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, March 5, 2011

Why the possibility of an all out victory in Wisconsin frightens the union leaders.

by Sean Throne from Indybay

This is a very good argument for worker activists to keep union leaders from selling out once again. 
Since Reagan fired the air traffic controllers and the union leaders allowed him get away with this, the employers have been on an offensive against the working class. Wages, benefits, conditions, rights, rates of work, have all been under attack. The most recent front on this assault, this offensive war against the working class, is against the public sector workers. This is what we are seeing in Wisconsin and around the country; the most recent phase of the capitalist offensive against the working class.

How do we approach this situation? There is one way not to approach it and that is to say to the employers, if you allow us to negotiate we will make even more concessions than we have already made. In other words, we will cooperate even more with your offensive against us. This preserves the jobs and role of the union leaders in their capacity as negotiators but it is a recipe for defeat.
[my emphasis]

Roundup: Protests Continue Across Muslim World

by Jason Ditz from Antiwar

Provides links to reports of protests all over North Africa and the Middle East.

DOD Passes the Buck Rather than Let Kucinich Visit Bradley Manning

by emptywheel blog on FDL

Apparently our US Representatives can't even visit Manning to find out about his abusive treatment. 

Then read this piece by Glenn Greenwald for the latest reports of mistreatment that Manning is receiving from the US military establishment.

Also check out Ray McGovern's piece entitled, "Army’s Mafia Abuse of Pvt. Bradley Manning".

This illustrates that a police state apparatus already exists in the US, it just hasn't been used very much against its own citizens. They are just not ready yet to remove completely the elaborate facade of "democratic" institutions (elections, courts, Congress, Constitution, etc) that have distracted and fooled people for a long time. But it is there and will be increasingly used as the ruling class becomes more desperate to crush dissent. So, will we be intimidated, or will we fight back like the brave people in Egypt did? Stay tuned.

How to Build a Progressive Tea Party

by Johann Hari from The Nation

The article reports on a new way of organizing protests by using Twitter that is happening in the UK against corporate welfare. 
Think of it as an open-source protest, or wikiprotest. It uses Twitter as the basic software, but anyone can then mold the protest. The Western left has been proud of its use of social media and blogging, but all too often this hasn’t amounted to much more than clicktivism. By contrast, these protesters have tried at every turn to create a picture of George Osborne, Cameron’s finance minister, sitting in his office, about to sign off on another big tax break for a rich person, paid for by cuts to the rest of us. Is a big Facebook group going to stop him? No. Is an angry buzz on the blogosphere going to stop him? No. But what these protesters have done—putting all the online energy into the streets and straight into the national conversation—just might. And by creating a media buzz, it draws in people from far beyond the tech-savvy Twitterverse, with older activist groups—from trade unions to charities—clamoring to join.

Eat the Rich

by Tom Robbins from The Village Voice
If you want a true picture of New York's current economic plight, take a look at a remarkable graph showing the share of income going to the top 1 percent of earners over the past 100 years.

Pakistan: Can America Get Away With Murder?

by Shahid R. Siddiqi from Voltaire

People are asking a lot of questions regarding this incident that is the source of widespread Pakistani anger.
Why is the State Department so nervous and jittery with Davis being held in the custody of Pakistani authorities? What secrets are the Americans afraid of being revealed by him? Why is this man so important that they are ready to sacrifice a 60-year old relationship and a strategic partnership? Do they want to block his trial at all costs because of the risk of his confession that he killed those boys in his line of duty, an admission that would implicate the State Department, CIA and other US agencies?
The author assembles as much evidence as he can to suggest some answers.

And read about what Pakistani authorities found on this mysterious character when they searched him.

Haiti: Washington’s Cynical Campaign to Keep Aristide in South Africa

by Glen Ford from Voltaire
If diplomacy is a form of lying, then the United States’ efforts to delay indefinitely the return to Haiti of former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, is a triumph of the most foul diplomacy.

Republicans and Democrats Agree: Cut Aid to the Poor, Not Israel

by Medea Benjamin and Charles Davis.
As Republicans and Democrats propose cuts in programs that actually benefit their increasingly impoverished constituents, though, they agree there's one area of the budget that's not to be touched: the annual $3 billion subsidy U.S. taxpayers provide to the Israeli military.

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Collapse of the Old Oil Order

by Michael T Klare from Asia Times Online

After reviewing the history of oil production in the Middle East and its control by Western powers, this astute writer reaches this conclusion:
...the handwriting is already on the wall. Since no other area is capable of replacing the Middle East as the world's premier oil exporter, the oil economy will shrivel - and with it, the global economy as a whole.
The global economy as currently organized under private ownership (capitalism) cannot be permitted to continue; because if it does, the world will descend into the inferno of global barbarism and/or severe destabilization of the Earth's ecology where its climate will no longer sustain human life. The human race has no alternative but to choose survival.

U.S. Cables Detail Saudi royal Welfare Program

by Simon Robinson from Reuters

Well, the details about the "welfare" program that serves mostly the Saudi ruling families may be different, but isn't the end result essentially the same as here in the US where socially produced wealth ends up in the hands of an increasingly concentrated ruling class of "owners"?

I Smell a Rat

by William Bowles from Strategic Culture Foundation

The writer examines two key reports that have been widely disseminated in Western media, and finds some evidence that they may be propaganda to serve Western imperialist aims:
...it was impossible to tell what was really going on, and accompanied by all manner of rumours about what it was alleged Ghadifi’s regime was doing.

Fertile ground for turning fiction into ‘fact’ and, as it has transpired, much of the current hysteria in the Western media rests on two, key rumours that surfaced almost concurrently with the uprising itself:

   1. The ‘African mercenaries’
   2. Libyan Airforce bombing civilians

Experiments in Democracy: Egypt, Tunisia and the US

by Joseph Gainza from Toward Freedom

Yes, I couldn't agree more--we have much to learn about democracy from those brave people in North Africa and the Middle East. 
As citizens of a democracy under siege we can take lessons from our Arab brothers and sisters that democracy is more than voting every two or four years. It is more than waiting for elected leaders to fulfill their campaign promises. It includes a healthy skepticism of elected and unelected power, in the form of mega business corporations, financial institutions, and leaders who promote fear of and anger toward our fellow citizens. We can remember that democracy, real democracy, not just electoral democracy takes effort, it is what happens between elections, it does not run on automatic....
But those revolutions are not finished, and they will not be finished until a reality behind these regimes is finished: the control of the economy by a few. What is missing from this article is that real democracy cannot be achieved without real democratic control over the economy. Authentic democracy is completely incompatible with the system of capitalism. Something as essential as an economy, the means by which people provide for their material needs, cannot be controlled by a tiny minority and still have meaningful democracy. What could be more obvious?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Intifada beyond Palestine

by Ismael Hossein-zadeh from OpEd News

The author puts the uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East in a much broader perspective of anti-Western imperialism. 
...the long pent-up grievances of the Arab/Muslim world are exploding not just in the faces of local dictators such as Mubarak of Egypt or Ben Ali of Tunisia but, perhaps more importantly, against their neocolonial/imperial patrons abroad. ...This means that the uprising represents something bigger than the buzzwords of abstract, decontextualized personal freedoms, or the money-driven, carefully-scripted bogus elections -- called democracy. It represents a growing culture of resistance to neocolonialism that started with the great Iranian revolution of 1979.
Hopefully, the solutions they seek will not be merely national versions of capitalism, because this is a system that inevitably devolves into imperialism, inter-capitalist rivalries, and the horrors of major wars as we witnessed in the 20th century.

In order to avoid a re-run of 20th century experience, what is now necessary is the destruction of this life-destroying social-economic system of capitalism, to be followed by a socially just and ecologically sustainable system.  

Thus, the intifada must be expanded from opposition to Israeli occupation and oppression of Palestinians to world wide opposition to the occupation and oppression of working people by capitalists. The protests against unemployment, public spending cutbacks, anti-labor legislation that has been occurring all over Europe and now North America may be the beginning of this global intifada.

The "Budget Crisis" is the Product of a Tax Avoidance Scam By The Very Rich

by Richard Clark from OpEd News
...a rather vicious cycle has been at work for years:   Reduced taxes on the rich leave them with ever more money to influence politicians and politics.   This influence wins them further tax reductions, which gives them still more money to put to political use.   Then, when the loss of tax revenue from the rich worsens already strained government budgets, the rich and powerful press politicians to cut public services and government jobs and not even debate a return to the higher taxes the rich used to pay. 
That is the core nature of capitalism--the rich become richer and the poor become poorer. If we do nothing, we will enter a nightmarish world where there will exist tiny islands of the rich who live behind well guarded gated communities amidst vast oceans of the poor governed by a police state. 

It must be understood that the system not only exploits working people, but also more dangerously exploits the Earth's ecosystem. The latter will simply not tolerate this for much longer. As we pass many ecological tipping points, we will see more and more extreme weather, and this will accelerate over time until the climate will no longer sustain human life. 

If we are going to survive as human species, we must immediately figure out a way to change the system into something that is socially just and sustainable within the limits of our planet's ecosystem.

US invasion of Libya? [must read article and view videos]

from RT (Russia Today)

This piece provides excellent coverage from a variety of independent sources regarding the Libyan situation. There are numerous short videos featuring commentaries from independent observers.

The end of the end of history

by Pepe Escobar from Asia Times Online
...one may even dream that the notion of fighting incompetent/corrupt/unjust governments in the name of social justice in MENA [Middle East/Northern Africa] is about to contaminate Europe and the US (as it already did; "from Cairo to Wisconsin") - and a new day is dawning for workers' movements that suffer from austerity and "structural adjustments" concocted by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). New internationalist workers of the world, class of 2011, unite. 

Egypt's new guiding lights

Interview with Ibrahim Mounir from Asia Times Online.  (Mounir is a lawyer and prominent member of the Muslim Brotherhood)

I have seen little followup of developments in Egypt since the resignation of Mubarak. This piece provides some important insights on the current political scene.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Open Letter To The World

by anonymous from Anon News.

The revolution has begun:
We are questioning the old assumptions that we are made to consume not to create, that the world was made for our taking, that wars are inevitable, that poverty is unavoidable. As we learn more about our global community a fundamental truth has been rediscovered: We are not so different as we may seem. Every human has strengths, weaknesses, and deep emotions. We crave love, love laughter, fear being alone and dream for a better life.

Bahrain: Evolution or Revolution?

by Kristian Coates Ulrichsen from Open Democracy.

While Libya is receiving extensive, but not always accurate, coverage in US mainstream media, the continuing uprising in Bahrain is receiving little. And events there may be much more portentous for the Empire than in Libya.
Across the region, traditional methods of co-opting opposition through the spread of wealth are manifestly failing to deter calls for political reform and substantive change. Ruling families are looking anxiously at Bahrain as the cycle of political contagion and regime repression moves inexorably toward the Gulf.

The Enduring Mystique of the Marshall Plan

by William Blum from The Anti-Empire Report (Mar 1, 2011). 

This is an important excerpt from this report which furnishes a powerful antidote to all the indoctrination US people receive in their schools and media about the post-WWII aid programs in Europe under the Marshall Plan. The Marshall Plan along with the many other foreign "aid" programs are always presented as exemplifying the generosity of the US toward other nations in need. American working people are generally very generous in helping the unfortunate, but the same cannot be said of for those who rule over us: theirs is a never ending quest for more wealth and power.
Amidst all the stirring political upheavals in North Africa and the Middle East the name "Marshall Plan" keeps being repeated by political figures and media around the world as the key to rebuilding the economies of those societies to complement the political advances, which hopefully will be somewhat progressive. But caveat emptor. Let the buyer beware.

During my years of writing and speaking about the harm and injustice inflicted upon the world by unending United States interventions, I've often been met with resentment from those who accuse me of chronicling only the negative side of US foreign policy and ignoring the many positive sides. When I ask the person to give me some examples of what s/he thinks show the virtuous face of America's dealings with the world in modern times, one of the things mentioned — almost without exception — is The Marshall Plan. This is usually described along the lines of: "After World War II, the United States unselfishly built up Europe economically, including our wartime enemies, and allowed them to compete with us." Even those today who are very cynical about US foreign policy, who are quick to question the White House's motives in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere, have little problem in accepting this picture of an altruistic America of the period 1948-1952. But let's have a look at the Marshall Plan outside the official and popular versions.

After World War II, the United States, triumphant abroad and undamaged at home, saw a door wide open for world supremacy. Only the thing called "communism" stood in the way, politically, militarily, and ideologically. The entire US foreign policy establishment was mobilized to confront this "enemy", and the Marshall Plan was an integral part of this campaign. How could it be otherwise? Anti-communism had been the principal pillar of US foreign policy from the Russian Revolution up to World War II, pausing for the war until the closing months of the Pacific campaign, when Washington put challenging communism ahead of fighting the Japanese. This return to anti-communism included the dropping of the atom bomb on Japan as a warning to the Soviets. 1

After the war, anti-communism continued as the leitmotif of American foreign policy as naturally as if World War II and the alliance with the Soviet Union had not happened. Along with the CIA, the Rockefeller and Ford Foundations, the Council on Foreign Relations, certain corporations, and a few other private institutions, the Marshall Plan was one more arrow in the quiver of those striving to remake Europe to suit Washington's desires:

   1. Spreading the capitalist gospel — to counter strong postwar tendencies towards socialism.
   2. Opening markets to provide new customers for US corporations — a major reason for helping to rebuild the European economies; e.g., a billion dollars of tobacco at today's prices, spurred by US tobacco interests.
   3. Pushing for the creation of the Common Market and NATO as integral parts of the West European bulwark against the alleged Soviet threat.
   4. Suppressing the left all over Western Europe, most notably sabotaging the Communist Parties in France and Italy in their bids for legal, non-violent, electoral victory. Marshall Plan funds were secretly siphoned off to finance this endeavor, and the promise of aid to a country, or the threat of its cutoff, was used as a bullying club; indeed, France and Italy would certainly have been exempted from receiving aid if they had not gone along with the plots to exclude the communists from any kind of influential role.

The CIA also skimmed large amounts of Marshall Plan funds to covertly maintain cultural institutions, journalists, and publishers, at home and abroad, for the heated and omnipresent propaganda of the Cold War; the selling of the Marshall Plan to the American public and elsewhere was entwined with fighting "the red menace". Moreover, in its covert operations, CIA personnel at times used the Marshall Plan as cover, and one of the Plan's chief architects, Richard Bissell, then moved to the CIA, stopping off briefly at the Ford Foundation, a long time conduit for CIA covert funds. One big happy family.

The Marshall Plan imposed all kinds of restrictions on the recipient countries, all manner of economic and fiscal criteria which had to be met, designed for a wide open return to free enterprise. The US had the right to control not only how Marshall Plan dollars were spent, but also to approve the expenditure of an equivalent amount of the local currency, giving Washington substantial power over the internal plans and programs of the European states; welfare programs for the needy survivors of the war were looked upon with disfavor by the United States; even rationing smelled too much like socialism and had to go or be scaled down; nationalization of industry was even more vehemently opposed by Washington. The great bulk of Marshall Plan funds returned to the United States, or never left, to purchase American goods, making American corporations among the chief beneficiaries.

The program could be seen as more a joint business operation between governments than an American "handout"; often it was a business arrangement between American and European ruling classes, many of the latter fresh from their service to the Third Reich, some of the former as well; or it was an arrangement between Congressmen and their favorite corporations to export certain commodities, including a lot of military goods. Thus did the Marshall Plan help lay the foundation for the military industrial complex as a permanent feature of American life.

It is very difficult to find, or put together, a clear, credible description of how the Marshall Plan played a pivotal or indispensable role in the recovery in each of the 16 recipient nations. The opposing view, at least as clear, is that the Europeans — highly educated, skilled and experienced — could have recovered from the war on their own without an extensive master plan and aid program from abroad, and indeed had already made significant strides in this direction before the Plan's funds began flowing. Marshall Plan funds were not directed primarily toward the urgently needed feeding of individuals or rebuilding their homes, schools, or factories, but at strengthening the economic superstructure, particularly the iron, steel and power industries. The period was in fact marked by deflationary policies, unemployment and recession. The one unambiguous outcome was the full restoration of the propertied class. 2
1.See William Blum's essay on the use of the atomic bomb
2.For discussion of various aspects of the Marshall Plan see, for example, Joyce & Gabriel; Kolko, The Limits of Power: The World and US Foreign Policy 1945-1954 (1972), chapters 13, 16, 17; Sallie Pisani, The CIA and the Marshall Plan (1991); Frances Stoner Saunders, The Cultural Cold War: The CIA and the world of arts and letters (2000)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Kiss Egypt Good Bye? Not Yet!

by Jim Kirwan from Rebel News.

I first read Dick Eastman's piece entitled, "Kiss Egypt's Revolution Good-bye", that this author responded to, and I felt it provided some very useful information about how international finance would be dealing with the Egyptian situation. 

After reading this article by Kirwan, I felt, although I am not acquainted with Eastman's views, that this was an unjustified and inappropriate rant against Eastman and that Kirwan really didn't understand what Eastman was trying to do. After reading Eastman's comment following this article, my opinion was confirmed.

As I have argued before, the revolution in Egypt is unfinished. (See this and this.) However, both articles are useful in looking ahead at what confronts the brave people of Egypt in their quest for a true, liberating revolution.

Unverified Misreporting on Libya

by Stephen Lendman from Dissident Voice

The author raises some legitimate concerns about Western reporting and interests in Libya.

See also this which provides further evidence that air strikes against civilians did not happen.

Egypt’s Youth Present Demands to Military

by Mohamed Abdel Salam from Bikyamasr

The latest development in the direction of real democracy in Egypt:
The Coalition of Youth representatives, which included representatives of al-Wafd Party, Mohamed ElBaradei’s reform group, and Muslim Brotherhood youth along with youth not associated with a political movement, presented a list of demands to the council.

Iraq: Joining the revolution in the Arab world

by Adnan Al-Daini from OpEd News.

Whereas the Empire pretends to be a neutral party admonishing the use of force against demonstrators in other countries, they have a direct interest in maintaining the status quo in Iraq. Maybe that is why we see so little news of Iraqi protests here in the US.  
The young in the Arab world have sought the bond of humanity that connects us as human beings to be the emblem of their revolution.   Their grassroots uprising now sweeping the Arab world is not based on religious affiliation, ethnicity, or political party.   It is not secular, religious or nationalist. It is a struggle for human rights, freedom, and democracy that should be the birthright of everyone on the planet. 

Monday, February 28, 2011

‘Anonymous’ targets the brothers Koch, claiming attempts ‘to usurp American Democracy’

by Stephen C. Webster from The Raw Story

This piece puts together a lot of the reports about Gov. Walker's war on working people previously cited. 

I wouldn't accuse the Koch brothers of usurping American democracy, because it has already been usurped. What remains is only a shell of what it was; and what it was, was only a poor imitation to begin with. What the Koch brothers are attempting to do is to remove all the democratic facade and install outright fascism. Some people might argue that this would be a good thing in order to wake up the American "sheeple". But those are people who likely have never experienced fascism's use of brutal police oppression. 

Capitalism when threatened has often looked to dispense with their version of democracy as we have seen in Germany, Spain, Japan and in many other countries (aided by the CIA). And we have seen how they have no difficulty in collaborating with, and supporting, many such autocratic regimes like the ones people are fighting against in North Africa and the Middle East.

We've had our own fascist elements among our ruling class. The most notorious were those who surfaced briefly in 1933 when reports leaked out of a coup plot to remove F. D. Roosevelt from office. They tried to recruit the very popular General Smedley Butler to replace Roosevelt after the coup. You simply must listen to a 29 minute BBC radio program covering this incident that is missing from US history books.

Extensive efforts were made to cover up, or to downplay, this plot after Butler's testimony in closed-door hearings in the House of Representatives. It is interesting that the US was also in the midst of a devastating economic collapse as is happening now.

John McCain Wrapped the Egyptian Flag around him in the Tahrir Square in CairoMarshal Tantawi meets Armed Services Committee, U.S. Senate

from All Voices

Does this item sicken you as it does me? Here we have one US war hawk and one US Zionist, both connected with US Armed Forces, conferring with their Egyptian counterparts? (Don't bother with the pictures in the article.)

It appears that the Egyptians have wrapped their flag around Sen. Lieberman. He doesn't look particularly happy about it.

Profit Pathology and Disposable Planet

by Michael Parenti from Z Communications

He makes a point that I have also made many times:
...the function of the transnational corporation is not to promote a healthy ecology but to extract as much marketable value out of the natural world as possible even if it means treating the environment like a septic tank. An ever-expanding corporate capitalism and a fragile finite ecology are on a calamitous collision course, so much so that the support systems of the entire ecosphere—the Earth’s thin skin of fresh air, water, and topsoil—are at risk.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Three news items that you will not see in mainstream US media

1.  US Vetoes UN Draft Resolution Condemning Israeli Settlements from The National (UAE).

Well, actually I did see a few, but extremely brief, reports in the media that only mentioned the fact of the US veto--and that was all.

This continued policy of the Zionist, racist Israeli ruling class to build "facts on the ground" is obviously designed to make impossible any establishment of a contiguous Palestinian state that is imperative if a lasting peace settlement is to happen. The effect of this policy and the destruction of the Palestinian economy (as seen in the 3rd item below), is to keep Palestinians impoverished on Israeli bantustans. But, of course, this policy, and US and NATO aggressions in the Middle East, also fosters increasing anti-US hostility and the targeting of US and NATO countries with more terrorist attacks.

However, the Empire's rulers couldn't care less about Palestinians and their human rights and national aspirations. Fortress Israel is a critically important outpost in the Middle East to insure the Empire's access to cheap energy, markets, access to other resources of the Middle East, and their continued dominance over many areas of the world. Thus, Israel, plays a key role to insure the survival of capitalism and all the riches and power that capitalists derive from their system.

A Palestinian labourer works on a construction site at a Jewish settlement near Jerusalem. The Israeli left has largely ignored the US veto of a UN resolution condemning such settlement-building. (Reuters)

2. Israel Rebuffs United Nations Inquiries on Desecration of Ancient Jerusalem Cemetery
In the process of infrastructure and construction works to build a “Museum of Tolerance” atop a part of the ancient Muslim cemetery, the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) in Los Angeles and Israeli authorities have overseen the disinterment of thousands of human remains, graves, and other archaeological artifacts.
3. New Palestinian Factory Turned to Rubble by Israeli Attack from Media Freedom Intl.
The coordinated Israeli attack injured eight people, along with damaging a primary school serving 600 children, a medical storage facility, and homes in the surrounding area.  The schools ceilings and windows were damaged forcing the school to be temporarily suspended. The medical storage facility caused a total of $400,000 in damage....