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, May 12, 2012
Clearly the Greek people are learning that control of the media is a key objective of the capitalist governing class. Where this class fails to exercise control, they shut it down and fire journalists as they have in Greece. But the Greeks are learning the important lesson of setting up their own media. This video briefly tells this story.
From Wikipedia we learn:
During the era of McCarthyism, Chaplin was accused of "un-American activities" as a suspected communist. J. Edgar Hoover, who had instructed the FBI to keep extensive secret files on him, tried to end his United States residency. FBI pressure on Chaplin grew after his 1942 campaign for a second European front in the war and reached a critical level in the late 1940s, when Congressional figures threatened to call him as a witness in hearings. This was never done, probably from fear of Chaplin's ability to lampoon the investigators. In February 2012 an MI5 file on Chaplin was opened to the public which revealed that the FBI had contacted the British secret service to provide them with information which would enable them to ban Chaplin from the US. In particular, it wanted MI5 to find out where Chaplin was born and pursue suggestions that his real name was Israel Thornstein. MI5 searched, but to no avail. A suggestion that he "may have been born in France" also came to nothing.
In 1952, Chaplin left the US for what was intended as a brief trip home to the United Kingdom for the London premiere of Limelight. Hoover learned of the trip and negotiated with the Immigration and Naturalization Service to revoke Chaplin's re-entry permit. Chaplin decided not to re-enter the United States, writing: "Since the end of the last world war, I have been the object of lies and propaganda by powerful reactionary groups who, by their influence and by the aid of America's yellow press, have created an unhealthy atmosphere in which liberal-minded individuals can be singled out and persecuted. Under these conditions I find it virtually impossible to continue my motion-picture work, and I have therefore given up my residence in the United States."
Friday, May 11, 2012
The interview begins with a discussion of the results in the recent European elections, then moves to the political scene in the US, and finally a general discussion of the extreme difficulty of effecting change within Western countries. Hudson explains how all the left parties, regardless of names suggesting real alternatives such as various "socialist" parties use, are caught up in the same dynamics of a political process controlled by the One Percent. Hence, none of the parties allowed to participate in elections can ever offer any true alternative policies.
Michael Hudson is about as far left as the ruling One Percent class will tolerate--actually barely tolerate. Although he is allowed to keep teaching at the U. of Missouri and is hired by various foreign government agencies as a consultant, he is never provided an opportunity to appear in any mainstream media programs.
As a political liberal who wants to preserve the capitalist system, he sees the current reign of the financiers as the bad guys who interfere with the operations of the capitalist system while corrupting the political process. He doesn't see that the evolution of capitalism, a system that appropriates socially produced wealth for private "owners", from wealth extracted by industry into wealth extracted by obscure debt instruments--financial capitalism--as anything other than an aberration of capitalism which could easily be solved by returning to an earlier model of a regulated industrial capitalism.
Capitalism has reached the final stage of wealth accumulation which is now in the hands of financiers who have nothing more to offer ordinary people than more debt, austerity, endless wars, and a climate of fear. Meanwhile, they pretend to be concerned about "greening" the economy as they continue to pillage the ecosystem. If we of the 99 Percent allow them to have their way, this will all result initially in a nightmarish fascist dystopia, and eventually in the destruction of conditions that can support human life.
Capitalism at any stage has always meant misery for the vast majority of people. The system of capitalism cannot return to an earlier stage no more than can an individual who has turned out to be a criminal return to earlier age when he was such a cute little boy.
Rather than a principled stand, the author argues that his backing for gay marriage is all about winning back the more advantaged liberals that Obama has lost since the last election because of his policies serving the interests of the One Percent. This backing offers a way to distract such people from the more vital issues facing the 99 Percent.
The pro-Democratic Party organizations seek to promote issues of identity and lifestyle as a means of obscuring the basic class issues and diverting attention from the thoroughly reactionary policies of the Obama administration on every front. In doing so, they seek to exploit the general support for equality and the expansion of marriage rights, particularly among young people. The Democratic Party uses such issues in the attempt to establish points of difference with the Republicans, under conditions in which the two parties agree on all fundamental issues.
Here is some evidence in one locale that members of the 99 Percent are awakening to the necessity of organizing on their own behalf outside of permitted politics in the two party capitalist political system.
Thursday, May 10, 2012
Members of the Israeli security establishment have been making some unusually candid attacks on the credibility of Netanyahu's key policies toward Iran and Palestinian. This is the latest attack reported in the Haaretz newspaper and VoltaireNet provides a PDF link to access the newspaper article.
The former head of the Shin Bet security service has accused Benjamin Netanyahu and his defense minister Ehud Barak of deceiving the people on both Iran’s nuclear program and the peace process with the Palestinians, saying he has no faith in their leadership.(For a briefer online version of the Haaretz report, click on this link.)
Prof. Hudson describes an incident back in 1966 that he personally experienced with Alan Greenspan. It reveals some questionable character traits that our Wall Street government apparently likes to have in people they put in charge of the economy.
I am always a bit reluctant to post satire articles because in these Orwellian times, when the political operatives of the Empire have only lies to offer, satire is too easy. But Escobar does it so well, and this is one of his best.
Wednesday, May 9, 2012
The author argues that there is more at stake in Greece than a national economy and a parliament.
...what is especially important is the broader social and historical context of these elections. The collapse of credibility in the entire political system underlies the essential paradox of these elections: a bankrupt country, whose population is profoundly disaffected with the political system, gathers to exercise its democratic right to elect officials that are to preside over a national terrain that has effectively lost its sovereignty.Of course, the author is referring to capitalist "democracy" which is a fake form of democracy instituted in the late 18th century to seduce working people into assisting the bourgeoisie fight against the aristocracy which led to the latter's downfall and numerous revolutions.
We are witnessing a dramatic articulation of the essential contradiction between democracy and capitalism. More than ever, this is the essential political problem of our times.
The author reviews some important history lessons for us to reflect on and consider their implications.
Following the article there is the usual commentator who defensively declares that there is no mention of "democracy" in our Constitution. Instead it refers to a "republic". To his credit, he reports on the thinking of the founders of this new republic and their fears and detestation of "democracy". This view is absolutely correct. But the commentator ignores how the fake ideology of "democracy" was spread by this new ruling class throughout the land and in every institution since then to deceive and manipulate people to support the policies of the One Percent.
The article examines the timing of this widely reported airport security breach, and questions whether it is coincidental or contrived to counter complaints about TSA.
What does appear to be in danger, however, is the TSA itself. The Transportation Security Administration has been marred with scandal after scandal since its development after the September 11 terrorist attacks, and some reports even suggest that Americans are actively seeking train tickets and scrounging for bus fare in lieu of letting Uncle Sam play grab ass with every airport patron in the country. So was this alleged bomb plot actually in the works?Could this be just another example of managing the consent of the people? Noam Chomsky expressed this well when he wrote, "the more 'free and popular' a government, the more it becomes necessary to rely on control of opinion to ensure submission to the rulers."
This surprising blogger who retired from a long career in banking and finance goes after his local congressman from Colorado and the Democratic party for all their deceptions regarding the Bowles-Simpson budget proposal.
Bowles Simpson slashes social security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other vital programs while cutting taxes substantially below where they would be if the Clinton era tax rates were simply continued. It imposes a maximum spending level as a percent of GDP at historically low levels and is designed almost like a constitutional amendment in that it will require a 60% super majority in the senate to overturn. While it may close some corporate tax loopholes, it eliminates taxes on foreign operations, a gigantic giveaway given how easily corporate flows can be manipulated in the global economy.Obviously, this represents another attempt to fool the American people in more "change we can believe in". (sarcasm)
So, who are you going to vote for? Tweedledee or Tweedledum? Isn't it wonderful that we live in a democracy where one can vote?
I doubt that this piece of news will ever make it into any of the six o'clock evening news programs of the TV networks. The US ruling class care very little about what their subjects think--except to monitor their thoughts with the intention of manipulating them in favor of ruling class objectives of power and profit.
By a margin of 63 percent disapproval to 33 percent approval, respondents rejected a description of the deal that will include a US troop presence and billions of dollars in monetary support for Afghan forces in the decade after 2014, according to a Monitor/TIPP poll conducted April 27 to May 4.
While government officials and law enforcement are painting Anonymous as one of HL Mencken's "imaginary goblins" poised to menace the public, it's worth noting that national governments around the world have aspired to control the internet, and have been developing statutes that erode individual rights and privacies, long before this entity came to prominence. Anonymous is more a reaction to these trends than a cause. The brutal, depressing and dire fact of the matter is that an expansive surveillance state is not here to come but is already in our midst.Despite the deterioration of journalistic standards in this online source (Al Jazeera) due to its owner-- the Empire's closely aligned government of Qatar--they still occasionally run articles of outstanding quality. No doubt many who have remained in Al Jazeera--and many have left--are fighting to maintain high standards of journalism.
Tuesday, May 8, 2012
...the world is now indeed splitting into a plutonomy and a precariat — in the imagery of the Occupy movement, the 1% and the 99%. Not literal numbers, but the right picture. Now, the plutonomy is where the action is and it could continue like this.But that is not the only thing we must concern ourselves with. There are two other major threats that he cites in the article.
If it does, the historic reversal that began in the 1970s could become irreversible. That’s where we’re heading. And the Occupy movement is the first real, major, popular reaction that could avert this.
In some parts of the world, the arrangement is different...governments have organized their economies to serve their citizens, rather than organizing labor, the country’s markets and its natural resources to serve outside investors and foreign corporations.In this excellent piece the author exposes the real factors driving the Empire's policies and actions throughout the world.
For refusing to give their citizens’ lives over to the enrichment of foreign titans of finance and captains of industry, these countries are made to pay a price.
The recent news broadcast in US mainstream media about Obama's quick trip to Afghanistan to conclude an agreement with President Karzai, the local puppet, was widely celebrated by mainstream pundits. The agreement formalizes conditions that will keep Afghanistan firmly as a colonial outpost in the Empire. The author explains this in more detail.
Are the left electoral wins in Europe the real thing? Or, are they the European version of "change we can believe in". (Actually, François Hollande's (the French candidate for President) campaign slogan was "change now".) Did they oust Tweedledee only to vote in Tweedledum? About the only thing that is certain about the election results is as follows:
The outcome of elections throughout Europe has demonstrated the deep popular opposition to austerity measures that European and American finance capital have implemented ruthlessly since the outbreak of the global economic crisis.Australian Nick Beams from the same website suggests, in his article entitled, "The European 'growth pact' fraud" is the current theme among some European establishment policy makers who are supporting this new "growth pact" and the winners of the weekend's European elections, but have a hidden agenda in mind for European workers: a plan to drive down wages in Europe as the US has done under the Obama administration.
Monday, May 7, 2012
...the extremely power[ful] notion that citizens need not rely on governments or corporations to seek a better world is out of the bottle and won't be corked again.I think this thesis really captures the significance of the current zeitgeist. The Occupy movement is still a minority, still rudimentary in form; but this initial step is very much on the road to revolution. Many others are about ready to take this step. It will only take more business-as-usual from the political operatives of the One Percent to convince more to take this all important step in the right direction. And this will surely happen simply because more business-as-usual is on the agenda--capitalism is ideologically bankrupt.
Further on down this path lies the revolutionary awareness that capitalist governments and capitalism must be completely demolished and new people-centered institutions must be designed and created.
This is an excellent, fact-based report on how the premier athletics event is transformed into measures to serve the interests of the One Percent: clearing out the poor from inner cities and inflating real estate prices in order to replace long established organic communities with new communities based solely on income and high consumption.
The Games are not simply hosted to ‘clean up’ the city, but to fundamentally reconfigure it, to ‘cleanse’ it of its poor and undesirable; to not only make way for a city by and for the rich, but to expand the terrain of profitable activity.The political operatives of the One Percent shrewdly use social values supporting public demonstrations of athletic prowess and affirming national loyalties in order to reclaim cities for higher income people. Apparently, the latter want to return to gentrified inner cities from the suburbs where they previously went to flee the inner cities. And private enterprise is all too willing to accommodate them and reap fabulous profits in the process while sticking governments with more debts--owned by the One Percent.
Or, "How to talk to your skeptical co-workers". The author models some excellent responses to give to questions posed by people who look to mainstream media to understand their world.
So, you took off from work on May 1 but opted to not explain about May Day to any of your co-workers. Little did you know that you'd be recognized in footage on the evening news and find yourself face-to-face with a skeptical colleague, who ponders: I don't get it. What do the occupiers want? Why is there no clear agenda?
More research shows the obvious (to me) link between economic growth and carbon emissions.
It's a message no one wants to hear: To slow down global warming, we'll either have to put the brakes on economic growth or transform the way the world's economies work.Oh um, so who cares? The global One Percent class whose power and wealth derive from the current economic system of capitalism which depends on growth are mainly the ones who don't want to hear this, and they won't. After all, "there is no alternative!" This report, like the many preceding it, will never make the 6 o'clock evening news on any major TV or radio network. But we will hear our media pundits saying that we need growth to create more jobs, and that will be sufficient to maintain "business as usual". Or as Bill McKibben recently wrote about the vacuous reporting of mainstream media:
So here’s a prediction: next Sunday, no matter how big and beautiful the demonstrations may be that we’re mounting across the world, “Face the Nation” and “Meet the Press” won’t be connecting the dots. They’ll be gassing along about Newt Gingrich’s retirement from the presidential race or Mitt Romney’s coming nomination, and many of the commercials will come from oil companies lying about their environmental efforts.It appears that only when the ocean laps up onto Manhattan streets, when tornadoes wreck more havoc on a daily basis, when vast areas of the Midwest deteriorate into deserts and we can't grow enough food, only then will there be sufficient number of people who are determined to change "the way the world's economies work". But, it will be too late.
This will be the tragic scenario if we of the 99 Percent continue to follow the authorities of the One Percent like sheep to the slaughterhouse.
But, there is hope. Over the internet people are getting some valuable information that is helping them to connect the dots:
These are the last words from someone who was one of the first to recognize that the US and apparently much of the world was on a path to unsustainability. The essay starts out addressing the decline of America and its empire, but about half way through he seems to suggest that the problem is wider. Referring to a book he authored back in the 1970s, he writes:
Ecotopia is a novel, and secession was its dominant metaphor: how would a relatively rational part of the country save itself ecologically if it was on its own? As Ecotopia Emerging puts it, Ecotopia aspired to be a beacon for the rest of the world. And so it may prove, in the very, very long run, because the general outlines of Ecotopia are those of any possible future sustainable society.
The "ecology in one country" argument was an echo of an actual early Soviet argument, as to whether "socialism in one country" was possible. In both cases, it now seems to me, the answer must be no. We are now fatally interconnected, in climate change, ocean impoverishment, agricultural soil loss, etc., etc., etc. International consumer capitalism is a self-destroying machine, and as long as it remains the dominant social form, we are headed for catastrophe; indeed, like rafters first entering the "tongue" of a great rapid, we are already embarked on it.Here he clearly argues that one cannot save the ecological system in only one country. His essay suggests that he doesn't hold out for much hope for the present social-economic system, but he seems to be unreasonably optimistic about some sort of death and renewal, like the cycle in nature of death, destruction and renewed life forms. The following statements increase the confusion about whether he is referring only to the US or to humanity:
So I look to a long-term process of "succession," as the biological concept has it, where "disturbances" kill off an ecosystem, but little by little new plants colonize the devastated area, prepare the soil for larger and more complex plants (and the other beings who depend on them), and finally the process achieves a flourishing, resilient, complex state -- not necessarily what was there before, but durable and richly productive.
...All things “go” somewhere: they evolve, with or without us, into new forms. So as the decades pass, we should try not always to futilely fight these transformations. As the Japanese know, there is much unnoticed beauty in wabi-sabi -- the old, the worn, the tumble-down, those things beginning their transformation into something else. We can embrace this process of devolution: embellish it when strength avails, learn to love it.So, who is "us" in the last paragraph. Americans or humanity? And, likewise when he concludes on this more optimistic note:
Since I wrote Ecotopia, I have become less confident of humans' political ability to act on commonsense, shared values. Our era has become one of spectacular polarization, with folly multiplying on every hand. That is the way empires crumble: they are taken over by looter elites, who sooner or later cause collapse. But then new games become possible, and with luck Ecotopia might be among them.Of course, life forms will continue one way or another, but what I fear--and I think it a very reasonable fear--is that all human life will not continue if radical changes are not made soon to create a new, sustainable social-economic system capable of existing in harmony with nature..
Sunday, May 6, 2012
The author explores the more independent minded Latin American regime's and their unusual relationship with both their indigenous social movements and the multinational corporations (MNCs).
North American leftists may be mislead by the recent expropriation of Repsol, the Spanish oil corporation, by the Argentine government and get the wrong idea about all the regimes' relationships with the MNCs.
Although the relationships vary by country among these progressive regimes, they share certain commonalities which he describes in some detail:
...the progressive regimes have pursued a multi-faceted double discourse: an anti-imperialist, nationalist and populist rhetoric for domestic consumption while putting into practice a policy of fomenting and expanding the role of foreign extractive capital in joint ventures with the state and a rising new national bourgeoisie. The progressive regimes articulate a narrative of socialism and participatory democracy but in practice pursue policies linking development with the concentration and centralization of capital and executive power.
The progressive regimes preach a doctrine of social justice and equity and a practice of co-optation of social leaders and clientalism via poverty programs for the poorest sectors of society.
The book entitled, The Civil Wars in the U.S. Labor Movement: Birth of a New Workers’ Movement or the Death Throes of the Old? by Steve Early is reviewed.
In the name of streamlining its organizing efforts, SEIU has carried out a widespread program of merging locals, opening call centers to service current members (ostensibly to free up staff and resources for new organizing and political work), and signing “neutrality” or other partnership agreements with employers, usually from positions of weakness that have led to the exchange of major concessions (like the right to strike) for union recognition.Early also suggests ways to revitalize unions.
The importance of focusing on these new “innovations,” as Early does in Civil Wars, is significant because such practices have been seen, to our detriment, as pointing the way forward for the union movement in both the United States and Canada. Civil Wars offers a searing critique of these practices....
Perhaps the most important lesson Early highlights in his concluding chapter is that what most animates workers to struggle is a “sense of organizational ownership, a willingness to take risks and make sacrifices because the union they were trying to build, extend, defend, or reclaim inspired strong allegiance based on relationships of trust and mutual respect.” If we take nothing else from Civil Wars, it should be that: “Workers do not unite and fight – for organizing rights, a first contract, a better contract, or a better functioning and more democratic union – unless they have reason to believe in each other and the leadership that has emerged from their own ranks….
In this age of full spectrum surveillance, Facebook users need to be aware of the pitfalls of its use and some measures to take to protect their privacy.
You may also want to view this 39:11m C-Span interview with author and privacy expert, Lori Andrews.
I am posting this article not because I think it offers constructive ideas about real change. To the contrary, it offers a recipe for no change. But, the problem it poses is that it will influence others into following this dead-end strategy. While advocating every social benefit they can think of and demanding "democratic control", they carefully exclude any mention of dismantling corporate institutions which serve private interests by expropriating socially produced wealth in a system that justifies private ownership and control of an economy. Look at item 2 in which they state...
To achieve these objectives, we believe that the economy should be run democratically at all levels, from local to global. People must get democratic control over financial institutions, transnational corporations and their lobbies.Then read the specific proposals they propose to carry this out. There are no demands about taking apart corporations and putting them under the control of the people. It's all rehashed liberal proposals mostly from the New Deal era. This view offers pie-in-the-sky social benefits without touching the core institution of concentrated wealth that makes any kind of real democracy meaningless. I think this illustrates the profound influence of capitalist ideology and its latest theme, "there is no alternative" on many in the current generation of US activists.
The set of demands proposed by this group illustrates why the broader Occupy movement has thus far refused to issue demands. So much needs to be done to raise the consciousness about the dire issues confronting people today before any demands can be articulated.