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, February 16, 2013

The West’s War Against African Development Continues

Click here to access article by Dan Glazebrook from CounterPunch
Africa’s classic depiction in the mainstream media, as a giant basketcase full of endless war, famine and helpless children creates an illusion of a continent utterly dependent on Western handouts. In fact, the precise opposite is true – it is the West that is reliant on African handouts.

This is the role for which Africa has been ascribed by the masters of the Western capitalist economy: a supplier of cheap resources and cheap labour. And keeping this labour, and these resources, cheap depends primarily on one thing: ensuring that Africa remains underdeveloped and impoverished.
The author explains why the destruction of Libya's Gaddafi government was necessary in the Empire's quest for cheap access to Africa's treasures, and cites the use of Salafist terrorist groups to do their dirty work. Now that Mali in addition to Libya has been destabilized, Algeria appears to be their next target.

South Americans Face Upheaval in Deadly Water Battles

Click here to access article by Michael Smith from Bloomberg

This is a report on the struggle for access to water between global mining corporations versus local people. Guess who is winning.
The conflicts in South America are part of an intensifying global struggle for water. Two of the mightiest rivers on earth -- the Yellow River in China and the Colorado in the U.S. and Mexico -- have been so depleted by cities, factories and farms that they rarely reach the sea, as they had for eons. 
Notice that the writer of this piece for a premier Wall Street media company goes out of his way to sprinkle comments by corporate friendly sources to soothe peoples' concerns about the issue. Still I give Bloomberg credit for reporting on this issue unlike most other corporate media.

It’s The Interest, Stupid! Why Bankers Rule The World

Click here to access article by Ellen Brown from Seeking Alpha

The author sheds light, based on new research, on how bankers' interest scams are sucking wealth out of the economy and into the One Percent's pockets without most of us realizing what is going on.
This hidden tribute to the banks will come as a surprise to most people, who think that if they pay their credit card bills on time and don’t take out loans, they aren’t paying interest. This, says Dr. Kennedy, is not true. Tradesmen, suppliers, wholesalers and retailers all along the chain of production rely on credit to pay their bills. They must pay for labor and materials before they have a product to sell and before the end buyer pays for the product 90 days later. Each supplier in the chain adds interest to its production costs, which are passed on to the ultimate consumer.
I'm definitely one of those stupid ones who always pays bills on time while thinking that I was not paying interest! 

The Richest 1 Percent Have Captured 121 Percent Of Income Gains During The Recovery

Click here to access article by Pat Garofalo from ThinkProgress
Last year, economist Emmanuel Saez estimated that the richest 1 percent of the U.S. captured a whopping 93 percent of the income gains in 2010, as the U.S. was emerging from the Great Recession. Saez is now back with updated numbers from 2011, and they make the picture look even grimmer....
But how is it possible for more than 100%? He explains.

Friday, February 15, 2013

DHS Are Militarizing Local Police to Create Federalized Law Enforcement Agencies

Click here to access article by Susanne Posel from Occupy Corporatism.

It appears from this report and others that there is a definite trend toward local police forces being both privatized and centralized under the direction of the Department of Homeland Security. Wait! Isn't that the prime characteristic of fascism--the direct takeover of government agencies by private wealthy interests in the form of corporations?

The centralized part of this has to do with the concern and fear that the One Percent has from organized domestic political activists whom they regard as "terrorists". Yes, you and I are now seen as potential "terrorists", especially if we interfere too much with business as usual, in other words, with activities of the ruling One Percent. Their "evolving mission" represents an ominous development which I will try to continue to follow. 
In early 2012, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released a report entitled “Homeland Security and Intelligence: Next Steps in Evolving the Mission” which outlined in part on how to redirect efforts of the federal government from international terrorism toward home-grown terrorists and build a DHS-controlled police force agency that would control all cities and towns through the use of local police departments.

DHS maintains that “the threat grows more localized” which necessitates the militarization of local police in major cities in the US and the training of staff from local agencies to make sure that oversight is restricted to the federal government.

Checking Drone Power

Click here to access article by Matthew Harwood from American Civil Liberties Union.

This article from a liberal source strikes me as an early attempt, which I predicted, to launch a public relations campaign of behalf of the introduction of surveillance drones into public places and neighborhoods of citizens. The author extolls their virtues and implies that there is no alternative while soothing us with the idea that they can be sensibly regulated. 

See also this piece entitled, "FAA takes major step in expanding drone use in America" from RT.

Banks versus the People (Part 5): The Banks, Fragile Giants

Click here to access article by Éric Toussaint from Committee for the Abolition of Third World Debt

To fully comprehend this article, one needs some ability to understand the complex instruments that capitalists use to gamble on the wealth produced by working people under capitalist direction. I found during the course of reading this that my eyes glazed over. Then, at some point, I jumped to his conclusions which correspond well with all the other sources I have read on the subject:
The big banks continue playing with fire, because they are persuaded that governments will save them whenever necessary. They do not encounter any serious opposition from the authorities as they continue to trade (this question will be discussed in Part 6). At the same time, they are playing an ongoing game of brinkmanship. In spite of their continual marketing efforts to regain public confidence, they have no desire to change their objectives from seeking maximum and immediate profit, and gaining as much power as they can to influence government decisions. Their force corresponds to current government leaders’ decisions to give them total freedom of action. The leaders’ moralistic tones, insisting that banks should be more restrained in their bonuses and remunerations, are only for Public consumption.

Karl Marx writes in Capital that “At their birth the great banks, decorated with national titles, were only associations of private speculators, who placed themselves by the side of governments, and, thanks to the privileges they received, were in a position to advance money to the State’. This is just as applicable to today’s banks.

Banks have a colossal capacity to wreak havoc. Those who believe that a humane capitalist bank is possible must wake up and realise this is pure fantasy. The entire banking system must be withdrawn from capitalist control, and without any compensation, in order to create a public service under the control of citizens, users, and banking sector workers. This is the only way to guarantee the total respect of public service precepts concerning savings and credit that are in the interest of the community.

Pro-charter school organization attempts public school takeovers in Los Angeles

Click here to access article by  Dan Conway and Itza Cantu from World Socialist Web Site.

The authors report on the latest aggressive attacks on public education with the collusion of government with private interests and what it potentially means for public control.
Many private charter organizations enjoy intimate ties with the state of California. For example, Ben Austin, the head of both Parent Revolution and Green Dot schools—one of the largest charter operators in the state—was until recently the state’s Secretary of Education. Prior to holding this position, Austin was coordinator for the Democratic National Convention and deputy mayor of Los Angeles.
The current mayor of Los Angeles, Democrat Antonio Villaraigosa, operates his own organization of charter schools.  

Thursday, February 14, 2013

In a Major Privacy Victory, Seattle Mayor Orders Police to Dismantle Its Drone Program After Protests

Click here to access article by Trevor Timm from Electronic Frontier Foundation

My first reaction to local news items last week announcing the cancellation by the mayor of Seattle to cancel the drone program was one of jubilation over a rare citizen's victory. However, upon further reflection, I am skeptical--that it only constitutes a temporary victory. More likely, the mayor did this because of city wide protests, and the fact that he and several council members are up for re-election this year. After the hubbub dies down, a carefully crafted public relations campaign will likely be implemented to gain more public support. It would not be terribly surprising if we saw some suspicious "terrorist" incidents happen in Seattle. Then the surveillance drones will be re-introduced. Forgive my cynicism.

No doubt the Occupy movement's vigorous protest demonstrations of 2011 has impressed upon our masters in the One Percent the need to develop increased security measures, that is, to increase their security. Also, there is just too much motivation for existing among members of our ruling class to use these and other methods of spying on their subjects. As Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat writes:
There’s an entire industry of what could be called “soft-military” companies selling these gadgets to cities, financed by federal post-9/11 security grants. Congress encourages this, to the point that there’s a congressional “drone caucus,” with 60 U.S. House members, dedicated to pushing drones and other surveillance devices for domestic purposes. It’s sort of a next-gen military-industrial complex.
News of the drones first began leaking out to the public in March of last year in local small publications like The Daily Weekly. I noticed last fall that the Seattle police were going to have public demonstrations of the drones, no doubt, as a public relations exercise to gain public support after-the-fact for their use.

It was soon learned that the drones were obtained through a grant from the Department of Homeland Security applied for by the Seattle police department. No doubt, all the police departments across the nations are induced by these grants to obtain the drones. This, I believe, is another illustration of how this federal agency is subverting local control over police departments--a very dangerous development.

Another example of this ominous trend is the appearance of surveillance cameras appearing in various neighborhoods in Seattle. As Westneat writes:
Last month residents noticed the city is installing 30 surveillance cameras along the waterfront, from Alki through downtown to Golden Gardens. The premise, as with the drones, is perfectly reasonable at first blush: to safeguard the Port of Seattle and other maritime spots from natural disaster or sabotage.
Except that this project was never vetted with the public, either. When it was approved by the Seattle City Council last May, it was discussed for less than two minutes before being approved unanimously. The agenda that day made no mention of a waterfront-surveillance project, only the “authorizing of an application for allocation of funds” from a grant “relating to security from terrorism.” 

Who Rules South Africa?

Click here to access article by Lucien van der Walt from anarkismo.net
This paper argues that the ANC is a bourgeois-bureaucratic black nationalist party; that is, that it represents primarily the interests of both the emergent black capitalists and of the (largely black) state managerial elite: top officials and politicians, judges and military leaders.
This is not exclusively "An Anarchist/Syndicalist Analysis" as the subtitle suggests. It is a class analysis of the history of the ANC and South Africa. As such, it is very valuable in that it pierces the many veils of obscurantist views propagated by capitalist propagandists lodged everywhere in the indoctrination agencies here in the US. 

The author seems to suggest that there was an inherent class nature in the ANC opposition to the former apartheid regime prior to its transformation. I think that this is a misleading interpretation. Although I'm not prepared to support such a view, I think that a more thorough examination of anti-apartheid struggles against the former white capitalist rule would indicate that the black leadership was mostly co-opted by the white bourgeoisie. 

In any case, this piece offers a clear view of the present class character of the people now ruling South Africa: a white-black capitalist class that ironically still uses racist themes to continue its rule.
...if the ANC before 1994 was basically progressive, from 1994 it has become a force for reaction, as has been shown above. To continue to use nationalist politics is disempowering, confusing and positively harmful. It ignores class, creates illusions in the ANC and disguises the true nature of the black elite.
And most dangerously, it easily translates itself into direct racism against the minorities – Coloureds, Indians, whites and immigrant blacks – who make up at least 25% of the population [21], especially when it is used to deflect blame or promote factional agendas.
Once again we see the continuation of the old tried and true formula for all ruling classes: divide and rule. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A Presidential Decision That Could Change the World: The Strategic Importance of Keystone XL

Click here to access article by Michael T. Klare from The Indypendent.
 ...the decision he [Obama] makes could prove far more important than anyone imagines.  It could determine the fate of the Canadian tar-sands industry and, with it, the future well-being of the planet.  If that sounds overly dramatic, let me explain.
A presidential stamp of approval on the building of Keystone XL will save the tar-sands industry, ensuring them enough return to justify their massive investments. It would also undoubtedly prompt additional investments in tar-sands projects and further production increases....
See also this piece entitled "Join the ecosocialist contingent in Washington, February 17".

No Justice Anywhere

Click here to access article by Arij Riahi from The Dominion (Canada).

The author from this online publication, which is a member of the splendid Media Co-op network in Canada, gives us an example of how Western mining companies operate with impunity in third world countries. This is independent reporting at its best.
Anvil Mining later admitted to assisting the Congolese Military during their deadly operation in Kilwa. The company confirmed to the UN Mission that it provided transportation for the soldiers and supplied them with food rations. In an interview with an Australian television channel in June 2005, Anvil’s Managing Director Bill Turner admitted the company also helped the military get to Kilwa.

The toll of privatization and the ideology of “there is no alternative” Feb13

Click here to access article by Pete Dolack from his blog Systemic Disorder (UK).

"Oh, the times they are a changin'!" The author provides evidence that the younger generation is much less influenced by neoliberal indoctrination than older folks. This development may pose possibilities for the 99 Percent and problems for the One Percent. Also, he found evidence in relation to research on Russia that academics are guided by political considerations if they do not produce the right results in their research.
The bogeys of one generation fail to have the same effect on the next; now that two decades have passed since the disintegration of the Soviet Union, a powerful bogey is becoming less of a talisman for capitalists and the politicians who love them. Thus it is not surprising that polls show that young people are more open to socialism than their parents — the concrete realities of the debt-saturated, limited vistas that today’s economy offers them can not fail to grab their attention.

Foxconn stages union elections: A trap for Chinese workers

Click here to access article by John Chan from World Socialist Web Site.

The author reports on efforts by state-guided capitalists in China to head off growing worker unrest by using the managed election scam borrowed from Western ruling classes. The latter, of course, have developed this method of creating governing legitimacy into a science.
In a move that clearly indicates rising class tensions in China, the world’s largest contract electronic manufacturer, Foxconn, has decided to hold trade union “elections” at its gigantic factories, which employ 1.2 million workers. The move—backed by the Stalinist Chinese Communist Party (CCP) regime and the Western corporate giants that rely on sweatshops like those of Foxconn—is an attempt to avert a social explosion.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Is France preparing Elections in Mali ? Presidential Candidate, SADI Secretary General, Dr. Oumar Mariko, Kidnapped

Click here to access article by Christof Lehmann from nsnbc.

The author rightfully regards the kidnapping of a Malian political figure as preparing the way for the favorite strategy of Empire operatives--holding of elections to consolidate Empire control. You see, agents of the One Percent have based the legitimacy of their rule on this premise: elections = democracy. They learned how to successfully manage elections over the past two and a half centuries in the US in order to achieve political results favorable to the interests of their class. 

To better understand this, we must re-visit history of the US. Briefly, a nucleus of propertied people mostly lead by Alexander Hamilton, Robert Morris the banker, and many land speculators such as George Washington in the late 1700s saw the vast potential of the North American continent to provided them with wealth and power. The main obstacle was the British crown that wanted to keep North America as a colony to serve the needs of the mother country. The latter saw it as only a source of raw materials to feed the burgeoning industrial machine of England. Hence, the need for separation and independence from Britain.

Faced with a powerful British army and navy, the colonial leaders needed to get the support of the vast majority of the population in order to achieve independence. The vast majority consisted largely of small farmers, indentured servants, small merchants, some skilled craftsmen, and slaves. The colonial leaders enlisted the support of orators such as Patrick Henry, pamphleteers and ideologists such as Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson to spread new, inspiring ideas about government. The most revolutionary idea of all was formulated by Jefferson who wrote in the Declaration of Independence the following key principles:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. [my emphasis]
The central idea of democracy as defined here inspired millions across the globe ever since: the legitimacy of political arrangements are rooted in the consent of the people! No, they were not divine creations of God or Allah, they were created by people, and should serve the needs of all the people, or they are illegitimate. Of course, the new American ruling class had completely different ideas, but they were stuck with this belief system after the successful conclusion of the Revolutionary War. Notice that in the subsequent drafting of the Constitution, they made no mention of this concept in its original version. (Thomas Jefferson was conveniently away in Paris as Ambassador to France.) Because of so much popular opposition to this original version, they were forced to add the Bill of Rights amendments to get it passed by the majority of states. Jefferson returned during this period and was instrumental in formulating the amendments. 

However, the rights under these amendments have largely been ignored. Only seven years after the adoption of the Constitution with the Bill of Rights, the Sedition Act of 1798 (see this and this) was passed by the Federalists which stated the following:
To write, print, utter or publish, or cause it to be done, or assist in it, any false, scandalous, and malicious writing against the government of the United States, or either House of Congress, or the President, with intent to defame, or bring either into contempt or disrepute, or to excite against either the hatred of the people of the United States, or to stir up sedition, or to excite unlawful combinations against the government, or to resist it, or to aid or encourage hostile designs of foreign nations.
And, in our own time we have witnessed the final attack on these rights since the 9/11 tragedy with the passage of the so-called Patriot Acts.

The political history of the United States has been largely a history of the development of methods to maintain only the appearance of this ideology, but otherwise insure the pursuit of wealth, power, and happiness for the One Percent propertied class. Elections became a primary vehicle for maintaining this illusion. And, they learned over the many years since then how to manage elections to serve their class interests.  

Post-Revolutionary Egypt:1967 Revisited?

Click here to access article by Nancy Elshami from Muftah.

The author provides some interesting insights on the current political scene in Egypt by examining Egyptian history since 1952.
While the 1952 Revolution crumbled with Nasser, it also had little hope of surviving him. By contrast, the January 25 Revolution, while possibly at one of its lowest points, is far from over. While the youth have been disempowered and overlooked by political forces, and former regime members and the Muslim Brotherhood still struggle for power, there has been a seismic shift in Egyptian society that has yet to end.

Corporations, investors grabbing land overseas

Click here to access article by Brian Bienkowski from Environmental Health News.

It's clear to me that this is another disastrous consequence of neoliberal policies imposed on most of the world by the Empire.
“One big driver is biofuels and new biofuel policy. It has really increased the demand for agricultural land,” D’Odorico said.

The 2007 Energy and Independence Security Act in the United States mandated a fourfold increase of the amount of biofuels by 2022. A 2009 European Union directive had a similar goal. Biofuels are fuels made from different types of plants and crops. The most popular examples from crops are turning corn or sugarcane into ethanol, or turning palm oil into biodiesel.

[another driver is] the industrialization of agriculture over the past few decades. This type of farming needs a lot of land, which can be found cheaply overseas.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Tunisia’s Unfinished Revolution: From Dictatorship to Democracy?

Click here to access article by Andrew Gavin Marshall from his blog. 

Marshall dissects recent and near past events in Tunisia in the context of global capitalist forces under the leadership of the US ruling class. The importance of the article is not simply to understand what is happening in Tunisia, but the strategies being employed by the Empire throughout the Middle East and North Africa to make that oil and mineral rich area secure for the capitalist Empire. Marshall has given us an excellent case study.

He first examines the published statements emanating from capitalist think tanks followed later by actual events on the ground. Earlier statements seemed much more candid, but more recent statements appear to be dressed up in Orwellian Newspeak. Take for example, the 2005 report issued by one of the top think tanks, the Council on Foreign Relations, entitled "In Support of Arab Democracy: Why and How" in which the authors stated, "democracy and freedom have become a priority" of US foreign policy in the region. By examining the evidence one is able to see how the formal, public statements of capitalist academics are translated into action.

Let us examine the evidence Marshall and others have provided about the events on the ground. First, police repression including severe human rights abuses continued without interruption from the previous regime to the present after elections. Second, adverse economic conditions continue, and in many ways, are worse than before the "revolution". Third, organized gangs are appearing on the streets and engaging in violent attacks on protestors and union leaders, including an assassination of a major opposition figure. Fourth:
The Obama administration sought to contribute to the “stability” of the new regime in Tunisia by providing $32 million in military aid from January of 2011 to spring of 2012. An American General and head of the U.S. Africom (Africa Command) noted that on top of the military aid, the United States was continuing to train Tunisian soldiers, having already trained 4,000 in the previous decade.
It's clear that the more recent rhetoric used by Western think tanks is Orwellian Newspeak and must be translated into reality-speak. To do this, I think one must work back from the events on the ground to see what they really mean. Marshall's interpretation is very helpful in this process.

So, how do we translate their Newspeak about "democracy and freedom have become a priority"? It's obvious that such statements come with some major qualifications. The Council on Foreign Relation's paper provides some hints. "First, does a policy of promoting democracy serve U.S. interests and foreign policy goals? Second, if so, how should the United States implement such a policy, taking into account the full range of its interests?" It's clear that what they mean by "democracy" are elections managed by their operatives or friendly indigenous surrogates. What they mean by "freedom" and "full range of its interests" are the freedom of capitalists to secure and exploit properties in other countries, to move their currencies without restrictions, to allow US military bases on their territory, and to cooperate with US policy makers and operatives.

Translating capitalist Newspeak is very important especially for people living in the US who are daily bombarded by this language; the result being, that most Americans are extremely confused as to what their the One Percent's government is doing across the world and in the US.

The factory of Vio.Me starts production under workers’ control! [Greece]

Click here to access article by Open Solidarity Initiative from Vio. Me (Greece).
(Note: I could find no information on "Open Solidarity Initiative". There seems to be a number of this "initiatives" based in various areas of the world.)

Greek workers in Thessaloniki have decided not to wait for ruling class leaders to solve the disastrous economic problems that they created, but to take initiative to solve their immediate problems of unemployment and lack of production for social use. This article tells some of that story. Also, see this and this.

The Struggle to Save Our Planet Heats Up

Click here to access article by Chris Williams from Dissident Voice.
...fighting the XL pipeline is about much more than stopping a single pipeline or the first test of Obama’s second term. It’s about building a movement for social and ecological justice and making it clear that we are going to organize to prevent any more infrastructure being built that will drive us over the ecological cliff.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Introducing: Open Source Philosophy

Click here if you wish to access the source of these two videos on Open Source Ecology. The 4:12m and 6:59m videos are narrated by Dr. Marcin Jakubowski and the OSE team from Open Source Ecology.

These people are demonstrating what technology could do not only to liberate humans from want, but to enable them to thrive by creating leisure time to devote to enriching everyone's lives. 

However, the Open Source people seem to be totally unaware of the resistance to their ideas coming from the existing system of capitalism which, for the few people who control it, provides them with so much wealth and power. These powerful people have no interest in designing a new social-economic system, and they will fight any attempt to change systems. 

In any case it looks to me like OS's demonstration of the benefits of removing intellectual property barriers can provide the necessary foundation for a revolutionary challenge to capitalism. Their ideas about, and the benefits derived from, liberating information clearly subvert the existing assumptions about private ownership: competing over the private "ownership" of factors of production--resources, labor, ideas, etc--benefits society as a whole. No amount of media propaganda can cover up the disasters of this system which are becoming so blatantly obvious: extremes of wealth and poverty; powerlessness and alienation of the vast majority; conversion of avarice, greed, and envy into virtues; reliance on police state methods to suppress popular opposition; devastating wars of conquest; and worst of all, climate destabilization; etc.

Kangaroo Justice - Might Makes Right Will Kill You

Click here to access article by "Bernhard" from Moon of Alabama
There was no "imminent threat" of a violent attack against the United States when it killed Anwar al-Aulaqi, a preacher who himself never took up arms and a U.S. citizen. The White Paper is covering up the crime by redefining "imminent" in a way no sane person can accept.