The Independent Foreclosure Review was supposed to be a full and fair investigation of the big banks' foreclosure abuses, and it was trumpeted as the government's largest effort to compensate victimized homeowners. .... Millions of homeowners were eligible and hundreds of thousands submitted claims. But Monday morning, the very regulators who launched the program 18 months ago announced that it had all been a massive mistake and shut it down.
Instead, 10 banks have agreed to pay a total of $3.3 billion in cash to the 3.8 million borrowers who had been eligible for the review. That's an average of around $870 per borrower. But typical of a process that's been characterized by confusion, delays and secrecy, regulators said the details of how the money will be doled out were not yet available.
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 12, 2013
Given the recent dire warnings and the occurrence of climate-related disasters, there is some controversy about how to proceed in combating further disasters.
At the end of last year a very useful discussion was opened up by a number of climate scientists in different parts of the world calling for climate change action to be put onto a war footing.
John Connor, CEO of the Climate Institute, questioned the desirability of pursuing this approach. But how valid was John's critique? And is there a better response to the call from the climate scientists to go onto a war footing.
Friday, January 11, 2013
Allen W. Smith has devoted much of his adult life to battling economic illiteracy and promoting economic education. He taught economics to college students for 30 years before retiring as Professor of Economics at Eastern Illinois University in 1998 to become a full-time writer.This retired professor is a hero of mine for dedicating his academic life to educating Americans on the realities of economics, most valuable of which has been in relation to the so-called Social Security Trust Fund. I only discovered his writing about two years ago on Dissident Voice, but he has been trying to report on the Social Security scam for the past 12 years. My discovery has raised two questions in my mind: why did it take so long to hear about his revelations? And, why haven't others--there must have been many others who knew--reported on this hoax?
(Note: If you are new to this issue, you may not grasp everything he says in this article. Thus, I refer you to my commentary in a recent posting of mine for more information. I also refer you to an excellent essay on this subject by James Petras.)
In this piece Smith reports on his recent discovery of looting of Social Security funds by the Reagan administration to offset tax cuts for the rich. In reference to the title of this article, he argues that this and subsequent actions to pilfer Social Security funds were pre-planned--although I doubt that Reagan was astute enough to know what the reality was. I think that this third-rate actor was just mindlessly following orders from his One Percent handlers.
Why would Reagan create mass fear among the American people? He needed the surplus money that the Social Security tax increase would put within his reach. He needed the money to replace the revenue lost from his big tax cuts for the rich. The rich would get to keep their big tax cuts. But every worker in the country would have to pay higher Social Security payroll taxes.Once you understand this ruling class scam, it all becomes clear as to the reasons for the current all-out attacks on Social Security and Medicare programs. Because of retiring post-war baby boomers, Social Security has in recent years started running a negative cash flow, which means that receipts from payroll taxes are less that payouts to existing retirees. Because past Social Security funding was stolen by the One Percent ruling class to fund their wars and offset their tax reductions, there are no savings in the fund to draw on. Benefits must now be paid out of general tax revenues. You see the dilemma that our ruling class faces? They have been robbing our retirement piggy bank for years; and like any compulsive thief, they don't want to pay us back. So, you say, what else is new? Ruling classes have been robbing working people from the very beginning of class rule 10,000 years ago.
At his point, if you haven't already, I suggest you read this article before reading the balance of my comments which gives you more background on Allen Smith's heroic efforts on behalf of the 99 Percent. This is an excerpt from his website.
I began doing research on the federal budget in late 1999. That research led to the publication of my book, The Alleged Budget Surplus, Social Security, and Voodoo Economics, in 2000. It was while doing research for this book that I made an unexpected, and very troubling, discovery. I discovered the ongoing fraudulent government practice of spending the Social Security surplus revenue on other government programs. At first, I couldn’t believe my findings. The elected officials of the United States government surely would not spend the Social Security contributions of American workers on other government programs without either the knowledge or permission of those workers. But, the more I researched the subject, the clearer it became that the government had done, and was continuing to do, exactly that.
I was outraged, and I wanted to tell the whole world so they would be outraged too. But nobody wanted to listen. It just didn’t seem credible that our own government, both Democrats and Republicans, would engage in such fraud against the American people.
As part of my efforts to alert the public, I began sending material to candidate Al Gore in early 2000. I sent him advance copies of my book, research findings, and several letters. I urged Gore to put distance between himself and Clinton on Social Security and take a stand against the continued use of Social Security money for non-Social Security purposes. I used multiple channels of commun-ication in sending the material to Gore in order to be sure that at least some of it got to him.
I cannot be sure that I was the source of Gore’s idea to propose the Social Security lockbox, and to make the raiding of the trust fund a major campaign issue. However, the important point is that Gore did take a stand against the continued raiding of the trust fund, which resulted in George W. Bush taking a similar stand. Thus, during the 2000 campaign, both Gore and Bush entered into a new covenant with the American people on how Social Security revenue would be treated in the future. They both acknowledged that the trust fund had been raided in the past and pledged to end the raiding.
With both candidates making such a pledge, it appeared that no matter who won the 2000 election, the days of using Social Security money for non-Social Security purposes were over. But that was not the case. We will never know whether or not Al Gore would have honored his promise to protect Social Security if he had become president. But we do know that George W. Bush did not honor his promise. He continued to raid the Social Security trust fund just like his father, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton had been doing for years.
The article by Greenberg is introduced by Tom Engelhardt who provides more historical background on the US use of torture and supporting regimes that use torture. As a typical American liberal, he avoids any class analysis that would suggest that torture is just another means of violence to insure rule by the One Percents of the world. Instead, as usual, he treats the subject with a heavy dose of sarcasm and in a limited framework of hypocrisy. The US ruling class tolerates such critiques, and liberals play it safe by staying within acceptable limits of criticism of their policies and actions.
It seems to me that the use of sarcasm with regard to hypocrisy without attempting to understand the actions merely feeds one's ego with feelings of moral superiority. This avoids the whole issue of class warfare that is not only shaping current events, but the underlying dynamic that has shaped human history for the last 10,000 years, only about 2% of human history.
Greenberg's article is useful in that it exposes the latest Hollywood political production as pure indoctrination to instill in Americans a belief in the necessity and merits of torture.
Here...are the seven steps that bring back the Bush administration and should help Americans learn how to love torture....However useful this is, she also avoids any kind of class analysis. Instead, it's about the Bush administration For some reason, she never explains why this propaganda campaign is being waged under the current Obama administration who promised to shut down Guantanamo and pretended to be critical of torture, and why the current administration has done nothing to hold Bush officials and lawyers accountable for their law breaking.
Liberals also like to point to the evidence that torture is not effective in obtaining accurate information. That begs some questions. If it was effective, would it be okay? Are US authorities and their agents of torture and all the torturers down through history stupid? I think not. You see, another purpose of torture is to instill fear in the hearts of the broader population that oppressors are trying to control so that they will be discouraged from fighting back. Torture is another form of terrorism and terrorism is another form of intimidation. This violent form of intimidation, like all forms of intimidation, is often effective.
Tim Gatto is former Chairman of the Liberal Party of America, Tim is a retired Army Sergeant. He currently lives in South Carolina.Here is another American that is waking up to a number of realities hidden behind the smokescreen of American life as presented by ruling class ideological institutions--schools, media, entertainment, and churches. It is another rant, but that is what happens when people wake up and realize they have been lied to: they get mad.
Most people in America are waiting for something to happen. Most don’t know or don’t want to know what the real truth is. ...We only need to wake up a few more people. That is the next big thing.
Knowing that at least the last two incidents of mass shootings were committed by people on prescription drugs, it seems strange to me that mainstream media has not examined the relationship between the two. It really should not be surprising given that Big Pharma has been one of the most lucrative sectors of US corporate profits in the last several decades. To their credit, RT looks at this issue in the following video:
Thursday, January 10, 2013
This author's description of the latest Hollywood propaganda production, Zero Dark Thirty, fits the typical use of films to indoctrinate Americans in Empire practices, values, and policies. After viewing the film, she interviews other people filing out of the cinema to get their opinions about the film. She found some disturbing reactions. Such productions are seen by many naive patrons as presenting actual history.
...here you have the point of this highly ideological film: to make acceptable, or perhaps "complicated," to people who consider themselves progressive the acts of this empire, to celebrate revenge against "America's enemies," to get you to sympathize with the criminal monsters who are carrying out these acts and to cheer for the "protection of the homeland," no matter the price. "For god and country," says the Navy SEAL after killing Osama bin Laden.
This piece provides a good followup of Monday's posting by Andrew Gavin Marshall.
Referring to the Canadian-based Idle No More movement, McKibben writes:
...I sense that it's every bit as important as the Occupy movement that transfixed the world a year ago; it feels like it wells up from the same kind of long-postponed and deeply-felt passion that powered the Arab spring. And I know firsthand that many of its organizers are among the most committed and skilled activists I've ever come across. In fact, if Occupy's weakness was that it lacked roots (it had to take over public places, after all, which proved hard to hold on to), this new movement's great strength is that its roots go back farther than history. More than any other people on this continent, they know what exploitation and colonization are all about, and so it's natural that at a moment of great need they're leading the resistance to the most profound corporatization we've ever seen. I mean, we've just come off the hottest year ever in America, the year when we broke the Arctic ice cap; the ocean is 30 percent more acidic than it was when I was born.Prime Minister Harper's actions to facilitate the dirty extraction of fossil fuels and minerals on aboriginal lands have provoked this movement into fighting back. To find out more of the details of this struggle, I recommend this current piece entitled "Harper Launches Major First Nations Termination Plan As Negotiating Tables Legitimize Canada's Colonialism".
The brilliant political analyst and journalist again tells it like it is in the Middle East, specifically, in Syria by exposing the machinations of the Empire to replace Assad with agents of their latest favored puppet du jour, the Muslim Brotherhood.
Facts on the ground...spell that Assad is not going anywhere anytime soon.
Deepa Kumar’s important new book on Islamophobia explores the link between the politics of Empire and domestic attacks on Muslims in Western nations.This book review focuses largely on the author's revelations about the favorite method of capitalist elites to maintain control over working people--divide and conquer--which is now being applied with some success against Muslims, although inevitably there will sometimes be "blowbacks" (see this for insights on blowback).
I have often wondered about the frequent and successful use of this strategy. It has been such a successful weapon against the emancipation of working people throughout history. Is the divide and conquer strategy exploiting a fatal flaw in human nature that encourages ordinary people to uncritically follow powerful people against their own interests? Is there no hope of overcoming this flaw?
My musings on these questions have suggested some hunches that might explain this weakness. Perhaps it is the lengthy period of childhood needed to fully develop the marvelous human brain that creates a sense of dependency in many who are unable to transition fully into adulthood. Hence, they fail to develop their critical thinking faculties, and instead continue to defer to adult authority figures as they enter adulthood.
Then there is the class rule that has plagued humanity for the last 10,000 years of the approximately 175,000 years of human existence. Class rule by definition uses authoritarian methods--violence, threat of violence, indoctrinating subordinate members into believing that authority figures who serve the ruling class have superior knowledge (e.g. they are divinely inspired, they are "experts") to maintain privileged control over their subordinate populations. Thus, given their control over institutions of indoctrination--education, media, religion, entertainment--they have the ability to reinforce authoritarian mindsets.
The latter is effective in preventing the transition from childhood into adulthood by transferring childish notions about the infallibility of parental authority onto adult authorities in the ruling class. This is especially effective if people are taught in their childhood to always respect authority, that there are right answers to everything and the authorities can provide them with these answers, that they are weak (as they were in childhood) and must look to powerful persons for their material well-being, salvation, for understanding of political and economic issues that are too complicated for them, etc.
Wednesday, January 9, 2013
Techniques aimed at averting global warming could lead to an unpredictable international crisis, a report has warned.This report was issued by the World Economic Forum which is a global capitalist foundation that meets yearly to deal with international conflicts. The 80-page analysis of 50 risks for the next 10 years was issued ahead of the their annual meeting later this month at the Swiss ski resort in Davos, Switzerland. Davos, of course, is a favorite hangout of the world's rich capitalists. Many have 2nd or 3rd homes here. According to Wikipedia...
The foundation is funded by its 1,000 member companies, the typical company being a global enterprise with more than five billion dollars in turnover, although the latter can vary by industry and region. In addition, these enterprises rank among the top companies within their industry and/or country and play a leading role in shaping the future of their industry and/or region.Climate change related risks ranked lower on their list than the threats posed by the growing disparity between the world's rich (them) and the vast numbers of poor (most of us). You see, they are afraid of us.
The top two global risks identified for the WEF by more than 1,000 business leaders and experts were the growing wealth gap between rich and poor and a major financial economic crisis. But the next three on the list of 50 were environmental, including climate change, and water and food supply crises.They are aware of the risks posed by capitalists who are inclined to engage in high risk geo-engineering experiments in order to save their beloved system of capitalism.
...a well-funded individual with good intentions may take matters into their own hands....I regard their willingness to tinker with, and risk, the planet's ecosystem is far more dangerous than WEF seems to. Actually, they seem more worried about lawsuits than the destabilization of the ecosystem.
The authors fear that climate change could become a centre of litigation. "Although the Alaskan village of Kivalina – which faces being "wiped out" by the changing climate – was unsuccessful in its attempts to file a $400m lawsuit against oil and coal companies, future plaintiffs may be more successful.I really didn't want to read this 80-page report, so instead I decided to see how capitalist sources were reporting it. I only found two. The Business Insider suggested that the report was about "managing catastrophe"; whereas The People's Daily Online stated that "economists and business leaders are pessimistic about solving the fundamental problems faced by the the global economy."
I share their pessimism. That is precisely why we, the 99 Percent of the world, must act to take away the system of capitalism which supplies them with the hard core drugs of power and profits to which they are hopelessly addicted.
Under the de facto protection of the government agencies that are supposed to police them, the banks are allowed to violate securities and other laws knowing that they can treat any fines that may eventually be imposed as part of the cost of doing business.Of course, the justice system like all other sub-systems in capitalist society, a society by definition ruled by capitalists, necessarily reflect their interests. To hide this fact, their institutions of indoctrination, schools and media, work around the clock to instill in their subjects the belief that they live in some sort of "democracy", and that democracy equals elections. They neglect to mention that their elections consist of having one capitalist, or capitalist agent, run against another for any office. It logically follows, according to their fake theory, that the legal system functions to serve all of society fairly. The astounding thing is--many people believe this garbage!
Apparently now that torture is more out of sight and out of mind, Obama felt able to give the CIA's top job appropriately to US's top torturer and war criminal. Given that the CIA is US's secret agency used by the One Percent ruling class to promote the extension of their Empire by any means necessary, it seems to me that sociopathic Brennan was the perfect choice.
Tuesday, January 8, 2013
Read about a recent success of American-style regime change--Libya. Yes, it is the "Salvador Option" strategy that has created another state in chaos. But, isn't that the objective of this strategy?
Our Empire builders seem to use the strategy whenever a state poses problems and/or opportunities to enhance the power and profits of the Empire's One Percents. It worked in El Salvador and Nicaragua to contain and overturn leftist governments in the area regarded as "its backyard". It worked in Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, central Africa, other areas such as Columbia, and now threatening Syria. The essence of the strategy is to arm, train, and unleash terrorist (aka "paramilitary", "freedom fighters", etc.) groups within a state in order to destabilize the country. It's clear to me that Empire's One Percents are the primary sources of terrorism in the world today.
As a followup of yesterday's article by Andrew Gavin Marshall in which he advised us to look at the new resistance movement, Idle No More, started by Canadian aboriginals who are taking a stand against further theft of their lands and the destruction of natural habitat.
This beautiful short film provides a portrait of Canada’s Idle No More movement, which marks the continuation of 500 years of indigenous resistance.
If you wish to find out more about this movement, I recommend that you read this and check out the website of Idle No More.
Temperatures in some areas surpassed 45C (113F), while Monday's average high temperature across the country set a record at 40.3C. Further record-breaking highs are expected in the coming days, with the heat so intense that Australia's Bureau of Meteorology has been forced to add new colours to its temperature map – deep purple and incandescent pink.
Monday, January 7, 2013
Bond offers his observations about the pitfalls of putting a price on nature and its resources as has been advocated by some green environmentalists and attempted with poor results by markets in carbon trading schemes. The source of this problem is that our global economy is overwhelmingly directed by private interests who are addicted to short-term profits and power.
Corporate Culture and Global Empire: Food Crisis, Land Grabs, Poverty, Slums, Environmental Devastation and Resistance
In this piece the brilliant young Canadian writer gives us a condensed version of three chapters of a book project that he is currently working on.
One of the main themes of my blog has been to explicate the main feature of the New World Order which is now under construction. Our masters in the One Percent are building a new global society everywhere in the world in which the vast majority, the "99 Percent", will eventually be living in third world conditions due to the leveling effect of labor arbitrage. This is a fancy term the corporate world uses to describe a world of worker-slaves competing for their jobs by being willing to work for the lowest wages and worst working conditions. In this new world the One Percent will live on tiny, scattered, well-guarded islands of prosperity. This is their plan of globalization, and we are only beginning to witness the results.
The author adds considerable flesh to this skeleton of a theme so that we can see the monster in all its hideousness. In addition, for those of us choosing to fight rather than submit to these plans, he advises us that indigenous people, who have vast experience in fighting oppression by the One Percent, have much to teach us about resistance. (For more information regarding Canadian indigenous resistance, read this piece by Eric Walberg and/or this by Naomi Klein.)
"This will land in Africa, Afghanistan," Pasternak told The Times in September, "a Wal-Mart parking lot -- wherever."Really? I don't think that it will be landing in Wal-Mart parking lots. No, I think that it more likely will be landing in remote areas of Africa in order to set up mini-military bases complete with all the amenities of American lifestyle in order to provide the Pentagon's military with all the comforts of home. See this.
Meanwhile, in my area of Washington state I've seen bake-sales organized to fund school facilities.
Sunday, January 6, 2013
The internet has already revolutionised the working environment, the music industry, the media and shopping habits. It now appears likely that it is on the cusp of transforming the world of higher education with radical consequences for the future of higher education in both the developing and the first world.Online education is the "next big thing" for investors looking to make a "killing" in the market. I don't think that there is any question that there are some advantages of adding programmed online courses to supplement educational goals. The huge threat that it poses is the way it will be integrated into education by those primarily motivated by profits. But, being a capitalist society with the ruling class more powerful than ever, it's primary focus will inevitably be on generating profits for the One Percent. Thus, if we are unable to mount an effective, organized opposition to this privatizing juggernaut, education about life in general will further degenerate into pure indoctrination.
After this basic concern, I'm also concerned with the suitable application of online education in various subjects. I can certainly see its advantages in teaching any sort of technical material. Where I think it is inappropriate, actually dangerous, is when it is used in subjects described as humanities. That is, subjects devoted to many aspects of history, literature, philosophy, social sciences, psychology, etc; any subjects that require critical thinking skills and their application in relation to values, perspectives, and morality.
Everywhere I look outside my home I see people busy on their high tech devices, while driving, while walking, while shopping, while in groups of friends, while in restaurants, while waiting in doctor offices and hospitals, while sitting in toilets -- everywhere. While connected electronically, they are inattentive to and disconnected in physical reality.I wholeheartedly agree with the author's views of the new electronic, mind-distracting, addictive gadgets. I have sometimes wondered if I was getting to be old-fashioned by rejecting the latest new gadgets; but when I keep looking at the evidence of their use, I can't see any sense in cluttering up my life with them. I am certainly not against new technological innovations, I just want them to be integrated into our lives so that we truly benefit from them.
I live in a beautiful area where there are lots of parks, hiking trails, lakes, etc. I have witnessed a number of people hiking these trails yakking incessantly on their cell phones or absorbed in some other feature of these gadgets. Why would I want that in my life? Recently, while driving to town I was met with an approaching pickup that was heading into my lane. At the last minute I had to turn sharply to avoid a head-on collision, and nearly lost control of my car. Very likely the driver was texting or talking on his cell phone.
I continue to be amazed at the power of modern advertising. We have been inundated with non-stop ads on the boobtube portraying people, sometimes well-know celebrities, who appear to be in a state of ecstasy while playing with their gadgets. The end result is what we see all around us today and as described in the article. What I worry about even more about TV advertising is that they sell us images of ourselves, their interpretations of world events, values, etc.
It's very understandable for people to be concerned about the proliferation of guns in private hands, in the hands of people who do not normally use them, are amateurs at handling them, who may be unstable, etc. But, it seems to me what is always missing from their attacks on gun ownership is any mention of government's use of weapons on people.