We’ve lived so long under the spell of hierarchy—from god-kings to feudal lords to party bosses—that only recently have we awakened to see not only that “regular” citizens have the capacity for self-governance, but that without their engagement our huge global crises cannot be addressed. The changes needed for human society simply to survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions through direct engagement. Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive to yield to directives from on high.
—Frances Moore Lappé, excerpt from Time for Progressives to Grow Up
Saturday, April 2, 2011
Because there is a lot of information in this article and more provided by links, the article requires careful study to really appreciate the issues. I recommend that you first listen to the Democracy Now debate between George Monbiot and Helen Caldicott, then read the article and links contained therein.
I see Monbiot as a classic liberal as reflected in his writings in the Guardian, Britain's most notable liberal newspaper. As such he has done much to point out the data and arguments that support the fact of climate change (see this, this, and this), and has done much to criticize the influence that industry lobbyists have in denying climate change. But he has also blamed environmentalists, "the cowardice of governments, the natural human tendency to deny what we don't want to see", and consumers.
It appears to me that he has become so brainwashed with the TINA (there is no alternative) view, that he simply cannot question the capitalist system. (Or else, he dare not go there if he wants to keep his income from the Guardian newspaper.) Hence, he too sees the only alternative as being the adoption of nuclear energy which alone can feed the growth demands of capitalism. Thus he is forced to insist on the sanctity of the information from the UN's IAEA and WHO who seem to be in collaboration with each other. He simply cannot even question that these organizations may also be influenced by the great capitalist powers that largely control these world bodies.
Caldicott, on the other hand, as a physician is solely concerned with the health effects of nuclear energy, and has devoted much of her life to the study of this.
Johnson is an heir to the Johnson & Johnson pharmaceutical corporation, and filmmaker of "The One Percent". I have posted his articles quite often in this blog because he gives us a rare inside view of life among the class of people who largely rule the world. Also, his film was quite a surprising exposé on the lives of the rich and the hypocritical way they live and justify their wealth and power. I've often wondered if this was just an indication of a youthful rebellious phase he was going through. With this article I think that I am beginning to think so.
After lavishing praise on the American billionaires in this article, he criticizes them for organizing a conference in India (also in China) where it carried...
...a slightly condescending message. It implies somehow that Indian billionaires require the guidance of American billionaires to act responsibly, and in the best interest of their own society. I tend to believe that super-rich Indians—whose fortunes, it’s worth remembering, are already remarkably high and only expected to swell in forthcoming years—have a suitable vision of their own for philanthropy. According to Forbes, the nation currently is home to 55 billionaires—many of whom are internationally renowned entrepreneurs. There isn’t any reason to assume their business savvy and creativity won’t extend to developing effective strategies for donating wealth. Plus, a number of Indian billionaires already rival their American counterparts in the arena of social responsibility. The Tata family, for example, has notably sacrificed personal wealth for generations by placing shares of their industrial conglomerate in charitable trusts to benefit India’s people.I think that one can also make a valid argument that American billionaires are condescending if they think they know what is best for people in the US who are poor. They are so insulated from the poor and have such a vested interested in keeping their class in power, that I don't think we should trust their judgement. After all, isn't philanthropy largely motivated by guilt, and a desire to improve the public image of the rich?
It's interesting to me that a scathing critique of Bill Gates and his educational reforms is no longer available on Truthout's website. See my posting.
Friday, April 1, 2011
It's rather startling, even to a cynic like me, at the rapid pace which the ruling class is proceeding in changing this Libyan adventure from a humanitarian mission.
Consider the bait-and-switch. The U.S. role in the intervention was sold to the American people as a very limited one: we'd help enforce a no-fly zone. In his speech on Monday, Obama said that "broadening our military mission to include regime change would be a mistake."But now in fact, it is "regime change". And that, of course, means change to a regime that promotes "our national interest". Which, of course, means the interest of the capitalist ruling classes who rule the Empire.
I think I would have entitled this piece, "Politics in America". To be sure, the right-wing still uses "socialism" as an epitaph, but just as frequently they focus on runaway government spending. And the latter always refers to spending on health care, education, libraries, single mothers, etc--not on war spending measures to promote industries that produce killing machines ("defense spending"). Likewise, the right-wing fail to mention the bailouts of mega-banks and other corporations, and fail to mention that tax revenues have shrunk due to the many tax breaks given to the rich and their corporations over the last 40 years.
Another point in the article was that the town was "trying to lure a factory or two to Pleasantville by offering them a fifty year exemption on all taxes....". This illustrates an important truth about all public entities across the country: they are all competing over jobs which are controlled by corporations who are free to go anywhere in the world that offers them the best deal in terms of wages, taxes, infrastructure, low or unenforced environmental laws, etc. We are all now at the mercy of international corporations. The system of capitalism has created these monstrosities.
After Deng Xiaoping announced in 1992 that ‘to get rich is glorious’, this writer shows how Chinese capitalists were so easily able to exploit Chinese peasants.
China, despite its embrace of corporate capitalism and private investors at the top, remains for many at the bottom highly autocratic and arbitrary. Nothing is more indicative of this than the Maoist-era hukouzhidu laws on family registration that (despite various reforms) still dictate who has the right to live where. This has left millions of China’s new proletariat in a situation of chronic insecurity, preyed upon by their bosses and often corrupt municipal authorities and police.But now there are definite signs that workers are organizing and fighting back.
So far, it looks like union bureaucracies in Wisconsin are winning the battle while leaving the workers behind. But this writer thinks that "...organized labor's showdown with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has set the stage for even sharper conflicts to come." He elaborates:
The gap between union leaders' policy of retreat and workers' willingness to fight has seldom been greater. In Wisconsin, grassroots labor and community activists are attempting to build on the connections made during the protests to forge new coalitions and networks to fight the next round of Walker's budget cuts and maintain their union organizations despite the new restrictions imposed by the new anti-union laws.
...the world could get rid of major problems by restructuring and removing the class system that exists today, a system where 1 percent of the people have all the money and power and an invested interest in keeping the system in place.
Thursday, March 31, 2011
I have not posted very many of his articles because I have seen him as more of a reformer of capitalism--you know, one of those people that believe that capitalism can be modified to perform in a socially just way. This delusional thinking is much like believing that a wolf can be trained to become a vegetarian.
He is a very eloquent writer and speaker, but so often in the past he has shed more moral heat than intellectual light on the subject of social justice. However, I believe this article of Hedges provides evidence that he has moved a bit away from the capitalist system.
He mostly uses the more acceptable terms of "globalization" and "corporate state", but he does finally use the term capitalism toward the end. Throughout the article he argues convincingly that capitalism (if you include the other terms he uses) is an irrational, faith-based type of economy. This is a giant step for him because it clearly implies that we can do better with another, more rational system, a system designed to serve all people.
They [the ideological proponents of globalism] embrace globalism because it, like most philosophical and theological ideologies, justifies their privilege and power. They believe that globalism is not an ideology but an expression of an incontrovertible truth. And because the truth has been uncovered, all competing economic and political visions are dismissed from public debate before they are even heard.
What will be required is an ecologically and culturally relevant diversity of agricultural, industrial, transportation, educational, and residential forms based on communal ownership and democratic control by the people themselves.
Instead of passive consumers we will become active, educated, and involved participants in economic, cultural, and political life. Everyone will be involved in decisions about manufacturing methods, energy techniques, use of chemicals, and so on in order for the whole community to democratically decide the best alternative when toxin, resource, and energy minimization are the goals. Furthermore, with everyone productively engaged, the number of hours anyone works will be drastically reduced, leaving ample time for cultural and personal growth.This is precisely what would be required of citizens if such a society can exist in a truly democratic way. People at the grass roots after taking power would have to be educated, active decision makers, and acting through organizational structures that they would construct and control.
This type of society would replace what we have now: a few people with all the power, control, wealth, and leisure time while the vast majority are overworked wage slaves or else unemployed, under-educated, and impoverished.
This author and left-wing political commentator provides us with the best history that I've seen of the Gaddafi regime, its real relationship with the Empire, and what this history portends.
Until a struggle for liberation combines the democratic tasks of national independence and sovereignty and democratic entitlement with social ownership of the means of production, neocolonial regimes will displace a mass movement; will contain it or corrupt it in any manner to suppress it and we see that dynamic unfolding.
He is one of the few people in Congress who really care about social justice in the US. The only problem is that he is a social democrat. He believes that capitalism can be regulated with a dash of social welfare thrown in despite all that has been happening during the past 40 years: the dismantling of social supports while corporations have grown like a cancer that has pretty much taken over the body politic.
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Government Responds to Nuclear Accident by Trying to Raise Acceptable Radiation Levels and Pretending that Radiation is Good For Us
There are essentially two basic reasons that motivate the capitalist ruling class to lie to us about the adverse effects of the latest disaster at Fukushima, Japan. First, the nuclear energy industry is in private hands, that is, it feeds the profit interests of the ruling class. Second, nuclear energy is vital to the capitalist system and its growth imperative which requires increasing amounts of energy in a world where fossil fuel resources are diminishing, or soon will be. As always, the media of the ruling class is committed to the interests of that class, not to our interests.
In this piece, the blogger assembles rather convincing evidence that the ruling class is already lying to us.
...Japan is suffering the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl - if not of all time - is the [US] government riding to the rescue to help fix the problem, or at least to provide accurate information to its citizens so they can make informed decisions?
Of course not!
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
I am featuring this mainstream media article as an illustration of reality management by the US ruling class. Here we have The Cap Times newspaper in Madison, Wisconsin, where the class war has been raging between Governor Walker and public sector unions, offering its version of what has been happening during this confrontation.
This editorial which is clearly in support of the Democrats and unions, is very typical of what passes for "progressive" politics in the US. For my foreign readers, I must make clear a couple of facts about US politics that is implied in the article.
First, all mainstream discussion assumes that the Republican Party defends the interests of wealthier people while the Democratic Party defends the "middle class". Americans have been led to believe that everyone between the rich and those in prison are "middle class". Second, under this conceptualization it follows that everyone in this great "democracy" is represented by political parties except for those in prison--hence, this lends legitimacy to their claim that a democracy, or if pushed a bit, that a representative form of democracy exists in the US. Hence, the writer's use of the concept of "class politics" instead of class war. The governing class has relied on this formulation to inform all of its mainstream media coverage of political and economic events, and the vast majority of Americans believe this mythical construction of reality.
The reality is that both parties represent the ruling class. They only represent different strategies to promote their interests. While the Republican party directly pursues policies favoring those who essentially own the US economy and profit from it, the Democratic Party poses as a champion of the "middle class". It is very much like the "good cop/bad cop" scenario you find frequently in Hollywood crimes stories. Thus, when Republicans win most of the seats in Congress they wage all out class war, when Democrats win they always "reach across the Aisle" in the spirit of bi-partisanship and end up supporting basically the same policies, although a little more disguised.
Notice that The Cap Times bills itself as "Your Progressive Voice". In fact, this primary Madison newspaper is about as far left as you will find in a significant US city. But the sad fact is that the political spectrum in the US has since WWII gradually shifted far to the right.
The main periods of shift happened first during the McCarthy period in the late 1940s and early 1950s, when the ruling class went on the attack to purge all vestiges of militancy and leftist thinking in labor unions, academia, and the media including the Hollywood film industry. Then, beginning in the 1970s, neo-liberalism raised its ugly head to remove all significant restraints on business to pursue profits within and without the US.
Now, because the ruling capitalist class has gone global, it no longer needs American workers except for the armaments industry and to serve in its armed forces. Public service workers and public spending are the last remaining targets.
Finally, this article sourced from The Washington Post and carried in the Madison newspaper illustrates another reality about how centralized information processing is in the US. There are two major newspapers in the US that set the tone and the limits of "legitimate" coverage of events: The NY Times and The Washington Post. They are intimately tied to the ruling class and shape how nearly all media coverage is reported in lesser newspapers and news outlets.
While the ruling class is on a rampage to cutback public spending on things like education, medical care, elderly benefits, etc, the highly profitable military-industrial complex continues on its merry spending way to promote the interests of the Empire.
With a new Congress with a House controlled by Republicans who have trumpeted deficit reduction as one of their central priorities, it would be logical to expect that there might be trimming in one of the largest and most bloated areas of US government spending: the nation’s $700bn military budget. However, the realities of Washington, DC are different than the rhetoric. While spending for the Iraq war should be decreasing, as planned, in coming years, recently released budget proposals by both Democrats and Republicans show that base levels for Pentagon funding continue to rise.Notice that whenever public officials are called upon to justify war expenditures, they always, as Obama did yesterday, refer to "our national interests". Public officials are never asked about what these "national interests" consist of. So most Americans tend to believe that they, too, will benefit somehow from these policies. Of course, what they consist of are ruling capitalist class interests to promote for this tiny minority their power and profits. The end result is what we have today: endless wars, public spending cutbacks, unemployment, unstable weather patterns, environmental devastation, nuclear accidents, etc.
This historian does offer some corrective to the indoctrination given to all US students of the early founding of their country. However, this is, in my opinion, a liberal (in the political sense) interpretation of these events. As such it is about as far left an interpretation that can be allowed in acceptable discourse among US historians.
You must understand that left-wing teachers in academia were thoroughly purged during the McCarthy period. Academic institutions initially required all professors to sign loyalty oaths, and since then a filtering process was put in place to screen out people who might teach views contrary to "US interests". (If you wish to know more about this process, you simply must read Disciplined Minds by Jeff Schmidt.)
I am not a trained historian, but I have read quite a bit of history about this period from reliable sources. These sources include writings by the eminent historian and political scientist, Charles Beard, historical accounts of the Whiskey Rebellion and the Shays' Rebellion, writings about John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Thomas Paine. I have concluded that the class war we are now seeing was very present at the founding of our country. And guess who won then? Yes, the same people that are winning now.
Thomas Paine was used by the new class of capitalists before the revolution to gather support for the War of Independence. This class saw before them a huge continent ripe for plunder. Only "savages" and the British Crown stood in their way. They knew they could deal with the former, but the latter were a problem. Besides, a war is always good for huge profits, and this class had no compunctions about selling goods to both sides, just as happened during WWII with major US corporations trading with Nazi corporations.
Paine devoted much of his life to the promotion of real democracy for everyone to enjoy. After the successful conclusion of the American war, he went to France to promote his ideas there. When the bourgeoisie (capitalists) in France eventually gained the upper hand in their revolution, he was imprisoned and languished there for some length of time and was nearly guillotined. After gaining his freedom, he was essentially bankrupt which likely resulted in his taking employment with the financial and trading wizard, Robert Morris. My knowledge of the details of this period is a bit sketchy, but I do know that the governing elite now strongly criticized Paine's democratic views, and that he died in obscurity and virtually penniless.
Mondragon as a Bridge to a New Socialism: A Review of Five Books with Radical Critiques and New Ideas
There is much to be learned from the Basque experiment in worker cooperatives: both positive and negative. This review of five books on the subject may be helpful as a start.
Monday, March 28, 2011
In the interview Chomsky takes a global perspective on the various uprisings across the world, many about which we hear very little. The evidence that he assembles confirms my own, oft-stated beliefs that present trends under capitalism suggest we are headed for a world dominated by the very rich who live on well guarded islands of gated communities surrounded by oceans of wage slaves scrambling to eke out an existence. And added to this dismal picture, one must include the environmental devastation and climate instability that is likely to increase.
Here are a couple of excerpts from the interview:
[This is] what’s actually been happening in much of the world, this incidentally includes China and India too - is a global shift of power - away from working people and into the hands of owners, managers, investors, the elite elements, highly paid professionals, and so on. There is a very sharp class split. You see it everywhere.
...this Summer...I was in Southern Columbia visiting endangered villages subjected to severe repression. Actually, Columbia has the largest internally displaced population in the world after Sudan, mostly from attacks on the indigenous areas. ...one village I visited is trying to preserve nearby mountain and virgin forests from mining which will destroy their communities, destroy their lives, take away the water supplies. They are poor, but they have a functioning life. They want that life and they have every reason to have it. And that’s happening all over the world. Its happening in the United States. In Appalachia, mountain top removal happens to be a very cheap way of coal mining, but it destroys the valleys, destroys the rivers, destroys the ecology, destroys the communities and people resist. I presume that, what’s happening in the tribal areas (in India) is in substantial part an instance of this global phenomenon of the feverish surge for resources, whatever be the effect on environment and the people.
This is a little old. I completely missed the report and all the demonstrations planned for this past weekend. But, I refer you to future actions organized by US Uncut which a link in the article points to.
Living in the heart of the Empire and being subject to the ubiquitous coverage provide by corporate media can be hazardous to one's understanding of the world and even to one's mental health. As an antidote I heartily recommend that you take a dose of The Anti-Empire Report periodically. To do this, I suggest that you subscribe to his Report:
To add yourself to this mailing list simply send an email to bblum6 [at] aol.com with "add" in the subject line. I'd like your name and city in the message, but that's optional. I ask for your city only in case I'll be speaking in your area.
Sunday, March 27, 2011
Based on a recently published study in Science journal, more dreadful predictions by scientists:
Climate scientists expect increasing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere to raise both average temperatures and summer variability in Europe, leading to more heatwaves. ..."Under global warming this kind of event will become more common. Mega-heatwaves are going to be more frequent and more intense in the future."More extreme weather is on the way unless we change the existing wasteful and polluting system of capitalism to something that allows us to live in harmony with nature. Time is rapidly running out before we pass irreversible tipping points. So which is it--a new sustainable system or more resource wars, famine, floods, poverty, etc? We and our neighbors, and their neighbors, and so on, must decide to take action or to sit back and wait for the inevitable.
The only solution is for developed countries to greatly decrease their levels of consumption.The author is wrong. He apparently has bought into the TINA delusion. The only real cure that has a chance is to change the system.
The ruling class of capitalists cannot pursue the policies he outlines without interfering with their access to profits. This is like warning a hard-core heroin addict to give up the drug or it will kill him/her. Without extensive treatment they often end up killing themselves. In this case, they will take us with them.
This article offers a much more in depth look at Gaddafi and the insurrection in Libya than I have found elsewhere.
...I believe that from an anti-imperialist perspective one cannot and should not oppose the no-fly zone, given that there is no plausible alternative for protecting the endangered population. ...But again, one must maintain a very critical attitude toward what the Western powers might do.
This is for the people in the US who received scant media coverage of the huge protest (several hundred thousand people) against public spending cuts in London on Saturday. US media was far more interested in diverting our attention to preparations for the Royal Wedding.
For more pictures of the London protest, click on this.