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 22, 2010

The Breadbasket of America: New England?

from Civil Eats, original source from The Atlantic Food Channel. 

The article deals with the efforts of New England food outlets to link up with local farmers to produce the grains they need for their food. It is not as simple as it might seem. Read the details.
From Maine and Vermont to New York and Pennsylvania, a growing number of farmers, bakers, brewers, distillers, and food educators are working to create a regional grain network throughout the Northeast.

Why Oil Spills Don’t Happen to Rich People

from Vanity Fair. Well, the reasons are obvious--oil spills tarnish their lifestyle and the rich are powerful people.
When rhetoric on the oil issue is laced with elitism, it can be so over-the-top that it seems comical, or sometimes just plain offensive. But the angst over drilling is very real in the Northeast, as is sensitivity for the environment. The situation in the Gulf Coast is truly tragic, but you wouldn’t likely be seeing it if the wealthy Northeastern population lived there. The rich are able to protect themselves, while others are left undefended.

Environmentalism is Dead

by Gregory Vickrey from Counterpunch. Okay, I know that this is a bit over-the-top cynicism, but he does make some very good points about how the corporations are co-opting environmentalists, trying to take over the movement, and establishing fake environmental front organizations to hide behind.

Obama and Attention Deficit Democracy

by James Bovard from Counterpunch. 
The recent coverups illustrate how our republic is becoming an Attention Deficit Democracy.   The government remains nominally democratic - elections continue to be boisterous events with mass rallies and tidal waves of dubious ads. But after the polling booths close, most citizens remain clueless about what their rulers do in their name.

Time out

Schama: Are the Guillotines Being Sharpened? [A must-read article]

by Ives Smith from her blog, Naked Capitalism. This is a commentary of a commentary--both contain some very astute observations.

A Progressive Agenda to Remake Washington [a propaganda piece]

from the NY Times. 

Our nation's "newspaper of record" gives you a piece of pure propaganda selling the virtues of the Obama administration. Notice that the article is not presented as an editorial or commentary. It has all the appearance of being written by a propaganda minister of an Orwellian state. It is quite astonishing even for my jaded eyes. This piece confirms my contention that Obama is the perfect presidential representative for the US ruling class in their drive to "structurally adjust" (slashing funding of all public programs) the American people while further encroaching upon civil rights and promoting never-ending wars. 

Detainees Barred From Access to U.S. Courts

from the NY Times. The Obama administration appealed a lower court decision that these detainees at the US Bagram Air Base had habeas corpus rights and the decision was overturned. More change that you can believe in:
A lawyer for the detainees, Tina Foster, said that if the precedent stood, Mr. Obama and future presidents would have a free hand to “kidnap people from other parts of the world and lock them away for the rest of their lives” without having to prove in court that their suspicions about such prisoners were accurate.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Requiem for the Gulf (3:59m video)

by David Swanson from War Is A Crime. 

In an addition to the war on working people, our corporate leaders in their mad pursuit of profits have been engaged in a war on the environment, one in which they are winning.

Gene Pioneer Venter Takes Another Step Toward Synthetic Life

from Bloomberg News. This is a dramatic news piece that could have profound consequences.
“It is an untested technology, and there needs to be extensive debate about the ethics and environmental consequences of generating these new organisms,” said Alison Smith, a professor of plant sciences at the University of Cambridge in England. 
Because of the hyper-pursuit of profits under the capitalist system, what do you think are the chances that there will be a lot of testing and debate about the environmental consequences of this new technology? In my opinion, it will be just like deep water oil drilling--a lot of warnings by scientists, but corporations will inevitably be given the green light to go ahead by the capitalist ruling classes without any or few safeguards. See this article from which the following quote is taken:
While scientists and philosophers have already begun to debate the potential consequences and moral implications of the work, the motivating force for Venter is commercial. His team has an even more ambitious dream: to create organisms that are not only new, but also lucrative. Venter has secured a deal with the oil giant ExxonMobil to create algae that can absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and convert it into fuel — an innovation he believes could be worth more than a trillion dollars.

Artificial Scarcity in a World of Overproduction: An Escape that Isn't

from Mute. The author analyzes the recent economic collapse as a tendency for the capitalist system to produce bubbles and over-production of things, examines the dilemmas that the managers of the system face as they pursue various strategies to get out of economic collapse, and finally focuses attention on the drive for innovation, the ownership of knowledge which provides the capitalist class with potentially huge sources of profits. Highly recommended to increase your understanding of this system.  

Goldman Sachs Revolving Door: The New Edition

from Huffington Post. View 14 slides to get a visual portrayal of a major method, among others, that the US financial oligarchy uses to manage the "democratic" government of the US. 

Facing record loss of revenue, US states gutting essential services

by David Walsh from World Socialist Web Site. 
While they insist workers in the US and around the world do without, the financial masters of the universe on Wall Street are amassing unprecedented levels of personal wealth. In fact the bankruptcy of nations, states and cities has been another lucrative source of income for wealthy speculators.

The Heresy of the Greeks Offers Hope

by John Pilger from Dissident Voice. This article provides one of the most revealing perspectives on the Greek economic crisis that I've read. As such, it is a good antidote to the crap you are fed from mainstream media that is designed to make you stupid.
The crisis that has led to the “rescue” of Greece by the European banks and the International Monetary Fund is the product of a grotesque financial system which itself is in crisis. Greece is a microcosm of a modern class war that is rarely reported as such and is waged with all the urgency of panic among the imperial rich.

We are the endangered species

from The Economic Populist. 
Adding humans as an endangered species might be a timely move.  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) produced a document on April 28 indicating the leak could reach over two million gallons of oil a day.  In addition to ravaging the Gulf of Mexico, the damage caused by oil may extend to the Florida straits and the Atlantic coast of the United States.

While BP estimates that it can contain the gusher within a week, Admiral Thad Allen of the U.S. Coast Guard is planning for the event to become a full scale catastrophe.  His candid admission that half a million gallons of the toxic oil dispersant have been released above and below the gulf indicates the current  level of desperation to contain the accumulating mess.

Time out

Senate Passes Faux Financial "Reform" Bill

from Washington's Blog. Get the real scoop on the much ballyhooed US Senate passage of the so-called financial reform bill. It only awaits a Congressional conference to become law after the signing by Obama.
The Senate passed a financial "reform" bill today by a 59-39 vote which won't fix any of the core problems in the financial system, and won't prevent the next financial crisis.
The bill doesn't include the Volcker Rule (it wasn't even debated), doesn't break up or even substantially rein in the too big to fails, and doesn't force transparency in the derivatives market.

Iran, Sun Tzu and the dominatrix

by Pepe Escobar from Asia Times Online. The author explains how the US is caught in an embarrassing contradiction regarding Iran, and how the other major players are outsmarting the US.

I love the author's portrayal of war-monger Hillary Clinton as a dominatrix. It brings to mind the support for Hillary during the 2008 US elections by so many women who were excited about a woman candidate for President--as if the equipment you carry between your legs has some bearing on one's politics! This is reverse sexism at its worst. 

The US ruling class loves to manipulate this, generally speaking, very naive US electorate by allowing it to vote on candidates of a different gender and race with the implication that such candidates will support different policies.
So we have come to a situation whereby a real, Iran-approved nuclear fuel swap is on the table at the International Atomic Energy Agency while an offensive towards sanctions on Iran is ongoing at the UN. Who is the real "international community" going to trust? Erdogan could not have put it better; "This is the time to discuss whether we believe in the supremacy of law or the law of the supremes and superiors ..."

Most of all, what the developing world sees is the past - US, France, Britain, Germany - fighting against the advance of the future - China, India, Brazil, Turkey, Indonesia. The global security architecture - policed by a bunch of fearful, self-appointed Western guardians - is in a coma. The "Atlanticist" West is sinking Titanic-style. 

'Culture Integral to Agriculture'

from IPS news service. 
Biodiversity in agriculture is about culture. Traditional knowledge and culture are as important as research and investments aver farmers, researchers and academicians who are gathered in Rome to celebrate International Day for Biodiversity on Saturday.

Living in denial: How corporations manufacture doubt

from New Scientist. 
You can't beat doubt as a corporate strategy - especially if your product is life-threatening when used as directed. These days we don't have to speculate as to whether industries have manufactured doubt. They have admitted it too many times.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

U.S. National Academy of Sciences labels as “settled facts” that “the Earth system is warming and that much of this warming is very likely due to human activities”

from Climate Progress. 
The report is a typical NAS product, which means it is uber-conservative from a scientific perspective, much like the IPCC.  So that means whenever it actual makes a strong assertion, like the ones above, it is doubly impressive.  Those who continue to attack what are essentially ’settled facts’ deserve the label that I and others have been using — ‘anti-scientific’.

Climate Change Hits the Oceans

from Time Magazine, original source at Nature (paid subscription required). 
To get a measure of what's truly going on, scientists look to the oceans — slow to heat up, slow to cool down, and thus less prone to short-term variations. 
The result of a recent study suggests that "the oceans have been warming inexorably since at least 1993, at a rate broadly consistent with what you'd expect from the buildup of greenhouse gases."

A Legacy You Can Sink Your Teeth Into

from Food Freedom. 
The most important legacy of heirloom foods, however, is one you can’t see or taste. Inside their DNA is an incalculably precious gene bank from which we can make vital withdrawals when disease and worse strike today’s mass-produced crops. When heirloom varieties disappear, they take these defenses with them. Lose too many of them and it’s our food supply itself that will ultimately be threatened.

Time out

Just Like 9/11? Oil Spill Responders Are Getting Sick ... But Are Being Told They Don't Need Any Safety Gear

from Washington's Blog. This excellent blogger reports on the details behind this headline.

Greek tragedy

by Henry C. K. Liu from Asia Times. The author explains how "the market über alles", AKA free markets, neo-liberalism, Washington Consensus, has caused the Greek economic tragedy and likely more to come in other countries.

WikiLeaks founder has his passport confiscated

by Glenn Greenwald from Salon. This is what can happen when a citizen tries to reveal Empire secrets.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Supplanting the United States Constitution: War, National Emergency and the "Continuity of Governement"

by Peter Dale Scott from Global Research. 

Scott, a retired English professor at U. of California, has a long career of digging up the dirt on many secret, or covered up enterprises of the US government. His research ranges from the Kennedy assassination to Iran-Contra, to CIA drug running, to 9/ll. He always presents an abundance of references to support his suspicions. And I emphasize suspicions because what he assembles does not usually constitute proof. I sampled some of the references and found mostly what, I believe, is called enabling legislation--authorization to make all kinds of emergency plans, with emergencies broadly defined. The broad language could allow for almost anything. As they say, the devil is in the details which are secret. 

But what he has done is exposed a lot of lies and mis-representations of facts by government officials. He is careful to avoid making any sensational allegations. He merely assembles the information that he can dig up, and he digs up a lot, then leaves it for the reader to reach his own conclusions. Given that the government has such a propensity for secrecy and damning revelations come out only many years later, who can fault him for his suspicions?

How Big Oil Bought the Interior Department

by Billy Wharton from Climate and Capitalism. The author explores the details of how Big Oil corporations maintain control of the Interior Department regardless of who wins elections.
When corporations rule the world, they do so to ensure their own self-preservation through the accumulation and exploitation of natural resources. People get hurt and ecosystems are destroyed, but this is just the collateral damage.

What explains the anti-establishment sentiment?

by Glenn Greenwald from Salon. The author analyzes the results of yesterday's primary elections across the US in which establishment favorites often lost. But of course, the choices were very limited, and change through the US election system is futile.
It makes perfect sense that the country loathes the political establishment.  Just look at its rancid fruits over the past decade:  a devastating war justified by weapons that did not exist; a financial crisis that our Nation's Genuises failed to detect and which its elites caused with lawless and piggish greed; elections that seem increasingly irrelevant in terms of how the Government functions; grotesquely lavish rewards for the worst culprits juxtaposed with miserable unemployment and serious risks of having basic entitlements (Social Security) cut for ordinary Americans; and a Congress that continues to be owned, right out in the open, by the very interests that have caused so much damage.

Capitalism: Big Surprises in Recent Polls

from Common Dream. The article refers to the startling results of a recent Pew polling study.
According to the conventional wisdom, the US is a center-Right country. But a new poll by Pew casts doubt on that idea. It shows widespread skepticism about capitalism and hints that support for socialist alternatives is emerging as a majoritarian force in America’s new generation.
If valid, the results suggest a rather huge disconnect between US government policies, mainstream media views and public opinion, especially among younger people.
On nearly every major issue, from support minimum wage and unions, preference for diplomacy over force, deep concern for the environment, belief that big business is corrupting democracy, and support for many major social programs including Social Security and Medicare, the progressive position has been strong and relatively stable. If “socialism” means support for these issues, the interpretation of the Pew poll is a Center-Left country.

If socialism means a search for a genuine systemic alternative, then America, particularly its youth, is emerging as a majoritarian social democracy, or in a majoritarian search for a more cooperativist, green, and more peaceful and socially just order.

Massacre In Thailand: Obama’s Bloody Hands

by Shamus Cooke from Counter Currents. I've been wondering what lies behind the current reports of violent clashes between the people of Thailand and their government. This is the first article I've found that tries to offer an explanation, and it makes a lot of sense to me.
The U.S. government often overthrows “unfriendly governments” by bribing sections of their military, a fact discussed at length in Tim Weiner’s history of the CIA, Legacy of Ashes. When a U.S.-backed coup happens, the U.S. government and corporate media give tacit approval; whereas a howl of fury erupts when a coup happens against a U.S. puppet government. 

Worshiping the free-market god

by Eric Toussaint from Socialist Worker.
The gods of this religion are the financial markets. Its temples are known as stock exchanges. Only the high priests and their acolytes can tread their holy ground. The faithful are called upon to commune with their market-god on television, on their computer screen, in the daily papers, on the radio or at the bank.

Thanks to television, radio and the Internet, even in the most remote parts of the planet, hundreds of millions of people who are deprived of the right to meet their basic needs, are also urged to celebrate the market-god. In the North, in newspapers read by workers, housewives and unemployed, an "investment" section is published every day, even though the overwhelming majority of readers do not own a single share. Journalists are paid to help the faithful understand signals sent by the gods.
Excellent article, but one might get the idea that religion is only a metaphor for the widespread faith in capitalism. I would argue that the latter constitutes a real religion, and far more powerful than what are regarded as formal religions. This religion, like the formal ones, is purely based on faith not rationality. Our educational systems function as Sunday schools that teach its scriptures to our children. If one dares to criticize it, one often experiences something like excommunication, that is to say, shunned by one's peers, punished by poor job prospects, etc.

Time out

The New Phrase for Indulgence: ‘Passionate Investing’

from The Wall Street Journal. Working people don't usually read the WSJ and thus are unaware of the lifestyles and problems of the ruling class. It's likely that they are even unaware that there is a ruling class--it's a democracy, ain't it? Well, Rupert Murdock's WSJ is here to enlighten us. His reporters think their clever by calling "passionate investing" "indulgence". I would call it "gluttony"--and that's a sin!

Livestreaming the Closed Door Debt Commission Pt. 3

by Alex Lawson carried on FireDogLake, originally sourced from Social Security Works. Someone, I gather that it is Alex, is live-streaming as best he can the closed door session of The Debt Commission officially known as the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform

I recommend skipping the live streaming at the top of the article. Instead read the article and check out the video highlights at the bottom of the article where he states: "I know that watching a closed door is not that riveting, so check out the highlights from the last two weeks here and here."

The real action of our government always happens behind closed doors.

The Relentless Pursuit of Extreme Energy

by Michael Klare from TomDispatch. You can skip the usual introduction and scroll down to the article by Klare. The article reviews the desperate search for more fossil fuels by the big oil companies and the relaxing of environmental restrictions. I would particularly like to point out the red font-ed statement in the following quote that I added for emphasis:
While drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was, in the end, blocked by Congress, an oil rush to exploit the other areas proceeded with little governmental opposition.  In fact, as has now become evident, the government’s deeply corrupted regulatory arm, the Minerals Management Service (MMS), has for years facilitated the awarding of leases for exploration and drilling in the Gulf of Mexico while systematically ignoring environmental regulations and concerns.  Common practice during the Bush years, this was not altered when Barack Obama took over the presidency.  Indeed, he gave his own stamp of approval to a potentially massive increase in offshore drilling when on March 30th -- three weeks before the Deepwater Horizon disaster -- he announced  that vast areas of the Atlantic, the eastern Gulf of Mexico, and Alaskan waters would be opened to oil and gas drilling for the first time.
The emphasized statement illustrates once again how the candidate President Obama promised change, but as President is delivering the same old policies. This is true of nearly every policy implemented by the US government under his administration. Such differences that do exist are more in the nature of style and not substance.  

The electoral theater, where the ruling class every two years likes to perform the play called "Democracy", serves to prevent us from seeing where real power lies--not in the people as is stated in the Constitution, but in a small class of people who have taken ownership of most of the nation's productive assets that working people developed with their hard work and creativity over the past two-plus centuries.

Top Italian policemen get up to five years for violent attack on G8 protesters

from the Guardian. The headline suggests that some kind of justice was performed by the Italian legal system, but a careful reading of the article contents reveals that very little justice will happen.

This Amnesty International report is much clearer:
...the lack of the crime of torture in the Italian criminal code has prevented judges from punishing perpetrators in a manner proportionate to the gravity of the conduct attributed to them.

The lesser crimes are by now subject to statute of limitations, which means that no one will serve any time in prison.

Furthermore, systemic failures which contributed to the violations in Bolzaneto have not been addressed by the Italian authorities. Amnesty International said it is concerned that the Italian authorities have failed in the past nine years to take any measure to prevent police brutality of the scale occurred in Genoa in 2001 from happening again.
I believe that this is another indication that capitalist ruling classes across the Western world are headed toward more overt police state methods of controlling descent. This incident also exemplifies how ruling classes suppress information until it no longer poses much of a threat to their governments.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Picture post: ‘hottest April ever’

from The Great Beyond.

The Responses to the Gulf Oil Spill and to the Financial Crisis Are Remarkably Similar ... And Have Made Both Crises Much Worse

from Washington's Blog. 

This author's analysis is spot on by examining the motives behind the risk-taking of corporate behemoths. Because of the dire consequences of such risk-taking, they resort to cover-ups to hide their sins.

Brazil-Turkey 1, sanctions 0

by Pepe Escobar from Asia Times Online.
It was most of all a victory for the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China) - the de facto, emerging, global counter-power to US hegemony.

Is There Rehab for this Oil Overdose?

by Carolyn Baker from her blog. 

I am posting this article because I believe it represents the major view of the Transition Movement, a view which I think distorts reality and thus gives us false leads out of this multi-dimensional crisis of climate change, peak energy, and economic collapse.

The addiction metaphor is a good one, one which I have used a lot. But like all metaphors, they are valid up to a point and I believe that the author, like many others in the Transition Movement, misses that point. 

In this view the main addiction is to an abundant lifestyle based on industrial civilization and fueled by fossil fuels. And clearly the view holds that we are all responsible. This is where, I believe, the distortion lies. 

I believe that the concept of "industrial civilization" as used here would be much more accurately described as an industrial economy organized under the capitalist system, or just simply capitalism. In mainstream media and many other places "industrial civilization" is used a synonym for capitalism with the hidden suggestion that "there is no alternative". Sometimes it, along with "market economy", "private enterprise", "American Way of Life", etc. are used as euphemisms for capitalism because the latter term carries many negative associations among some people--in other words, it is often avoided in "polite" company. 

In any case, what the essay suggests is that we are all responsible and likewise we all must as individuals change our lifestyles. It is a moral argument that misses a huge reality and, because of that, I do not believe that any significant change is likely to occur from this perspective.

Once you frame the issue as an economy driven by the requisites of capitalism--the drive for profits (or wealth accumulation by individuals who constitute a class of people that have enormous influence over the lives of the rest of us that constitutes the vast majority of the world's population), then the way opens up for some real change strategies.

This Evolutionary Choice

by Andrew MacDonald from his blog, Radical Relocalization. Actually I think he is arguing for a revolutionary choice, or to put it more politely for the benefit of our ruling class, a paradigm shift in the way we live.
Now, so pushed up against each other, there's no way we can fight among ourselves without fighting against ourselves. What got us here is not what will get us out, and beyond, this point. Now if there is to be enough to permit most to eat and live, we'll have to intentionally cooperate with "the other” like never before. We'll have to move the term “my brother’s keeper” from a religious tenet and a philosophical nicety to an economic imperative and a practical wisdom. Maximum consumption is no longer a practical option. But most of us haven't heard that, or we are not ready to really hear it.

Time out

PEACE HEROES: Albert Einstein by Cindy Sheehan

from her blog. In addition to describing Einstein's opposition to war, she also points out the falseness of the "support our troops" theme that is pushed by mainstream media, and that it takes real heroism to support peace.

Britain’s New Regime: The Oligarchy’s Coup Moves Into Action

by Finian Cunningham from Dandelion Salad. The author's observation's about the Conservative party's recent takeover in UK and the impending attacks on public spending.
...all three main parties had let it be known that public spending cuts would be unavoidable. The Conservatives in particular showed marginally more zeal in doing the dirty business ahead and hence they received the backing of the corporate media, especially those titles owned by super-rich Rupert Murdoch.

So now we have the spectacle of two parties, neither of which received a mandate from the majority of voters, moving to herd the public into a budget slaughter. This is far from democracy and more rationally fits the description of a coup d’état on behalf of the financial oligarchy.

Norman Finkelstein on Israel and Noam Chomsky (4:38m video)

a YouTube interview, original source in RT (Russia Today). As you may already know, Noam Chomsky was recently denied entry into Israel. Finkelstein offers an explanation as to why this happened.

How the World's Oil Giants Are Selling the 'Captured Carbon' Dream

from Tyee (Canada).
The world's biggest producers of fossil fuels are carefully crafting strategies to convince the public that carbon capture and storage is a promising technology, even as that dream of a solution to global warming is battered by mounting expert opinion that it won't work.

Monday, May 17, 2010

How we wrecked the oceans (video and article)

by Dave Cohen from his blog, Decline of the Empire. 
Like the Indo-Aryan God Shiva, Destroyer of Worlds, marine ecologist Jeremy Jackson is here to turn your comfortable, complacent Mental World upside-down. He's able to do that because we are destroying the Physical World—in this case, the Earth's Oceans.

Before I continue, I want you to watch How We Wrecked The Oceans (18:19). What do you say? Too busy, maybe later? Maybe never? If you have any interest, however small, in the future of Life on this planet, including Human Life, I suggest you watch it now.

Rethinking the Political Economy

from The Economic Populist. This blogger lampoons much of the mythology of capitalist (aka "free market") doctrine to show that this current system is not god given, but designed by man, or at least, those people in the owning class.
 The  Volcano God of Economics is all-powerful. If he rains hot lava and ash upon us in the form of job losses and depression it is because we have angered him with our welfare, child labor laws, environmental regulations, and worker safety laws. We must make sacrifices to appease him.

The Volcano God of Economics says nothing can stop globalization. There is no alternative. Besides, globalization is good for you, in the same way that suffering develops character.
 If you doubt the words of the Volcano God of Economics then not only are you damned forever, but it only shows that you don't know economics. How could you know economics, because economics is unknowable to mere mortals.
At least that is way that economics is presented to us by its High Priests of Economics. The place that the High Priests worship is at The Temple, also known as the Federal Reserve. It would be dangerous for us to look inside The Temple because we would not understand what we are seeing.

It’s all political now

by David Goldman from his blog on Asia Times Online. 

The author is no anti-capitalist, but he is perceptive enough to identify the nature of the beast under which we are now living. However, I doubt that he believes, as I do, that fascism is the inevitable final stage of capitalism when the ruling capitalist class feels threatened and resorts to more aggressive methods in its war against working people. 

The mailed fist which is the well known symbol of fascism has been disguised by softer forms of police state methods (government surveillance of personal electronic media and suspension of many civil liberties) in addition to aggressive attacks upon protesters that have been promoted under the cover of "anti-terrorism" and anti-immigration "reforms". 
...this is “control without ownership,” or fascism, rather than socialism. 

Time out

America's Ten Most Corrupt Capitalists

from Alternet. 

I am posting this article only because I think that it illustrates a common error in trying to determine the cause or causes of the dysfunction of US society for ordinary people. (It functions very well for those who "own" our economy.) The implied solution is to get rid of these people and somehow insure that morally upright people assume positions of power.  

The error is the focus on individuals. This error often serves to distract us from the system which nurtures and promotes these people--capitalism. Much more effort must be placed into examining how the system does this, and devising a system that not only eliminates the evils of this current system, but promotes a new system which sustains healthy people and planet. 

Contrary to what you have been lead to believe by Margaret Thatcher and other class-war criminals--there are alternatives!

Texas schools board rewrites US history with lessons promoting God and guns

from the Guardian.
The curriculum has alarmed liberals across the country in part because Texas buys millions of text books every year, giving it considerable sway over what publishers print. By some estimates, all but a handful of American states rely on text books written to meet the Texas curriculum. The California legislature is considering a bill that would bar them from being used in the state's schools.

A Story for the Children: Making Friends with Evil

by Arthur Silber from his blog. A powerful allegory that illustrates the use of desensitization by media organs of the ruling class to allow them to commit war crimes and crimes against its own citizens with impunity.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Venezuela: Sharpening contradictions between left and right of the PSUV

by Patrick Larsen from In Defense of Marxism. 
A decisive battle has been going on within the PSUV in Venezuela, a battle over who are to be the parliamentary candidates for the party in the elections later this year. The left have been fighting an unequal battle, where more right-wing candidates have had much more resources and official backing locally than candidates who genuinely represent the workers and poor. It is a key battle in the Venezuelan revolution.
I think, and fear, that he is probably right--that the elections later this year will be crucial for the development of an alternative social system in Venezuela. The growing infiltration by careerists into the bureaucracy is forming a class of people who, as in the former Soviet Union, differ only marginally from regular capitalists. 

The cause, as I see it, is the continued use of the old representative electoral system that the capitalist class refined into an instrument serving their interests. The key features of this system are elections of candidates (selected largely by the ruling class) to represent large and widely dispersed populations so that people tend to be disconnected from any direct experience with, or knowledge about, these candidates. Ordinary people must rely on mass communication and other media that requires funding to learn about the candidates. This process provides opportunities for corruption by people with money or backing by people with money.

History of the British Chartist movement: People power versus privilege

from Green Left, a review of the book entitled, ‘Perish the Privileged Orders’: A Socialist History of the Chartist Movement.  
If you believed the corporate media, you might think that the greatest threats to parliamentary democracy in a country like Britain have come from Kaiser Wilhelm’s armies in World War I or — today — from Al Qaeda and Islamic jihadists. In fact, the greatest enemies of representative democracy in Britain over the centuries have been the British ruling classes themselves.
The moral suggested by this book review is that "those who do not understand their history, are condemned to repeat it."

We should also understand that the capitalist ruling classes have learned to live with, indeed, have learned to adapt to, representative democracy to serve their needs. Specifically they learned how they could control the representatives that we, the people, are allowed to vote for; and if a mistake were made by letting someone through that did not serve their interests, they have learned to use a variety of other methods to deal with such people: co-option, cutting off funding, media smear campaigns, disclosing embarrassing information about the person, on up to assassination.

Hence, we must move beyond representative democracy into direct democracy by localizing society and its economy. See the alternatives on this website.

A lens on the media’s cynical world

a book review of Newspeak in the 21st Century from Green Left. The book appears to reveal the subtle, and not so subtle, constraints on journalists that shapes their reports of world events.
Journalists must gather, interpret and select information, making judgements that reflect their beliefs and values every step of the way. What they then present is not an “objective” representation of the news, but a reflection of their beliefs and values.
Of course, the managers of mainstream media organizations make sure that the beliefs and values of their journalists parallel their own. Those journalists who demonstrate otherwise, get weeded out in short order.

Time out

Why sharks should not own sport

by John Pilger from Green Left. 

Pilger, although he doesn't name the culprit, essentially describes how the system of capitalism contaminates even the leisure time of people wanting to enjoy, either as participants or as spectators, organized sports.  The organizations of professional sports are primarily designed to extract profits from those activities, and only secondarily to serve the needs of leisure and recreation that working people must have to face the daily grind of most of their lives.  

However, he only focuses on the "sharks" and fails to point out the fundamental problem of the system that inevitably attracts "sharks" or predators, sociopaths, etc. Hence, the title naively suggests that we could have "good guys" running these organizations and everything would be different. 

Has he, like most other people, been brainwashed into believing that "there is no alternative" to capitalism, or is he merely playing it safe so that his article will be published in more of the liberal-left media that will pay him? I certainly don't criticize him if it is the latter. A journalist has a very hard time surviving these days. It is up to the rest of us to critically read such articles in order to glean the real truth that they contain.

Between development and Mother Earth

by Carlos Fuentes from Green Left. The article focuses on the progress and contradictions of efforts designed to industrialize Bolivia.
This gearing of Third World nations’ economies to providing cheap raw materials for export, at the mercy of market prices often manipulated by speculators, rather than seeking a rounded internal development, helps keep these countries in a state of permanent dependency and poverty.

Perhaps no country demonstrates this system better than Bolivia.