longer essay. Regardless of today's news about the temporary budget deal, the deal is only a postponement of the larger issues dealt with in Hudson's article.) (Comment modified slightly on 1-11-2013)

Part III continues to explore all the implications of the way the so-called "entitlement" programs of Social Security and Medicare are organized. I don't think I was unusual for having assumed until a few years ago that these funds were set up like conventional trust funds which are separate accounts used to store wealth which are increased by investments and decreased by payouts according to trust fund rules all for the benefit of defined beneficiaries. That is the way that media has always presented it, the way our congressional representatives always framed it. It seems like everyone was duped by this perception except, of course, our master-deceivers in the One Percent.

There are many who still do not understand it like blogger, Jim Kavanagh, who insists that “Social Security and Medicare have absolutely nothing to do with the short-term U.S. fiscal problem.” He sees the current attacks on these programs as a giant "con", but that is only because he sees them as conventional trust funds. It's a con alright, but the deception has to do with the way the programs were set up and managed ever since.

It seems like I should have gotten a clue of this when Al Gore kept talking about putting Social Security in a "lock box" during the 2000 political campaign. I had little idea what he was talking about, and he didn't explain it. Also, another clue is that the payments to these programs are worker payroll taxes, not premiums or contributions as you would find in a conventional retirement trust fund. But it was not until I started reading Allen W. Smith's pieces (the first one was this and the last and best one is this) in Dissident Voice in the past few years that I finally understood how these programs worked. It was another giant hoax perpetrated on working people by our masters in the One Percent. 

Social Security and Medicare have been very beneficial to workers in that it has provided for retirement income and minimum medical care, but it has been much more beneficial for the One Percent ruling class. Until now. Because the latter didn't want to have their taxes used to pay social benefits to workers, the One Percent made working people save for their own retirement by prepaying taxes on their payroll earnings into a pretended "trust" fund. Until now all this money should have built up huge "trust funds", but instead of earning any interest, they were used like all other tax money to balance the budget; hence around half was to purchase weapons and to invade other countries. 

I'm not sure Hudson thoroughly understands this arrangement when he refers to funding of the programs as "pre-saving" or "pre-funding". In any case Hudson contrasts this government spending with all the other types of expenditures where pre-saving for future costs is never required for any segment of the population. 
There is no inherent need to single out any particular area of public spending as causing a budget deficit if it is not pre-funded. It is a travesty of progressive tax policy to only oblige workers whose wages are less than (at present) $105,000 to pay this FICA wage withholding, exempting higher earnings, capital gains, rental income and profits. The raison d’être for taxing the 99% for Social Security and Medicare is simply to avoid taxing wealth, by falling on low wage income at a much higher rate than that of the wealthy.
Because we are now entering a period where payouts are less than income from Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes, the One Percent no longer benefits from these programs. Hence, they want to severely cut them back or do away with them.

Unfortunately, Hudson, like many academics should have understood this setup all along, but did nothing to expose this grand deception. Notice that in this article, he makes no reference to a deception regarding Social Security or Medicare, but only in reference to the "fiscal cliff". However, one must understand that agents of the One Percent are located at strategic places everywhere in society, and institutions of higher learning are one of the most important. People who are appointed to governing boards of our universities are usually drawn from the highest levels of the One Percent. And, academics who are too critical of ruling class policies or expose their deceptions find their careers very much threatened. The same applies to journalists who work in mainstream media corporations.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Pope Benedict Slams Capitalism, Economic Inequality--Calls for a new economic model, ethical regulations for markets

Click here to access article by Craig Brown from Common Dreams.

Initially I thought that this must be a joke, but apparently not! Imagine that! The Pope is a commie!

2013 [Infamous] Predictions

Click here to access article by the Swan's collective: 
The irreverent subset of the Swans collective that brings these Infamous Predictions™ to you features the usual clowns that perform at your local circus on a regular basis, whose cast this year is Michael Barker, Jan Baughman, Peter Byrne, Fabio De Propris, Manuel García, Jr., Jonah Raskin, Glenn Reed, Harvey Whitney, Jr., and, of course, your fearless Gallic editor [Gilles d'Aymery], who welcomes readers' flames, whines, and outrage while denying all responsibility for the reckless endeavor. Don't sue him. He is penniless. 
God (or Allah, etc) knows, we need humor! And, this group has supplied it abundantly in this piece in which they make outrageously funny predictions for the new year so that we can courageously face what lies ahead. (Incidentally, they are barely hanging on by a financial thread--they need help.)

Behind the humor lies a much more serious purpose. This writer's collective in actuality is a motley collection of guerrilla fighters holed up in the Santa Cruz mountains of California and preparing to launch a revolutionary armed struggle to liberate the US. (just kidding)

The Planetary Emergency

Click here to access article by John Bellamy Foster and Brett Clark from Monthly Review

The two scholars provide many comprehensive arguments to support their thesis that a capitalist organized economy produces huge amounts of waste, and much of this is in the form of planet destroying pollution which now poses a threat to humanity. They make many references to other scholars throughout the past two hundred years who foresaw many of the dysfunctional aspects of capitalism. Alternatively, they make this claim:
There is no doubt that the social-technological potential already exists to address our most chronic environmental problems and to improve human existence—if we were to use present human capacities and natural resources in a rational and planned way. Yet, this existing potential is simply discarded: as all such rational solutions necessarily cross swords with the “antisocial [and anti-ecological] results of private ownership of the means of production.”
While comprehensive and scholarly, it seems to me that in our present state of crisis, much of this is like beating a dead horse. Still, many people need convincing. The internet is filled with people who, under the influence of "there is no alternative" view, continue to argue that the capitalist system just needs to be reformed or fixed. What is really needed at this late date is a number of people dedicated to the replacement of this destructive system by a life-affirming, equitable, rational, and sustainable system. 

Monday, December 31, 2012

America’s Deceptive 2012 Fiscal Cliff, Part II – The Financial War Against the Economy at Large

Click here to access article by Michael Hudson from Naked Capitalism

Hudson gives us more brilliant insights about the class war that is accelerating against working people everywhere under the reign of neo-liberal policies. Capitalist overlords fueled by neo-liberal steroids are forcing people into lifelong debt-slavery and placing entire nations under their control. There are times when I am forced to admire the remarkable success that this tiny ruling class has had in their almost complete domination over the vast majority of humanity while keeping most of the latter in complete ignorance about how this has happened. 

(Note: My posting of Part 1 is here.)

Methane contributes to accelerated warming in the Arctic

Click here to access article posted by Sam Carana from Arctic News

The graphic images show that methane rising from the seabeds is accelerating global temperature extremes which in turn generate extreme weather phenomena. After viewing this information, I still don't understand why we occasionally continue to get extremely cold temperatures in some areas.

To better understand the images in this article and the implications they have for the future, I recommend that you view the following 19:35m video from Envisionation in which scientists try to explain to us what is happening. I found the explanations by Dr. James Hansen and David Wasdell the most helpful. It was irritating to watch Dr Peter Wadhams of Cambridge University talk about catastrophes with a smile pasted on his face.

Under present circumstances of class rule, the only people who can change our dangerous course into runaway climate change are our masters in the One Percent. Unfortunately, they are hopelessly drugged with visions of short-term profits that can be obtained from the new areas in the arctic that are opening up for exploitation. Like any drug addicted person, this addiction causes them to deny that their habit is self-destructive, and thus to insist that we can adapt to these climate changes. Hence, it seems completely obvious to me that our only salvation lies in emancipating ourselves from the One Percent and destroying their toxic system of capitalism.

2012: Top Ten Signs of a Warming World

Click here to access article by Elizabeth Kolbert from The New Yorker
Another year, another set of climate records.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Chile: US-Trained Army Officers Tortured, Murdered Leftist Singer Victor Jara During ’73 CIA Coup

Click here to access article by Brett Wilkins from Moral Low Ground

One of history's most beautiful persons among social justice and peace activists, singer-songwriter Victor Jara was cruelly murdered essentially by Empire's operatives back in 1973. Only now are Chilean authorities going after his killers. Unfortunately as usual, these are the small fries; the real killers among US policy directors and war criminals such as Kissinger, officers of ITT corporation, and CIA directors have still escaped justice.

Here we listen to the words of his last song (in English) about "the face of fascism":

Here we listen to one of his political love songs which made him so popular:

The Cost of Occupying Planet Earth

Click here to access article by David Vine from The PeaceWorker.

The author ventured into the world of Pentagon accounting to try to determine the real costs incurred by American taxpayers to impose the Empire's dominance over the rest of the world. In contrast to domestic social spending, such costs are rarely debated in the halls of Congress.
Ever the fool and armed only with the power of searchable PDFs, I nonetheless plunged into the bizarro world of Pentagon accounting, where ledgers are sometimes still handwritten and $1 billion can be a rounding error. I reviewed thousands of pages of budget documents, government and independent reports, and hundreds of line items for everything from shopping malls to military intelligence to postal subsidies.

Young Capitalists in Love

Click here to access article by Mickey Z. from InfoShop News.

The author explains the essentials of attracting a mate in capitalist societies. Hint: "all you need is credit', or more specifically, a good credit score.