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 23, 2013

Richard Wolff on Capitalism’s Destructive Power

Click here if you wish to access the transcript of this 30:22m video segment of this week's Bill Moyers PBS TV program. 

This is one half of his program, the other being an interview with Sheila Bair who once served as chairman of the FDIC, one of the regulatory agencies of the government. She, like several people in government, express a sense of frustration and powerlessness with regard to regulating banks-- they are much too powerful in their eyes. 

I find this segment featuring an interview with Prof. Richard Wolff much more interesting. It is, indeed, rare when anyone is allowed to question capitalism in media controlled directly by the ruling class or indirectly through their government controlled media as is the case here. Moyers hints at this in his concluding statement: "This is all very provocative and very controversial." These are code words to indicate that the material discussed is "verboten" in capitalist polite society. You, see, capitalism functions very much like a religion: one can be excommunicated, that is, punished in a variety of ways if one is critical of the fundamental tenets of the religion--private ownership and control of the economy being a cornerstone of capitalism. I hope that Moyers is not fired by PBS as essentially happened before. 

However, Wolff is careful not to use words like "revolution" or "socialism" and seems to suggest that worker cooperatives can be set up on a large scale legally within the capitalist system. This, of course, is nonsense. Capitalists can, and do, tolerate occasional such enterprises, but not on any scale that threatens their rule.  But, he does argue that our current economic problems are "systemic" and for the principle of democratic control of enterprises, and that sort of argument is bordering on blasphemy.
My point is that workers ought to be-- all of us who work in an office, a factory or a store—ought to be in the position of participating in the decisions governing that enterprise. And I do that not only because I believe in democracy. And let me say that if you do believe in democracy, it's always been a mystery to me why that democracy that you believe in doesn't apply to the place where you work. After all, five out of seven days of every week, most of your adult life, you're at work.

Hey Iraqis: How’s that “Liberation” Stuff Workin’ Out For Ya?

Click here to access article by Kevin Carson from CounterPunch.

There have been many writers who, on this 10th anniversary, have made a critical examination of the US invasion of Iraq, however in my opinion this is among the best.

A Tale of Two Londons

Click here to access article by Nicholas Shaxson from Vanity Fair

There was a time when I posted articles every Saturday on the rich and powerful mostly as revealed through the eyes of Jamie Johnson who frequently wrote for Vanity Fair. But, alas, when the Occupy movement in the US took off in 2011 with their protests against the "One Percent", Johnson's column was dropped from this publication. 

Johnson, an heir to the Johnson & Johnson fortune, has made two excellent films (Born Rich and The One Percent) about the über-rich whom he knows intimately. The rich have always tried to keep a low profile for obvious reasons, and Jamie suffered a lot of criticism for exposing aspects of their lives that they don't want ordinary mortals to know about. 

In this piece we learn about where today's rich (and powerful) like to keep their money away from meddlesome ordinary people and their strange laws that prohibit capitalist methods of stealing and tax evasion: it is the City of London, a semi-private corporation that rules over a section in the center of greater London (see map). This oasis of capitalism has a rich history dating back some 800 years, yet few ordinary Americans know about it. This article will fill you in on many of the details.
...to understand why so much of the world’s money goes to London in the first place, you need to go back hundreds of years, to the emergence of what must be the most peculiar, the oldest, the least understood, and perhaps one of the most important institutions in the menagerie of global finance: the City of London Corporation. It is the local authority for “the Square Mile,” the pocket of prime financial real estate centered on the Bank of England and located about three miles to the east of Knightsbridge, along the Thames River. But the corporation is also much more, its identity embedded in—and slightly apart from—the British nation-state. The corporation has its own constitution, “rooted in the ancient rights and privileges enjoyed by citizens before the Norman Conquest, in 1066,” and its own lord mayor of London—not to be confused with the mayor of London, who runs the Greater London metropolis, with its eight million inhabitants.


The City Corporation and closely linked think tanks issue streams of publications explaining why finance should be less tethered by taxes and regulation. The corporation also has its own official lobbyist, with the delightfully medieval-sounding name of The Remembrancer (currently one Paul Double), lodged permanently in Britain’s Parliament. Local elections in the City are unlike any other in Britain: multi-national corporations vote alongside and vastly outnumber the tiny borough’s 7,400 human residents.

Over the centuries the City has thrived, thanks to a simple advantage: it has had money to lend when governments or monarchs needed it.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Apocalypse, Not? The Politics of Collapse and Rebirth – A Book Review

Click here to access book review by Brian Tokar from Toward Freedom

Prepare to have your mind stretched by this review of Catastrophism in which several activist-scholar authors examine the significance of the widespread apocalyptic myths currently seen throughout popular culture. In this examination the book's authors attempt to address the following questions:
Can the specter of apocalypse serve to invigorate popular movements, or is it merely an outlet for escapism and despair? What of the significant ranks of radical environmentalists who now believe that a restoration of biodiversity can only follow the collapse of civilization? Are such views part of the solution or part of the problem?
My own view is that the factual evidence presented by scientists overwhelmingly indicates a radical climate change future in which humans will not be able to survive. We can just continue to deny this evidence, or we can face facts such as the necessity of removing the system of capitalism that is driving us, humanity, to our species extinction. The Shakespearean choice well expressed in his famous soliloquy is now more urgent than ever before:
To be, or not to be--that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them.

Obama's Choice: Real Diplomacy With Iran -- or War

Click here to access article by Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett from The Huffington Post.

Although it appears to me that Huffington Post is deteriorating in its coverage of real issues, I think that this is a very well reasoned and fact-based analysis of the current US - Iranian stalemate.
...Obama's administration has made an ill-considered wager that it can "diplomatically" coerce Iran's abandonment of indigenous nuclear fuel cycle capabilities. This is dangerous. ... it will eventually be left with no fallback from which to resist pressure from Israel and its friends in Washington for military strikes at least against Iranian nuclear facilities. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Search and Destroy: The rape of Iraq

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

Unlike the numerous Empire propagandists, liberals, and apologists who refer to it as a "mistake", this author calls the invasion and occupation of Iraq for what it really was:
First thing we do, let's kill all mythographers (lawyerly or not): the rape of Iraq is the biggest, man-made humanitarian disaster of our times. It's essential to keep in mind this was a direct consequence of Washington smashing international law to pieces; after Iraq, any freak anywhere can unleash preemptive war, and quote Bush/Cheney 2003 as precedent. 
Actually, I prefer "war crime" rather than "disaster".

And, the author brings us briefly up-to-date on the project of balkanization of the Middle
East to insure Empire dominance. Where he falls short, like many other critical analysts, is his sourcing of these war crimes to hired government employees such as Bush, Cheney, Obama, etc., instead of those capitalist directors (see this, this, and this) such as David Rockefeller who, while hiding behind the curtain of obfuscation, pull the strings of the puppets.

Even the Police can’t stop the first signs of a European Spring

Click here to access article from Corporate Europe Observatory.
After months of preparation, the days of action organised by the coalition For a European Spring erupted into life last week. However, here in Brussels the police tried to stop it: first banning a peaceful demonstration and then arbitrarily arresting people after a peaceful occupation of the European Commission’s ‘Austerity HQ’. But despite their efforts, the seeds have now been sown, and the pan-European movement against undemocratic and destructive austerity policies is growing.

Stop the Monsanto Protection Act

Click here to access article by Twilight Greenaway from The Peaceworker.
This year, in addition to the usual underfunding of legislation that could make the food system more sustainable, the appropriations process has become especially charged, thanks to a one-paragraph addition called the “farmer assurance provision.” The provision — which the agriculture committee approved last week, but has yet to go to the full House — would allow farmers to plant and grow GMO crops before they’ve been deemed safe. Or, more accurately, if it passes, farmers will be able to plant these crops while legal battles ensue over their safety.

Gailbraith and Panitch: Is a New "New Deal' Possible? (Pt.2 of ? )

Click here to access the 22:09m video and transcript of the continuing interview with James K. Galbraith and Leo Panitch from Real News Network

This 2nd part of the interview between a noted liberal economist and a left Canadian political scientist continues a review and comparison of the crash of the 1930s with the present situation and provides their respective positions on what is needed for constructive change. Galbraith, as one would expect of a liberal, explains away the failures of government action mostly in terms of personnel to effectively reform the system. 

Panitch, on the other hand, argues that a more fundamental change is needed.
I think we need to draw the conclusion from this that we should be looking at this inherent crisis-ridden tendency of capitalism as an opportunity to educate people to the need to democratize our economies. And that has to begin with democratizing, turning into democratic public utilities those institutions that control the fundamental decisions about where investment is to go. .... But I think one even wins smaller reforms by putting that larger issue of the lack of democracy in the economy being at the core of the problem. If we put that on the agenda, I think even the smaller reforms are more easily won.
But then he backtracks by hoping for another Roosevelt who who would "use the phrases...to the end of developing some more radical perspective". Roosevelt mouthed radical sounding phrases because there existed in the 1930s a strong working class movement that was informed by radical ideas that inspired the successful Russian Revolution.  

Under authoritarian, bureaucratic control, the Soviet planners were able to make very rapid advances in industrializing their economy--and there existed no unemployment. In the 1930s the Russian example inspired labor activists and frightened US capitalists. Panitch engages in fanciful thinking by suggesting that a Roosevelt could now be elected in capitalist controlled elections (by referring to an "inauguration address) in order to mouth such rhetorical radical phrases.
And I would hope the lessons we would draw would--that were there to be the kind of mobilization from below, were there to be the kind of political leader who in his inauguration address would be self-confident enough to use the phrases that I quoted Roosevelt used--and I could have quoted many more--that I would hope that this time it would be to the end of developing some more radical perspective than thinking that we're going to get a capitalist state to adequately sit on a capitalist financial system.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Gailbraith and Panitch: Is a New "New Deal' Possible? (Part 1 of ?)

Click here if you wish to access the transcript of the following interview with James K. Galbraith and Leo Panitch.

This first part of the interesting interview between a noted economist and a left Canadian political scientist features a review and comparison of the crash of the 1930s with the present situation.

The Shame of America’s Gulag

Click here to access article by Chris Hedges from Truthdig.

The author shines a much needed light on US prison practices that really constitute torture. Their methods have advanced from the well-known bodily forms of torture used in foreign prisons to forms that leave the body intact, but attack the minds of their victims. Yes, torture and many other oppressive methods used against foreign populations by Empire agents are coming home to be used against dissidents. For example, we are now seeing surveillance drones circling overhead, and I think we can expect that killer drones will be used next against rebellious US citizens. After all, our Obama appointed Attorney General didn't rule this out. Agents of the Empire regard everyone as a potential enemy regardless of citizenship. Remember, they think and act globally in this age of globalization--we must also.

The author learned of these prison practices through his contacts with Bonnie Kerness of the American Friends Service Committee who had been communicating with Ojore Lutalo, a prisoner at a New Jersey state prison.
Lutalo’s letter was Kerness’ first indication that the U.S. prison system was creating something new—special detention facilities that under international law are a form of torture. He wrote to her: “How does one go about articulating desperation to another who is not desperate? How does one go about articulating the psychological stress of knowing that people are waiting for me to self-destruct?”

The techniques of sensory deprivation and prolonged isolation were pioneered by the Central Intelligence Agency to break prisoners during the Cold War.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

10 Years After the Invasion of Iraq: Hard to Remember, Harder to Forget

Click here if you wish to access introduction by Francesca Fiorentini of WarTimes to a very interesting 16:56m video from Real News included in the article. I can't find the video listed at the latter's website, so Fiorentini must have gotten an advance copy of the interview with human rights attorney, Michael Ratner.

Ratner discusses, among other Iraq war issues, how liberal media played a critical role in managing the consent of the American people to support the criminal invasion of Iraq.
It has been 10 years since the invasion and occupation of Iraq, a war that by now most know was a war for oil. Though difficult to look back on this decade, it is the ease at which we forget that condemns suffering veterans to the shadows, Iraqis to a country in shambles, and leaves the American people vulnerable to future seductions of war-making.

Privatising Europe: Using the crisis to entrench neoliberalism

Click here to access article by Joseph Zacune from Transnational Institute

This article provides a summary statement to a larger PDF report about the ongoing efforts by unelected ruling class agents to turn state assets into private property. Empire strategists are currently dismantling social democracy in Europe to promote greater control and wealth extraction by capitalist elites. I encourage you to read the PDF report, which is of moderate length, to gain more insights on this process, how it works, and the forms it takes in various countries of Europe. (You will need Adobe reader software.) 

The report is deficient in recommending only a reversal of neoliberal reforms to restore the social democratic political structure. Social democracy was only a temporary truce by European capitalists with workers following the devastating world wars for dominance between the Anglo-American empire and Germany's Reich. 

The fatal flaw for humanity is the capitalist addiction to more power and wealth derived from the exploitation of workers and nature. This addiction supplied by the system of capitalism is now threatening the very ecosystem that supports human life. It is no longer an issue only about social justice, it is now about human and other species survival. What is now imperative is a worldwide mobilization of people to fight for peoples' sovereignty and sustainable economies that can coexist in a healthy way with nature. 

Phoenix in the Climate Crosshairs

Click here to access article by William deBuys from TomDispatch. (Note: If you wish to skip the introduction by Tom Engelhardt, you will need to scroll down to the article.)

The author predicts that Phoenix, Arizona is a likely target for the next climate change disaster. 

Such disasters are likely to accelerate all over the world in the coming decades, that is, if we don't stop the engine of capitalism that is driving climate change.

Seeds of Conflict

Click here to access article by Andrew Curry from Discover.

The author provides a well-balanced, in-depth study of issues related to the issue of using genetically modified organisms in farming.
Genetically modified corn and soy dominate U.S. farms, but activist raids have kept Europe GMO-free. The fight over the next Green Revolution has just begun.
The problem with GMO technology is that it is driven by the short-term profit interests of corporations not by the broader public interest. See also the latest move by US corporate bio-tech firms and agribusinesses to accelerate the reckless use of GMOs in an article entitled "Secretive U.S. Amendment Would Weaken Biotech Oversight".

Monday, March 18, 2013

EU summit sparks run on Cyprus banks

Click here to access article by Stefan Steinberg and Chris Marsden from World Socialist Web Site

I have been trying to get a handle on this latest banking crisis in Europe which is having rather widespread reverberations across the financial world. I am no financial analyst, but in my opinion this piece provides the best single summary of what is going on. 

The banking collapse in Cyprus appears to be the next financial boil that has erupted on the body of Europe. It has financial experts, investors, and ordinary Europeans in a real panic this morning. What is new about this banking crisis is that it is the first time that ordinary savers are being asked to cover bank losses. Ordinary Cypriots woke up this morning to see that they couldn't withdraw money from their bank accounts, and that their life savings are at risk of being confiscated to payoff bank mismanagement and banking bets gone bad. They are pissed off big-time as seen here.

There is also a lot of money from major foreign money sources that has been stashed in Cypriot banks probably as a way of avoiding taxes and laundering money from illicit sources. This is especially true of Russian plutocrats. And, the Cypriot banking crisis has many capitalists across the world shaking in their boots at the possibility that this could spread like a contagious disease to many other countries.

The settlement that financial elites ensconced in the European Union and other financial institutions want is a class based one: they want to confiscate the savings of ordinary citizens and small businesses in Cyprus, regardless of deposit insurance coverage, to participate in the bailout, meanwhile leaving holders of Cypriot bank bonds go without any penalty. Then, it is expected that severe austerity measures and the sell-off of sovereign assets will follow for the country as has happened in Greece, Spain, Portugal, etc.

I also recommend this, this, this, and this regarding the crisis.

The Iraq War Anniversary Is Prompting a Flood of Reflection, Except from the Media

Click here to access article by Philip Bump from The Atlantic.

This piece from a liberal source provides a good summary of a review of the Iraq war as we approach its anniversary on Wednesday. Not surprisingly where it falls short is to continue to support the framing of this historic war crime as a "mistake" along with all the other wars that the Empire has engaged in since WWII. All of these adventures have resulted in many millions of lives lost, many more disabled, and the social chaos that has forced many to flee their countries and become refugees. Meanwhile it has cost US taxpayers many trillions of dollars that are presently causing severe cutbacks in social services while weapons industries have reaped huge profits.

A glaring omission is the role the 9/11/2001 project played in preparing the public for a much more aggressive foreign policy that has resulted in all the military adventures in the Middle East ranging from Afghanistan to Libya to the current support of terrorist groups in Syria. And, now we are threatened with the prospect of war with Iran.

Nevertheless, the article provides much substance for contemplation. For example, the link to the Gallup polling of citizen's views on this and the other wars. As a senior citizen, I was particularly struck by the data broken down by age categories: the younger you are, the more likely you view the wars more positively! It appears that US indoctrination agencies have performed their role well to induce war positive views in people who have been more subject to institutional propaganda or generally have less real experience living through the wars

You may also be interested in a British view of the Iraq war in the form of a book review: "The People v. Tony Blair: Politics, the Media and the Anti-War Movement" that you can access here.

Crisis? What crisis? Let's hit Syria

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

This is another fine piece written in the inimitable humorously sarcastic style of this Brazilian journalist in an attempt to describe the way European "democracy" works. I, for one, gave up trying to understand how the European governmental institutions function after studying such graphic portrayals as this last year:

Sunday, March 17, 2013

FBI Documents Reveal Secret Nationwide Occupy Monitoring

Click here to access article by The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund from the PeaceWorker.

Recent released FBI documents reveal what so many policing incidents related to protests have suggested: To protest government policies and actions in the US is now regarded as a criminal activity and protestors are treated accordingly.
FBI documents just obtained by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) pursuant to the PCJF’s Freedom of Information Act demands reveal that from its inception, the FBI treated the Occupy movement as a potential criminal and terrorist threat even though the agency acknowledges in documents that organizers explicitly called for peaceful protest and did “not condone the use of violence” at occupy protests. 

Portugal: Vast protests point to government crisis

Click here to access article by Dick Nichols from Green Left (Australia).

Another boil on the surface of our globe's humanity that we here in the US hear very little about has been erupting in Portugal.

All the signs are that Portugal is entering a critical phase. The call for the government to resign grows louder and louder as tensions rise within the governing coalition....

And, it is rather much the same story in Spain:

Unpleasantness in Belgium, Silence in Ireland

Click here to access article by David Malone from his blog Golem XIV.

Here we see an illustration of Irish banking scams that lead to their collapse, and repeated warnings by a risk manager of an Irish bank were ignored. Now that he is speaking out, Irish media won't report it. And, no one is being charged with any crimes. Sounds familiar?
What Sugarman’s story reveals above all is how no one in power, whether that be financial, political or media power, wants any questions asked or truths exposed.  Sugarman has been ignored by everyone in the Irish establishment: his bank, the banks regulator, all the Irish political parties, all the newspapers and I was there when he told his story to one of Ireland’s top TV journalists only to never hear from him again.

Those Reuters Sources

Click here to access article by Bernhard from Moon of Alabama

The author provides an excellent illustration of how mainstream news services violate basic standards of journalism by providing news items from government sources that cannot be verified. 

Could it be that both mainstream media corporations and the government are owned and controlled by the same One Percent ruling class? Could it be that big media serves primarily as propaganda organs of the ruling class to manage the consent and dissent of citizens? Thus when citizens informed by such media go to the polls on election day to vote on candidates selected by capitalist controlled political parties and funded by industrial and financial institutions, can we believe that we are participating in a meaningful democracy?

France Predict Cost of Nuclear Disaster to be Over Three Times their GDP

Click here to access article by Wolf Richter OilPrice
Catastrophic nuclear accidents, like Chernobyl in 1986 or Fukushima No. 1 in 2011, are very rare, we’re incessantly told, and their probability of occurring infinitesimal. But when they do occur, they get costly. So costly that the French government, when it came up with cost estimates, kept them secret.

But now the report was leaked to the French magazine...