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, November 30, 2013

Surviving Oligarchy

Click here if you wish to access the source of this posting on Michael Hudson's website.

This 8:37m clip is from a 2011 film entitled "Surviving Progress" and features a segment by Hudson in the YouTube video below. 

Like all liberal critics of the economic crisis, Hudson stays on the edges of safe criticism by attacking debts, but never the current system in which debts are one of the major consequences. Although I haven't seen the film, I would be very surprised if it ever explicitly mentioned the system of capitalism; and like the film's title merely refers to "progress". However, such material can lead one to question the capitalist system which produces such huge amounts of debts and so many debtors, and on the other side a small number of creditors among the capitalist class.

Freedom Or Subjugation? It’s (Not) Your Choice

Click here to access article by Don Quijones from Raging Bull-Shit
With each passing day it becomes increasingly clear what this new economic system would look like. As the welfare state continues to disintegrate here in Europe, leaving the vast majority of us to grind out a precarious living in a dog-eat-dog world of hyper consumerism, the mega banks and super corporations are fast erecting the castles, moats and citadels of a neo-feudal global economic order.
While the article provides a good description of the ominous growth of transnational governing agencies in this age of neoliberalism, his focus is limited by a middle-class perspective. This is evident when he justifies his support for political independence for Scotland and Catalonia with this quote attributed to John Raston Saul:
“The question that was never really raised through all of this was that if you’re going to weaken the nation state in the name of economics and you’re happy to get rid of nasty nationalism what about the really important thing — which is that we spent a couple of hundred years creating citizens who are the source of legitimacy for the lives of their nation states."
His lack of a class analysis, and specifically his unconscious middle-class perspective, prohibits him from any understanding of class rule, and hence his understanding of the significance of the neoliberal agenda of a capitalist class that has outgrown the confines of nation-states. The political independence of Scotland and Catalonia will not magically return some limited influence to middle class citizens of these regions as long as their economies are owned and controlled by trans-national elites. And, if the ownership of their regional economies could be magically transferred back to some local citizens, this would do little for working people who are the vast majority.

Inside the high-tech fortresses of the super-rich

Click here to access this article by Charlie Jane Anders from io9. (satire)

This is another contribution to my 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 don'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. We should not let that deter us. 

It is important that we become better acquainted so that we can serve them better and make it easier for them to carry out the daily burden of making important decisions, decisions which affect whether we go off to war in foreign lands to kill their enemies, if we have jobs, if we live in a home or under a bridge, if we can afford their health care services, education, etc.

Friday, November 29, 2013

What’s Ahead? Lower Oil Prices, Despite Higher Extraction Costs

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

This widely respected analyst of energy and concerns related to peak oil once again provides more analysis that inevitably leads her to a conclusion that is quite dramatic for its understatement:
...governments seem to be getting close to being “out of ammunition,” in trying to fight what is really diminishing returns of one of the major drivers of our economy. I don’t know exactly how things might play out, but experience with prior civilizations suggests that “collapse” might be a reasonable description of the outcome.
( In my opinion an even better exposition of her argument is in an article she wrote last month entitled "Two Views of our Current Economic and Energy Crisis".)

Her focus has been entirely on the economics of energy extraction while mostly avoiding issues related to fossils fuels and global warming. She has always been dismissive regarding nuclear energy because of its high costs and problems with spent fuel. (For arguments regarding the feasibility of nuclear energy I recommend this from a British author.)

Because I've never read any mention of "capitalism" in her numerous articles, I must assume that she is another subscriber to the capitalist myth which states that "there is no alternative". Her circumscribed thinking is another illustration of the power of indoctrination to limit an otherwise intelligent person's imagination.

Libya's Hell, Enabled by Canadian Humanitarians

Click here to access article by Murray Dobbin from The Tyee (Canada). 
But we hear nothing from the international choir, led here by Lloyd Axworthy [a prominent Canadian politician, statesman and academic], which sang the "responsibility to protect" (R2P) hymn at the top of their lungs two years ago. The R2P, established by the UN in 2005, has lofty principles but in practice has been used as an excuse for any brutal assault on sovereign nations that serves the capitalist interests of the first world.
This left Canadian website is calling attention to the increasing chaos in Libya where many well-armed militias are fighting for control of the country. The "responsibility to protect" doctrine as applied in Libya provided an excellent public relations cover for the Empire's strategy known as the Salvador Option about which I address at length in this previous post.

Read also this, this, and this.

Rise Up, Fight Back!

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

The author uses a gentrification issue in New York to introduce a bigger issue: the restriction of activist tactics to "non-violence", an position so loudly and moralistically affirmed by self-proclaimed spokespeople for activists such as Chris Hedges following his career at the NY Times, the "newspaper of record" for the ruling class.  

Meanwhile, we see the purveyors and perpetrators of violence globally meeting in the White House to plan their next actions in service to their capitalist masters.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Timothy Geithner joins the Warburg Pincus Fund

Click here to access report from VoltaireNet

A portrait of a director of the ruling class

I occasionally make reference to "directors" of the ruling capitalist class. Mostly, they keep well out of the news and hidden from public view. However, a few do make it into the media spotlight and Timothy Geithner is an excellent example of such a director who circulates between strategic offices in the government such as Treasury Secretary and key banking institutions.

What Is The Real Agenda Of The American Police State?

Click here to access article by Paul Craig Roberts from World News Trust

It's wonderful to see old-fashioned conservatives like Roberts pose such questions about the gross contradictions between government policies, their justifications, and the results. I've been posting articles since late 2009 to answer the fundamental question posed in the headline, but the voices of the authors of these articles have been drowned out by the mega-speakers of mainstream media. Could Roberts' numerous questions be a signal that Americans of many political persuasions are finally waking up and asking the right questions? 

While such questions are important, after all the crimes committed against both foreign and domestic people during only the past decade, they still fall well short of any examination of the system which has produced an extremely powerful ruling class that has moved beyond the nation's borders. We Americans are no longer of any more importance to them than are people living on the other side of the world. The questions he raises are more typical of questions posed by people who are in a political kindergarten rather that where one would expect them to be--graduate school.

Following the article Roberts lists a number of articles from a website that specializes in reports of the grossest forms of police brutality.  While the website uses the phrase "police state", their myopic view is that violations of individual liberties are only instances of abuses by individuals in police agencies.
Our outrage is targeted specifically individual people and individual policies that are responsible for corruption and abuse.  We recognize that police are only human and no more corruptible than anyone else.  However, that corruption will not be tolerated.
And, once again, we see the affirmation that all opposition to a police state must be non-violent!
Our mission is to educate and inform the public about issues that endanger our rights and liberties, and to work to fix them through non-violent means. 
I imagine that this means we should limit our actions to candlelight marches to city hall.

Actually, it could be argued that such a website will only promote fear of authorities and result in more passivity among citizens. The argument goes something like this: the daily exposure of brutality perpetrated by authorities who use overwhelming violence against peaceful protestors, innocent people, and those suspected of, or arrested for, committing minor crimes will discourage people from any militant actions. The extreme emphasis on the victimization of ordinary citizens, who are required to remain nonviolent themselves, will ultimately encourage passivity in the face of overwhelming violence.  

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Military hand-me-downs: US police getting leftover armored trucks from Iraq

Click here to access article from RT.

More evidence that our masters in the ruling class view us as much of an enemy as people in foreign countries who they label as "terrorists". They fear that their instruments of indoctrination may not be as successful in a future which portends economic chaos and climate destabilization.
The US military is handing over leftover equipment from the Iraq conflict to police under a military surplus program. Civil liberties groups have criticized the initiative as unnecessary and a move toward the militarization of American law enforcement.

39 country chart of life expectancy and health spending per captia

Click here if you wish to access the posting of this information by David Ruccio on Real World Economics Review

The graph says it all, but still the dramatic message is countermanded by the interests of US medical and pharmaceutical industries.


Recognizing the Gates... and the Gatekeepers

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

The author uses an apt allegory to introduce his important thesis:
In his book, The Pig Who Sang to the Moon: The Emotional World of Farm Animals, Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson writes: "I was told by some New Zealand sheep farmers that sometimes a particularly smart lamb will learn to undo the latch of a gate, evidently not an uncommon skill, and the sheep farmer then worries that the lamb might teach his less clever companions to do the same."

Report: Gas Industry’s Campaign Donations Reach Record Levels

Click here to access article by Farron Cousins from DeSmogBlog (Canada).

Unfortunately, the author implies that the Republican party is mostly to blame, which suggests that if people would vote for Democratic party candidates, all would be well. His own data does not support this conclusion. Of course, there are minor differences between the parties. This must be so in order to maintain the illusion of "democracy". 
Aside from this criticism, the article offers the latest illustration of how capitalist "democracy" works. Theoretically people vote to put representatives in office to carry out their political choices. The reality is startlingly different. The people do not have any influence as to the representatives that are put on their ballots. These candidate representatives are selected and funded by capitalist political parties. If they are voted into office, they continue to be funded by capitalists as long as they serve the interests of capitalists, whose power is based on the private ownership of socially produced wealth, to reap ever greater profits and prospects of profits regardless of the effects on the rest of society or the environment.

In order to convince the people that this political process is legitimate and represents some sort of "democracy", this class of people must engage in massive ideological work throughout their control of education, media, and entertainment.

How Wall Street Has Turned Housing Into a Dangerous Get-Rich-Quick Scheme -- Again

Click here to access article by Laura Gottesdiener from TomDispatch. (Note: if you wish to skip the introduction, you will need to scroll down to the article.)

If you can stomach it, read how capitalists are "making a killing" by buying foreclosed and distressed homes at bargain prices to rent to their former owners, that is, if the latter can afford the rents and not living in tents or under bridges.
Over the last year and a half, Wall Street hedge funds and private equity firms have quietly amassed an unprecedented rental empire, snapping up Queen Anne Victorians in Atlanta, brick-faced bungalows in Chicago, Spanish revivals in Phoenix. In total, these deep-pocketed investors have bought more than 200,000 cheap, mostly foreclosed houses in cities hardest hit by the economic meltdown.

That never-ending path to democracy

Click here to access article by Ursula Lindsey from The Arabist.

The writer notices that Empire-speak is in sharp contradiction with reality. The directors of the capitalist ruling class always like to frame everything they do--even war crimes--in terms of "democracy" and "freedom". This is true everywhere in the world where they see opportunities to serve their class interests--not merely in Egypt.

Empire-speak uses words that reflect the deepest yearnings of humanity: the desires to live in egalitarian societies where citizens are fully engaged in important decisions affecting their lives. However, our masters use words and images to fool people into supporting their sociopathic habits of domination and exploitation. Of course, most of this is addressed to the American people, and unfortunately many believe it. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

U.S. Officials Hint at Reservations on Final Nuclear Deal

Click here to access article by Gareth Porter from Inter Press Service
The “first step” agreement between Iran and the United States that was sealed in Geneva over the weekend is supposed to lead to the negotiation of a “comprehensive settlement” of the nuclear issue over the next six months, though the latter has gotten little attention.

But within hours of the agreement, there are already indications from senior U.S. officials that the Barack Obama administration is not fully committed to the conclusion of a final pact, under which economic sanctions would be completely lifted.
See also Pepe Escobar's take on the temporary deal.

If the above pieces don't depress you, then this one by Tony Cartalucci entitled "Nuclear Deal With Iran Prelude to War, Not 'Breakthrough'" will.

Business Elites Are Waging a Brutal Class War in America

Click here to access an extract from a book by Noam Chomsky posted on Infoshop News.
This is an excerpt from the just released 2nd edition of Noam Chomsky’s OCCUPY: Class War, Rebellion and Solidarity, edited by Greg Ruggiero and published by Zuccotti Park Press. Chris Steele interviews Chomsky.
In this excerpt Chomsky provides a range of insights on the class war and why we are losing it. His main weakness as indicated in this piece is that he is very light on any insights about winning it. Still, it must be acknowledged that he has contributed so much to understanding the class war over the past four decades. It is now up to us to build on his insights in order to create a winning strategy to win this war and to secure our very survival.

Greece: rise of the party, demise of the movement?

Click here to access article by Leonidas Oikonomakis from Reflections on a Revolution.

The author examines the deterioration of grass roots politics in Greece and its subordination to party representation in the parliamentary apparatus of the capitalist state, and wonders if there is a connection between the two. After extending his examination to other mass movements especially in Latin America, he asserts that there is a definite relationship.

From my own examination of history, it seems obvious to me that given a ruling class whose power is based on the private ownership of the economy, any kind of representation of the subordinate working classes will easily be co-opted to serve the interests of the ruling capitalist class. You simply cannot have representatives of the people bring about actions benefiting their constituents by working within a state governing institution created by the capitalist ruling class. It is extremely naive to believe this, and inevitably results in the deterioration of popular movements and their ability to bring about real change.

The author is right--mass movements must create their own forms of organization with which to govern society and simultaneously displace the capitalist state. This representative form of "democracy" was created by the capitalist class as a kind of wolf in sheep's clothing-- it was designed to fool the subordinate classes into believing that it was a genuine form of "democracy" and into supporting the capitalist system of government. What we now see is the appearance of the wolf which is presently attacking and devouring the subordinate classes.

The Official Video from the Federal Reserve on How It Creates Electronic Money

Click here to access article by Pam Martens from Wall Street on Parade.

Like this author, there are a number of liberals and old-fashioned conservatives who denounce the form that capitalism has taken in recent decades, and advocate a return to some restrictions that seemed to have reigned in the tendency for capital to concentrate in ever fewer enterprises, and the concentration of wealth along with power in ever fewer hands which, of course, is the natural tendency of a capitalist system. But these critics refuse to believe that and want to return to an earlier stage when the government had more independence and power to face up to capitalists to inhibit their mad pursuits of profits and power. 

This earlier stage (following WWII?) was, in their minds, the golden age of capitalism--never mind the concomitant numerous small wars, the mini-economic crises, the growth of secret agencies, the destruction and subversion of labor unions and diminishing opportunities for working people to improve their lives.

Their position is much like that of a counselor recommending to an alcoholic/drug addict that he/she cuts back on their consumption of alcohol/drugs as a treatment for the disease. Still, such critics do point out, as this author does, the glaring problems with the system as it is today. Specifically, in this post she brings greater clarity to the way the Fed operates and the way it creates money to serve the needs of capitalists. 

Monday, November 25, 2013

Arming Egypt

Click here to access article by Nizar Manek from Le Monde Diplomatique.

Few Americans have any idea of how our economy is so dependent on weapons production funded through taxpayer money. Government contracts with the industrial complex are the most lucrative of all. They are frequently no-bid contracts that guarantee profits. This corruption of the US government by weapons producers has gone on ever since the end of WWII, and was heavily promoted by the military-industrial complex throughout the Cold War.

In this period of "austerity", cutbacks are occurring everywhere in services for the public good: education, health, retirement (Social Security), and welfare. But, do we see any significant cutbacks to the military-industrial complex? Did you notice this paragraph in the article?
The “aid” money is taken from the US federal budget. “Most of it never leaves US banks, and is mostly transferred not to the target country but to US defence manufacturers that sell the equipment to Egypt,” says Finardi. This goes for McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing) for the Apache helicopters, Beechcraft for the 1900C aircraft, General Dynamics/Lockheed Martin for the F16 fighter aircraft, and General Dynamics Land Systems (for the M1A1 main battle tank components to be assembled in Egypt).
With only a few exceptions, this is the way "foreign aid" has always functioned. I well remember the rants of my ill-informed, but typical parents who thought that our government was always giving money away to "those furiners" (foreigners). 

The relationship between government and weapons manufactures is very much like what happened in Nazi Germany where major corporations brought Hitler to power and supported the German war machine throughout WWII (for example, read this). 

Another false impression that most Americans have is that capitalists are patriotic. Historical facts indicate otherwise: they are much more devoted to profits than to the countries in which they are based, and this reality began to emerge dramatically in years before and during WWII. There were many Western capitalists and major media supporting Nazi policies before the war. Many were major corporations thoroughly enmeshed with German corporations supporting the Nazis. Honest historians have had to struggle to reveal this history and especially the fact that many US corporations collaborated on both sides during that terribly destructive war. 

This was true of General Motors, Ford, ITT, Du Pont, Standard Oil (Rockefeller), and the investment bankers known as Harriman Brothers & Company to name a few. The Bush clan was intimately tied to the Nazis. (For more details, read Wall Street and the Rise of Hitler by Antony Sutton, Trading with the Enemy by Charles Higham, The Sovereign State of ITT by Anthony Sampson, and Facts and Fascism by George Seldes.) War and the threat of war is highly profitable, and thus will always be supported by capitalists--with one exception so far.

After the Cuban missile crisis, a new reality has emerged to discourage direct wars between major countries. The prospect of a nuclear holocaust was now very real, and world wars such as we witnessed in the 20th century are now avoided. However, other wars have been occurring everywhere.

The June Uprisings in Brazil: Below and Behind the Huge Mobilizations (Part 2)

Click here to access article by Raúl Zibechi from Up Side Down World.

The author concludes this two part series with details on how major investments in mega sports events have contributed to a new anti-capitalist consciousness in Brazil.
While the media has mostly focused on transport issues as the catalyst for the June protests, one aspect has received scant coverage. The Popular Committees have succeeded in changing public perception around the impact of the infrastructural works for mega-events; there is widespread understanding that cities are being redesigned for the speculative market and the benefit of a few.

US blocks publication of Chilcot’s report on how Britain went to war with Iraq

Click here to access article by James Cusick from The Independent (Britain).

The directors of the Empire, masters of surveillance and secrecy, continue to conceal any information that suggests that they are perpetrators of war crimes. According to this report, the British figurehead leader, David Cameron, has been ordered by Empire directors not to divulge communications between George Bush Jr. and Tony Blair.
The protected documents relating to the Bush-Blair exchanges are said to provide crucial evidence for already-written passages that are highly critical of the covert way in which Mr Blair committed British troops to the US-led invasion.

Private firms selling mass surveillance systems around world, documents show

Click here to access article by Nick Hopkins and Matthew Taylor from The Guardian.

Investments in surveillance systems seems to be the "next big thing" for capitalists to extract more profits. And, in a capitalist world profits drive everything.
Private firms are selling spying tools and mass surveillance technologies to developing countries with promises that "off the shelf" equipment will allow them to snoop on millions of emails, text messages and phone calls, according to a cache of documents published on Monday.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Remembering the true legacy of JFK

Click here to access article by Kalim Rajab from Daily Maverick (South Africa).

This writer remembers the profound contribution that this young president made to the world in opposition to all the Pentagon officials who wanted a nuclear war.
For all his fabled rhetoric, the principle theme of his presidency was preventing nuclear war. It is difficult to understand quite what a fraught world Kennedy inherited from his predecessor, Ike Eisenhower. These were years when humankind came closest to nuclear destruction. Nothing we’ve faced before or since - not two World Wars, not bubonic plague, not even the war on terrorism - has come even close.
Eisenhower has too often been credited with a warning about the "military-industrial complex". He only made reference to this threat in one sentence in his final speech as president. The fact is, he allowed it to thrive along with the emerging secret agencies of the spy complex. Kennedy in his short time in office had to contend with all these forces that wanted a preemptive nuclear war with the Soviet Union and a war in Indochina.

Chile 1973-2013, conversations with photographers 6

Click here to access article by Miriam Rosen from Mediapart (France).

The title of the article is misleading--probably due to translation from French. It's really about a gifted Chilean photographer, Alejandro Olivares, who is interviewed in the article. "6" refers to six younger Chilean photographers recommended by Olivares.

His major work is called Living Periferia, a photo-essay, which has captured the hellish reality of life in a suburb ("Periferia" literally means periphery) of Santiago, one of many that are emerging under the reign of neoliberalism in the outskirts of metropolitan areas around the world. The 28 slides that make up Living Periferia can be accessed here from burn.
This work dives in a forgotten world, where many times not even mailmen are allowed in. It’s a world that goes beyond poverty. Wide ghettos in the further corners of Santiago where the State has managed for years to dump what they would rather not see. What investments must never see. What rich people should better keep ignoring. 

Iran seals nuclear deal with west in return for sanctions relief

Click here to access article by Julian Borger and Saeed Kamali Dehghan from The Guardian.

Some reactions to this agreement:

Salvador Allende: Revolutionary Democrat

Click here to access a book review by Adam Tomes from CounterFire (Britain). 

The author of this article reviews a new book by Victor Figueroa Clark entitled Salvador Allende: Revolutionary Democrat
Salvador Allende remains an icon and as such is ‘stripped of context’. Victor Figueroa Clark provides that context and helps us understand why the events of 11 September 1973 are so critical to understanding the world today. In doing so, he brings to life the personality of Allende and argues passionately that he was a revolutionary and not just a reformist as many on the left have argued.
There is an excellent chapter in a well-documented book that sheds much light on the other side of Allende's brief revolutionary attempt: Chapter 11 of The Sovereign State of ITT [1973] by Anthony Sampson. In this chapter Sampson uses the Chilean episode, with ITT as a major player, as another illustration of his thesis that major transnational corporations and conglomerates were starting to function like sovereign states. 

Sampson's book should become a classic study in the rise of neoliberal capitalism: the dominance of transnational corporations in today's world and their ideology called neoliberalism. After reading this book, you will understand that neoliberalism is essentially an updated transnational form of fascism (rule by and for corporations, with financial institutions functioning as its nerve center). 

This new form of rule has found its fullest expression in the US led Empire which in this era of TV and other visual media, differs from its fascist predecessors mainly by more reliance on the control of information and images. Meanwhile, in case their propaganda machinery should fail, they keep highly militarized police forces and sophisticated surveillance systems in operation to check on their people.