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, August 27, 2011

Disney, Militarization and the National Security State After 9/11

Click here to access article by Henry A. Giroux and Grace Pollock from Truthout. 

The article consists of lengthy excerpts from a book by these authors published last year entitled, The Mouse that Roared: Disney and the End of Innocence.

The excerpts illustrate one of Gramsci's primary themes that contemporary capitalism does not rely so much on force (although prepared to use that also) and intimidation as it does on powerful cultural weapons to induce compliance by its citizens with the developing fascist Empire. (See also yesterday's reference to Gramsci.)

Libya’s forced collapse: What does it portend for Africa?

Click here to access article by Amengeo Amengeo from The Citizen (Tanzania).
What happens in Libya is a harbinger of what the West has in store for Africa. True independence and African unity will not be tolerated. Africa is too rich in resources that the world needs to be allowed to control its own destiny. This war is not just about Gaddafi. It is an opening salvo in a war to reclaim the continent for foreign interests, just as it was in 1896 in the Scramble for Africa...[T]he West will set up permanent military bases to control the Mediterranean Sea and a bridgehead for the re-conquest of Africa will have been established.

Global Land Grab

Click here to access article by Terry J. Allen from In These Times. 

Neo-colonialism is rearing its head throughout 3rd world countries where the rich, in collusion with corrupted rulers, can buy land at bargain-basement prices to grow food for their restive populations. That is the kind of world that the Empire and its glorious system of globalized capitalism has created--everything is for sale, even farmland needed to produce food for local populations. 
...with spectacular speed, patchworks of plots that used to support local populations through subsistence farming and grazing are being amalgamated into massive industrial plantations. In Awassa, Ethiopia, a “plastic and steel structure already stretches over 50 acres—the size of 20 soccer fields,” writes John Vidal in South Africa’s Mail and Guardian.

With a 99-year lease for 2,500 acres, the developer, Saudi Sheikh Mohammed al-Amoudi, has brought in Spanish engineers and Dutch water technology, and hired 1,000 women to pick and pack 50 tons of food a day, writes Vidal. “Within 24 hours, it has been driven 200 miles to Addis Ababa and flown 1,000 miles to the shops and restaurants of Dubai, Jeddah and elsewhere in the Middle East.”

Friday, August 26, 2011

The small and dark secret of European banks

Click here to access article by Daniel Munevar from Committee for the Abolition of Third World Debt.
At the onset of the recent volatility that has taken place in the global financial markets, much attention has been focused on the behavior of stock exchanges and the evolution of the debt crisis in Europe. But while the markets are reacting strongly to the signs that the process of restructuring the debt of the countries of the European periphery is only a matter of time, most media specialists are missing a key factor of fragility in the European and global financial system: its dependence on short-term, dollar denominated, bank funding.
Unfortunately, this piece requires an understanding of finance terms that are obscure to the average person. In my opinion such information has been deliberately obscured to keep ordinary people in the dark as to how their economy actually functions. Also, finance requires some study and therefore time to study the subject. To survive in a capitalist system working people must work long hours and have little energy left over to devote to subjects like this--and that's the way capitalists like it. 

I have only a little understanding of the subject and the terms used in this article, but I think it is very important. Thus, I will make a stab at it and welcome others to clarify the issues and concepts.

When the author refers to "asset backed securities" he is mostly writing about the worthless mortgage backed securities that banks were peddling like snake oil all over the world. (See this for more details.)
As these investments were finally revealed as mostly worthless, banks in the UK in 2007 were the first to feel the pain, then in 2008 Lehman Brothers in the US failed while Bear Stearns and Merrill Lynch were sold at fire-sale prices. Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley received considerable direct and indirect assistance from the Fed with their ability to create dollars out of debts assumed by US taxpayers--mostly working people because the rich and the corporations pay very little in taxes. 

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, two U.S. Government sponsored enterprises  (read privately owned but with government guaranteed backing), had guaranteed nearly $5 trillion in mortgage obligations at the time they were placed into conservatorship, that is, their debt obligations were assumed by the U.S. government (taxpayers) in September 2008. 

Soon more banks in Europe were threatened with bankruptcy. The large European central banks have been trying to keep them afloat by swapping some of their other assets for short term loans in US dollars from the Fed. This has been going on in secrecy, but at least partly revealed recently as reported in these articles: here and here.

But, as the author of this article reveals, there appears to be a roadblock ahead preventing the Fed from injecting more cash in these banks through the use of swaps:
...as a result of the Dodd-Frank Act, the FED would be unable to extend unlimited swap lines with other central banks without getting explicit approval from the Congress of the United States.
However, when push comes to shove, I have never seen the political operatives of the ruling class let laws stand in their way from whatever they wanted to do (the Iran Contra affair and CIA operations within the US come readily to mind), and certainly not when they need to save their precious system.

Bailing out the financial aristocracy

Click here to access article by David Ruccio from Real-World Economics Review Blog.
We’ve known all along about the TARP funds. Now, thanks to Bloomberg, we know about the $1.2 trillion of public money, which is about the same amount U.S. homeowners currently owe on 6.5 million delinquent and foreclosed mortgages, Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke showered on the Wall Street aristocracy.
I've seen very little coverage of this revelation in mainstream media. The theme of the ruling class political operatives continues to be the cutting of the "entitlements"--which is new-speak that means defaulting on the debts owed to the Social Security and Medicare Trust Funds (these have been built up over many years from equal payroll contributions by workers and employers). Of course, all other debts are sacred: such as debts to bondholders, private Treasury bill holders, and even debts to China.

Twisted Up By a Super Coup D'Etat

Click here to access article by Bruce K. Gagnon from Op-Ed News.

Put your ear to the railroad tracks and you can hear the train coming. Now that the new 12-member Congressional "Super Committee" has essentially been given the power of God (and the Devil) the military industrial complex, and their appendage called the corporate media, are swinging into action. Their message? We can't cut Pentagon spending because it will hurt an already tight job market.....and we need these troops to keep knocking countries off the "Non-Integrating Gap" list (those countries that refuse to play ball with corporate globalization). 

Passive revolution: are the rich starting to get scared?

Click here to access article by Jérôme E. Roos from Roarmag.
Warren Buffet wants to tax the rich, Forbes warns about a global class war and Nouriel Roubini says that Marx was right about capitalism. What’s going on?
The author astutely contrasts the recent expressed concerns about the capitalist system from several of its panicking spokespeople with a deeper understanding posed by Gramsci who argued how the political operatives of the ruling class have used cultural tools and compromises to keep the chaotic system of capitalism going. 

We are now witnessing such spokespeople sounding the alarm about their system, and some of them are willing to cut back on their looting of the economy in order to protect their goose, the capitalist system, that lays all their golden eggs.

During the 1930s economic crisis in the UK and US and in the post WWII US Empire we have seen the New Deal in the US and social democracy in many European countries which brought temporary benefits to working people, but only to save the system. We must not be lured into accepting these temporary inducements once again! This will merely leave us eventually drowning in goose droppings. It is no longer only a matter of social justice; it is now a matter of protecting our planet which supports all life from the continuing ravages of capitalism.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Capitalist Rioters Don’t Wear Hoodies

Click here to access article by Gaston Gordillo from Greek Left Review.

More on the London riots, mainstream media coverage, and a broader political view of these events.
The looters in hoodies are being promptly punished by the state. With over 1,000 arrests, the British courts are at capacity and overwhelmed. The capitalist looters in Armani suits, in contrast, destroy with impunity. They know they are above the law because they are the planetary elite, what we should probably call (resurrecting an old-fashioned but also crystal-clear political concept) the global oligarchy of the 21st century. Oligarchs are, after all, actors so wealthy and powerful that they control the state and do as they please with impunity, even if they act against of the will of the majority of the population.


The American Rebellion Has Begun – Now Is The Time (Resistance Video Roundup & Call To Action)

Click here to access article & numerous videos by Kevin Zeese from Amped Status. (Note: I had to scroll down to the article after initially getting a blank page.)

The author has included many videos and a plea for Americans to get off their knees, stand up, and confront our rulers on October 20 in Washington, DC.
We certainly understand the despair, lost hope and discouragement that many Americans feel about the U.S. political system. The system seems designed to make change impossible. We also see the power and sophistication of the corporate propaganda media machine. But, we also see people in the United States seeing through the propaganda, understanding the truth and getting angry. ...There is a lot of evidence that the time may be right for an American Awakening.

Disaster capitalism swoops over Libya

Click here to access article by Pepe Escobar from Asia Times Online.
Think of the new Libya as the latest spectacular chapter in the Disaster Capitalism series. Instead of weapons of mass destruction, we had R2P ("responsibility to protect"). Instead of neo-conservatives, we had humanitarian imperialists.

But the target is the same: regime change. And the project is the same: to completely dismantle and privatize a nation that was not integrated into turbo-capitalism; to open another (profitable) land of opportunity for turbocharged neo-liberalism. 

It's Official: Human Activity Can Cause Earthquakes

Click here to access article from Washington's Blog. 

This prolific blogger has uncovered substantial scientific evidence that extraction and injection of fluids in the subsurface has caused earthquakes. This, of course, directly poses concerns over hydro-fracturing of shale to extract gas which has been seen as the next great energy source fueling the capitalist engine.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

When People Take Over [audio recording]

Click here to access audio recording of speech (37:32m) in April 2011 by David McNally of Toronto University. An interview with McNally follows the speech. 

He offers a survey of new democratic practices that have appeared in various parts of the world that gives activists encouragement and a basis to build upon these experiences to confront the juggernaut of the capitalist empire that seems intent upon destroying our planet, our communities, and our souls.

Libya as a model for redividing the Middle East

Click here to access article by Bill Van Auken from World Socialist Web Site. 

This journalist, in contrast to journalists that are allowed to write for mainstream media, accurately puts his spotlight on a major behind-the-scenes political operative for the Empire to distill what his comments really mean for the rest of the Middle East people struggling for a better future. It doesn't look good. People like this operative are the ones who really run the Empire's system behind the elaborate facade of "democracy".

With CIA help, NYPD moves covertly in Muslim areas

Click here to access article by Adam Goldman, Associated Press. 

A building superintendent stumbled onto a secret intelligence unit of New York City police department. He discovered all kinds of paraphernalia of terrorist material which is likely used as bait to setup "terrorists". One might easily infer that they are promoting terrorist activity in order to keep citizens terrorized, accepting the ongoing invasions across the globe, and police state measures at home. 

But, it's okay folks, this secret unit, unaccountable to any kind of public political process, are just protecting us from those bad terrorists. After all, it was set up by members of the CIA and surely they are accountable to the President. (sarcasm)

Just so you don't get the wrong idea about this operation, sprinkled throughout the article are statements like this:
One of the enduring questions of the past decade is whether being safe requires giving up some liberty and privacy. The focus of that debate has primarily been federal programs like wiretapping and indefinite detention. The question has received less attention in New York, where residents do not know for sure what, if anything, they have given up.

In a city that has repeatedly been targeted by terrorists, police make no apologies for pushing the envelope. NYPD intelligence operations have disrupted terrorist plots and put several would-be killers in prison.

Though most said the tactics were appropriate and made the city safer, many insisted on anonymity, because they were not authorized to speak with reporters about security matters.

"It should not be a surprise to anyone that, after 9/11, the Central Intelligence Agency stepped up its cooperation with law enforcement on counterterrorism issues or that some of that increased cooperation was in New York, the site of ground zero," CIA spokeswoman Jennifer Youngblood said.

He's Not Serious

Click here to access article by David Glenn Cox from OpEd News. 
Now the President and his staff have come up with another program to combat unemployment based on a Georgia model. The Georgia program allows corporations to hire workers while the workers still receive unemployment checks. The workers do labor for the employers while the employers pay them no wages of any kind, what so ever. Then after two months the employers get to decide whether to keep the worker or not, what do you think? Brilliant huh? Workers work for half wages paid by the state and employers pay zip!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Libya, the Real Deal

This excellent 24 minute KPFA radio interview posted on Dandelion Salad, which is providing a lot of coverage on Libyan events, presents another informed, independent source of information on the current scene there and particularly the distortion of news reports in mainstream media:

The Libya Media Hoax: Fabricated Scenes of Jubilation and Euphoria on Green Square

Click here to access article by Metro Gael from Global Research. 
Surpassing previous mass media fabrications, both in scale and boldness, yesterday morning's Al Jazeera mise-en-scène will surely go down in history as one of the most cynical hoaxes committed by corporate media since the manipulated pictures of Iraqis topplying Saddam Hussein's statue after the US invasion in 2003. 
The author reveals how the Empire is using media and media infiltrators consisting of CIA-M16 agents as another weapon in their conquest of Libya.

See also this report by Thierry Meyssan who is in Tripoli about the well coordinated use of corporate-NATO propaganda. 

Clearly, the lives of all independent journalists are very much in jeopardy.

Do not trust news coverage from Al Jazeera--it's owned by the royal family of Qatar that is heavily involved in NATO's campaign against Libya.

$1.2 Trillion to Banks, You 0

Click here to access article by Robert Oak from The Economic Populist.
Bloomberg News has researched a bombshell story, the Federal Reserve gave $1.2 trillion in secret loans to banks during the financial crisis, from August 2007 until April 2010. This is in addition to the TARP bail outs which was publicly known.
Read also the author's first remark in the comments section.  

The secret Fed-generated-taxpayer loans to banks continue to be revealed. That's okay, we can just cut back more on public services and let the government default on its debts to Social Security and Medicare Trust Funds to pick up the tab. (sarcasm)

As usual, very little coverage of this in mainstream press. After all, it is far more important to learn about the lives of celebrities and the horse races in the two ruling class political parties!

Welcome to Libya's 'democracy'

Click here to access article by Pepe Escobar from Asia Times Online.

While NATO media gloat over their latest victories in Libya, this author provides some insights on the cast of characters involved in both the alleged triumph and upcoming plunder of that country. He finishes with this cynical comment:
...in the end R2P ["responsibility to protect"] wins. Humanitarian imperialism wins. The Arab monarchies win. NATO as global Robocop wins. The Pentagon wins. But even that is not enough for the usual imperial suspects - already calling for the deployment of a "stabilization force". And all this while lost-the-plot progressives in assorted latitudes continue to hail the Holy Alliance of Western neocolonialism, ultra-reactionary Arab monarchies and hardcore Salafis.

It ain't over till the fat Arab lady sings. Anyway, on to the next stop; Damascus.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Corrupt Obama Administration Pressuring New York Attorney General to Support Mortgage Whitewash

Click here to access article by Yves Smith from Naked Capitalism. 

Maybe I missed it, but I've seen very little media coverage of this Obama backed settlement with the banks. It seems that Obama is only interested in getting the government off the backs of the banks. Does this sound familiar? You may need to read this NY Times article first to get more background information on this article by Smith who writes: 
...consider the damage the major banks have done. They have failed so badly at being competent lenders and record keepers that when judges in New York demand that bank attorneys certify that they have taken reasonable steps to verify documents submitted to the courts, foreclosures grind to a near halt. Two separate investigations, one by Fortune, the other by the New York Post, ascertained that an overwhelming majority of foreclosures took place when the banks failed to demonstrate that they had the right to do so. Banks have foreclosed illegally on servicemen, and have also foreclosed on people who didn’t have mortgages. Their is ample evidence that they have systematically violated their own contracts, the agreements that govern mortgage securitizations, and have on a widespread basis charged impermissible fees to borrowers. And when these junk and pyramiding fees precipitate foreclosures, the servicers have effectively ripped off investors too. They have tooth and nail fought every effort that would help borrowers if it in any way impinged on their profits, even though their very survival is the result of taxpayer munificence. Finally, they’ve made a mess of property records in this country.

Member-Owned, Worker-Run Brewery Taps into a Radical Idea

Click here to access article by Stacy Edwards from Shareable. 
The whole concept of Black Star is pretty radical, requiring a very brave community to sign on early. “The idea is so weird, right?” Mark admits as he reflects on his early reaction to the idea. “I mean, we want to make a brewpub, but we’re not going to get big venture capital support. We’re not going to do it like that. We’re going to get it from all the people in the community and when there’s profit, it’s going to be distributed to all of our members. Everything is going to stay 100% local. We’re going to have a focus on being green, a focus on supporting the community, and, by the way, we won’t have someone in charge.”

NATO-backed forces move into Tripoli

Click here to access article by Patrick Martin from World Socialist Web Site. 

This author provides an excellent, well researched report on the apparent fall of the Gaddafi regime within an anti-Empire framework.  This is not easy to do in the chaotic and fast moving developments of a war zone. 

For an on-the-scene report from Tripoli, Mahdi Nazemroaya, a Canadian journalist, reports on his perilous situation and perspective in these two videos from RT. It seems that NATO is doing nothing to protect the international press. Notice how the RT media people describe what is happening as a "revolution", whereas Nazemroaya sees it very differently.

In case you were still thinking that NATO was on a "humanitarian mission", then you must read about "The Scramble for Access to Libya’s Oil Wealth Begins" in the NY Times.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Oil Limits, Recession, and Bumping Against the Growth Ceiling

Click here to access article by Gail Tverberg from The Oil Drum. 

I have frequently stated that the human race is facing two basic threats that the capitalist system cannot cope with and which are actually made worse by the continuation of this system: global warming (including other forms of environmental degradation) and fossil fuel depletion. It has been some time since I've run articles on the latter threat. This article, hopefully, will bring us up to date. 

This website features the best commentary section that I have ever seen. The site brings together some of the best trained people in energy related fields. However, being products of capitalist controlled educational systems, they have been carefully schooled to not look closely at the political-economic organization of society.

Hence, there is seldom any mention in any articles at this site of the system that is addicted to growth, and the necessity to change the present political-economic arrangements to something that can sustain human life in the decades and centuries ahead. You can see this in the commentaries and from the last section of the author's original article (omitted from this posting) entitled, "Where Do We Go from Here?" However, the content of both the article and the commentaries following the article are very useful to understand what the consequences will be if we continue with this addictive and socially unjust system.

You can do something about the news

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

What is particularly interesting about this article is the perspective the author, as a former newspaper editor, provides regarding the internet as a source of information and opinion. Whereas newspaper corporations are shaking in their boots over the proliferation of blogging and social media, he sees mostly positives:
I’ve contended in this space that each social networker owns his or her own newspaper. Each Facebook page is a newspaper. In the last few weeks I have scanned the web for political, cultural and literary news and ideas, posting what interests me on my Facebook pages. The response has convinced me that more information than ever before is available, and the crocodile tears about its reliability are rooted in a sense that the mainstream media have lost control of the game. They have, and they should lose control in the onrush of this more democratic and promising technology. 

Co-op to ‘work our way out of the climate emergency’

Click here to access article by Ben Courtice from Green Left (Australia).

Take a look at what some Australian workers are doing to fight "climate emergency" and to create a worker organized economic enterprise.
A project of the Earthworker co-operative, the campaign seeks to build a cooperatively-owned factory making solar hot water systems in Morwell, Victoria.