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, March 2, 2013

FAIR TV: Sequester Spin, Iranian vs. U.S. Propaganda, Stop & Frisk Factcheck

Click here if you wish to access source of 4:54m video by Peter Hart from Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting.

I especially liked the first half where the program focused on mainstream media's coverage of cuts to social programs which contrasted sharply from their coverage of cuts to military spending.
This week we take a look at how the Washington Post challenges some sequester spin. And CBS pokes fun at Iranian claims about Argo–but are the Iranians right that Argo is fiction? Plus George Will has some thoughts about stop-and-frisk policing.

Resisting the EduFactory: Education for liberation

Click here to access article posted on Green Left (Australia).

The article describes the trend for education everywhere in the world where neoliberalism has triumphed: emphasis on technology at the expense of liberal arts education. Our masters in the One Percent don't want us to think too much about how we live; instead we must learn skills to increase the ability of corporations to exploit nature and to develop machinery that can replace  labor, all of which, increases their wealth and power over us while destroying the ecosystem.
In universities, the disciplines under attack are often also the very areas of study that critique neoliberalism and the capitalist system. This critique can cover not just universities but society as a whole. These areas of study give students skills to articulate an alternative — a new political vision for the world — and can put the attacks they face in a global context.
Resisting the EduFactory: Education for liberation

Bradley Manning prosecution to call full witness list despite guilty plea

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

The article provides the latest update on the trial of Bradley Manning who may have been instrumental in exposing US war crimes. It appears that the government's prosecution team is going all out to convict him of "aiding the enemy".
It will be the sixth time the Espionage Act has been unleashed against the source of an official leak of classified information under the Obama administration - more than the total number of times it has been deployed under all previous presidents since it was enacted in 1917.

Another Civil War?

Click here to access article from Research Institute for European and American Studies.
Although there is no quantifiable measure to determine the cut-off point of the incredible patience demonstrated by the Greek population so far, empirical data seem to suggest that we are approaching rapidly a violent crisis caused by desperation, rage, and collective agony at the obvious dead-end about the bankrupt country.

Lobby To Get Israel Exempted From Sequestration

Click here to access article by MJ Rosenberg from his blog. 

Along with spending in support of existing military campaigns around the world, I'm betting that nothing will be cut from the $3 billion plus benefits we shower on that outpost of "freedom" and "democracy" in the Middle East.
At a time when sequestration is about to take a big bite out of the Pentagon budget, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) will be sending thousands of its citizen lobbyists to Capitol Hill next week to make sure Israel is exempted from any spending cuts.

Time To Stop Monsanto And The US Supreme Court

Click here to access article by Raúl Ilargi Meijer from The Automatic Earth.

Although his arguments are not original, they are very well written and developed.
The US Supreme Court heard a case on February 19 that is interesting perhaps not even so much because of the topic at hand but more because of the level of absurdity involved. It feels like we warp-sped our way into a parallel universe where the laws of nature are entirely different from those on earth.
That is to say, the court should never have been in a position to hear the case, but it has created the legal space for itself, aided and abetted by Congress and the US patent system, to hear it anyway.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Austerity USA Begins March 1st

Click here to access article by Shamus Cooke from Worker's Action.
Politicians have been able to get away with this disgusting behavior because there are very few independent voices telling the truth about what’s happening. Many labor and progressive groups are consciously lying about the dynamic, placing blame squarely on the Republicans, thus allowing the Democrats not to be held accountable for their pandering to the corporate elite’s demand to use austerity to attack the social safety net. In reality both parties are jointly attacking working and poor people via austerity, on a city, state, and national level.
I have seen so much misinformation regarding the automatic cuts (sequestration) and the framing of this issue as Democrats versus Republicans. And what I've seen in mainstream media is mostly concern over support for military needs. For example, see this.

Both parties are doing a political dance to maintain the fiction of choice, but this choice is mostly about choosing the poison to be administered to the 99 Percent. Yes, each party is trying to blame the other mostly in order to maintain the fiction that there are real differences in the parties. There are differences, but they have only to do with strategy, not goals. 

One thing I believe is certain--expenditures for the military to impose the Empire's dominance on the rest of the world will not be cut. There are "black budgets" that Empire political operatives use to get around any problems posed by Congressional actions, and that is precisely why this sequestration is happening: it makes cuts to social services without really impairing military activities and assigns blame to an apparent unavoidable conflict of both political parties.

US judge orders release of two anarchists held for five months without charges

Click here to access article by David Brown from World Socialist Web Site

The political operatives of the One Percent have many ways of getting around the civil rights of citizens as spelled out in the Constitution. The operation of grand juries is often used for this purpose. Here we see people locked up without charge and placed in solitary confinement for much of their five months of incarceration for refusing to testify about the political beliefs and activities of their companions.

James Hansen and the Climate-Change Exit Strategy

Click here to access article by John Bellamy Foster from Monthly Review.

The author critiques the plan advocated by noted climatologist, James Hansen. In this critique he points out the contradictions of the plan because of the demands of private accumulation of capital which is the dynamic engine of capitalism. However, I differ with Foster on one point. The first mandatory step to save the human race is to overturn the system of capitalism. Our masters in the One Percent will never implement Hansen's first step.
Capitalism in the phase of monopoly-finance capital is more prone to economic stagnation, and at the same time more intensively destructive of the planetary environment. For humanity today, facing both climate change and a more generalized planetary ecological catastrophe, due to the crossing of critical planetary boundaries, there is no choice left consistent with long-term survival but to leave capitalism’s burning house. Hansen’s climate-change exit plan represents the crucial first step that must be taken if irreversible climate change is to be avoided. But it is not by any means the last step. A real solution demands a radical alteration in social priorities—the kind of revolutionary transformation that could occur at unimagined speed if the population were once to reach its own social-environmental tipping point.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

ACLU Blasts Supreme Court Rejection of Challenge to Warrantless Spying Without Proof of Surveillance

Click here to access 15:41m video (the segment ends at 27:50) from Democracy Now!

The Supreme Court of the US, stacked with far-right jurists, once again rules against the US Constitution's Bill of Rights Amendments prohibiting the government from spying on us. The interviewees provide much needed additional details and general observations on this decision.
In what’s being described as a Kafkaesque decision, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled a group of human rights organizations and journalists cannot challenge the government’s warrantless domestic surveillance program because they can’t prove they are targets of it. The American Civil Liberties Union and a coalition of human rights groups and journalists filed the lawsuit in 2008 hours after President Bush signed amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which gave the National Security Agency almost unchecked power to monitor international phone calls and emails of Americans. We’re joined by the ACLU’s Jameel Jaffer, who argued the case before the Supreme Court. 

The Truth About Tibet and Dalai Lama

Click here to access article by Eirik Granqvist, a Finnish scholar, for The 4th Media.

This unusual author, who appears to be a zoologist, provides an interesting historical report on the controversial Dalai Lama and Tibet. 

Whenever the Dalai Lama shows up anywhere in the US (for example, see this) he is regarded as something like a saint: schools teaching is suspended, the students are bused to hear him speak, and he is sure to be rewarded with widespread, adoring media coverage. Because of a dearth of information about Tibet and this Buddhist priest other than obvious propaganda, I know very little about this phenomenon except that he has been used by the CIA in operations against Communist China. Thus, I have little basis to evaluate this author's brief history except that it has a ring of authenticity to it. (Actually, some memories of mine are coming back of reports I read a long time ago which conform to his description of the history of the Buddhist sect's religious rule of Tibet.)
...the CIA created the myth of the “father of the nation” fighting for the “freedom” of Tibet. The Dalai Lama may have ceased to be politically important, but the myth created around him survives.

Grillo’s Five Star Movement has defended the system

Click here to access article by the ROAR Collective from their website Reflections on a Revolution.
In what amounts to a massive shock for the Italian and European elite, the anti-establishment Movimento Cinque Stelle led by populist comedian Beppe Grillo won nearly a quarter of all votes in this week’s Italian elections. In this article, the Bologna-based writers’ collective Wu Ming responds to the mainstream media’s interpretation of Grillo’s electoral success as a ‘radical repudiation of austerity’, and argues that Grillo is in fact instrumental in protecting the Italian status quo.

Are We Not Human?

Click here to access article by Rebecca Whiting from Al Akhbar.

An artist presents an image of humans haunted by barbarism in his paintings.
“People today are being transformed into animals. They are filled with fear and anxiety. I am searching for the reasons behind this metamorphosis.”
For Syrian artist Mohammed Abbas, these thoughts were triggered two years ago by the political and social situation around him. Seeing a flock of sheep, he was transfixed by how much the animals’ behavior, their unified actions and loss of individuality, reflected the mutations in people he saw.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The United States of Propaganda (What We’re Up Against)

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

This is a brief, but excellent introduction to the history of  control and manipulation of public opinion by "public relations" agents of the Empire. The management of dissent (and consent) is one of the most vital activities of the One Percent ruling class to maintain their dominance over the homeland so that they can continue their empire abroad. And, because it is so vital, enormous time and resources have been invested in it by the ruling One Percent. It is now so perfected and refined that most people are completely unaware of how much their views are shaped by ruling class media and educational institutions.
“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society,” Bernays wrote in Propaganda. “Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of.”
The colonization of our minds by propaganda agents of the One Percent is the primary reason that we have failed to overturn a system and class rule that should have been overturned a century ago. Thus, I have long argued (since the late 1960s) that the only way to overturn the system of capitalism which provides our ruling class with so much power and wealth would be the development of alternative independent media and education organized by the 99 Percent. If we continue to fail to do this, we can only look forward to a future of more concentration of wealth amid widespread poverty, endless wars, police state measures, and climate destabilization.

Human Rights Violations by U.S.-backed Honduran Special Forces Unit

Click here to access the introduction posted by Rights Action Team to a PDF document written by Annie Bird.

Bird has been documenting human rights abuses perpetrated by militaries and paramilitaries, backed by mining companies, agribusinesses and the US government in Central America for quite some time. Only the end results of these activities are reported in mainstream media as an issue of border control of illegal immigrants. The real background story that these people are fleeing from the chaos created by these agents in their home countries is rarely reported.
The report documents 34 of those violations which on-the-ground reports link directly to the 15th Battalion.  These violations include extrajudicial executions, force disappearance, torture, excessive use of force, abuse of authority and threats.  There are indications that many other human rights violations have been committed by the soldiers of the 15th Battalion, and have yet to be documented.
The U.S. military has been training soldiers from the 15th Battalion and providing the unit with various forms of material assistance since 2008.

Zionist influence on garish display in the US Senate

By Ron Horn for this blog.

Gen. Hagel was confirmed today by the Senate as Defense Secretary. But this came only after an unprecedented campaign by Zionist lobbies and neo-conservative operatives such as Bill Kristol who opposed the nomination on the grounds that Hagel was not sufficiently pro-Israel. This campaign involved huge, expensive anti-Hagel ads in such publications as the Wall Street Journal, anti-Hagel editorial attacks in mainstream publications, and a Senate filibuster. I cannot recall a more disgraceful display of pro-Israel influence in our government than this campaign. It was so outlandish that even a mainstream TV program, Saturday Night Live, did a parody of his Senate committee confirmation hearing:

Killer Heat Waves and Floods Linked to Climate Change

Click here to access article by Stephen Leahy from Inter Press Service
Scientists are surprised by how extreme these changes have been with a relatively small amount of warming. That has prompted some to speak out politically to urge emission reductions. On Monday, a group of Canadian and U.S. scientists pleaded with the Canadian government to stop the expansion of the Alberta tar sands oil projects and take real steps to reduce carbon emissions.
I don't like the one sentence paragraphs, which likely have been designed to fit well with tweets on hand-held electronic gadgets, as a writing style especially if used to explain a phenomenon. Having made that point, I recommend this report of new scientific findings from Europe to explain how extreme weather patterns happen.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Capitalism Becomes Questionable

Click here to access article by Richard D. Wolff from MR Zine.

The author provides a broad perspective with rich insights that encompasses political events from the 1930s until today, and comparing and contrasting anti-capitalist consciousness in Europe with the US with emphasis on the latter.
The old ideological mechanisms that for decades had persuaded most US citizens -- that economic hardship was the result of individual decisions and personal failures -- left growing numbers dissatisfied.  The old scapegoats (immigrants, the poor, minorities, foreign powers, etc.) raised to deflect systemic criticism have been working less well than in the past.  In their place, the notion is rising that today's economic problems are systemic, that capitalism itself is the problem.  Systemic criticism is returning into the public consciousness and into public debate in ways not seen in the US since the 1930s.

What Might Critical Thinking Standards Look Like and How Might We Link Them to Accountability

Click here to access article by Dr Danny Weil posted on The Most Revolutionary Act
...Dr Weil describes the alternative – namely critical thinking standards – to neo-liberal education standards. This post summarizes a discussion that is robust in the academic literature but totally absent from the corporate media. 
It sometimes appears to me that Weil does not understand that societies are systems made up of consonant inter-dependent subsystems. I've taken the time to peruse some of the earlier segments of the longer essay at its original posting on the Daily Censored, and I've found observations of his that indicate that he knows that the current conservative pedagogy is designed for a capitalist society, where one dominant class exploits others for its wealth and power. Here are some examples:
  • ...radical pedagogy and progressive post-modern educational theory, hereinafter referred to as post-formalism (Kincheloe, 1999), argues that tests and testing do far more than simply seek to measure academic performance or basic skills.  From a post-formalist [radical pedagogy] point of view, standards and assessment as put forth by both economic and cultural conservatives, give a false illusion—an ideological myth of meritocracy and objectivity that really operates deceitfully as technologies of power and control (Foucault, 1977) [my emphasis]
  • ...they [neoliberal teaching standards] serve as a straightjacket that binds both the heart and mind, for they impose teaching as an act of functional, instrumental control — of technological device—not of compassion, caring, and love.  Standards become a means of  covertly managing people and knowledge for private ends. [my emphasis] .
  • Once again, this specifically means that we as educators must come to understand that the debate regarding assessment and standards as it is defined in popular media is mythological, jingoistic, propagandistic, and disingenuous; that it does little to foster a healthy critical discourse regarding student achievement—that it is political.
  • Post-formalism [radical pedagogy] alleges that rationalistic universal standards are really socio-historical constructs, and at this juncture, peculiar constructs allied to the needs of a particular socio-economic system—post-modern capitalism.
So, it seems that he recognizes that teaching philosophies are social system dependent, yet he seems to suggest that educators can insert radical pedagogy into a capitalist system! What I think is far more realistic is that we must overthrow the capitalist system and then, and only then, will it be possible to establish a humanistic, radical pedagogy.

2012 movie consumer’s guide

Click here to access article by Louis Proyect from his blog The Unrepentant Marxist.
Unless otherwise noted, these are very brief reviews of many of the movies sent to me as a member of NY Film Critics Online or seen at a press screening, all in conjunction with our awards meeting held in December. ...I group the films by recommended, not recommended, and unwatchable—the last category defined by my inability to stomach more than 15 minutes or so. I make no pretensions to reviewing for a general public but offer my opinions for that narrow segment of the population with a taste for low-budget neorealist narrative films with nonprofessional casts and bold documentaries directed against one capitalist injustice or another.

Monday, February 25, 2013

And the Oscar goes to... the CIA

Click here to access article by Pepe Escobar from Asia Times Online.

Escobar unleashes his trenchant satire on Hollywood and their Oscar's show while revealing the use of Hollywood as an important tool of Empire propaganda.
Those 6,000-plus Academy voters simply could not resist a plot loosely based in facts in which a patriotic and resourceful Hollywood saves the CIA. And with a certified Hollywood ending as a bonus. Thus, predictably, this was Hollywood awarding an Oscar to itself, to hyper-nationalism, to American heroes and of course to good (Americans) over evil (Iranians).

Greece: "A promise from the army has been obtained to not intervene against a civil uprising"

Click here to access article by Leigh Phillips from NewStatesman (UK).

The article provides the details on some "explosive revelations from a former Greek diplomat". Blackwater denies their collusion with the Greek government, but why should we believe them?
Chrysanthopoulos says that the government has hired Blackwater, the American private military firm infamous for its activities in Iraq, which now goes by the name "Academi", along with five other international for-profit security outfits. Explaining why this has happened, he says bluntly: “The Greek government does not trust the police whose salaries have also been cut."

#23F: mass demonstrations against financial coup in Spain

Click here to access article by Jerome Roos from Reflections on a Revolution.
Europe’s 2013 protest season finally kicked off this week. On Saturday, three days after the umpteenth general strike paralyzed Greece, a “citizens’ wave” of indignation washed over Spain with hundreds of thousands of protesters swarming onto the streets of Madrid and over 80 cities in yet another major popular outcry against the ongoing financial coup d’étât. In Madrid, clashes broke out and at least 40 were arrested after police sought to disperse protesters who had once more encircled Parliament.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

What Dance Moms teaches us about cultural hegemony

Click here to access article by Matt Bruenig from his blog.
In simple terms, cultural hegemony refers to the way in which the powerful shape a society’s norms, values, and other institutions, and how that particular shaping becomes accepted as default, natural, perpetual, and inevitable. That is, people tend to regard the way we currently run things in society as the only way to run things in society. Instead of regarding our background systems as just one set of institutions among thousands of possibilities, people appear to think of them as default constants.
This is a powerful insight on how a ruling class shapes all subordinate institutions of a society, and through their power this class restricts how people think about these arrangements.

He uses a particular development, the "pyramid", from the reality TV show Dance Moms to illustrate his insights:

Unfortunately, the author appears also to be constrained by "cultural hegemony": he identifies the underlying reality as the "system of income distribution". This is another way of identifying capitalism without using the word which is almost taboo in American society--perhaps another indication of cultural hegemony?

Twelve Reasons Why Globalization is a Huge Problem

Click here to access article by Gail Tverberg from her blog Our Finite World.

I am posting this article to illustrate how one person who is widely respected and read in technical circles related to fossil fuels, particularly those who follow The Oil Drum website, is unable to see beyond the confines of capitalism. This limitation is very common in this historical period where the system of capitalism coupled with advanced technology has produced so much wealth, material comforts, better health, well-being, and longer life for some in the world. 

Unfortunately, these benefits have not been widely distributed. For those few, also known as the "One Percent", who have directly benefited from the ownership of the economy, capitalism has also brought the benefits of power over the rest of the world's populations and has resulted in many bad effects. I'm referring to never-ending wars both large and small, exploitation of working people, poverty, etc; and now we--those of us willing to look--see that we are now facing a future of exhaustion of energy and other resources, and the destruction of an ecosystem that can support human life. Still, many highly informed people such as Tverberg are unwilling to look at the system that has, and is, driving the human race to extinction.

Her view about globalization as the cause of all this is very much like one who claims that alcoholism is caused by excessive drinking of alcoholic beverages. Of course, this is true, but it explains only what is superficially obvious. Likewise, with her argument about globalization. To extend the metaphor, we might very well see globalization as out-of-control drinking and the last stage of the One Percents' addiction to their drug of choice-- capitalism; and its only a matter of time before this addiction destroys the planet's ecosystem on which we all depend.

Still, the article is useful by examining the many ill effects that this stage of the addiction is currently creating for the world's populations.

Disinformation About Hizbullah Reveals Gullible Reporters

Click here to access article by "Bernhard" from Moon of Alabama

I don't think that the articles about Hizbullah were published because of some "gullible reporters". I'm surprised that someone as sophisticated as "Bernhard" would make such an assertion. Reporters don't decide what gets published for the most part in mainstream media, it is their editors and the editors' bosses among the One Percent who decide. Such reporting should just be read as propaganda put out by media agents of the Empire--probably Zionists--to promote more efforts to destroy the Syrian regime.