—Frances Moore Lappé, excerpt from Time for Progressives to Grow Up
Saturday, April 19, 2014
Talk of inequality seems to be all the rage in Western media, and this has been spearheaded by such notable figures as Obama, and here in this article it is reported that no less than the IMF director Christine Lagarde has raised the issue. Being a rather cynical doubter of all things printed in mainstream media, I ask: are they serious?
I think the answer is partly "yes" and mostly "no". This article supports my opinion by revealing that IMF actions indicate that such concerns about inequality are for public relations purposes only. Let me explain.
In the past, like in the Great Depression of the 1930s, the ruling capitalist class was seriously concerned about the dramatic gaps between the rich and the poor. Also, there was a very militant labor movement that was concerned about social justice which was inspired by the mostly theoretical ideas coming from the Soviet Union and the actual fact that the workers of the latter country experienced no unemployment. I do not think that they have that concern today.
In today's Western societies they have in place very effective means of controlling dissent: the concentration of media provides for control of information, highly advanced technology and police state methods to surveil potential revolutionaries, and militarized police forces.
However, the ruling class also has a more serious concern about the phenomenon of a diminishing middle class. A happy middle class is a critical requirement to the stability of a capitalist ruling system simply because they actually run the system while capitalists, who reward them with the vaunted middle class lifestyles, skim off most of the benefits from a system that exploits both workers and the environment. Besides, it is widely recognized that revolutions in recent centuries have all been led by middle class people.
While the second concern exists, I think that most of the publicized concern is rhetorical and informed by a desire to divert political opposition into paths which will require an enormous expenditure of energies, but will end up in the scrapheap of failed efforts. I'm referring here to the growing phenomenon of publicity about dramatic raises in the minimum raise, such as $15 per hour in Seattle and the advocacy of a guaranteed annual wage.
Labor advocates such as Shamus Cooke have devoted many articles (see this and this) to promote dramatic increases in minimum wage laws, and now we see the appearance of David Graeber on PBS TV extolling the benefits of a guaranteed income. I have commented on the minimum wage campaign previously here, so let me address my observations about the latter.
Anarchists are usually smeared by ruling class mainstream media as hooligans, often compared to terrorists, and never given access to their media. So, it is remarkable that PBS gave coverage to anarchist Graeber's views promoting a guaranteed income. I understand why a ruling class TV network would want to promote such a dead-end proposal, but it makes me wonder a lot about Graeber. Such access to mainstream media is often a method used by media directors as bait to lure left-wing critics to advocate safe reforms to the system and eventually to thoroughly co-opt them. I hope this isn't the case with Graeber.
This is another contribution to my practice on Saturdays to run articles 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. 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.
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.
Today we have to thank Vanity Fair for making us aware in this article of a widespread disease plaguing the rich. I think it reasonable to believe that many of the rich were not even aware of it, and probably not conscious that they, too, might be suffering from it. Thankfully, you and I don't have to worry about it.
When you have 15 houses, yachts in three oceans, planes, cellars, mistresses, surgery, a library, and a personal charity, new purchases become just a matter of upgrading. And this is where the Perfection Anxiety kicks in. What you need is to have not just the most but the very, very best. The super-rich watch each other like envious owls, to see who’s got a slightly better loafer, a pullover made from some even more absurdly endangered fur. They will go to any lengths to find the best tailors. I know of a man who gets his suit pants made in Italy and the jackets on Savile Row.Gill reports on some other symptoms of this disease plaguing the rich:
And when you’ve got the best of everything, when you have your tea flown in from a micro-garden in Darjeeling and it still tastes rather like tea, when you’ve designed your own scent made from the squeezed glands of civets and the petals of rare orchids and that fails to give you the high—“When Alexander saw the breadth of his domain, he wept, for there were no more worlds to conquer”—then you’re reduced to collecting art.
Friday, April 18, 2014
I love the way Escobar ridicules Western propagandists who with their preposterous statements give him so many opportunities. Ridicule and laughter offer a healthy way to neutralize so much of the absurdity of US media coverage.
The US State Department, via spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki, said that reports of CIA Director John Brennan telling regime changers in Kiev to "conduct tactical operations" - or an "anti-terrorist" offensive - in eastern Ukraine are "completely false". This means Brennan did issue his marching orders. And by now the "anti-terrorist" campaign - with its nice little Dubya rhetorical touch - has degenerated into farce.Unfortunately, many Americans take such statements from the Ministry of Truth as straight information. This is largely because the so-called "free press" is very well managed by the ruling class and consistently gives out stories that are unchallenged by any alternative views. And, many Americans consider it un-American to get their news and analysis from sources other than corporate media.
Now couple that with NATO secretary general, Danish retriever Anders Fogh Rasmussen, yapping about the strengthening of military footprint along NATO's eastern border: "We will have more planes in the air, mores ships on the water and more readiness on the land."
Welcome to the Two Stooges doctrine of post-modern warfare.
Generally, Escobar's analysis suggests that the Empire with its latest actions is only digging its grave deeper.
This piece interested me because I think it is a good illustration of limited thinking on the parts of the participants, the interviewer Horn and the interviewee Boynton, a film director, who answered questions about her film "Big Men".
The limits of the discussion were wider than most because of the recognition that the drama in her film involved the system of capitalism and the many conflicts and undesirable consequences that often follow their operations. However, the questions and comments in the interview clearly indicated that both considered the system as a given or constant, whereas questions about human nature as well as the possibilities of capitalist outcomes were left open for the viewer to question.
Neither Horn nor Boynton thought about questioning the system itself. Although they named the system, their questions and comments clearly reinforced the idea that "there is no alternative". Thus, Brad Pitt, the producer, leads readers to speculate over whether there is such a thing as responsible capitalism; whereas Boynton leads readers to speculate about the (capitalist) nature of humans.
Such limited thinking is a major hurdle for all ordinary people to overcome if humanity is ever going to find its salvation. Websites like this encourage people to stay safely inside limits that capitalist ideological enforcers can tolerate.
As an antidote to the poison of the Empire's anti-Russian propaganda, Marshall provides us with some inconvenient current and historical facts. Ultimately, the Empire's actions boil down to this:
...the United States is the global 'Godfather' of the Mafia crime family of Western industrial nations (the NATO powers). Countries like Russia and China are reasonably-sized crime families in their own right, but largely dependent upon the Godfather, with whom they both cooperate and compete for influence.Of course, this is the nature of capitalism as it is for every system that privileges one segment of society over another. Such gangs end up competing with gangs from other nations for dominance, and we have inter-gang wars which ordinary people fight and die in. This will last as long as we tolerate gangs, as long as we tolerate privileges like private ownership of an economy over the needs of whole societies. We must stop believing all the lies of the gangsters that there is no alternative to the existing societal arrangements; and then, we must be prepared to sacrifice immediate comforts to fight against such gangster organizations.
When the Mafia - and the Godfather - are disobeyed, whether by small nations (such as Iraq, Syria, Libya, et. al.), or by larger gangster states like China or Russia, the Godfather will seek to punish them. Disobedience cannot be tolerated. If a small country can defy the Godfather, then any country can. If a larger gangster state like Russia can defy the Godfather and get away with it, they might continue to challenge the authority of the Godfather.
We have a choice: continue to accept these societal arrangements that make such gangs possible, their inter-gang wars, and all the other forms of suffering we endure, or we destroy these arrangements and construct egalitarian societies.
It had to be made abroad because there are too many pressures on companies associated with film production here in the US to prevent any serious examination of the event. I urge everyone to view it over this long holiday weekend.
I am posting this YouTube film instead of the same one in the article because it identifies the correct title of the film--"ZERO: An Investigation Into 9/11".
Thursday, April 17, 2014
Never mind freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from want, freedom from fear. What America's embattled billionaires are demanding, as their birthright (and I mean that pretty much literally), is something much more important: freedom from criticism.
Making a desperate stand in The Wall Street Journal, heroic, oppressed men like Tom Perkins [see this] and now Charles Koch have been telling it like it is: anyone who says anything negative about them is just like the Nazis, or maybe Stalin.
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
In the interview Roy attempts to explain how India is going down the neoliberal path by touching on the subjects of foreign investments, IMF policies, deeply indebted farmers, use of paramilitaries and regular armed forces to clear the land of populations resisting such policies, and the control of Indian politics by major corporations.
ARUNDHATI ROY: So, I’m talking about how, when you have this kind of control over all business, over the media, over its essential infrastructure, electricity generation, information, everything, then you just field your, you know, pet politicians. ...reasons that is being attributed to the slowdown of the economy is the fact that there is a tremendous resistance to all of this from the people on the ground, from the people who are being displaced, from the—and in the forests, it’s the Maoist guerrillas; in the villages, it’s all kinds of people’s movements—all of whom are of course being called Maoist. And now...these new economic policies cannot be implemented unless—except with state—with coercive state violence. So you have a situation where the forests are full of paramilitary just burning villages, you know, pushing people out of their homes, trying to clear the land for mining companies to whom the government has signed.... So there is a kind of war which, of course, always existed in India. There hasn’t been a year when the Indian army hasn’t been deployed against its own people. ....
AMY GOODMAN: Since when?I used the phrase "attempts to explain" deliberately. I was not pleased by the way the interviewers handled the interview. Both interviewers seemed more interested in drawing out her views regarding the upcoming national elections in India, but that really wasn't what Roy was interested in because she quickly explained that the whole government apparatus was controlled by large corporations. She began to launch into what really interested her: an explanation of the role of NGOs in influencing media and the people.
ARUNDHATI ROY: Since independence, since 1947, you know? But now the plan is to deploy them. Now it’s the paramilitary. But this new election is going to be who is the person that the corporates choose, who is not going to blink about putting the Indian—about deploying the Indian army against the poorest people in this country, you know, and pushing them out to give over those lands, those rivers, those mountains, to the major mining corporations. So this is what we are being prepared for now—the air force, the army, going in into the heart of India now.
“Having worked out how to manage governments, political parties, elections, courts, the media and liberal opinion, the neoliberal establishment faced one more challenge: how to deal with the growing unrest, the threat of ’people’s power.’ How do you domesticate it? How do you turn protesters into pets? How do you vacuum up people’s fury and redirect it into a blind alley?She then started to discuss the origins of NGOs in the US and their role here in shaping political activity so that they would not interfere with capitalist agendas. However, before she could get into their role in India, a co-interviewer diverted the discussion in another, less controversial direction: what Roy intended to write about in the future.
This diversion and the framing of the whole interview around elections really peaked my interest. I couldn't help but wonder if the management of the interview itself didn't actually illustrate what Roy was getting into: the influence of NGOs or of non-profit funding agencies to act as limiting agents or gatekeepers to contain dissent.
"Democracy Now!" has been cited as one media outlet among many that have received ruling class foundation money as reported by Edward Ulrich in his article "Media Outlets Such as 'Democracy Now!' are Establishment Controlled News Sources". Stuart Bramhall and others have reported on the history of the CIA and other government agencies infiltrating news organizations to disseminate false information up until Church Committee investigations in 1975, after which foundations became more active in funding and influencing media that might pose too critical a threat to the policies of the ruling One Percent.
Such funding mainly functions to limit what left media outlets cover and how they cover controversial topics. Perhaps that explains the reason why the popular left-wing media program Democracy Now! has always refused to interview knowledgeable people about evidence that puts in doubt the official reports about 9/11, the Boston Bombing, and other terrorist incidents.
Damon reminds us of the old historical strategy used by ruling classes to head of opposition to their rule by quoting James Madison, the author of the Bill of Rights: “Among the Romans it was a standing maxim to excite a war whenever a revolt was apprehended.” He goes on in the rest of the article to show how this relationship is playing out in the US today.
It seems that one military crisis after another occurs where our masters in the US ruling class are involved, and who frequently threaten greater US involvement. Their policies in such crises are always supported by massive propaganda campaigns to justify their actions.
Then with the one-year anniversary of the Boston Bombing yesterday, we are reminded of the use of domestic terrorist incidents which seem to serve the same purpose: there are "evil doers" out there who are threatening us, and we must be prepared to use military force against them while curtailing our own civil liberties. So, forget about growing inequality and social injustice--we've got to fight those "evil-doers"! This favorite strategy of all ruling classes has worked for millennia. Are we of the 99 Percent still stupid enough to continue falling for it? If so, then maybe we deserve our subjugation.
Both specials treat manmade global warming as a given and feature established experts on climate science, a welcome change from the contrarian "skeptics" that have been infiltrating the media with doubt and misinformation. "Years of Living Dangerously" begins with Harrison Ford inspecting carbon dioxide measurements -- the primary cause of manmade global warming -- with the help of NASA scientists. ....
Although the premiere episode of "Years Of Living Dangerously" doesn't touch on any solutions to climate change, the series promises to address solutions in later episodes, including segments on renewable energy, global warming as a political priority, and the "greening" of the corporate sector.Robbins points out the significance of two TV programs which recognize the fact of climate destabilization (media managers use the more benign term "global warming")--NBC's "Our Year Of Extremes" broadcast on April 6th and Showtime's broadcast of the first of a series of nine programs entitled ""Years of Living Dangerously". I think Robbins exaggerates the promise of these programs by repeating the claims of spokespeople of the latter series to offer solutions, the real significance is that our ruling class can no longer ignore the scientific evidence which has been buttressed by recent extreme weather events.
What these programs have revealed now for the first time are the facts that have been known and reported in alternative media for many years. I think we can safely assume that their solutions will be compatible with business as usual by mainly promoting nuclear power, carbon capture, and climate engineering.
Tuesday, April 15, 2014
Pilger does an excellent job of deconstructing the myths about Mandela that have been constructed by compliant Western historians and media propaganists who find it rewarding to serve the needs of Western capitalist propaganda.
Germann essentially gives us a play-by-play description of the inter-capitalist gang rivalries which will cause untold suffering for ordinary people. It appears that the recent bellicose moves by the Empire to punish Russia for interfering with the Empire's activities in Syria is pushing Russia closer to China which is also being threatened by the Empire. Another result is that China is rapidly building up its military.
Such is the nature of the capitalist games to control access to resources (especially energy), markets, and cheap labor. In addition to these contests, we are now witnessing the Empire's regime-change strategy to augment its control of governments in order to impose more sovereign debts on people under the control of neoliberal technocrats such as we've seen in Greece, Spain, Portugal, and Italy.
As long as we the people of the world allow this system and its various self-serving gangs to rule over us, we will be plagued by never-ending mini-wars and other crises. (The most immediate crisis is in Ukraine.)
Monday, April 14, 2014
Bravo! Roos and this website continue to impress me as being on the cutting edge of revolutionary thought. This article, which contains a wealth of excellent links to other resources, is an outstanding example of such revolutionary thinking. I have been surveying websites intensively for the past five years and I have found no single website that is as advanced in revolutionary thinking as this one is.
As with many of the articles posted at the site, this one needs to be studied rather than merely read casually. Some linked resources are better than others, but that is for each person to decide depending on their experience and orientation. I found the best link to be to the article entitled "Crises of Imagination, Crises of Power" by Max Haiven that was posted in January (which I missed for some reason!).
I have tried to argue previously that capitalism is not merely a system which is preoccupied with the accumulation of material wealth and power. It is a comprehensive system that affects all of our existence, that distorts our relationships, our interpretations of realty, and our imaginations. In other words, it has colonized our very minds. This is the secret of its success; it is the secret of its exploitation of us; it is why we continue with our daily grind of serving the interests of those few who preside over the system regardless of all the profound devastating consequences on our lives and on the planet. As Haiven observes, capitalism is not only about the...
...dynamics of class struggle and capitalist accumulation of a century ago, the system is more invested than ever in preoccupying and enclosing our sense of self and of the future; our hopes, dreams and aspirations; and our capacity to imagine. As such, the possibilities of meaningful solidarity and class struggle depend on the politics of the imagination. The imagination is a material process: it emerges from and informs our capacity to cooperate and labor together, and as such is at the core of the reproduction of value. If we can understand capitalism as a system based on the reproduction of value, the role of the imagination cannot be gainsaid.
As capitalist crises deepen under today’s new regimes of austerity, the desire to reinforce our ignorance, apathy and fatalism becomes stronger.
Three presentations by David Harvey on his new book entitled "Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism"
Here is a one hour radio interview with Harvey from SoundCloud.
From Harvey's own website we can access a 1hr8min video presentation he gave at the Royal Society of the Arts during which he focuses on three contradictions in the first 27 minute period followed by a question and answer period.
Another from video presentation by Harvey from his website was of his lecture at The London School of Economics and Political Science. This lasts about 1 1/2 hour.
The Empire's agents that have brought us false-flag terrorism are now producing false-flag protests as another means of manipulating the 99 Percent into serving the Empire's regime-change projects.
If we didn't know it before, the upsurge in global protest in the past couple of years has driven home the lesson that mass demonstrations can have entirely different social and political meanings. Just because they wear bandannas and build barricades – and have genuine grievances – doesn't automatically mean protesters are fighting for democracy or social justice.
From Ukraine to Thailand and Egypt to Venezuela, large-scale protests have aimed at, or succeeded in, ousting elected governments in the past year. In some countries, mass protests have been led by working class organisations, targeting austerity and corporate power. In others, predominantly middle class unrest has been the lever to restore ousted elites.
Sunday, April 13, 2014
Spritzler constructs a pure economic libertarian nation to introduce an egalitarian vision of a nation. This piece is helpful in clarifying the difference between an organization of society ruled by those who want the owners of economic property to be free of all restrictions; and a society organized around strictly egalitarian principles where people have, as much as possible, equal access to the decision making process and to the benefits of the entire economy in which property ownership is limited to personal property.
The key difference here, of course, hinges on the notion of property ownership: personal property versus social property. The concept of social property essentially recognizes the social nature of economic property when property is used by more than one person, or a family, to obtain material value.
The history of capitalism has been essentially a struggle between advocates of these two concepts. Capitalists as a class have dominated most societies over the past 400 years. And, now we are seeing the results in a dramatic bifurcation of societies: a tiny class of "owners" of economic property that have accrued enormous amounts of wealth and, its concomitant, power, and an underclass, who are the vast majority, who live in precarious economic conditions with little political influence. These extreme in-egalitarian conditions have devolved into a dystopia, so well described and analyzed by critics such as Henry Giroux, and now exists throughout the world dominated by capitalist elites.
However, this type of organization of societies goes against what is a basic component of human nature: social justice or fairness. Thus, people are raising questions, protesting, and rebelling. Hence, the need by this capitalist class to obscure the nature of their rule as much as possible through their control of all the ideological institutions of society while greatly augmenting all its authoritarian methods of control.