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, May 3, 2014
I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed by the dark truths that Chuckman has so well expressed about today's world and American society. I have only very minor quibbles with his point of view, and so I won't bother to express them in a commentary. This piece has moved me more than any other single article I have posted over almost five years of this blog. We are fast approaching a very frightening dystopia and I see only very scattered awareness of this development and inadequate responses in opposition to it.
However, I believe there are glimmers of hope. The main one being that the ruling class is creating a system in which they need far fewer middle class people to manage it for them, hence a shrinking middle class, and worse: many young people with highly trained skills and huge debts who might think of rebelling.
Enough said. Please read it and see if you don't agree with his dark vision.
Hopefully, you and I will not be discouraged by his pessimistic vision, but see it as an urgent warning and a renewed call to action.
Because I'm well aware of what happened in those days when I wasn't sure about what hell the next day would bring, I will not be viewing the film. I am posting this article because of its brief introduction to the featured film. Quijones (I suspect this is a pseudonym) is another person in the world who sees the threat of "MADness" taking over in today's world like it almost did back in those terrifying days in October 1961.
Future historians will note that in April 2014, nearly a quarter-century after the end of the Soviet Union, the White House declared a new Cold War on Russia.And that, in a grave failure of representative democracy, there was scarcely a public word of debate, much less opposition, from the American political or media establishment.
Friday, May 2, 2014
Cartalucci provides us with another excellent contribution, and an antidote to corporate manufactured propaganda, that helps us to understand what really has happened in Ukraine and the Empire's ongoing project to absorb or isolate Russia.
...despite the best efforts of the West's media and politicians to claim the Nazi militants they used to overrun Kiev are creations of Russian propaganda, the truth exists in plain sight. The inability of the West to check Russia's counterstrokes in Crimea and eastern Ukraine is precisely due to the fact that neither the people of the East nor the West believe what Washington, London, or Brussels are saying.
To whom shall we turn and ask for support, if not to you, to the German people ? We ask you not to conceal the appeal of the Ukrainian people, but to publish and distribute, so that this cry will be heard by the whole world.As proof of our peaceful intentions and the very broad support of our movement in the population I have collected video material. We are writing to you with the request to support our efforts for a referendum because we understand that a peaceful solution to the conflict is no longer possible otherwise.The junta is not interested in such a solution and is apparently ready to shed a lot of blood of peaceful people in Ukraine. In view of the fact that our media belong to powerful oligarchs, I am convinced that the world public has been presented false information and invented facts about the conflict in Ukraine and will obviously continue to receive such.
In addition to exposing the crimes and machinations of one of the ruling class's most visible sociopaths, the author also includes much about how are masters in the One Percent are able to hide their crimes. Their intimate ties with the "security" establishment is always very helpful.
We have a huge ongoing scandal in the US, the non-prosecution of what are referred to as “protected entities”. These are not just the very rich, but those who are very powerful, or who have very powerful friends… political power. A State district attorney or a US attorney is putting his career on the line by going after someone whose conviction could embarrass many of those associated with the person targeted.And it gets worse. If they fear the one prosecution could lead to others, those folks are not above killing a few people to tidy things up, although prosecutors and judges are generally never handled that way. They use other ways to discourage them.
It is clear then that nations like Russia, China, and others are not only responding to growing concern from among their populations regarding the safety and environmental impact of GMO products, but the threat this monopolized technology poses toward each respective nation’s food supply and consequently, their sovereignty.
Poor NATO. Damned Soviets. The benign North Atlantic Treaty Organization has spent two decades "trying to build a partnership" with Russia. But now, "clearly the Russians have declared NATO as an adversary, so we have to begin to view Russia no longer as a partner but as more of an adversary", according to NATO deputy secretary-general Alexander Vershbow, a former US diplomat/ Pentagon employee.
Thursday, May 1, 2014
The link takes you to "Yue Yuen: wildcat strikes and labor struggles in China" which is one of five articles in this remarkable collection, with the remaining four listed and linked to in the article. They are all about workers taking actions to improve their lives by organizing protests and taking over enterprises.
I'm not terribly impressed with their central thesis:
Capitalists and corporations, we argue, are driven not to maximize profit, but to ‘beat the average’ and increase their differential power. In this approach, the redistribution of income and assets is not a ‘societal’ side effect of the economy, but the central conflict that propels modern capitalism. And the main weapon in this struggle, we claim, is not investment and growth, but what the American political economist Thorstein Veblen called ‘strategic sabotage’ – the restrictions, limitations, hazards and pains that capitalists impose on the rest of society in order to sustain and augment their differential power.Capitalists and corporations are motivated by both. Given that capitalist operations are now coming up against the resource limits of a finite planet, they are driven more by the second motivation which essentially constitutes power and control.
However, I am really impressed with, and amused by, their deconstruction and satire of current efforts by capitalists, especially "enlightened capitalists" to defend their system.
I've had a hard time understanding the numerous European-wide governing institutions. This article sheds some light on the subject by examining two such institutions--the European Parliament and the European Union Commission. I am quite amazed to find that Europeans are as foolish as are my fellow Americans when it comes to governing institutions. They are as easily duped by the never-ending "democratic" games played by capitalists.
Quijones writes about the increasing disaffection of European voters over their institutions, and seems optimistic about positive changes that may begin with the upcoming elections for the European Parliament scheduled from May 22 to the 25th. I'm not so sure about his optimism given his explanation of the powers of the Parliament. At the same time, I am amazed that such a pseudo-democratic institution was ever allowed to be established in Europe.
And, I thought Americans were stupid! Referring to Europeans as lab rats seems very apt in more than one way.Like a court eunuch, the Parliament was effectively neutered at birth. Put simply, its main mission in life is to give the wildly misleading impression that democracy actually exists in the EU. In reality, the Parliament cannot overrule the EU Commission nor can it even amend its budget on a line by line basis. Indeed, it cannot initiate legislation and it has no say whatsoever in foreign policy.The European Parliament has no power to even hold individual members of the Commission to account. At best, it can overturn the entire executive branch, which it has only done once in its lifetime – back in 1999 when, thanks to leaks by commission-insider Paul Van Boetenin, the Parliament learnt of the irregularities, fraud and mismanagement within the Commission.The real power in Brussels resides in the European Commission, the European Council of national leaders and the Eurogroup of Finance Ministers – three unelected institutions that are subject to virtually no democratic checks or balances.
I'm posting this article to examine an illustration of left/liberal thinking in the US. While agreeing with the general thrust of Baraka's argument, I view it as tainted with capitalist ideology, and as such, is deficient both as an analysis of society today and as an advocacy of action. I express this criticism with reluctance because it is probably the best that can be expected from anything like a major internet website on the current left in the US, or much of the world, for that matter.
I make this criticism of the article because the times require it. The left must no longer hedge their criticisms of existing social arrangements in order to be popular. Yes, I know that the political consciousness in the US is so deformed from centuries of indoctrination; however the dangerous state of our biosphere which has been under attack for so long that it is now so unstable that it is threatening the very existence of humans and other species. Time is running out, if it's not too late already. Extreme weather events that we are currently witnessing are only relatively mild warnings compared to the far more horrendous events that lie in our future.
People who are aware of the dangerous state of humanity--I think Baraka is one of them--must no longer hedge their arguments against capitalism. Notions of social justice has not succeeded in defeating capitalism, but sheer survival must now suffice. Certainly, there is no longer any alternative but to attack it head on. We simply must get serious about it if there is to be any chance of survival.
Okay, what do I mean about his analysis as being "tainted with capitalist ideology"? The ideology of "democracy" and their fake institutions of "democracy" have always been used by capitalist ruling classes to keep working people from rebelling against their rule. So, forget about any notions that "democracy" is being "captured by the corporate and financial elite" because it has never existed.
Since the beginning of civilization when societies began having the ability to accumulate surplus value and store it, we have witnessed one ruling class after another. What we have most recently experienced as "bourgeois democracy" is a fake version of real democracy which people have aspired to for many centuries. Capitalist ruling classes have given us this fake version to pacify this yearning. However, we must not take it for anything like the real thing: complete control by all people over all institutions of their societies.
In the early days of civilization a small minority of sociopaths (people who were inadequately socialized for any number of reasons) soon took control of the surplus wealth. Initially, they simply relied on superior weapons, but soon they discovered that indoctrination worked so much more efficiently. They quickly subverted religious doctrines to support their rule, and later all kinds of other doctrines were proliferated.
Our current supporting ideology includes notions about democracy such as democracy equals elections, the virtues of the "free market" (capitalism), and vague ideas about the virtues of endless consumption expressed as the "American way of life". Today's sociopaths are more powerful than ever before and are drunk on their accumulated wealth and power. They will kill us all if we keep fighting back with reforms and with polite arguments that won't upset people too much.
Wednesday, April 30, 2014
I agree with so much of the views argued here, but with one exception: the issue of reforms is a lot more complicated than presented here.
For example, I totally support this view which sums up the crucial argument against capitalism, for revolution, and the creation of a libertarian-socialist (or "anarchist communist") type of society:
...why are some allowed to own and control the land, wealth and the means of production? Shouldn't these be the common property of all as the inheritance of all that has been contributed by human history and the complex social processes that interacted to bring us to, and maintain the wealth that we have today? So how can we justify maintaining a system where some benefit more than others from the historically developed and socially maintained wealth? And how can we call only for reform of that system? It'd be like sitting at a family dinner where your brother claims to own the kitchen even though you're cooking dinner with your parents. Your brother then receives all of the food produced and gives you and your parents each 10% of the food while he keeps 70% of it as the owner. A reformist response would be to say that if only each member of the family were able to get a 15% or 20% portion each (leaving your brother with a 55% or 40% share for being the "owner"), everyone would be alright and less hungry.However, the author expresses a classic leftist view of supporting reforms with which I take issue:
We see this revolutionary situation coming about after decades of battles- wins and losses- in which the popular classes steadily increase their power and continue to demand more and more until the demands of the popular classes are too much to concede for the elite classes; and the power of the popular classes is enough to effectively carry-out revolution....The key justification for this argument is as he wrote:
...winning in reform struggles can build confidence, organization, capacity, solidarity, skills, and power; and losing in a reform struggle, can strengthen resolve and sharpen strategy. The point is that although we want reforms because they improve the lives of the oppressed and popular classes of which we are a part; even more fundamental to struggle– whether we win or lose- is developing the strength of the movement, which can come out of both wins and gains in reform struggles.He briefly mentioned, but didn't elaborate on, the fact that "Losing in a reform struggle can demoralize participants around the possibility of struggle achieving gains...." Thus, the key question regarding any proposed reform struggle will be the possibilities of winning, or the achievement of, real gains. This consideration is often viewed in very simplistic terms.
More specifically, look at the reform struggle currently being waged in Seattle to pass a $15/hr minimum wage law which I have commented on previously at a post entitled "The Murky Politics of the $15 Minimum Wage". I think that this struggle could result in harming a lot of workers in small businesses and non-profits, dividing the community, and accelerating the introduction of more labor saving technologies. If this happens, activists for the $15/hr minimum wage will likely be thoroughly demoralized and drop out of any activism.
This report from an anarchist media outlet provides a very interesting street-level view of events related to the Ukraine uprising. I think it can be added to the collection of views from independent journalists and leaked conversations by Empire officials, previously reported here, to form a more comprehensive view of what has occurred in Ukraine leading up to the current scene. Many lessons can be learned from this.
To be brief, I think that the total collection of reports supports the view that there were many protests against the Ukrainian government due to its corruption and austerity policies, but the protesters were unorganized and highly susceptible to Empire organized and funded fascist thugs who hijacked the uprising for their Empire employers. I think that Empire agents have perfected this type of operation through their many actions starting from the Color Revolutions and continuing with similar actions in Egypt, Libya, Syria, and Greece.
Ukraine was ripe for such an operation because of the economic chaos created by capitalist gangs taking over the government and the economy, and their political history steeped in Stalinist policies. Such protests were bound to happen given the inevitable chaos and Empire agents were well prepared early to hijack them and install a right-wing government to serve the various needs of the Empire: opening up another country to Western investment and IMF policies, and to bring another NATO outpost to the border of Russia, a competing independent capitalist gang.
It remains to be seen as to whether the right-wing Ukrainian government can maintain control of their population. (See the latest news.)
Dolack provides data on unemployment from various areas of the world, and arrives at this conclusion:
What we have here is something much bigger than any individual or single country. Market forces are at work, which undergirds the “race to the bottom” capitalism has foisted on the world. It is demand that creates jobs and if wages are declining and more are unemployed, demand will naturally decline, leaving less incentive to hire. Eventually, corporate profit margins will be squeezed, with the result that production is moved to locations with ever lower wage, safety and environmental standards.
Kerry was wrong to say that Israel would become an Apartheid State if a two-state solution was not implemented. He was wrong to say this because Israel is an Apartheid State as it stands today. Here is a small excerpt from a factsheet by the Institute for Middle East Understanding about how Israel does in fact classify as an Apartheid state…
Tuesday, April 29, 2014
US provocations in Ukraine cannot be understood apart from Washington’s “Pivot to Asia”, which is the broader strategic plan to shift attention from the Middle East to Asia. ....
So what does controlling China have to do with the dust up in Ukraine?
Many geopolitical analysts are joining in the discussion of what's up with the Empire's aggressive actions. Escobar gives us his perspective in the amusing metaphor laden piece.
For all of US Think Tankland talking and theorizing, breathlessly, about "containment" of a "rogue state" - which in itself is laughable, as if Russia was Somalia - the Obama administration's overarching "strategy" is really in a class by itself. This masterpiece of juvenile delinquent diplomacy boils down to "ignore Putin".Also, William Engdahl in his article "Obama: World’s loneliest leader" offers his assessment in which I think he attributes far too much agency to Obama. Otherwise, I have great respect for his views which in this article look quite alarming. For example, this statement: "A US State Department reliant on an uncontrolled group of psychopaths is hardly reassuring for world peace."
Several items in today's news have me wondering if our masters have lost their grip on reality. Hopefully today's news is some kind of aberration; but if it isn't, then we will soon be wading in deep doo-doo.
I started my day by reading this disturbing article. It looks like our masters intend to keep stirring the cauldron of terrorism, death, and destruction in Syria. Then I read about more arm sales to the Philippines. Well, that means jobs for Americans, doesn't it? (sarcasm)
Then in Al-Monitor I read...
US Secretary of State John Kerry told Fahmy prior to his visit to Washington that he is "certifying to Congress that Egypt is sustaining the strategic relationship with the United States," although Kerry is "not yet able to certify that Egypt is taking steps to support a democratic transition."The first part of his justification is certainly true, but the last part is the understatement of the year (see this). Ruling class media is justifying it as competition with Russian suppliers.
Finally, I read a piece entitled "War: What Is It Good For?", published in the Post and several other prominent Empire media outlets such as the Chicago Tribune and the The Telegraph, which essentially argues that war is good for us!
Then, of course, there is all the war-mongering associated with the Ukrainian coup that was financed by Empire operatives (listen especially at 7:26m).
Yes, indeed, I think that the stench of doo-doo coming from the offices of the Empire is overwhelming, and I worry that we will all soon be wading in it.
This reports on another lie put out by Empire propagandists.
Monday, April 28, 2014
What I really connected with in this piece by Lantier is his argument about the degeneration of US media into a monolithic Orwellian loudspeaker for the ruling class. I have expressed this feeling several times in my articles. I cannot recall in my lifetime that mainstream media was so full of disinformation, and so pervasive. I'm absolutely amazed at this development, and wondering what it might portend.
If the emphasis is put on "warmongers", then I agree with Lantier's statement that "A vast gulf separates the working class from the warmongers in the American ruling class and their lackeys in the media." I think there is a gulf to the extent that ordinary Americans are not on board with any more aggressive actions over Ukraine; and, I think that Empire directors are aware of this and only going so far as to punish Putin and his friends with economic measures.
Still, these directors and their European counterparts are playing a dangerous geopolitical game as argued by Paul Craig Roberts in his article "The World Moving Closer to War". The fact that they are willing to play such a game is very worrying. Do they really think they can intimidate Russia and their ruling class? Or is the strident rhetoric necessary to pacify the right-wing in the US?
When is an election a legitimate exercise in something like "democracy"? Well, opinions vary widely depending on the viewers' interests, and the viewers usually have some kind of big stake in the outcomes of elections. The universal cry of humanity for social justice has produced this process of elections to select and legitimize leaders, but it is a thoroughly corrupted system used by ruling classes to fool their subjects. You simply cannot have ruling classes and fair elections--this is, or should be, a self-evident contradiction. One might argue, as Meyssan does with the planned Syria election, that some elections are more legitimate than others. (See also Viktor Titov's views on the Syrian elections.)
For me, the best part of this article are the observations Meyssan makes about the gross hypocrisy which the planned Syrian elections are viewed by Empire directors and their associates.
War, Economic Catastrophe and Environmental Degradation. Under the Guise of Progress and Development
Todhunter, a British born writer, has lived in India for a number of years. In this fine article we learn how neoliberalism is destroying that society, and native neoliberal collaborators are making more plans to continue the destruction on behalf of the world's ruling capitalists. This is a global story because it is happening all over the world (the US included) to a greater or lessor extent.
The Earth is 4.6 billion years old and if you scale this to 46 years then humans have been here for just four hours. The Industrial Revolution began just one minute ago, and in that time, 50% of the Earth’s forests have been destroyed. Forests are just part of the problem. We are using up oil, water and other resources much faster than they can ever be regenerated. We have also poisoned the rivers, destroyed natural habitats, driven some wildlife species to extinction and altered the chemical composition of the atmosphere – among many other things.
Levels of consumption were unsustainable, long before India and other countries began striving to emulate Western levels and high energy use. The current model of development is based on a totally misguided dream; or, to put it another way, a deceitful ideology that attempts to justify and sell a system that is designed to fail the majority of the global population and benefit the relative few.
Capitalism has for a long time succeeded in making most people blind to the chains that bind and which make them immune to the falsehoods that underpin the system. This wasteful, high-energy system is tied to what ultimately constitutes the plundering of peoples and the planet by powerful transnational corporations. And, as we see all around us, the outcome is endless conflicts over fewer and fewer resources.
The writer beautifully expresses the many dilemmas facing humanity today. The only problem I have with the views expressed here is that he/she too often seems to reference "civilization" when I think he/she should be specifying capitalism (especially later in the essay). They are not equivalent. However, capitalism isn't the only ideology that has had deleterious effects for humans. The problem has been class rule, that is, the rule by a few over the vast majority of people. The fact that this began with the beginning of civilization must not lead us to throw out the baby of civilization with the bathwater of human creativity just because it also has the parasite of class rule in it.
But lay this rather minor criticism aside, and enjoy the many great insights that he/she expresses so well.
I named this blog, “Pray for Calamity,” because there are several major crises converging which threaten human civilization, and there are no existing structures capable of mitigating them. Democracy, capitalism, neo-liberal globalization; they are all incapable of undertaking the work necessary to avert cataclysm. The paradigms of thought and approach which are almost hardwired into the modern mind at this point, need to be scrubbed. Of the remaining, solvable ecological crises, which may not include climate change, there is no tool available to attend to them that comes from the conventional tool box of legal, lawful pursuit.
Sunday, April 27, 2014
I have followed Tverberg's articles for a number of years. She has demonstrated to me and many others that she knows of what she writes. She is widely respected for her research and knowledge about energy by her peers in the energy field. (Take a look at the quality and quantity of the responses she got from this article.) However, she has one serious limitation. She has been so well indoctrinated in the TINA view ("there is no alternative") that she cannot even consider any alternative to capitalism. To her it is an absolute given, an unalterable reality.
Nevertheless, I have found her insights about energy extremely useful in understanding the huge conflict that the system of capitalism has for our survival. Whereas other energy specialists writing for capitalist media often engage in fanciful ideas such as fusion energy to deal with the doomed future of capitalism on a finite planet, she looks clearly and steadily at the evidence and can only reach one conclusion--we are facing a herculean task, if not an insoluble, dilemma. In this article she demolishes many such myths by people who refuse to face reality.
Republicans, Democrats, and environmentalists all have favorite energy myths. Even Peak Oil believers have favorite energy myths. The following are a few common mis-beliefs, coming from a variety of energy perspectives. I will start with a recent myth, and then discuss some longer-standing ones.
Spritzler explains how the plutocratic ruling class and their system of capitalism needs to have people like Elizabeth Warren to maintain their indoctrination about "democracy", especially the myth that elections equal democracy. This cradle to the grave indoctrination is having difficulty fending off the reality of today's world which is becoming ever more polarized between tiny islands of the rich and powerful among the oceans of the poor. Thus, our masters keep presenting us with liberals like Warren and Sanders who with their promises of crumbs from the plutocratic table desperately try to reinforce such rapidly diminishing myths.
...all the plutocracy needs to retain its power is to make sure that the principle of class inequality is not challenged by a large number of people. It matters not to the plutocracy that a politician defends the principle of class inequality while adopting vote-getting rhetoric about limiting various excesses of class inequality. The plutocracy couldn't care less, for example, that Warren talks about reducing the interest students pay on student loans or that she calls for more regulation of banks. These are crumbs compared to the fundamental injustice of our class society in which, to take just one example, people who work (or study in order to work later) are told they owe money to bankers who don't work. In fact, the plutocracy wants politicians like Warren to use such rhetoric if this is what it takes to persuade people to rely on voting instead of revolution.
Let's keep our eye on the prize--an egalitarian society with no class inequality.
The article explains how the neoliberal stage of capitalism has worked its magic to enrich the global capitalist class at the expense of the wealth-creators, the workers.
Workers in Western countries are now paid so badly that businesses are reportedly finding it profitable to return from China - having relocated to Asia in the first place to exploit cheap labor there.
It is an astounding indictment of how capitalism has created a global race to the bottom of misery for workers - yet the Western corporate news media actively conceal this abomination.
This week a BBC business report sounded almost celebratory about the fact that Britain, the US and other Western countries were now said to be "cost competitive" with China and Brazil.
Rozoff provides an excellent history of NATO's strategy to absorb all the states adjacent to Russia to maintain the old Cold War as a neo-Cold War, and creating a "cordon sanitaire severing Russia from Europe". This history refutes the notion that the Empire is merely punishing Russia for their support of the Syrian government and their opposition to other Empire policies in the Middle East. This encroachment appears to be continuing the strategies of the Cold War when the latter was framed as a battle between social-economic systems. The Soviet Union collapsed, state industries were sold off for pennies on the dollar to a new capitalist class. But, as you can see, nothing really changed for our directors of the Empire.
Therefore, Rozoff's history indicates that the history of the conflict-ridden 20th century is still continuing, and the prior contest had little to do with a conflict between social systems. It is a continuing conflict for world domination by capitalist gangs. The US imperial gang simply won't tolerate any interference in their plans for world domination, and Russia's historical independence requires that they must be contained and subdued. And, of course, China can look forward to the same treatment.
The great challenge facing all conscious activists is to throw off this monstrous system which is pillaging and ravaging country after country, destroying human habitat, destroying the biosphere, creating widespread poverty, and amassing fortunes and power for a tiny few. There IS no alternative worth considering. Humanity's very existence is now at stake.