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, November 12, 2011

Voices From the Occupations

Click here to access article from In These Times by Jeremy Gantz who interviews activists from Oakland, Chicago, and Washington DC. 
The Occupy protesters have been ridiculed by the press, celebrated by the left, and reviled by the right—but rarely allowed to speak for themselves. After the initial New York protest morphed into a national movement in October, reporters struggled to understand the spectacle and pundits stepped in to pontificate and prognosticate. They were right about one thing: United in anger, the mostly young protesters have lost faith in America’s political and economic system—but they don’t always agree on how to repair it.

Sugar Daddies of the Tea Party

Click here to access article by Phillip Doe from CounterPunch. 

I formerly had a habit on Saturdays to post an article about the one percent. Most of these articles were written by Jamie Johnson, heir to the Johnson & Johnson fortune. He has made two excellent films about the one percent whom he knows intimately. I always accessed his articles on the Vanity Fair website; however they are no longer to be found there, for whatever reason. In place of such an article, I am running this one about the infamous right-wing Koch brothers who are attempting to swap some of their land for public land that is bisecting their property. That story is not as interesting as the other tidbits offered by the author regarding the Koch brothers lifestyle and influence. 

Also, see this piece which illustrates what is typical of the one percent--they sponsor both political parties. That way they control the whole electoral system which pretends to be a function of "democracy".

Terror and Revenge Engulf NATO’s Libya

Click here to access article by Franklin Lamb from CounterPunch. (You will need to scroll down to the article.)
It is clear that the current period is cascading into paroxysmal revenge attacks and political cleansing.
(Note: Saif al Islam, mentioned in the article, is another Gaddafi son.)

Nature is the 99%, too

Click here to access article by Chip Ward from Al Jazeera. 
What if rising sea levels are yet another measure of inequality? What if the degradation of our planet's life-support systems - its atmosphere, oceans and biosphere - goes hand in hand with the accumulation of wealth, power and control by that corrupt and greedy 1 per cent we are hearing about from Zuccotti Park? What if the assault on America's middle class and the assault on the environment are one and the same?
Clearly they are the same and it's a point that I have been trying to make for the last two years on this blog. Of course, its not just on "America's [so-called] middle class", it is on every person in the world who is not a part of the global ruling class who live off of money--not mental or physical labor that contributes anything to anybody but themselves. Globalization, right?

But notice that he can't name the system that organizes the economy. That's either because he's been educated indoctrinated to believe that there is no alternative, or he knows that he dare not name the system if he wants to keep writing for corporate media and earn a living.

A Chill Descends On Occupy Wall Street [updated on 11-12-2011]

Click here to access article by Fritz Tucker from Counter Currents. Because I ran out of time yesterday, I have expanded on my comments today, Saturday, November 12.

I have been posting articles that have reported on the positive accomplishments of this radical experiment in people power that has characterized the OWS movement; and this is especially true in New York City which is the original impetus and ideological center of the movement in the US. In contrast, this article offers some very serious criticisms of OWS-NYC that are have been picked up by other bloggers to reinforce some rather cynical views of the movement. In this article Tucker alleges that OWS-NYC is being run undemocratically, run by mostly white middle class males who are selectively using others, especially minority people, to serve their interests, are controlling large sums of money and hence are corrupt. Furthermore, he sees the recent creation of a Spokes Council as merely another ploy to consolidate their control over the movement and the money. Wow!

So, what are we, who are unable to participate directly in the movement, to make of this? I notice in Tucker's article that while participating in proceedings at OWS-NYC, he had some of his views overruled by other participants and the facilitators. Could this be merely sour-grapes on his part?

Tucker's piece is starting to circulate a bit on the internet. Probably the most serious commentator who has made reference to the article is William Bowles, a long time activist in English leftist politics. He seems to feel that it confirms his doubts about the OWS model for political activism. (Read his piece entitled, "OWS: Leading from behind?")  He seems to take Tucker's criticisms at face value. He almost ridicules the OWS participants who he sees as rather naive in their discoveries about existing society: 
    “For the last six weeks we have been meeting at the New York General Assembly…and we get about eighty to one hundred people…[where]…we discuss the economic crisis…debt, the stratification of wealth and try to formulate alternatives to the existing system which we see as flawed and having failed us.” Marissa Holmes

Ok, so for weeks they’ve been talking about stuff that we’ve already spent the last 150 years talking about. But for those of us on the Left, being red-baited is as old as being a Red. Get used to it.
He then goes on to criticize them for a lack of a political agenda:
I hear that the NYC-GA has ‘plans’ or ‘programs’ up to the year 2014 but what these ‘plans’ or ‘programs’ consist of is a mystery to me. They could be a new layout for a tent city for all I know. 
It seems to me that his cool reaction to the Occupy movement is informed by an older tradition of leftist activism that was based on a vanguard organizational model. Such a model was typically inspired and led by a small group of "enlightened" political ideologues who offered a well worked out platform, principles, and agenda. That model seems to have had its day and failed miserably.

Giving birth to a radically different way of organizing people, a way that is democratically inclusive, and that can pose a real threat to the established overwhelming power of today's one percent is undoubtedly going to be a messy process. It is becoming clearer to me everyday that the movement is posing a real threat to the ruling class. They don't seem to know how to deal with it, but they no doubt will employ every means at their disposal to destroy it as they are attempting to do now. In some places they are using heavy handed police tactics to intimidate people (see video at this link regarding more police attacks in Oakland); in other cities especially in the northern US, they are quietly waiting out the Occupiers hoping that the cold weather will discourage them; in some places the authorities are trying to wear them down with all kinds of legal restrictions and obstructions; and I suspect that they are using other more subtle and indirect methods of disruption. For example, as reported the other day in Socialist Worker:
...the media's stories of crime and violence, including sexual assault, at Occupy camps may be sensationalized, but they aren't whole-cloth fabrications. In particular, tensions have increased where police have steered people with mental or substance abuse problems to the camps in an obvious attempt to stir up conflict.
Other tactics that I have directly witnessed during the anti-Vietnam War activities was the planting of people in organizations who proceeded to engage in as many disruptive tactics as possible: spreading rumors and misinformation, and sowing suspicion of other activists. This in many cases was effective in undermining trust and group cohesion.

It seems to me that there really isn't any alternative to an inclusive democratic movement that can provide for equal opportunity for participation while creating practical structures that can accomplish goals. A lot of creative, hard work will have to be done and is being done by the incredible work of many thousands of activists in the Occupying movement. Only a global movement based at the grass roots has the capability of taking power away from the Empire and establishing healthy, sustainable societies. They may fail, and they will, if we don't all get involved and support their work.

Friday, November 11, 2011

A new culture of resistance: from WikiLeaks to the squares

Click here to access article by Pedro Noel from Reflections on a Revolution. 

As activists look ahead to future actions, it might be worthwhile to do a review of what has already happened in this new resistance movement. This article provides a good review. 
Now that the grassroots movement that started inadvertently with the Arab Spring has gone global, it is necessary to cast a backwards glance to try and figure out, with some perspective, the dynamics of what has happened, physically and conceptually, over the last year.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Do the Bomb Iran Shuffle

Click here to access article by Pepe Escobar from Asia Times Online. (You may want to turn off your speakers to avoid listening to a commercial.)
Get ready for a flurry of fuzzy satellite ''intelligence'' of generic warehouses all across Iran frantically described as segments of a nuclear bomb assembly line (Remember a famous ''secret nuclear facility'' in Syria not long ago? It was a textile factory.)

Get ready for a flurry of crude diagrams depicting suspect devices, or the containers that hide them, all capable of reaching Europe in 45 minutes.
This writer satirizes the latest Empire campaign to launch a war against Iran using documents and the Empire's historical record.

Debating our tactics in Oakland

Click here to access article by Todd Chretien from Socialist Worker.
In the aftermath of the Oakland general strike on November 2, a debate over tactics has emerged among supporters of the Occupy struggle. The discussion centers on the late-night attempt by a relatively small group of self-described anarchists to occupy a building that formerly housed the Traveler's Aid Society, a homeless advocacy organization closed by city budget cuts.
This piece provides an excellent discussion of tactics by sectarian groups such as the Black Bloc's late night occupation of a building in Oakland following the November 2nd general strike. I think it is clear that independent acts such as this are always going to occur whether directed or encouraged by police agent provocateurs to discredit the larger Movement or by more independent actions of immature activists seeking photo-ops. There will always be these elements who will attempt to tag onto the Movement's actions for each of these purposes. 

The question is: how does the new participatory democratic structures of the Occupy Movement attempt to deal with such events? It seems to me that the obvious answer is the answer to all other decisions: they will be answered by the democratic structures of the Movement. An excellent piece such as this begins the discussion which will lead to such decisions.

A Movement That's Here to Stay

Click here to access editorial from Socialist Worker.
 ...nationally, the day of action initiative out of New York City for November 17 can provide a focus for every local Occupy movement. The list of New York unions backing the call is long and growing longer--the United Federation of Teachers, the Transport Workers Union, Service Employees International Union, AFSCME DC 37, Communications Workers of America and many more.

November 17 is the next stop for Occupy--another opportunity for the movement both to strengthen itself and to reach out to unions, community organizations and beyond.
It is crucial that we, the 99%, keep the Occupy Movement moving. This is another opportunity not to be missed. 

This piece provides another very useful discussion of the pitfalls and opportunities that lie ahead.

Perfect Storm of Internet Censorship

Click here to access 4:44m video and transcript by James Corbett from Global Research TV. 
...the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced that it’s considering using social media to track and surveil its own population. DHS Undersecretary Caryn Wagner said that the government fears social unrest like that seen in Tunisia last December and wants to use social media services like Twitter to monitor its own population. Last January, Senators Lieberman and Collins renewed calls to give the president a kill switch over the internet to protect the government in times of emergency, a call echoed by Senator McCain last July.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Resilience Circles Resilience Circles small groups for tough times What is a Resilience Circle? Get Involved Resources Blog About For Real Change, Build Relationships: Resilience Circles & Occupy Wall Street

Click here to access article from Resilience Circles.
...we talk about what our groups might accomplish together, not just as isolated individuals. The curriculum takes its time getting to this stage, letting people get to know each other and find ways to help each other. This creates a firsthand experience of solidarity. From there, groups talk about how to “change the rules” and make a better world.
I am just amazed at all the creative ideas that are generated by people when they come together in a spirit of cooperation, sharing, and respect for every participant. People are coming together in affinity groups, collectives, work groups, etc. Clearly, such groups generate good ideas in such a way that illustrates the principle that "the whole is greater than the sum of the parts". 

I only know what I have just read perusing the Resilience Circles website, but they look like they are making a promising effort at building a basic social unit upon which a healthy society can be constructed.

I have become aware of how different these activist groups function from that of more conventional groups. I recently went to a large housing association meeting where everything was tightly controlled by the moderator and a parliamentary procedure expert. Very little of substance was discussed and some people were rather arbitrarily cut off while others were given wide latitude to discuss what they wanted. It was clear that the decision to include and exclude were based on indications of social status exhibited by the participants. 

Then I recalled many other such meetings in the past including some that appeared on the surface to be for progressive causes. Such organizations mirror the way larger, more influential institutions of our society function which is to create the appearance of democratic procedures, but manipulating them in such a way as to exclude people who do not conform to the values of a power structure created by the ruling class. 

This experience made me more conscious of how corrupted egalitarian values have become living in a capitalist society. This form of social organization has bestowed huge benefits in terms of wealth and power upon a small group of people who have accumulated so much while the rest of us have been placed in debt servitude to them. This corruption has permeated nearly all layers of our society to the point where it often feels perfectly normal to treat people in a highly differential way.

Debtor's Revolution: Are Debt Strikes Another Possible Tactic in the Fight Against the Big Banks?

Click here to access article by Sarah Jaffe from AlterNet. 
What does it mean to stop cooperating with the banks? Some activists, organizers, and technologists think the answer might be mass refusal to pay debts.
This is another creative idea coming out of Occupy Wall Street movement that needs further study. It looks like a major weapon that, if properly organized, could threaten the major banks and their overlords who constitute the very nerve center of capitalist rule. Social technology seems to exist to be able to create the organization necessary to pull this off.  

However, the use of this tactic would constitute a declaration of war on the capitalist class, and thus should be undertaken with an awareness about all that this implies. On the other hand, I don't see that many people have much of a choice: it's either live out the rest of their lives as debt slaves or wage war.

Take down letter from Citigroup

Click here to access article by John Schmitt from Real-World Economics Review.
I’ve just received my second Digital Millenium Copyright Act take-down letter. As before, the letter is from the Kilpatrick Townsend, Attorneys At Law, and, as before, the letter is on behalf of their client, Citigroup.
It looks like Citigroup is going after websites that have posted their infamous "plutonomy" document, a document that I first discovered in May 2010, posted a link to it on this site, and when that was removed, re-linked to a posting from another site which is still carrying the document. Like the author of this piece, I don't see how they can remove it from the entire internet. But, it appears that they are starting to panic at the prospect of too many people learning about the deep sociopathic characteristics of their class of people.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Future of #OCCUPY

Click here to access article from AdBusters. 

This brief article provides a good overview of how the Occupy movement is progressing which it must do if it is to become a formidable foe to the system of organized crime--capitalism. The New York City Occupy group is moving forward with a promising organizing innovation:
...how to gel into a global movement without sacrificing the decentralized, leaderless model. There is a widespread acknowledgment that there are challenges that can only be dealt with on a global scale, such as a climate change accord and overturning international casino capitalism, and that we must therefore forge a globally united people's movement. However, there is also a growing recognition that the general assembly model that has worked beautifully thus far may be fundamentally limited on a structural level.

A breakthrough came on Friday from the New York City General Assembly where the structure working group has proposed, and the general assembly has accepted, the adoption of a modified spokes council model....

Major powers successfully dictate regime change in Greece

Click here to access article by Chris Marsden from World Socialist Web Site.
Seeking to force the opposition parties and the trade unions to abandon their token opposition and rally behind a national effort to impose austerity, Papandreou announced plans to hold a referendum on the issue. The financial elite responded with the worst run on world markets since 2008, while ruling circles in Berlin and Paris decided that Papandreou had shown himself to be irresolute.

Even after abandoning his referendum demand, Papandreou was told to go by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
This report illustrates how the capitalist version of democracy typically functions. The real power that determines the major decisions regarding austerity measures in Greece don't even need to be citizens of any particular country: Merkel and Sarkozy have decided that it is time for Papandreou to go. He apparently committed the sin of deciding on a Greek referendum which he didn't clear with them and the European ruling class. "But wait, there's more!"

Merkel, Sarkozy, Papandreou, etc. are the paid servants of the class of people who are hidden behind the facade of democracy and shaping it for their ends. They are merely the forms that the wizards of the ruling class take to deceive the people into believing that they must submit to generations of debt slavery, and that there is no alternative. But, like the Wizard of Oz, they are being exposed by the Occupy Wall Street activists.
...the all-powerful Wizard is exposed and his true identify revealed. Far from a mighty magician, "Oz, the Terrible" is merely a "humbug," a wizened old man whose "power" is achieved through elaborate acts of deception. The Wizard is simply a manipulative politician who appears to the people in one form, but works behind the scenes to achieve his true ends. Such figures are terrified at being exposed; the Wizard cautions Dorothy to lower her voice lest he be discovered and "ruined."

European elites should be wary of the Greek spring

Click here to access article by Costas Douzinas from Greek Left Review.
It is not only Papandreou: Europe’s hubris is also exposed. The Greek people with their prolonged struggles and sacrifices will finally get rid of their government. The weakest link has fallen partly as a result of popular resistance. Now the dominoes will move west. The economic future of Greece will be difficult, but democracy has won. The elite’s fear of “contagion” should not be just about the euro – they should also fear Greek resistance spreading across Europe.

Coming to America: Running From the School of the Americas

Click here to access article by Laura Schleifer from The Leftist Review. 

She author fills in American ignorance with knowledge about the pervasive role of the C.I.A.-run School of the Americas in subjecting Latin Americans to the rule of the Empire.
In Latin America, the role the United States has played in war, dictatorship, manufactured poverty, and human rights abuse is common knowledge. Yet, the vast majority of U.S. citizens have no idea of the existence of the SOA/WHINSEC, and in fact usually assume that the belief in the existence of such a place must be a conspiracy theory, upon hearing of it for the first time.
Yet, her conclusion about simply according immigrants to the US the rights of citizenship is fine, but very limiting. Working on that objective is only treating the symptom, not the cause of the diseased state of affairs for immigrants who, because of the neo-liberal policies of the Empire, have been forced to leave their homes and communities. Nothing less than the dismantlement of the Empire's ruling class and their system must be accomplished before there is peace and justice anywhere in the world.

See the latest activist notice against SOA.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Libya Recolonised

Click here to access article by Aijaz Ahmad from Frontline [India]. 

This rather lengthy article provides breadth, depth, and passion to the events recently concluded with the Empire's victory over Libya. It is well worth your undivided attention. You may think that you have already read all there is to know about the subject; but I think after reading this article, you will change your mind.
Suffice it to say that the fall of Libya is likely to serve as the first major step in the offensive to capture Africa's plentiful natural resources. In the fullness of time, as multiple insurgencies and bloodlettings are let loose across the continent, we are likely to see the erection of many new bases for the AFRICOM-NATO combine, very much on the model of Iraq and Afghanistan. The objective is not only to reserve African resources for the Euro-American imperium as much as possible but also to deny those resources to China....

Scramble for Africa

Click here to access article by John Cherian from Frontline [India]. (The link to the Frontline article can no longer be accessed, but I found it again at this link.)
The installation of the National Transitional Council (NTC) government in Libya by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) could signal the beginning of an open neocolonial scramble for Africa. Suspicions about such a blueprint were first aroused when President George W. Bush set up the United States-Africa Command (AFRICOM) in 2008, months before demitting office. The demand for a permanent American military footprint on the African continent had come from right-wing think tanks that enjoyed great clout in the corridors of power during the eight years of the Bush presidency.
Because there are so few independent Western journalists covering Africa, the Empire's media coverage shows little restraint in reporting events there from a highly skewed point of view. This magazine from India is helping to fill the vacuum.

What do Banks Actually DO? Teach-In for Occupy Toronto

Click here to access the transcript from Real-World Economics Review of a 12:17m speech given by economist Jim Stanford at the Occupy Toronto rally on October 29. The Occupy Wall Street gatherings that are happening all over the world are providing educational forums like this to help people understand how they are being robbed by the 1% of the wealth which they as a working class have created, and what steps are needed to recover that wealth for the benefit of the 99%.

Democracy Is Direct

Click here to access article by Cindy Milstein from Commons Not Capitalism. 

For me the key insight expressed in this article that has sustained the human race for at least 98% of its existence is this ethical foundation:
Embryonic within direct democracy, if only to function as a truly open policy-making mechanism, are values such as equality, diversity, cooperation, and respect for human worth—hopefully, the building blocks of a liberatory ethics as we begin to self-manage our communities, the economy, and society in an ever-widening circle of confederated assemblies.
This passage expresses the essence of human beings as social creatures. Should we continue to abandon that fundamental nature as we have during the past 10,000 plus years, we will descend further into barbarism, and after that, disappear from the Earth like the brontosaurs and the dodo birds. So much is now at stake!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

On Corporate Power Miseducation and the New Slavery

Click here to access article by Michael Barker from Ceasefire.

Unlike the vast majority of American historian/writers who write about the US Civil War as being about the freeing of African-American slaves, Barker's article suggests to me that this horrendous war was more about freeing them from traditional slavery so that they could become low paid wage slaves in the newly burgeoning capitalist industries. Barker doesn't directly make this point, but such an inference is blatantly obvious.
Ruling class philanthropists have maintained a long history of subsuming educational needs to capitalist growth prerogatives. In his latest column, Michael Barker looks at how industrial education served as “a major force in the subjugation of black labour in the New South” in the United States.

New Dept. of Energy Priority-Setting Analysis Seriously Flawed

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

This writer has been following the oil/energy resource issue since the 1970s and has published and edited on this website for a number of years. She is a recognized expert in the energy field and widely quoted in energy publications. (For example, see this.) She is honest, objective, and well-informed on the subject. Her only limitation, as I see it, is that she only looks at the issue within the context of a capitalist system. She, like her colleagues, received extensive capitalist indoctrination from an American university which sees the system as fixed, or as the center of the universe much like the Catholic church that up until the 17th century insisted that the Earth was the center of the universe.  

In this piece, she is highly critical of a recent overly optimistic report sponsored by the Department of Energy of the US government which like all important institutions is under the control of the ruling capitalist class and reflects their head-in-the-sand thinking.
The new report sets priories based on a distorted view of the future. One issue is that it is trying to set priorities based on an overly optimistic view of energy supply presented in the EIA's International Energy Outlook 2011 (IEO 2011). Another issue is that it overlooks the way the US and world economy can be expected to change as a result of lower oil and natural gas supply. A third issue is that its view of climate change mitigations is based on a view of fossil fuel supply that is far greater than is likely to be the case.

US long-term unemployment 1967-2011

Click here to access original posting of chart by David Ruccio from Real-World Economics Review Blog.

There are probably many more than a thousand words that can be written about this chart, but I will offer only a few. You probably have many more to offer. 

The periods following the peaks shown here show the periodic busts of a typical capitalist economy, which are followed by periods of growth where workers are needed. What is startlingly clear from the chart is that since 1967 dramatically fewer and fewer workers have been required to maintain this type of an economy. 

A capitalist economy requires growth to maintain profits for those who "own" it--and it has indeed grown in terms of GDP during this period due to the system's promotion of huge expenditures for military arms and wasteful spending on unnecessary items of convenience and those which seem to enhance self-image. Of course, this growth is causing lethal long term damage to the earth's ecosystem, but that doesn't seem to bother those in charge of the system who benefit from the rewards that accumulate to them in terms of wealth and power. 

The ruling class in charge of this system believe that wealth is money and the things that money can buy which, besides commodities, includes influence. Thus their system is based on the private ownership of this wealth and over all the activities that can produce money. The latter includes economic enterprises such as farms, mines, and factories where working people engage in such activities. But the labor of working people has also been transformed into a commodity that can be rented by these "owners" to transform raw materials and ideas into things that can be bought and sold for profit to the "owners". 

The reason, of course, for this trend of fewer workers is simply because of the enormous contributions that workers have made through their creativity and labor over the many generations of humanity. Thus, the efficiencies produced by these many generations of workers should be a legacy handed down to us as a society, but unfortunately under the existing system only the "owners" really benefit from this legacy. 

People in increasing numbers are now beginning to question the legitimacy of such a system whose rewards are going to such a small number of people, people who are currently labeled as the "one percent" (actually they are much smaller), and not to the rest of us, the "ninety-nine percent". The latter group is now once again seriously questioning the justice and legitimacy of such a system.

Why Europe’s democrats are terrified of democracy

Click here to access article by Jérôme E. Roos from Reflections on a Revolution. 
The way Europe has handled the Greek referendum is the clearest indication yet that European capitalism and national democracy are incompatible.
Of course, democracy and capitalism have always been at odds, it's just recently that the latter system has caused so much economic and environmental destruction that the people are increasingly aware that they have no alternative but to fight back.