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, September 25, 2010

Higher Consciousness Won't Save Us

by Norman Solomon from Counterpunch

This article is important for several reasons. The focus on Charles Reich illustrates the evolution of political thinking of US activists in the 1970s with more recent times, it shows how his earlier thesis that "consciousness plays the key role in the shaping of society" was clearly wrong, and the different reaction by ruling class media to his earlier thesis versus his new thesis in the mid-nineties.  My interest is mainly with the latter.

His earlier book, Greening of America, which espoused the consciousness thesis was widely praised by ruling class media such as The New Yorker magazine, then mainstream media followed dutifully by echoing these opinions. As a result it became a widely read best seller.   
Fast forward a quarter century.

In 1995, the same Charles Reich was out with another book -- “Opposing the System” -- his first in two decades. Gone were the claims that meaningful structural change would come only as a final step after people got their heads and culture together. Instead, the book focused on the melded power of huge corporations and the U.S. government.
This more recent book was either totally ignored or trashed as it was in the New York Times. This is the way that the ruling class manages mainstream media content and the political consciousness of American workers.

I've found the same discriminatory treatment in relation to another author, John Le Carré. He was the darling of the literary establishment back in the Cold War days when his novels were about spy themes in the Soviet bloc countries, but since then he has been focusing his novels on Western spy agencies. As a result, I haven't seen any mention of him in any media. And I think his novels are better than ever. 

I referred to the same ruling class supervision of media coverage with regard to the appearance of the Tea Party. See this and this.

Voters: The Horror Movie

by Russ Baker from Who What Why

He is very perplexed and, I guess, a bit horrified to see voters taking such contradictory positions on issues. 
Why are so many people inclined to either inaction or to support for positions that are at odds with their own interests? The answer, in all probability, is what it always is — a very clever effort, funded by exactly those few who stand to gain — to confuse, distract, discourage and disenfranchise the majority so it ends up giving away an opportunity to fix its own state of affairs.
Guess who those "few who stand to gain" are?

Cooperation Law for a Sharing Economy

by Janelle Orsi from Yes! website. 

The author is a lot more optimistic about the growth of legal support for cooperative enterprises than I am. 

Under capitalism the overlords (ruling class) like to see working people competing against each other as they enhance the profits of capitalists. As for capitalists themselves, they really don't like competition as evidenced by the ever greater concentration of corporations and the frequent reports of business collusion and price-fixing.

Still, for those of you involved in cooperative enterprises, this may offer some important information. 
As the ground swells with people adopting more sharing and cooperative work and lifestyles, we can look forward to a growing body of law and literature on the subject.

Worker Coops, Worker Banks, Worker Skills -- Day 4 Mondragon

by Carl Davidson from his blog

Join Carl on his fourth day of the tour of the Mondragon Cooperative Corporation to hear about how credit and higher education function in the MCC. 
Most new small businesses fail. That's a fact, whether they are in the Basque Country or in the U.S. Or anywhere else, Yet the Mondragon Coops, which all started as small worker-owned businesses, have hardly ever failed. Why? The key is in Father Jose Maria Arizmendi's original founding conception of cooperatives as the interlocking of school, factory and credit union.
You can also access Day 1 (my commentary included), Day 2, Day 3.

Gibson Girls: The Perfect Antidote to Fashion Week Futurism

by Jamie Johnson from Vanity Fair

Working people (including those jobless) often dream about the rich and what it is like to be fabulously rich. Well, I'm sure that they are folks just like us in many ways.

This article shows their concern about dressing well and their search for ever better ways to present oneself fashionably to the public. The author says that good taste can also be found by looking into the past.
...the greatest expression of style and beauty that I encountered last week did not appear in a designer’s collection or at an ultra-exclusive industry celebration; instead, I found it during an overnight trip to Seven Hundred Acre Island, along coastal Maine. It was among the patrician members of the understated Down East community that I first heard the story of fashion’s historically famous “Gibson Girl,” and saw the iconic images featuring her classic good looks and traditional feminine style.
There, you see, you can be well dressed too by looking into past fashions. And you don't need to travel to exotic places to find them. Simply go to your nearest Goodwill or used clothing store and I'm sure you'll find many interesting and attractive articles of clothing from the past.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Recession Ends; Nobody Notices

from The Economic Populist.

You no doubt heard that according to the government (of the ruling class) that the recession is over, but this blogger knows better (as do you), and furnishes an abundance of information to the contrary.
...While this statistical "recovery" can continue for years to come, the working class will continue to struggle. As long as we continue to embrace these failed economic policies, the  jobless recovery  that no one but a statistician can see, will become the "new normal" - a permanent lowering of living standards for the working class. The jobless recovery will become the homeless recovery.

If this is to change, it must come from below. We must accept that class does make a difference, and that the wealthy elite do not have our best interests at heart.
It's not class warfare to say this. It's simply a matter of recognizing shadows from reality.
I think that the recession is over for the ruling class--their banks have been bailed out by us working people (and we're stuck with the bill) and the global economy where the multi-national corporations play is picking up.

You see, working people with their sweat and creativity built these corporate monsters. But under the laws of private property inherent in the capitalist system, workers don't own the fruits of their labor--capitalists do. Now under globalization, sold to us by that great Democratic liberal Clinton, corporations have deserted US workers for cheaper ones in foreign lands.  

So, I would differ from the author. I do not believe this recession is a result of "failed economic policies", it is because of a failed economic system.

5 Surprising Facts About Spying In America

from Washington's Blog.

The author provides a good summary of the police state character of the US that lies just below surface of the liberal-democratic facade that corporate media has implanted in the consciousness of most Americans.

His findings about US government knowledge of the apparent 9/11 conspirators was especially interesting.

It's Obama vs infinite war

by Pepe Escobar from Asia Times.

The author, as always, sees the deeper scenario behind the public display of politics in the US. 
What Woodward's book - and the corporate media orchestrated narrative - will never tell is "why" infinite war. Because of the New Great Game in Eurasia. Because of the need of military bases to spy on strategic competitors Russia and China. Because of the US's obsession with Pipelineistan in Central Asia bypassing both Russia and Iran. Because of the Pentagon's full spectrum dominance doctrine - which justifies infinitely ballooning military budgets.
There appears to be a split between Obama (and probably some segment of the US ruling class) and the military establishment (and no doubt other aggressive imperialist-minded hawks, Zionists, etc.)  Whatever the outcome of this contest, it is rare that such internecine conflicts among capitalists result in any long term benefits for working people.

Thus I do not agree with the optimistic outlook of American liberal Tom Engelhardt as indicated by his piece entitled, "Why the troops are coming home".  He provides a good historical background of US involvement in Eurasia, but doesn't seem to see US involvement as it should be seen--imperial involvement in The Great Game of Eurasia. Escobar does. Therefore, I would have to bet against Engelhardt and his optimistic prediction of US volunteer withdrawal.

FDA will Ban Food Makers from Telling the Truth about Non-GMO Foods

by Tony Isaacs from Natural Foods.

This piece on the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) and its rulings on GMO foods serves as an example of how all government agencies serve the ruling class and not working people.
...in addition to approving genetically modified "Frankenfish" salmon without requiring a GMO label, the FDA will also be banning the inclusion of any references to not containing genetically modified content on food items which are GMO free.
And that goes for all of US government--Congress, the Executive, the Supreme Court.  Read the latest revelations about tax breaks and who they really go to.

Tools for Shaping the Organizations of the Future -- Day 3 Mondragon

by Carl Davidson from his blog.

On the third day of the tour he visits...
Otalora ...[a]worker-owned credit union of the Mondragon Cooperative Corporation, which operates on the scale of a major bank with outlets across the country, in addition to serving as a source of finance to all the MCC coops, who dominate its governing council.
Here is Day 1, and my commentary, and Day 2.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Ethical Reflections on the 9/11 Controversy: The Responsibility of the Media to To Tell the Truth

by Elizabeth Woodworth from Global Research

The author slams the media's resistance to examine the evidence behind the widespread 9/11 skepticism and insists that...
librarians and media professionals have both the responsibility and the ethical support of their associations to seriously question 9/11, especially if that responsibility is the public wish – and the polls indicate that it is.
And further argues that...
It is urgent and essential that all professionals who convey information about 9/11 to the public be equipped with the best possible evidence, so that decision-making about our most pressing issues is based on sound knowledge.
It is clear to me that there has been widespread resistance by mainstream media to keep such questioning out of their coverage; and when they do cover it, they always frame these questioners as some kind of kooks. The message they want to instill in the minds of ordinary people is that one must never question established media authorities.  

In my opinion these "authorities" are merely well paid mainstream media hacks that take their orders from the ruling class. Their job is to manage consent, and if they don't do their job well, they get sacked like Peter Arnett, Phil Donahue, Helen Thomas, and Octavia Nasr.

Will resource production networks warn us before failing?

by "aeldric" from The Oil Drum: Australia & New Zealand

The author deals very effectively with the reassuring statements often found in mainstream media that suggest a rosy energy future like this:
...we have trillions of barrels of oil. Counting coal-seam methane we have gas for centuries. Based on recent claims we probably have enough coal to build a bridge to the moon and enough iron to run a 20-line railway to Mars and back.
He does this by employing the important concept of what he refers to as "networked resource production" which he defines as follows and goes on to explain how this will impact our future on the planet:
Production of any given resource is supported by a network of dependencies. These dependencies are, in turn supported by a network of further dependencies. In an environment of unconstrained availability of resources, this is not a problem. However, in an environment in which multiple resources may be approaching their economic production limit, a cascading failure can be initiated.

What Do Empires Do?

by Michael Parenti from Information Clearing House. As one of the first who referred to US domination of the world as an "empire", he decries mainstream media's re-framing of the term.
...the word has been divested of its full meaning. “Empire” seems nowadays to mean simply dominion and control. Empire—for most of these late-coming critics— is concerned almost exclusively with power and prestige. What is usually missing from the public discourse is the process of empire and its politico-economic content. In other words, while we hear a lot about empire, we hear very little about imperialism.

Now that is strange, for imperialism is what empires are all about.

...I define imperialism as follows: the process whereby the dominant investor interests in one country bring to bear their economic and military power upon another nation or region in order to expropriate its land, labor, natural resources, capital, and markets—in such a manner as to enrich the investor interests. In a word, empires do not just pursue “power for power’s sake.” There are real and enormous material interests at stake, fortunes to be made many times over.

Knowledge and the Path to Workers Power -- Day 2 Mondragon

by Carl Davidson from his blog
This bright and sunny morning in the Basque Country mountain air again begins with our bus slowly winding up the mountain slopes, but this time its a short ride. We stop at ALECOP, a unique worker-student cooperative that is at once part of Mondragon's production units and its educational system. Think of it as a small worker-owned community college, but with technology shops that actually produce items for sale in industrial markets, and you won't be far off.
(Day 1 is here.)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Mondragon Diaries, Day 1: Learning About Bridges to 21st Century Socialism

by Carl Davidson from his blog

The author went on a five day study tour of the Mondragon Cooperatives in the Basque area of Spain. The Mondragon Cooperatives are
a 50-year-old network of nearly 120 factories and agencies, involving nearly 100,000 workers in one way or another, and centered in the the Basque Country but now spanning the globe. We're here to study the history of these unique worker-owned factories, how they work, why they have been successful, and how they might be expanded in various ways as instruments of social change.
I don't think that worker cooperatives are the answer to building a sustainable planet, but they should be studied as a worker controlled alternative to capitalist enterprises.

Coops will always find it difficult to compete with privately owned enterprises, especially those associated with large corporations. To succeed they would need a politically conscious local community that would be willing to support the coop even by paying higher prices. Private enterprises can always benefit by paying low wages and buying cheap products from foreign countries where environmental and labor laws are either non-existent or not enforced.

Unfortunately, cooperatives often end up functioning much like other profit seeking enterprises. After WWII Yugoslavia used them extensively and found that they took on many characteristics of private enterprises because they competed against each other.  

The main difference between a coop and a corporation is that the former is guided more by humanitarian set of principles. This, of course, makes it difficult for them to compete with strictly profit oriented enterprises. Hence coops must compromise those principles if they are to survive, and inevitably they must also act like their profit-seeking rivals.  

I think that their main benefit would be a training school for people to learn various business related skills and cooperative ethics and behaviors.

(I will be posting the remaining four days of reports over the next four days.)

The Real 'Merchants of Death'

by Conn Hallinan from Foreign Policy in Focus
The global arms trade is a $60 billion yearly business. The United States controls  nearly 40 percent of this trade, defending its turf with the ferocity of a junkyard dog. The 10 biggest arms exporters are — in order — the United States, Russia, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Spain, China, Israel, the Netherlands, and Italy. Sweden and Switzerland are close behind. This order shifts from year to year, but one thing never changes: The United States is always No. 1.
And notice the latest sales to Saudi Arabia--that Mecca of Middle East democracy and freedom: Blockbuster US arms sale to Saudi Arabia.

Arms sales enrich the military-industrial complex in the US and maintains the Empire under US control. Without this dominance, I suspect that US dollars would be worth much less simply because capitalists all over the world see US Treasury notes as a safe haven for the wealth they extract from working people.

Do Not Pity the Democrats

by Chris Hedges from Truthdig

Although I often agree with people like the author and Ralph Nader that he often quotes in this article, I have problems with both of them. They both come from a very moralistic position that spends great effort on condemning the actions of others and making frequent references to the evils of corporations.

I think they both are very decent, highly intelligent people who don't really understand the systemic forces which inform all the political and economic surface issues that vex them so much. 

However, I see hopeful indications in this article that they are beginning to extricate themselves from the thought constraints and tenets of capitalist religion. Also I notice that the author makes a couple of brief references to "socialism". It appears that both Hedges and Nader are beginning to see that participating in the system's elections does not provide any hope for real change, that elections are little more than political theater to maintain the illusions of "democracy". And they (at least Hedges) have started to think about other systems, but they really don't understand these alternatives. At best, they suggest supporting green community enterprises.
It is anti-corporate movements as exemplified by the Scandinavian energy firm  Kraft&Kultur  that we must emulate. Kraft&Kultur sells electricity exclusively from solar and water power. It has begun to merge clean energy with cultural events, bookstores and a political consciousness that actively defies corporate hegemony.  
Hence they don't expand or explore issues from a real alternative point of view--from a systemic point of view. They're strong on moral condemnation, but weak on understanding the system which promotes immoral, or sociopathic, behavior. 

It is on the latter task where the work must be done while, and at the same time, investigating the alternatives in great detail. It is a colossal waste of time to keep beating the dying horse of capitalism moralistically to death!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Bradley Manning: An American Hero

by Marjorie Cohn from Common Dreams.

He is a hero! The anti-war movement and all peace-loving people must do all they can to get him out of prison!
Army Pfc. Bradley Manning is accused of leaking military secrets to the public. This week, his supporters are holding rallies in 21 cities, seeking Manning's release from military custody. Manning is in the brig for allegedly disclosing a classified video depicting U.S. troops shooting civilians from an Apache helicopter in Iraq in July 2007. The video, available at www.collateralmurder.com, was published by WikiLeaks on April 5, 2010. Manning faces 52 years in prison. No charges have been filed against the soldiers in the video.

The Short, Happy Life of Climate Change Enlightenment

by George Monbiot from the Guardian
In 2012 the only global deal for limiting greenhouse gas emissions – the Kyoto protocol  – expires. There is no realistic prospect that it will be replaced before it elapses: the existing treaty took five years to negotiate and a further eight years to come into force. In terms of real hopes for global action on climate change, we are now far behind where we were in 1997, or even 1992. It's not just that we have lost 18 precious years. Throughout the age of good intentions and grand announcements we spiraled backwards.
It appears to me that Monbiot has recognized that dealing with climate change within the existing institutions of capitalism has reached a dead-end and doesn't know what to do. But he does know that "we must stop dreaming about an institutional response that will never materialise and start facing a political reality we've sought to avoid." 

Although he doesn't spell it out for you, I will--the "political reality we've sought to avoid" is removing the capitalist system and replacing it with a sustainable one. Let us hope and pray it is not too late.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Petraeus Bait and Switch Maneuver

by Gareth Porter from Dissident Voice

This investigative reporter reveals some conflicts between the Obama administration and the military establishment. However, I take issue with his framing of this as a Constitutional conflict between the Executive and the military establishment. 

The ruling class truly rules regardless of a Constitution and rules of law. Obama and military figures are mostly employees of the ruling class. Obama was hired because of his excellent rhetorical skills and populist type image. Mainstream media merely does its part by going along with this political stage play with its reporting of Obama's policies that tries to cover over any contradictions with reality.
In interviews in recent weeks, Gen. David Petraeus has been taking a line on what will happen in mid-2011 that challenges President Barack Obama’s intention to begin a troop withdrawal from Afghanistan by that date. This new Petraeus line is the culmination of a brazen bait and switch maneuver on the war by the most powerful military commander in modern U.S. history.

Munger Says `Thank God' U.S. Opted for Bailouts Over Handouts

by Andrew Frye from Bloomberg

This guy has a lot of nerve telling this to an audience of students many of whom are among the worst victims of the recent collapse of the economy due to reckless and shady bets at the capitalist casino. After bailing out Wall Street and ignoring Main Street, this member (or servant) of the ruling class tells students to “suck it in and cope.” Then he follows up with this statement:
 Now, if you talk about bailouts for everybody else, there comes a place where if you just start bailing out all the individuals instead of telling them to adapt, the culture dies.
Now, what do you think he meant by "culture dies"? I think he really meant "capitalism dies". Because, you see, these people believe that there is no alternative to capitalism. And, of course, without capitalism their entitlement to a large portion of the wealth produced by working people would end along with the power that wealth brings. 

They intend to keep this wonderful system regardless of all other disastrous consequences for working people and the planet. And like his buddy, Warren Buffet, Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, who is more honest than most of his class, once said,
“There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”
Munger also added another gem:
Germany was unable to stabilize its financial system in the 1920s, and...we ended up with Adolf Hitler.
If you know your history well, you know that the ruling capitalist class in Germany handed power over to the Nazis because their so-called "democratic" institutions were not capable of handling the dissent of working class organizations. Most of them thought they could control the Nazis. In any case, the capitalist class preserved much of their power and profits by collaborating with the Nazis.

Arctic Ice in Death Spiral

by Stephen Leahy from IPS.

I find it hard to believe that with the loss of Arctic ice we can stabilize the greenhouse effect and global warming by installing a lot of solar panels as this concluding paragraph suggests:
Meanwhile, a new generation of low-cost, thin-film solar roof and outside wall coverings being made today has the potential to eliminate burning coal and oil to generate electricity, energy experts believe – if governments have the political will to fully embrace green technologies.
From this data it is hard to believe that we haven't already passed the tipping point on global warming. The loss of ice will set in motion numerous positive feedback loops that will accelerate global warming and flooding of low lying areas. 

On the other hand, what have we to lose by working to replace a system that is obsessed with more production and more consumption to drive more profits for a tiny capitalist class? 

More Evidence that the Ruling Class is Pulling in the Reins on the Right-Wing Attack Dogs

by Ron Horn. I've notice over the weekend that mainstream media is providing wide coverage of Christine O’Donnell's appearance on a TV show that occurred over 10 years ago. The Christian Science Monitor reports:
...appearing on comedian Bill Maher’s “Politically Incorrect” show, made comments to the effect that she dabbled in witchcraft when she was a teenager.
This is hardly damning evidence of her inadequacy as a political candidate, but it is enough for the ruling class. I believe that this is another piece of evidence to support my thesis that the ruling class has decided to discipline their own political creation--the Tea Party--which has been getting a little too aggressive and successful in capturing support among Americans.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Unite to Defend Education — Stop Budget Cuts

by Ty Moore from Socialist Alternative

It's clear that public services in the US are being cutback in all areas of public life including education, public transport, libraries, police services, welfare, etc. The article makes reference to October 7 as a national campaign to oppose cuts in education. It appears that Students for a Democratic Society are at least one of the organizers. See this.
The good news is that students and education workers are fighting back on a global scale. October 7 will be an important flashpoint in the U.S. Movement, and the struggle will undoubtedly continue beyond that.

However, if we are clear about what we are up against, we have to soberly explain that the movement, as yet, is far too small, uncoordinated, and isolated to pose a serious challenge to the corporate agenda. Yet the seeds of a much wider, more powerful movement are already planted. 
Here is what I am seeing as I look at the slow unraveling of US society. People in the establishment are engaged in business as usual--making it look like they are fixing things, but only putting at most merely band-aids on the capitalist system. For example, note this comment by someone in the financial services industry.
The role of financial institutions in the global crisis has led to a consensus that financial regulation must change. This column argues that the banking lobby, far from depleted, has struck back with a vengeance. It has managed to postpone the much needed regulation for a time when the need for it will be forgotten.
Meanwhile, I find many who are described as "doomers" who have mostly given up on any attempt to change the system, and as a result, are preparing for the worst by stocking up on essentials, saving seeds, collecting gold, arming themselves, etc, or leaving the country. I was astonished to read this discussion on a website that is followed by people who are mostly highly educated in the technical sciences.

So, it appears to me, that young people, who will be suffering the worst consequences of the cutbacks, are the best hope for the future.