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, July 30, 2011

The Reactionary Imagination

Click here to access article by Tom Mills from New Left Project

This is an introduction to a series of articles he is intending to publish on the internet in which he will...
...suggest that an elite dominated public realm (broader than just the media) not only leaves people unable to adequately understand the ‘troubles they endure’; but that this lack of understanding creates a vacuum into which reactionary, and often racist, ideas flow.  Understanding this dynamic can help us better situate right-wing ideology within the broader landscape of elite power and this in turn can help us better connect our fight against racism and other forms of prejudice with struggles over the economy and workers rights.
This sort of intellectual work is vital for all of us to understand how the system works to limit and shape our thoughts to serve the needs of the Empire.

Libya: Washington prepares its revenge

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

I regard this author as one of the best informed and most astute observers of events related to the Empire. In this article he outlines three steps that the Empire's agents are taking, and will take, to deal with the stalemate in Libya: stealing the assets and preparing the looting, negotiating a military exit, and then...
After the cease-fire takes effect, the United States will deploy an intense secret activity to reverse the political equation.
You know, using one of those "color revolution" strategies they employed in other countries with some success.

The top-end-of-town have captured the growth

Click here to access article by Bill Mitchell from his Billy Blog. 

This Australia professor of economics provides more data on the skewed distribution of wealth following the "recovery" from the 2007-2009 "recession". Once again we see an academic analyze data and come to conclusions that are obvious to an ordinary working person: the rich have gotten richer and most working people have gotten less--actually, they are barely treading water. He writes in his opening paragraph:
It shows that the so-called economic recovery in the US has not delivered any tangible benefits to the vast majority of citizens and has rather, concentrated real gains among the top-end-of-town. Given that the recovery has floated on the fiscal stimulus the findings reinforce the biased nature of policy in the US. That indicates poor fiscal design by an incompetent and corrupt government not that fiscal policy is inherently unsuitable for advancing public purpose.
But, that is the last time he uses the word "corruption" related to his analysis. Thereafter, this skewed distribution of wealth is all about incompetence.

Okay, so he does mention that...
The reality is that the neo-liberal attack on public purpose has changed the way the distributional system operates – with workers now finding it harder to gain access to real income growth despite contributing more per hour (productivity growth stronger).

The raft of anti-union legislation, deregulation of wages and conditions, etc have combined to shut workers out of the real growth pie.
But, he doesn't develop this line of argument; instead, he continues on in the usual liberal way of expressing moral condemnation and criticizing incompetence, and aims his blows at the Obama administration. 
That is a stunning indictment of the current US Administration. They cannot blame the recalcitrant Republicans because at the critical time they controlled the legislature.

...But it is clear by the appointments he made to his Administration and the policies he allowed to be implemented (in the name of fiscal stimulus) that his attention was biased towards preserving the wealth of Wall Street rather than the jobs and homes of the millions of workers who showed faith in him and put him into office.

Subsequently, he has shown the antithesis of leadership by actually conceding ground to the Republicans on the need to cut the deficit. The last thing a responsible leader would be doing in the US situation is advocating and offering deficit reduction.
So, it's all about Republicans and Democrats! This avoids any real look at the system itself and keeps his criticisms well within the limits of acceptable discourse among academics or anyone who plays an important role in mainstream institutions.  

This also preserves the notion that there is no alternative, that the capitalist system is part of the natural world that we must accept--it is not a man-made system, or more specifically, that it certainly has not been constructed by a class of people who have made up rules and created a system that has enabled them to appropriate the wealth that working people create.

Academics like Bill Mitchell provide a very important service to the Empire. They pose as learned people--and they do have many skills, but their core political and economic assumptions have been carefully cultivated to align with the interests of the ruling capitalist class. Those who can't stomach this process are weeded out. You see, such highly trained people have been through a long process of indoctrination and selection to insure that they serve the needs of the Empire. A few academics escape this process with their independent faculties intact, but not very many. This phenomenon is well described in a book by Jeff Schmidt entitled, Disciplined Minds.

Disastrous Outcomes From an Orchestrated Crisis

Click here to access article by Paul Craig Roberts.

This former member of the Reagan administration goes even further than the author of the above article with his criticisms of the current administration and the "orchestrated" financial crisis:
The offshoring of US jobs, GDP, tax base, and consumer demand that has eroded away the US economy and the government’s tax base, thus elevating the deficit, is somehow not a crisis. These are just the imperatives of globalism and the routine maximization of shareholders’ profits and management’s performance bonuses.
But, then he abandons this line of thinking and goes back to acceptable discourse that it is all about evil Republicans and incompetent Democrats. Following this standard line, he blames the victims--the American public for voting them into office--as if we had some real choices! As if people had access to real information about political and economic issues!

Friday, July 29, 2011

WAKE UP AMERICA! - The Real U.S. Budget Problem: Defense & War Spending Equal 94% Of All Federal Income Tax Revenues

Click here to access article from The Daily Bail. 

This blogger takes an excellent graphic portrayal of our government's income and expenses (from the Washington Post) to place in perspective how much of the government's tax money is actually spent on invading and occupying other countries, and killing their citizens. He reveals how Social Security and Medicare trust funds, the source of which were equal contributions from workers and employers, have been used to pay for these wars. This has been a well kept secret for a number of years!

Trust funds are normally set up to transfer temporarily "...property to a trustee...who holds that trust property...for the benefit of the beneficiaries." Somehow the political operatives of the ruling capitalists figured out a way to tap into these Social Security and Medicare funds to pay for their wars. Because the ruling class doesn't want to tax itself to pay back what they have stolen from these programs, both of their well-financed pseudo political parties are now engaged in a Congressional performance along the lines of "good cop, bad cop" to frighten American workers into acquiescing to cuts in the benefits due them under these programs.

The Social Security program was set up during the Franklin Roosevelt administration in the 1930s and were effectively forced upon him by the many militant struggles of workers (see this, this, and this) all across the US where pitched battles were fought against police forces of the ruling class.  Medicare was quickly instituted by Lyndon Johnson as a part of his efforts to stifle opposition to his acceleration of the war in Vietnam.

Ten Lessons for Today’s Unions from Labor’s Militant History

Click here to access article by Ann Robertson and Bill Leumer from Toward Freedom.
Today, the incomes of working people are declining, those of the rich are skyrocketing, but federal and state governments are nevertheless aiming their fire at working people, demanding pension cuts, wage cuts, layoffs, and cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, public education, and social services. These cuts will only accelerate the inequalities in wealth. Now more than ever, organized labor needs to step up, reclaim its glories from its past, and mount a major campaign to oppose these attacks and demand that the government institute job-creation programs.
Although we have much to learn from the largely expunged history of our ancestor's struggles against organized capitalists, we must also understand that we are living under quite different conditions and apply those lessons accordingly. We are living in a globalized capitalist Empire where the ruling classes can shift economic enterprises fairly easily from one location to another. Thus, we must collaborate much more closely with workers throughout the world. We must globalize worker struggles to overcome the oppression of globalized capital.

The Occult World of Economics The Anti-Empire Report

Click here to access article by William Blum from Foreign Policy Journal.
I...know that the problem is not necessarily that you and I are economic illiterates. The problem is often that the “experts” discuss these issues as if we’re dealing with hard and fast rules or laws, not to be violated, scientifically based, mathematically sound and rational; when, in fact, a great deal of what takes place in the real world of economics and in the arena of “expert” analysis of that world, is based significantly on partisan party politics, ideology, news headlines, speculation, manipulation, psychology (see the utter meaninglessness and absurdity of the daily rise or fall of stock prices), backroom deals of the powerful, and the excessive power given to and reliance upon thoroughly corrupt credit-rating agencies and insurers of various kinds.

What Americans Have to Learn from the Arab Spring

Click here to access article by Jeff Nall from Toward Freedom. 

This author, while suggesting some lessons we can learn from the brave Egyptians, exposes the many lies and hypocrisies of our government in its relations with oppressive regimes. Although he has further to go, he is making progress toward realizing Frances Moore Lappé's injunction for progressives to grow up. (See masthead quote)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

How America Could Collapse

Click here to access article by Matt Stoller from The Nation.

The author provides an excellent portrayal of the vulnerabilities that globalized capitalism presents to current societies. The author takes a quintessential liberal view on this subject: liberals are good at assessing the bad consequences of the system on society, but they usually carefully avoid references to the underlying system whose profit-dynamic inevitably drives such consequences. Hence, the author arrives at a very naive conclusion to his otherwise excellent analysis:
The re-engineering of our global supply chain needs to happen—and it will happen, either through good leadership or through collapse. This means that our government and our society needs to reorient our economy toward manufacturing and rededicate our corporations to productive uses. This will require a new conception of antitrust laws to ensure that monopolistic or oligopolistic practices in pivotal industries aren’t placing our culture at risk. It means understanding the networks of suppliers and sub-suppliers. And it means ending the race to the bottom that pushes deflationary pressures on labor and the social safety net. All of this can insure a more robust culture and economy, one which can withstand national security or environmental challenges. The sooner our leaders, both in public and private institutions, recognize how highly vulnerable we are to a societal collapse, the better chance we have of avoiding collapse.
He apparently didn't believe Margaret Thatcher who presented the core belief of capitalists: "there is no such thing as society, there are only individuals and families." And, they believe that there is no alternative to the private enterprise way of reaping their profits--this is actually correct. Only a new system based on truly social values will be able to create a healthy functioning society. It would be ridiculous for us to wait for this profit-addicted class of people to create such a society.

The Great Gulf Coast Holocaust

Click here to access article by Dave Hodges from News with Views.

The author has done an excellent series of articles (this is only part 3) on the government's response to the plight of cleanup workers and the hazards that the general population is subject to who live near the recent BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The well documented material he has uncovered illustrates so dramatically that the ruling class government serves and protects its own interests and not the interests of citizens whom it is supposed to serve and protect.
The interconnections between the major media and BP’s Gulf Coast partners will prevent the public from ever hearing the human side of this tragedy. Below are a few examples of what you will not see or read in the corporate controlled media.
As the author points out, this is only the latest example of their media's carefully managed coverage of events which they deem hazardous to their interests. He makes reference to similar coverage of the 9/11 tragedy, and it is the same for the coverage of US military men and women who return from battlefields as broken people, both psychologically and physically. And, of course, any displays of coffins are strictly forbidden. Their TV coverage mostly portrays happy scenes when they arrive at airports to rejoin their families. And they frequently refer to them as heroes and warriors who have sacrificed for their country's safety.

From Part 1 he offered this moving example of one worker's plight (after the brief commercial):


One World One Revolution [7:39m video]

From a Greek website and the brave Greeks.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Norway Massacre: The Role of Western Governments and Media As Accomplices to a Lone NeoNazi

Click here to access article by Finian Cunningham from Global Research.

The author considers various explanations for the recent violence in Norway and finally concludes that the right-wing crazies such as Anders Behring Breivik (and Jared Lee Loughner) have been carefully nurtured by a climate of hate constructed by right-wing political forces to support the Empire's wars and their control of resources and markets. 

Numerous well-funded right wing organizations have sponsored rabid right-wing radio and TV propaganda programs and ultra-conservative religious organizations to serve as key instruments of this form of indoctrination. (See this, this, and this.) When unstable people are subject to this indoctrination over a period of time, they begin to see such acts as legitimate forms of political conduct, even as heroic deeds.
In the aftermath of the Norway killings, a BBC reporter asked incredulously: “Where could such hatred come from?”

The answer is quite simple: from the toxic climate of hate that Western governments and their media have spent 10 years fostering to cover for criminal wars of aggression.

Malalai Joya -- Selections from an Interview [11:09m video]

From The End of Capitalism comes this brief biography of the speaker who provides a sensible antidote to all the propaganda that the Empire has been using to shape your opinions in support of its continued occupation and war in Afghanistan/Pakistan: 
Malalai Joya is an Afghan activist, author, and former politician. She served as an elected member of the 2003 Loya Jirga and was a parliamentary member of the National Assembly of Afghanistan, until she was expelled for denouncing other members as warlords and war criminals.

She has been a vocal critic of both the US/NATO occupation and the Karzai government, as well as the Taliban and Islamic fundamentalists. After surviving four assassination attempts she currently lives underground in Afghanistan, continuing her work from safe houses. After the release of her memoir, A Woman Among Warlords, she recently concluded a US speaking tour. She sat down for an interview with David Zlutnick while in San Francisco on April 9, 2011.

Protesters block streets in Tel Aviv after landmark rally

Click here to access article from +972. 

I don't know how much to make of this surprising development. Could it be that the Arab Spring Uprising virus has spread to Israel?
Tens of thousands gathered in a Tel Aviv protest organized by the “tent city” movement, demanding affordable housing and social justice. Later, hundreds blocked main streets in the city

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Dictatorship of money and the impotence of the liberal economists

Click here to access article by Jim O’Reilly from his blog, Comments on Global Political Economy

This former banker shows how liberal economists serve the oppressive capitalist system.
Their calls for more deficit spending are impotent when they simultaneously defend the fundamental paradigm that the only source of purchasing power must come from the rentiers themselves. 
In case you didn't know, rentiers is a term used to describe those who live off of low interest government bonds and securities. Rentiers don't like risk. Thus, they don't mind low interest rates when they can lend to governments that can saddle their populations with these debts. Since rentiers are overwhelming found among the ruling class who exercise dominant control of government and all other institutions, they are in an excellent position to enforce the repayment of these debts. To insure that repayments are sound and paid back, they force policies on their governments to curb inflation and discourage the use of bankruptcy laws. (See this excellent, brief article for more details.)

In a debt based monetary system privately owned banks known as "central banks" provide credit to governments, often to fund their wars. Some wars can be very devastating to all involved and governments may have difficulty paying back these loans. In such times those who own these debts, the creditors or rentiers, aggressively pursue policies of low inflation and restrictions on bankruptcy for ordinary people. (In 2005 President George Bush, Jr., who loyally served the rich, made things harder for working people burdened with debt by tightening the restrictions on bankruptcy law for ordinary people.) 

Now after so many official wars in Iraq, Afghanistan/Pakistan, and many other secret wars elsewhere such as in Somalia and maintaining around a thousand military bases all over the world, the government is very deep in debt to this class of rentiers. You see, the ruling class government supposedly run by two so-called political parties, Democrats and Republicans, had no difficulty accepting more credit during all these wars. There was absolutely no debate then. 

Currently we are witnessing a political show in Washington portrayed as a debate between Republicans and Democrats, but in reality it is designed to impress upon the American people that they must accept draconian cuts to public expenditures including cuts to Social Security and Medicare. The latter have been separately funded by equal payroll contributions from workers and employers. However, these funds have been "borrowed" by the government also to fund the wars, and the ruling class refuses to pay higher taxes to pay back these IOUs. 

The author of this article correctly sees real solutions to our current dilemma:
...how about marginal tax rates approaching 100% at high incomes, recognition we can create our own fiat purchasing power without relying on the rentier, guaranteed jobs, and severely regulating the monopoly-like power of the mega corporations.
This debt-based monetary system is a creation of the ruling class, serves their interests, and is the source of most of our current economic problems. Although our central bank, the Federal Reserve ("The Fed"), is hidden behind a maze of government and private banking arrangements, the power really lies with the bankers and those who own the banks, the ruling class. They issue all our money except coins. (Notice at the top of any money you will find the inscription, "Federal Reserve Note", which indicates a debt issued by the Federal Reserve.) And they create this debt-money "out of thin air".

What is the alternative? Read this succinct article entitled, "The Need for Monetary Reform", which I think would more appropriately be entitled, "The Need for Monetary Revolution", because it really dramatically changes the nature of money.

Why Some People Are Just Fine with the Collapse of the Debt Ceiling Negotiations

Click here to access from The Agonist.

This piece provides a good description of how dysfunctional US government has become for ordinary citizens and very functional for the class that "owns" the economy and controls the government. 
The pantomime of debt ceiling meetings, debates, proposals, and votes, is made almost meaningless by the inability of Congress or the White House to effect any reform of their political system. The system is now designed to provide maximum benefits to the wealthy and to corporations, and to prevent any back-sliding in case the Congress wants to remove these benefits. Significant revenue cannot be raised because Republicans in the House will never countenance an increase in taxes. Real savings cannot be achieved through closing off corporate loopholes because the lobbyists for these corporations will threaten to withdraw campaign donations for the offending Congressmen.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Reading the World In a Loaf of Bread

Click here to access article by Christian Parenti from TomDispatch. (You will need to scroll down to the article.)
What can a humble loaf of bread tell us about the world?
By looking at bread, particularly the price of bread, the writer does an excellent job of weaving together many current urgent issues--capitalism, speculation, climate change, revolution.

I'd like to expand a bit on the capitalist phenomenon of speculation. One of the necessary conditions is a distorted distribution of wealth. The system of capitalism provides this by favoring a class of "owners" in such a way as to increase their "ownership" of the wealth produced by workers. Such a system ultimately ends with a highly skewed distribution of wealth. See this, this, and this

When commodities such as food and other items are likely to become scarce, members of the owning class use their hordes of cash to invest in futures contracts. Such contracts were originally designed to protect farmers and related processors from wild price fluctuations. But capitalists soon discovered that they could profit from investing in such contracts when they perceived that certain items were likely in the future to be in short supply. They tend to bid up these contracts which results in higher commodity prices at the retail level causing severe hardships for ordinary people. 

Of course, such speculative investing could be easily controlled, but this ownership class through their wealth and power long ago became the ruling class, and they make the laws.

Their Revolution and Ours

Click here to access article by Al-Masry Al-Youm from Jadaliyya. 

"Their revolution" was that of the Egyptian military that took power in July 1952.
...the July Revolution did usher in decades of strong military influence over political life that have yet to come to an end. By the mid-1950s, Nasser and the Free Officers began to champion a social and economic agenda -- including land redistribution, nationalization and investment in public services -- aimed at state-led development and the provision of social welfare. It was partly on this basis that they claimed to be the true representatives of the Egyptian people and their revolutionary aspirations.
People all over the world are beginning to come to the realization that nobody can represent them, no segment of people whether "owners", bureaucrats, political parties, or military castes. Only a system that insures grassroots, inclusive, bottom-up control of governments can. Such a system is required not only to insure social justice, but the very survival of the human race.

Off the Pedestal: Creating a New Vision of Economic Growth [Updated as of 1:45pm PDT]

Click here to access article by James Gustave Speth from Environment 360. 
The never-ending drive to grow the overall U.S. economy is ruining the environment; it fuels a ruthless international search for energy and other resources; it fails at generating the needed jobs; it hollows out communities; and it rests on a manufactured consumerism that is not meeting the deepest human needs. Americans are substituting growth and consumption for dealing with the real issues — for doing things that would truly make us and the country better off.
Of course, everything that this author states is correct. He is arguing from a rational point of view, but it appears that he naively believes that public policies are rationally determined. 

He doesn't seem to understand that the present irrational system of capitalism is run by a relatively small segment of people who benefit hugely from their ownership of most of the world's economy. They are essentially a cult whose faith based, addiction-like commitment to economic growth must be promoted in order to continue the system which provides them with so much wealth and dominant status in the world. They are armed to the teeth, they have established sophisticated systems of surveillance (see the latest effort), they have an iron grip on the political system that has enabled them to establish a legal framework to stifle dissent (Patriot Acts), and have set-up an elaborate prison system to deal with political dissidents. In short, they are determined to maintain their system. The writer ignores all this. 

Can he really be this naive? Or, is he merely engaging in green rhetoric to enhance his academic status while believing that nothing will come of his remarks? Or, is he fully aware, and in order to avoid repercussions from capitalist agents, he can go no further than stating a rational argument, but must avoid looking at the implications of the argument for political action? 

Countries' actions and commitments on climate change

Published by the Guardian.

The difference between scientific debate and phoney talkfests

Click here to access article by Stephan Lewandowsky from Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
...so-called climate "sceptics" refuse to participate in scientific debates: by and large, they do not contribute to the peer-reviewed literature and they do not present their views at scientific conferences.... 

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Mainstream Media: Presstitutes for the Rich and Powerful

Click here to access article from Washington's Blog. 

This piece provides a much deeper analysis of the corruption of mainstream media to serve the needs of the Empire than all the recent reports of the corrupt practices of Rupert Murdoch. As usual this blogger provides an abundance of links dating back over the past 40 years to show how mainstream media has been thoroughly corrupted by the political operatives of the capitalist Empire.
While the Rupert Murdoch scandal is justifiably front-page news, there is a much wider problem with the mainstream media.

Libya War Lies Worse Than Iraq

Click here to access article by Thomas C. Mountain from Foreign Policy Journal.
The lies used to justify the NATO war against Libya have surpassed those created to justify the invasion of Iraq. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch both had honest observers on the ground for months following the rebellion in eastern Libya and both have repudiated every major charge used to justify the NATO war on Libya.

Murdoch is only one problem with press

Click here to access article by Djelloul Marbrook from his blog.

Murdoch is only the most successful media moguls. He is a creature of the system run by the one percent for their benefit. He and his media colleagues are indispensable to the successful operation of the system across the globe. They function to keep citizens dis-informed, distracted, and consuming their endless, useless, and often harmful products.

Publicopoly Exposed

Click here to access article by Beau Hodai from In These Times.

This quite lengthy piece from a left-wing source provides much more information on ALEC than the article I posted yesterday

Believe it or not, but this is an abridged version of the original article posted on DBA Press website (I discovered that their links were a bit slow to appear.) I think that the people at the DBA Press website are doing excellent work to uncover the methods of government corruption, particularly at the state level, by corporations and influential people of the ruling class. 
DBA Press is an online news publication and archive which delivers in-depth reporting on private and public sector corruption.
They also show how others can obtain similar information for their states, and it would be great for activists in each state to obtain and publicize this information. Such information is an education in itself about how real government functions in the US as opposed to the fake version we receive in educational institutions and mainstream media.

WikiLeaks vs News Ltd: Jail Murdoch, not Assange

Click here to access article by Ash Pemberton from Green Left. 

This author provides an interesting comparison of two prominent Australian journalists that reveals a lot about the differences between governing class media and grass roots media.