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 23, 2011

Libya and the new US strategic doctrine

Click here to access article by Thierry Meyssan from Voltaire Net.

The author sees a new doctrine that is guiding the policies of the Empire which he calls the "Gates doctrine". He credits Thomas P.M. Barnett for identifying and elucidating the doctrine in his book, The Pentagon’s New Map. War and Peace in the Twenty-First Century.
Another, more realistic, imperial vision has progressively surfaced at the Pentagon.

...The world will be divided in two. On one side, the stable centre constituted around the United States by developed countries that are more or less democratic. On the other side, a periphery - left to its own devices - plagued by under development and violence. The role of the Pentagon will be to ensure the civilised world gets access to the necessary natural resources located in the periphery, which is inept to make use of them.
I think it is mostly the strategies that the Empire will employ to gain "access to the necessary natural resources located in the periphery" that is a bit different than previous strategies.

Libya and Gaza: Double Standards in Conflict Reporting at The New York Times

Click here to access article by Ed Maloney from his blog. Ed Moloney is an Irish journalist who now lives and works in New York City. For most of his professional life he covered the Troubles in Northern Ireland, writing for the Irish Times and the Sunday Tribune.

I have been noticing amplified US mainstream coverage of war crimes and atrocities in Libya and Syria perpetrated by their respective regimes, and noticed how different the crimes are in scale from the greatest purveyors of violence and war crimes--US and Israel. This rather lengthy article provides some of the horrifying details of this different coverage as well as the non-coverage of NATO caused civilian casualties during their "humanitarian" mission in Libya.

Friday, April 22, 2011

In the Absence of Accountability and the Rule of Law, No Freedom of the Press in Russia

Click here to access article by Richard Rousseau from Foreign Policy Journal.

Although it was not the writer's intention, I believe the article illustrates a fundamental truth about class structured societies: although the composition of the class structure may change, many essential features remain the same.

The class structure of the former Soviet Union was that of a privileged bureaucracy and intelligentsia. Although it started with the highest ideals, it rapidly degenerated into a nightmare of totalitarian rule for anyone who might be seen as a dissident. There is little doubt that this happened in large part because of the terrible circumstances surrounding its birth.  Who knows what might have happened if circumstances had been more favorable?

The Soviet Union was created out of the Russian Revolution toward the end of WWI, a war in which they suffered huge losses. This was followed by widespread famine, epidemic diseases, civil war, and foreign attacks and occupation by 14 Western capitalist countries. The latter happened for obvious reasons and has been repeated many times since then whenever any country tries to opt out of a capitalist system.

In any case, instead of the usual capitalist class of people who are privileged because of their rights under capitalism (appropriation of the wealth created by workers, the sanctity of contracts regardless of the devastating social consequences, and their control of banking and money), in the Soviet Union there arose another privileged class that used their control of the state to concentrate power and privilege to serve their own interests. 

However, because the Soviets used rational planning to guide their economy, the country soon made very rapid strides in building an industrial society out of one that had been semi-feudal. The people of the Soviet Union also benefited because the economy was free of the instability generated by capitalist elites whose activities of over production, speculation, and control of the money supply in their mad pursuit of profits lead to periodic economic crashes. Moreover, the Soviets also enjoyed free medical care, low cost housing, and an excellent educational system.

Because of these successes and the frequent economic crises in the West, during the first two of decades after their revolution the Soviet model enjoyed considerable popular support among workers in capitalist countries in spite of reports of police state incidents that were leaked to Western media. This popularity posed a problem for Western capitalist ruling classes and they responded in two general ways. 

First was with heavy handed police state methods against left worker organizations. Probably the worst abuses occurred in Germany where the unions were crushed after capitalists turned to the Nazis to do their dirty work. German leftists of all kinds were the first to occupy Germany's infamous concentration camps. 

The second way was the option used in the US under F.D. Roosevelt and his New Deal policies. Under this policy option the ruling class used some marginal, but significant laws to institute positive labor reforms (Wagner Act) which gave unions legal rights and social benefits (Social Security, Worker's Compensation, welfare programs, etc.) The US ruling class also used option one methods, but mostly, and most intensively, in the immediate period following WWI.

After WWII and the defeat of Germany, due in major part to the heroic efforts of the Soviet people, the Soviet ruling class slowly became more and more corrupt and self-serving. This decay plus the ever present threats of military competition with the West, the Afghan invasion, the Chernobyl nuclear accident all resulted in lack of support from the Soviet people, and caused the elites to turn toward the much more lucrative capitalist model. They had no difficulty in the transition from an elite ruled bureaucratic economy to a privately owned capitalist economy. The old nomenklatura easily transformed themselves into the new owners of the Soviet economy, a new ruling class of capitalists. 

In  contemporary Russia, we now see the same economic instability, the growing gap between rich and poor, and public spending cutbacks as is happening in the West. And, we are also witnessing the same "absence of accountability and the rule of law and freedom of the press in Russia" as we are seeing in Western capitalist countries, and as we witnessed under the old Soviet class system.

The Cointelpro Role of Left Gatekeeping Foundations

Click here to access article by Dr. Stuart Jeanne Bramhall from OpEd News. 

The article contains a plethora of links and references to sources which reveal the sophisticated forms of social control used by the US ruling class to promote their interests and contain dissent that might harm their interests. They prefer these methods because they avoid the more blatant use of police state methods that are in direct and open conflict with a "democratic" ideology, and because the latter methods often create militant political resistance.

The author is now living in New Zealand after fleeing Seattle due to FBI harassment because of her activist and intimate relationships with African-Americans, some who had been members of the Black Panther Party. So she knows her subject well. In the article she writes about her activities in relation to a campaign for single-payer medical insurance, and some of her insights regarding the uses of astro-turf organizations and COINTELPRO operations to control, divert, disrupt, and destroy legitimate campaign organizations.

Does the Government Want to Read Your Texts and Emails?

Click here to access article from ACLU. 
The Justice Department was called before Congress to say whether it should be permitted to read people's email, text messages and other electronic communications without a probable cause warrant — that is, without a judicial determination that it has a good reason to believe a search will turn up evidence of a crime. The clear answer to this question should have been "no."
With so many indications of government surveillance, it is becoming clear that the ruling class of the US is feeling so insecure that they have no hesitation about dispensing with the niceties of the rule of law and all the democratic paraphernalia they use to hide their rule. As their Empire begins to disintegrate we will increasingly experience the methods of totalitarian rule. At least, that will be more honest than what we have now.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Egyptian Crisis and Its Geopolitical Ramifications

Click here to access article by Dr. Jyoti Prasad Das from Foreign Policy Journal. 

In addition to providing a sound historical context, this writer gives us the best assessment that I've seen of the shifting power configuration in Egypt following the recent uprising.

Middle East and North Africa: Revolution and Counter-Revolution

Click here to access article by Johan Galtung from Transcend Media Service.. 

This writer provides a very succinct, thoughtful, and in depth look at the evolving political situation in Libya and Africa. 

Wealthy Arabs arriving early in London

Click here to access article by Carina Kame from Al Arabiya. 

It seems that the rich from the MENA countries are hedging their bets on the likelihood that they can maintain the lifestyle to which they have become accustomed after the uprisings in their respective countries are finally resolved. They are buying property in London, often "sight unseen". 

Well, it is not really surprising. The rich from these countries owe a debt of gratitude to their Western protectors who have engineered so much of the political developments in their respective countries during the past 100 years. When "push comes to shove", they know who their friends and supporters really are. These rich formed on the wounds of their countries like a scab after the British imperialists inflicted the wounds. Now that their countries are starting to heal, the citizens will likely not tolerate them. 

Obama Returns to his Moral Vision: Democrats Read Carefully!

Click here to access article by George Lakoff from AlterNet. 

Here we go again! This liberal author is beginning the process of bringing all the disillusioned liberals and progressives back into the Democratic fold just in time for the next elections. When I read the part of the headline which reads, "Democrats Read Carefully", I thought he was warning them about being gullible. But, no, he was affirming that there was much to be taken seriously in Obama's speech. 

This author pretends to offer a deep analysis by talking about "systems". And, again, this initially threw me off, because I thought he might touch on the most fundamental system of all which shapes everything--the socio-economic system of capitalism. 

Obama is a great speech deliverer, and whoever writes his speeches is very clever, diabolically clever. I wait with great anticipation to see if the manipulators of public opinion succeed once again in hoodwinking the liberal wing of the US electorate. Frankly, I cannot believe that they will fall for it again. I mean, there must be some limit to their gullibility!

If after reading this garbage, you need a dose of reality and have an hour to spare, I highly recommend that you listen to an interview with John Perkins.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Bipartisan support builds for slicing corporate tax rate

Click here to access article by Jim Puzzanghera from the Los Angeles Times. 

This article illustrates an example of how the two US capitalist parties collude to serve corporate interests while attempting to create an illusion of differences and, thus, a pretense of "democracy".
As part of their budget plan passed last week, House Republicans want to cut the corporate tax rate to 25% from 35%. The Obama administration and many Democrats also are looking to slice the current rate, but not as much.
For the past year I have read numerous reports about US corporations being flush with cash, and using it, not to invest in job creating activities like building the decaying infrastructure, high-speed rail, an energy grid, alternative energy systems, etc., but to buy back stock and other companies to become even bigger and more powerful. See this, this, and this.

Of course, most of the politicians are bought and paid for by the corporations, but there is also another real factor which forces them to cave-in to corporate demands: corporations can now move not only their enterprises to countries with low taxes, low wages, and weak environmental laws, but they can also move their money across borders at will to avoid taxes.

This process of the concentration of wealth and economic property and power into a relatively few hands is the natural outcome of the capitalist system which has been ongoing since its inception several hundred years ago. What amazes me is the astounding success that capitalist elites have had in pursuing this process behind the facade of "democracy"! 

Although decreasing in numbers, most people seem to believe that voting in an election means participating in a democracy. And the ruling classes are happy to oblige by serving up elections most everywhere in the world.

Secret memos expose link between oil firms and invasion of Iraq

Click here to access article by Paul Bignell from The Independent.

The article reports on documents recently obtained from the government (I presume the British government, but that is not clear to me.) which puts the lie to all the denials about oil being a factor in instigating the invasion of Iraq. The documents are to be revealed in a book entitled, Fuel on the Fire that will soon be published.
Over 1,000 documents were obtained under Freedom of Information over five years by the oil campaigner Greg Muttitt. They reveal that at least five meetings were held between civil servants, ministers and BP and Shell in late 2002.
Once again, we find the real truth about the war crimes of the Empire long after the deeds are accomplished. It will be interesting to see how mainstream media covers this disclosure, if they do at all.

Masses of US workers apply for low-wage jobs at McDonald’s

Click here to access article by James Brewer from World Socialist Web Site.

Yes, the economy is recovering!


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

From Baghdad's Own Tahrir Square to Mosul: The Friday of the Free

Click here to access article by Lieven De Cauter from Foreign Policy in Focus. 

Read what you won't see reported in US mainstream media--its about the widespread protests in Iraq against US occupation and the US puppet government. They are learning that "democracy" American style is literally and figuratively garbage.  
Men, women, and children, Muslims and Christians  who are speaking out about the “government's” criminality against them – it was amazing and enthralling. The crushed Iraqi middle class in all its colours and hues is out and will remain out. This is the beginning of civil disobedience, all very peaceful but full of force. The women who are in Tahrir are in the hundreds, all women whose sons or husbands have disappeared in the secret prisons of Maliki and the Occupation. But Iraqis have broken the chains. The world should watch this. But the world is silent and apparently deaf and blind. Where is the free western press?

Waiting for the Spark

Click here to access article by Ralph Nader from Common Dreams.
The spark can come from a recurrent sequence of abuses that strike a special chord of deeply felt injustice. Or it could be a unique episode or bullying that tolls the feeling “enough already” throughout the land. Such sparks cannot be manufactured; the power to arouse and break people’s routines is spontaneous.
When that moment comes, millions of Americans whose self-respect and keen sense of wrong will remind them precisely why our Constitution begins with “We the People” and not “We the Corporations”. They will realize the necessity for a Jeffersonian revolution.
I like the "spark" part, but I have doubts about a "Jeffersonian revolution". No, it will require something far more up to date that can cope effectively with today's world of extremes in wealth, weather, and wars.

Bill McKibben: We Can't Wait for the Politicians, We Have to Create the Future that We Need Ourselves

Click here to access a transcript of a speech Bill McKibben gave at the Powershift 2011 conference in Washington DC.
We have to fight, finally, without any guarantee that we are going to win. We have waited late to get started and our adversaries are strong and we do not know how this is going to come out. If you were a betting person you might bet we were going to lose because so far that is what's happened, but that's not a bet you are allowed to make. The only thing that a morally awake person can do when the worst thing that ever happened is happening is try to change those odds.

Zero-Tolerance Education Policies Are Destroying Young People's Lives

Click here to access article by Gara LaMarche from AlterNet.
This is what's known as the "school-to-prison pipeline." The United States now has the world's highest incarceration rate, and the number of juveniles in detention has swelled in recent decades. In the United States, more black men ages 18 to 24 live in prison cells than college dorm rooms, according to U.S. Census data.
The author argues that this effect is built into the system of Zero Tolerance Education, and presents some positive alternatives for dealing with behavioral problems.

Billionaires Flourish, Inequalities Deepen as Economies “Recover”

Click here to access article by James Petras from Voltaire Net. 

Read this survey and analysis of the data on the growth of billionaires in today's world to see how the author reaches this conclusion:
What is absolutely clear is that the state not the market plays a essential role in facilitating the greatest concentration and centralization of wealth in world history, whether in facilitating the plundering of the treasury and the environment or in heightening the direct and indirect exploitation of labor.

Karl Marx idea of Alienation

posted on U-Tube by "sydneywtflicious" from Ontario, Canada.

Okay, I admit that this is Capitalism 101. Well, many people are just waking up--they have to start somewhere! Also, seeing a young person expressing this concept so well, is inspiring.


Monday, April 18, 2011

Ivory Coast: Gbabgo, White imperialism and Afrikan Liberation

Click here to access article by Dr. Kwame Osei from Modern Ghana.

During the past few weeks as Western media reports came in about the civil strife in the Ivory Coast, I became very suspicious of the coverage. Supposedly, the strife was because the incumbent President would not step down after losing a recent election. No mention was made about US Senators visiting the country and finding voting irregularities. The next thing I learned was that French jets were attacking government installations in the Ivory Coast. 

Although I know nothing about this author, his portrayal of the recent events in the Ivory Coast makes so much sense to me. It is a classic example of neo-colonialism which is rarely reported in Western media. 
Therefore once they had put their signature to it [independence from France] the newly “independent” Francophone states in Afrika were forever enslaved to French economic interests.

These interests meant that French companies operating in Francophone states had free access to these markets, had easy access to government contracts and perhaps more shrewdly these French companies did not pay any taxation to the respective francophone states and repatriated their vast earnings back to Paris.
Then, there is the recent election in Nigeria which has resulted in violent protests. With all the oil drilling operations of Western corporations in Nigeria, I strongly suspect that this may be another case of Western governments secret meddling in their affairs. The WikiLeaks on Nigeria a few months ago revealed widespread government corruption and the involvement of Western corporations. I wonder if, and when, we will find out about their involvement in election rigging, if ever.

WikiLeaks: U.S. secretly backed Syrian opposition groups

Click here to access article by Craig Whitlock from Washington Post via Global Research. (I normally post from the original source, but in the past I've noticed that after a period of time many articles disappear from their original links in mainstream media.)
The State Department has secretly financed Syrian political opposition groups and related projects, including a satellite TV channel that beams anti-government programming into the country, according to previously undisclosed diplomatic cables.
Once again, we see our tax dollars at work trying to destabilize countries in the interests of the global capitalist Empire. And then there are all the human casualties and crimes. Meanwhile, we are asked to sacrifice Medicare, Social Security retirement benefits, education, and numerous other social programs to pay for these nefarious activities. As I heard one NPR announcer say one day regarding public spending cuts, "it's the new normal". In other words, "suck it up, there is nothing you can do about it!."

Capitalism, Climate Change, and Social Conflicts

Click here to access audio recordings from panel members on this theme. This panel is from a forum organized by Union for Radical Political Economics held from March 18-20, 2011. There are two audio recordings of presentations that I'd like to direct your attention to that were given by Tokar and Williams. Each presentation lasts 20 minutes. You can easily listen to each while doing some chore that requires little attention. 

Standard & Poors Cuts U.S. Outlook to Negative Because Both Parties Keep Throwing Money at Endless Wars, Endless Bailouts and a Ponzi Financial System

Click here to access article from Washington's Blog.
The war between liberals and conservatives is a false divide-and-conquer dog-and-pony show created by the powers that be to keep the American people divided and distracted.

Could Egypt's revolution be stolen?

Click here to access article by Kieron Monks from Al Jazeera.

Because the revolution is unfinished, it can't be stolen, it can only be halted or reversed. For me, a coup d'etat, even if caused by the people, is not a revolution. But the groundwork has been laid for a profound social revolution, and I will continue to follow the unfinished revolutionary events in Egypt. The US trained and equipped military governing regime is more likely to serve their sponsors than the Egyptian people. Thus, I think further clashes between the people and the military regime are inevitable. Meanwhile...
The army's public face, the Supreme Council, continues to hit the right public relations notes. Their move to arrest ex-president Mubarak and his sons has gone down like a treat, while public announcements make great play of claiming they are the people's faithful representatives.

5 Ways The Google Book Settlement Will Change The Future of Reading

Click here to access article by Annalee Newitz from io9.
If you care about the future of books, you need to understand the Google Book Settlement. It's a complicated legal document, but we've talked to some of its architects, detractors, and defenders - and break it all down for you.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Tax Day at Corporate America

Click here to access more information at US Uncut. 

I am so pleased to see that many of my fellow Americans are getting up off the floor after being knocked over by the latest bankster scams, standing up, and acting like Egyptians and the people of Wisconsin. They are fighting back against the tax cuts for the rich and public spending tax cuts for the rest of us. (For foreign readers, tomorrow the 18th of April is when income taxes are due to the US government.)

If the ruling class wants class war, we'll give it to them!

After perusing the site and watching the video, check out the nearest area where demonstrations are planned for Monday (tax day) where you live.

In this video we see the citizens in San Francisco on Friday having fun at the expense of Bank of America.

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House Financial Services Committee: Hotbed of Money From Financial Sector Interests

Click here to access article by Michael Beckel from Open Secrets Blog.
The House Financial Services Committee is a furnace in which legislation affecting Wall Street is forged. It's also a hotbed of money from individuals and political committee committees connected to the financial sector.
The data in this article illustrates how capitalist style "democracy" works to serve a tiny rich minority of people who essentially "own" the US economy.  Of course, true democracy has very little relationship with how our government actually functions. The ruling class have transformed the meaning of this concept through constant repetition throughout all institutions of society. The concept of democracy now means something which is quite the opposite of its original meaning. It no longer means rule by the people; instead, it means rule by the rich, a "plutocracy". It is an archetypical Orwellian term.

The perversion of the concept of democracy, I think, has to do with the revolutions in the US and France against the rule of the landed aristocracy. The rising bourgeois class at that time needed the support of ordinary people--artisans, peasants, and other laborers in order to overthrow the aristocrats. They allowed the long suppressed dreams of a classless, people oriented rule to be expressed in order to garner the support of ordinary people. 

Dreams of real democracy and social justice were articulated by people like Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Thomas Paine. 
...Rousseau argues that sovereignty (or the power to make the laws) should be in the hands of the people...the rule of law, ideally decided on by direct democracy in an assembly.  ...Rousseau was opposed to the idea that the people should exercise sovereignty via a representative assembly. The kind of republican government of which Rousseau approved was that of the city state, of which Geneva, was a model, or would have been, if renewed on Rousseau's principles. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean-Jacques_Rousseau)
And Paine wrote: 
It is not charity but a right, not bounty but justice, that I am pleading for. The present state of civilization is as odious as it is unjust. It is absolutely the opposite of what it should be, and it is necessary that a revolution should be made in it. The contrast of affluence and wretchedness continually meeting and offending the eye, is like dead and living bodies chained together. (http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Agrarian_Justice)
However, once the aristocracy was defeated, the new capitalist class took over and imposed their rights of property and their appropriation of wealth produced by working people. In place of real democracy, they imposed a pseudo form of representation by elections. Originally, only male people of property could vote, but over the years this class has gradually relented to pressure from below to extend the suffrage to working people and women as they learned how to effectively manage the election process and the control of information through their ownership of the media.

Unfortunately for them, they have been saddled with the "democratic" ideological legacy which they used hypocritically to gain power. Their solution was to redefine the concept to mean something other than its original definition and to disguise it behind the facade of carefully managed elections.