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, April 24, 2010

Bill Moyers Journal 4-23-2010 (2-30m videos and script)

In case you missed it, this Bill Moyers program, the second to his last regular PBS program, features two outstanding guests: 1) Bill Black, whom I also posted yesterday in another interview, in which he again explains his view that the recent financial collapse was mostly brought about by sheer fraud on the part of the large financial institutions, particularly Merrill Lynch and Goldman Sachs; 2) and Michael J. Copps, FCC Commissioner, who warns about corporate threats to the internet. 

These are both excellent interviews which offer some real and rare insights on their respective, and critically important subjects.

Cochabamba's New Direction

from Yes! Magazine.
When the social movements met, what came through loud and clear was that people all over the world think that climate change should be solved by having those who pollute too much cut their emissions. The communities and movements don’t want fancy trading schemes, and they don’t want their land, their labor, or their bodies to become a commodity to be sold in someone’s market....

`Capitalism is the main enemy of the Earth', Evo Morales tells people's climate conference (7:08m video)

from Democracy Now. 
Morales, speaking at the April 20 conference inauguration, started his speech with a slogan, "Planet or death, we shall overcome". He said that harmony with nature could not exist while 1 per cent of the world's population concentrates more than 50 per cent of the world's riches. Capitalism is the main enemy of the Earth, only looking for profits, to the detriment of nature, and capitalism is a bridge for social  inequality.

A Radical Climate Solution Goes Mainstream

from The Washington Independent. The ruling classes are so arrogant and desperate to save the goose (the capitalist system) that lays their golden eggs that they are getting serious about tinkering with the earth's climate system. It appears to me that they are beginning to realize that their beloved system is wrecking havoc on the planet.

Time out

Washington is "Totally and Completely Corrupt" (1:14m video)

Chris Hayes from U-Tube. Listen to a very succinct and accurate description of the US Congress.
Chris Hayes, columnist for the Nation magazine, while appearing on MSNBC's 'Countdown' program, blasted Congress as being "totally corrupt." He argued that America is "ruled by a financial oligarchy" that has bought off the politicians on Capitol Hill. He was referring specifically to how quickly Republicans and Democrats came together to pass a bill regulating financial institutions. Especially given the acrimony exhibited during the health care reform debates.

$33 Billion for War, How Could I Spend Thee on Local Jobs?

from Huffington Post. 
Sometime between now and Memorial Day, the House is expected to consider $33 billion more for war in Afghanistan. ...Of course, by itself the number $33 billion is totally meaningless. To make it meaningful, we need to compare it to something - what else could we do with $33 billion? 
On the other hand, $33 billion is good for the stockholders of Haliburton, KBR, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman Corp (drones), Boeing, etc.

The Exceptional Nature of Cuban Urban Agriculture

from Civil Eats. Excellent comparison of the different economic systems in the US and Cuba as they impact on food production. In the US the private ownership of land and market imperatives are major impediments to local organic farming initiatives.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Interview with Bill Black: The Great Global Bank Robbery, Parts 1&2

from New Deal 2.0.  I haven't had a change to read all of both parts, but Black appears to drop some real bombshells in this interview.
We face recurrent, intensifying economic crises (and economic stagnation for the working and middle class in the developed West) because our financial elites are unworthy. They are too often outright criminals - control frauds. They have no sense of accountability, no sense of duty to the nation (or community or world). ...Their anti-regulatory, pro-greed ideology triumphed and produced a global Great Recession. But for government intervention and bailouts they would have caused a second Great Depression worse than the original. And what do our elites do? They blame the least powerful citizens for the crisis the elites designed, implemented, and grew rich on.
Read also Part 2

Can US dollar remain world's currency? Pts.2-4

from The Real News Network. This insightful interview continues with Jane D'Arista who is a research associate with the Political Economy Research Institute.

Part 3 and Part 4

State budget crisis about to become a "catastrophe"

from The Economic Populist. The author reports on the many devastating effects that the current economic collapse is having on states in the US. And, of course, the hardest hit are educational and social programs.

Economist James Galbraith: Economists Should Move into the Background, and "Criminologists to the Forefront"

from Washington's Blog. The author assembles the views of many critics that the economic collapse was caused by fraud. Hence the perpetrators are criminals and should be treated as such. In my view, it is the system itself which inevitably leads morally weak people into criminal behavior.

Obama Reassures Wall Street on Bank Regulation Bill

by Barry Grey from Global Research. 
With complete cynicism, Obama and congressional Democrats, with the assistance of the media, are presenting their regulatory proposals as a sweeping reform comparable to the banking measures implemented by the Roosevelt administration in the Great Depression.

In reality, the Senate measure, like the bill passed last December by the House of Representatives, proposes certain marginal changes in the way government agencies monitor financial firms, but does nothing to reverse the deregulation of banking carried out over the past three decades, which dismantled the restrictions imposed during the 1930s. It introduces no structural reforms to limit, let alone ban, the speculative practices that have become central to the accumulation of profit and personal wealth by the American ruling class.

Obama's Cooper Union Speech: President Urges Wall Street Support For Reform

from Huffington Post. The author contrasts Obama's recent speech to that of FDR in the 1930's when the latter said,
"We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace -- business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering. ...They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob. Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today.

"They are unanimous in their hate for me -- and I welcome their hatred."
Now, I am no fan of FDR. He was a brilliant member of the capitalist ruling class and feared various threats to his beloved system: the ruling class at that time was laced with pro-fascists, the planned economy of the Soviet Union was making vast strides at industrializing with no unemployment which appealed to many working people, and the economic system was in full collapse and there were no safety nets for working people. 

He saved the system by cleverly steering a middle course by providing a few crumbs to calm the discontent of working people in the form of Workers Compensation, Social Security, more favorable labor laws, Federally sponsored employment programs, etc. And as the above quote illustrates, he used anti-banking rhetoric to pose as a friend of working people.

World War II brought the US out of the depression and the ruling class immediately went on the offensive to roll back many of the gains made for, and by working people by attacking militant labor leaders and left wing intellectuals (McCarthy period), co-opting others, passing restrictions on labor organizing, a massive media campaign against labor and left wing ideas, etc.

Greek public sector workers strike to oppose austerity measures

from World Socialist Web Site. The Greek people are fighting back against the capitalist elites.
Tens of thousands of civil servants took part in a strike over austerity measures in Greece on Thursday. Government officials, hospital workers, teachers, university professors, dockworkers and customs and tax officials participated. Museums and archaeological sites were also closed.

Time out

George Papendreou and the Greek people

Chimpanzees Prefer Fair Play To Reaping An Unjust Reward

from The Primate Diaries. This article presents research which suggests to me that chimpanzees may be smarter than humans after all.
...chimpanzees in this study went beyond the basic tenets of the social contract and demonstrated what could be considered the foundation of social solidarity. ...Even those who benefited from inequality recognized that the situation was unfair and they refused to enjoy their own reward if it meant someone else had to suffer.

Why I hate Earth Day II: the road to hell in baby steps

by Sharon Astyk from Casaubon's Book. She makes some very good points about the distortion of news and commentary re the issues of environmental devastation, climate change, and peak oil from mainstream media and that the problems are more hidden in Western societies because capitalist enterprises have outsourced most of their polluting industries to the other countries. 

Unfortunately, she fails to make the fundamental connection to the source of the problems--the capitalist system which cannot deal with the problems. Until we, the people, make this connection and change the system, nothing of consequence will change with regard to halting the slide toward catastrophe.
The central message of most Earth Day celebrations is that if we all do a little, we'll make the world a better place. But the fact is that that's not true, and as much as we like to hear such a friendly, fuzzy message, we can't make it factual just by wanting it to be true. The blunt reality is that unless we all do an awful lot, very fast, we're facing disaster. We use the word "sustainable" casually, to mean "well, we can probably do a little more of this if we cut back a little now." But we are facing a sustainability crisis in the deepest sense - if we don't make massive changes and quite rapidly, our children's future is in question - and the children of billions of people around the world.

'Major Oil Spill' Feared As Rig Sinks Off US Coast

from Common Dreams, source from Agence France-Presse. 
Officials said the current spill had the potential to be the worst seen in the United States since the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil tanker spill, considered one of the worst man-made environmental disasters.

Iceland volcano gives warming world chance to debunk climate sceptic myths

from the Guardian. 
But one opportunity the volcano has gifted us in particular is the chance to put to bed once and for all that barrel-aged climate sceptic canard which maintains that volcanoes emit far more carbon dioxide than anthropogenic sources.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

There ain't no escape from collapse

by Joe Bageant from his website. Joe responds to a person wanting information about escaping the coming collapse of society for those of us in the advanced(?) capitalist countries. Joe appears to be living mostly in exile in Mexico after living in Belize, and has an earlier experience of living off the land in the US. So I think that he is highly qualified to offer his words of wisdom.
I have come to think the price of admission anywhere in the world, (except in America and Europe, where enough dough will get your ass kissed in any circles) is service to others. We have been indoctrinated by an earth devouring capitalist system to believe otherwise. Believe that giving only depletes. And that mankind and civilization came about through kings and warriors and "great men." But the essential glue of man the social animal, and society has always been on cooperation and sharing. That an endless stream of elite thieves have always managed to steal the fruits of that cooperation does not matter. And the best that is in man still rests on the same fundamentals -- cooperation for the greater good of all.

Want to Buy a Bridge Cheap?

from On the Commons. 
Mayors and governors staring down massive budget gaps are putting bridges, buildings, parking lots, and more up for sale.

...Increasingly, small groups of power brokers, not public servants, are helping to midwife decisions, with little or no oversight, that benefit themselves, the politicians and players they’re connected to , but not necessarily you, the voter and taxpayer.

350 Degrees of Inseparability

by Rebecca Solnit from Truth Dispatch. You might want to skip the introduction by scrolling down to the article which is mostly a commentary on Bill McKibben's book entitled, "Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet".
A word about that number, 350. For a long time, McKibben relates, the premise, or pretense, was that the parts per million of atmospheric carbon we needed to worry about was 550, double the historic concentration.  As it turns out, it was also a random figure, easy to calculate, not too alarming. We weren’t anywhere near there yet, which is why we could frame global warming as some terrible thing that was going to happen way down the road -- the grandchildren theory of climate change.

Then the scientists got more data and so more precision about where peril lay: in December of 2007, NASA climatologist James Hansen announced at the American Geophysical Union that 350 was about the upper limit at which life on Earth as we know and like it was likely to continue.
We’re now at about 390.

Obama Newspeak: Labeling Food as GM-Free is False, Misleading and Deceptive, even When it is True

from Politics of the Plate. 
Last month there was the appointment of big-time GM/GE advocate (and former Monsanto lobbyist) Islam Siddiqui as the country’s chief agricultural negotiator. Now comes a position paper from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that opposes labeling for genetically modified food. The U.S. claims that letting consumers know whether or not GM/GE products are contained in food is “false, misleading, or deceptive.

Monster's Ball: Drawing Back the Veil on the 'Death State'

by Chris Floyd from his blog. As usual, this author's unleashes his razor sharp analysis to see where the US administration's recent aggressive moves against Iran are headed.

Fiscal Folly

by Robert Kuttner from the liberal Huffington Post. 

A day after Obama's publicized "bi-partisan" National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform begins its hearings, a privately organized commission that appears to be members and representatives of the US ruling class will be holding a "fiscal summit" on basically the same subject--"national dialogue on solving America's fiscal challenges". The list of the participants includes the following:
President Bill Clinton, who will be interviewed by George Stephanopoulos, we will hear from a range of experts, including Paul Volcker and Alan Greenspan, Former Chairmen of the Federal Reserve; Bob Rubin, Former Secretary of the Treasury; Alice Rivlin, former OMB Director and Member, National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform; Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH), Member, National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform; John Podesta, President and CEO of the Center for American Progress; John Castellani, President of Business Roundtable....
The Business Roundtable is at the very core of the US ruling class. See this. So, I think it would be wise to pay attention to this ruling class meeting to see what we can look forward to from Obama's official government hearings. The real decisions that affect ordinary people are always carried on through private gathers such as the above. The decisions made by official government bodies should always be regarded as political theater. The latter function in order to provide cover and legitimacy to government run by private interests. Of course, the private gatherings are usually not publicized and one might speculate as why this one is. The author believes that
This is a propaganda event...[that] they already know exactly what they want -- strict budget caps on social outlay, enforced by a rigid formula, with cuts in Medicare and Social Security leading the way.
So the reason why this is publicized is because it wants to shape the public mind in the "right" direction regarding government fiscal issues.
The author of this article is a liberal who, to his credit brings this private meeting to our attention, but doesn't appear to understand how capitalist governing works.

Time out

The populist charade

from Socialist Worker, The editorial examines the latest political theater, called The Tea Party movement, performed by the right wing of the ruling class as it attempts to distract and manipulate working people.

Capitalism is not sustainable

from Socialist Worker. This is a book review of John Bellamy Foster's book entitled, "The Ecological Revolution: Making Peace with the Planet" by Erik Wallenberg.
He argues against those who would say capitalism can be "greened": "Aside from technology, virtually nothing in the social organization of society will change in this vision. The commitment to unlimited accumulation of capital and to an order that places artificially generated private wants over individual and social needs is unaltered."

In order to begin developing new technology that isn't driven by the market and the profit motive, but rather by the need to create a sustainable world, people must first be freed by a social revolution that can harness humanity's potential for just such a task.

Frontline Fronts for Corporations, Not the Public

by Margaret Flowers from The Public Record. This article on Frontline, a liberal PBS program in the US, illustrates how a (capitalist) government subsidized TV network acts as a gatekeeper of opinions on the left, and what range of views are acceptable to be considered at all.
The major point of the influence of health-industry dollars on the reform process, which should have been mentioned, is that these dollars were spent in order to restrict the debate and protect industry profits.

The lucrative status quo would have been threatened if single-payer had been openly discussed because a publicly financed national health program can provide high quality universal health care and control health care costs, something that a private-insurance-based system cannot accomplish.

After watching this film, viewers would have no idea that single-payer exists or know that there is a strong movement for it.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Governments Starting to Worry About Peak Oil

by Chris Nelder from Seeking Alpha. 
You'd think the American media would have been all over the story, as it signaled a major about-face in the official U.S. position on peak oil. As recently as 2008, the EIA's base case scenario was for oil supply to rise through 2030, and not decline until 2090!

Yet five days later when I Googled it, there was not one story from a major domestic publication. Only blogs and the usual peak oil sites had picked it up.

In my seasoned judgment, the American media blackout is deliberate.

Proving Election Fraud - Book Review

by Michael Collins from Atlantic Free Press. 
"Proving Election Fraud" dispels the mysteries of modern elections. It walks the reader through the process of understanding how elections work, provides simple explanations of the principals of election analysis and offers an online resource that anyone can use to develop their own True Vote Model. Of equal or greater importance, Charmin's relentlessly thorough analysis shows just how outrageous election fraud is and frees the reader to analyze the accuracy of official election results.

Americans and Government

from Archein. 
Pew has a good and important survey on Americans and government. Andrew Kohut did an overview for the WSJ stating:

    There is a perfect storm of conditions associated with distrust of government—a dismal economy, an unhappy public, and epic discontent with Congress and elected officials.

The Future of Flight

from Restoring Mayberry. 
...most of this constant circulation of planes around, and the goods they transport, are unnecessary. In fact, like so much of modern life, they involve a great leap backward.

Take fruit, for example, since so much of it is flown in. Medieval Britons didn’t need to ship apples in from New Zealand, even had they known about the place – they gathered apples in the autumn and kept them cool in the attic until they needed them. We are no less able to do this than they were, yet how many garden sheds and closets could you open to see stacks of apples?

Time out

Anderson Cooper and Class Solidarity

by Joe Bageant from his blog.
Thanks to globalization, the American, Australian and European working classes are on their way to extinction, in terms of their traditional rights, and quality of life. Just like the workers being poisoned to death by circuit board toxins in Guiyu, China, their fates will be determined by global capital, either by default or by bitter struggle against it. We are not seeing much of the latter and are not likely to, until it is too late, which it may already be. After all, you cannot put up much of a struggle against global capital when you worship it a creed and are addicted to commodities too.

World People's Conference On Climate Change: Democracy Centre report Day 1

from People's Conference. 
We don’t have time to waste. When we talk climate change we are talking about a crisis in which human behavior needs to change very much, very fast – and the only way change that fast happens is by changing public policies. So my beat at the Tiquipaya climate summit is about looking for the strategies to make that policy change happen. What are the objectives? Who does the climate movement need to move to achieve them? How are they going to do that? What are the arguments, alliances and actions that will make that happen?

People's World Conference on Climate Change

from Eco Factory.
Morales, who spoke during the opening ceremonies, made it clear that the enemy to the environment is capitalism. "Capitalism is what started the problem and it needs to end." 

Defense Spending Is Much Greater than You Think

by Robert Higgs from The Independent Institute. The author lists many military related expenses that are hidden in other departments that are never included in "defense" spending. Thus
the grand total comes to $1,027.8 billion, which is 61.5 percent greater than the Pentagon’s outlays alone.
Hence over 1 trillions dollars is spent every year by the US ruling class using taxpayer money to enforce their interests (profits, cheap labor and materials) on people throughout the world. 

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Future of Capitalism - Profits and Growth

by George Mobus from The Oil Drum. Although I have not yet returned home from my trip, I spotted this article while checking my email at a library's computer. I haven't had a chance to read it thoroughly, but it looks like an excellent article that fits with the point of this blog which is that capitalism is going to destroy the earth's habitat for humans and many other species--if we let it!
Over the next several decades we (humans) will have to change our understanding of what is feasible and what we need to be doing to have a future. The future does not include growth of the GDP or profits. Capitalism as it has been practiced in the 20th century and now hanging on in the early 21st century is dead. Or rather, at this juncture in history, it is moribund.