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, March 9, 2013

How Many Billions Of Drug-Laundered Money Does It Take To Shut Down A Bank?

Click here to access article by Tyler Durden from Zero Hedge.

This article from a website devoted to economic and financial information and analysis is one of the best (see also this piece from Naked Capitalism) that I could find providing coverage of the recent Senate committee (Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs) hearings about the weakness of enforcement measures that have been taken by regulatory agencies of the US government against banks who have engaged in massive money laundering for the drug cartels and other banking law violations. The senators specifically focused on the meager fine imposed upon HSBC, a British based bank, of about 1% of its earnings during the time that it was engaged in laundering of drug money. This type of fine on the major banks for the most egregious crimes is very typical.

After these articles piqued my interest in the hearings, I found a link to a video of the actual hearings which I found to be much more enlightening. In contrast to the two recommended links above and other liberal website coverage, sections of the video past the opening statements of the banking regulators offered strong reinforcement for my understanding of the US power structure. I specifically recommend that you watch the video from 48:00m to 1:35m (47 minutes) or as much as you have time for. Also, read what one commentator ("fraud guy") wrote in response to the Naked Capitalism article.

You will see Senate members (who are identified only by their names) asking questions of three regulators who are addressed as Hon. David S. Cohen, Undersecretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence (Treasury Dept.); Hon. Thomas J. Curry, Comptroller of the Currency under the Treasury Department; and Hon. Jerome H. Powell, Member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve. At 48:00m Sen. Elizabeth Warren, freshman senator from Massachusetts asks the most aggressive questions followed by other senators asking their questions as to why the regulators have not imposed any significant sanctions on banks or banking officials for some of the worst crimes. 

One small section (1:28:50) particularly interested me where Senator Jeff Merkley from Oregon asked about a specific feature of the Bank Secrecy Act which allows banks to use wire transfers of money without disclosing the source of the money. Talk about a loophole that banks can drive their illicit money delivery trucks through!! And, this is what they have been doing, and are likely to   continue to do.

What I generally saw was a strong power difference between the senators compared with the three bank regulators. Although they had to answer questions from the senators, they exuded much more power by simply refusing to give direct answers of substance to the senators who reacted with frustration and a sense of resignation. See if you agree.

You see, two of the regulators were from the Treasury Department which, as is currently the case under Timothy Geithner, is usually headed by a major member of the ruling One Percent who have close ties to major banks. The other guest was from the Federal Reserve Board of Governors. Thus, what you have are lowly senators whose elections are funded mostly by major industrial and financial corporations trying to get answers from top representatives of these very powerful institutions about banking crimes and why the go essentially unpunished. Hence, their sense of frustration and resignation.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Some Remarks on Consensus

Click here to access article by David Graeber from Anarchist News

This kind of debate and discussion is very much needed in activist circles so that the major gains of the Occupy movement move forward; so that the quest for social justice moves forward; so that the domination of a small group of people, who under their system of capitalism have hijacked what are human legacies--technology and wealth, shall be challenged and defeated; so that humanity can save itself from their ecology-destroying economic system whose ends are only the gratification of this small group of people for more wealth and power at the expense of the rest of humanity.

He begins by explaining the difference between rules and principles in relation to consensus decision-making. It seems that some people have confused the two and want to abandon consensus altogether.  Consensus decision-making is informed by two fundamental humanistic values: equality and freedom from coercion. The following excerpts express these central features of his arguments: 
...a set of principles, a commitment to making decisions in a spirit of problem-solving, mutual respect, and above all, a refusal of coercion. It [consensus as practiced in the Occupy movement] was an attempt to create processes that could work in a truly free society.

Consensus is not a set of rules. It's a set of principles. Actually I'd even go so far to say that if you really boil it down, it ultimately comes down to just two principles: everyone should have equal say (call this "equality"), and nobody should be compelled to do anything they really don't want to do (call this, "freedom.") ...The rules are just a way to try to come to decisions in the spirit of those principles. "Formal consensus process," in is various manifestations, is just one technique people have made up, over the years, to try to come to group decisions that solve practical problems in a way that ensures no one's perspective is ignored, and no one is forced to do anything or comply with rules they find truly obnoxious. That's it. It's a way to find consensus. It's not itself "consensus."

Our power is in our principles. The power of Occupy has always been that it is an experiment in human freedom. That's what inspired so many to join us. That's what terrified the banks and politicians, who scrambled to do everything in their power—infiltration, disruption, propaganda, terror, violence—to be able to tell the word
[world] we'd failed, that they had proved a genuinely free society is impossible, that it would necessarily collapse into chaos, squalor, antagonism, violence, and dysfunction. We cannot allow them such a victory. The only way to fight back is to renew our absolute commitment to those principles. We will never compromise on equality and freedom. We will always base our relations to each other on those principles. We will not fall back on top-down structures and forms of decision making premised on the power of coercion. But as long as we do that, and if we really believe in those principles, that necessarily means being as open and flexible as we can about pretty much everything else. 

Continuum: Right-Wing Propaganda Despite Claims Of Moral Complexity

Click here to access article by  Gar Lipow from Z Blogs
The 2012 Canadian science fiction series "Continuum", now airing on the SyFy channel is a warning sign. It represents, possibly without intent, an escalation in the way media drums up support for increased police power, and repression of civil liberties and dissent.
Major media in the Canadian section of the Empire appear to be performing their function well to manage the minds of their citizens. Although dramatized in a future setting, the propaganda in this TV series turns all the decent values of the Occupy movement on their head in order to deal with contemporary issues that worry the directors of the Empire: the Occupy movement and other such social justice activists.
What is new in this series is that the year 2077, from which the cop comes is a dystopian one, ruled by a corporate dictatorship. The criminals are terrorists who seek to restore democracy and human rights. That is right. The talented, charismatic and glowingly beautiful Rachel Nichols is a cop from the future trying to save a corporate dictatorship from the horrors of democracy.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Sequestration Tango: Obama and GOP Dance Through the Graveyard of the New Deal

Click here to access article by Glen Ford from Black Agenda Report. (Note: one has the option to listen to his broadcast via a link on the right-hand side of BAR website or read the transcript provided by this link.)

From the point of view of our masters in the One Percent, Ford provides a very favorable review of Obama's "dance" with the Republicans. Obama's artistry is near perfect because it appears to have accomplished the goals of his One Percent handlers: distracting attention away from his real actions and creating the appearance of opposition to social funding cuts. Ford cites some key evidence to back up his analysis. 

Iran to set up oil refinery in Gwadar [Pakistan]

Click here to access article by Syed Fazl-e-Haider from Asia Times Online.

This is what drives the actions of the Great Game players in the Empire. Even though both economies in China a Russia have morphed into capitalist systems, thus ending the Cold War, they are much too independent to be tolerated by the directors of the US Empire. 

Capitalism is all about private entities engaging in unending competition to secure resources and compliant labor to obtain their riches and power. There is presently one top dog in this contest so far--the Empire led by the capitalist elites of NATO countries. China and Russia are much too big and powerful, and Iran too independent, to follow their orders. Meanwhile, North Korea and Cuba are also targets for Empire retribution because they still outlaw private economic property. Hence, the vigorous attempts by Empire actors to thwart the economic development of these countries. 

This situation is only marginally better than what existed in the Cold War when Russia and China, both of which possessed nuclear weapons, formally outlawed private ownership of an economy. If you need reminding on this point, think only of the horrendous world wars in the 20th century between Anglo-American and German capitalist empires for world dominance.  

Pepe Escobar, probably more than any other journalist, has been following this "game" for a long time. Back in 2010, he wrote referencing Bob Woodward's book Obama's Wars:
What Woodward's book - and the corporate media orchestrated narrative - will never tell is "why" infinite war. Because of the New Great Game in Eurasia. Because of the need of military bases to spy on strategic competitors Russia and China. Because of the US's obsession with Pipelineistan in Central Asia bypassing both Russia and Iran. Because of the Pentagon's full spectrum dominance doctrine - which justifies infinitely ballooning military budgets.

The kids will be rich, unless Peter Peterson’s kids take their money

Click here to access article by Dean Baker from Real-World Economics Review Blog.

This liberal economist make a very good point about income distribution under capitalist class rule. Of course, he doesn't frame it that way. And, the headline to this article, while somewhat reassuring, is not supported by the factual content that he supplies. Even in the unlikely event that Social Security and Medicare programs are not cut, we will still see a further concentration of income distribution into the hands of the rich at the expense of the poor--just not as much.
...everyone should be screaming that workers have not been seeing the gains of productivity growth in the last three decades. This is exactly right. The wages of most workers have barely risen since 1980 because the vast majority of the gains from growth have gone to those at the top of the income distribution.

This is worth repeating a few hundred million times. Most workers have seen little benefit from growth because the gains have gone to those at the top.

Books and Historical Amnesia

Click here to access article by Tadween Editors from Tadween Publishing

The authors provide a description and commentary of a new 57 minute documentary about the theft of Palestinian books by Israeli authorities. The DVD is available to be purchased in English, Arabic,  and Hebrew.
A new documentary has reignited the conversation about confiscated Palestinian property. The Great Book Robbery by Israeli filmmaker Benny Brunner chronicles the story of the nearly 30,000 books that were stolen and either burned or stored away in Israel’s National Library. The National Library, in cooperation with the Haganah (a Zionist militia that would later become the Israeli military) and Hebrew University systematically pillaged books from Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem, Haifa, Jaffa, Nazareth, and beyond. All of the extracted books were subsequently labeled AP for “abandoned property.”

Egyptian Winter: what’s left of the revolution?

Click here if you wish to access original posting by Brandon Jourdan and Marianne Maeckelbergh at Reflections on a Revolution.

The 10:52m video below provides a concise review of events in Egypt after the popular ousting of Mubarak from head of state. Often referred to as a "revolution", this latter event was , of course, not a social class revolution. Hence, changing heads of state while keeping the same social class in power doesn't really change much. As reported by figures in the video, conditions have actually grown worse.

The social class in power in Egypt represents a small class of Egyptian capitalists many of whom have integrated with the national military establishment, all of which is closely tied to the international capitalist class in control of the Empire. 

Once again we see the use of carefully managed elections to establish the legitimacy of an oppressive, class-based regime. After the removal of Mubarak, Empire operatives in collaboration with the Egyptian elite imposed their elections on the nation before the grass roots could organize any effective opposition.
Two years after the revolution in Egypt began, unrest continues across the country as the political and economic situation worsens. As the current government consolidates its power, the demands of the revolution may seem further away than ever. Still the revolution has opened up new spaces for political action, spurring public debate on issues that have gone unacknowledged and unresolved for too long.
This short documentary looks at some of the reasons motivating revolutionaries to keep taking the streets, the obstacles that they are facing, and the tactics that they are using. It looks into the current economic and political problems facing Egyptians, the growing independent union movement, black bloc tactics, and the response of women to sexual assaults.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

United States Plots Conquest of Venezuela in the Wake of Chavez’ Death

Click here to access article posted on Land Destroyer, a blog maintained by Tony Cartalucci who is based in Thailand.

Imperial operatives of the Empire are circling over Venezuela in the hope of finding weaknesses on which to feed their ravenous appetites.

The author identifies key players and networks likely to try to destabilize Venezuela during this time of opportunity.

The leading newspaper in Canada is already celebrating this opportunity for the resumption of exploitation of Venezuela resources for the benefit of Canadian based oil and mining corporations.

The fate of Venezuela ultimately lies with the Venezuelan people. As far as I can see, this very popular leader used his "Bolivarian Revolution" mostly to bolster his own party and influence while leaving the economy under the control of the same ruling class. However, to his credit, he built grass roots political organizations, developed health care and educational programs for the poor, and promoted national and international independence from the Empire. Now we will find out how strong the grass roots organizations are to resist the political assaults on their country that are sure to follow his death. 
The fate of Venezuela lies in its people's hands. Covert destabilization must be faced by the Venezuelan people, while the alternative media must do its best to unravel the lies already being spun ahead of long-planned operations in "post-Chavez Venezuela." 
I also recommend Pepe Escobar's article on Chavez.

Democrats and Labor: A Tale of Abuse

Click here to access article by Shamus Cooke from Workers Action

The author provides mostly a report on the state of affairs with major US labor organizations and their leaders. It is a tale of union leaders' disillusionment and a sense of abandonment by the Democratic party. Although the author rather clearly understands where real power lies, he doesn't provide much of a commentary to show the real functions, and the inter-relationship, of the Democratic party and the labor aristocracy. 
...Arne Duncan [Education Secretary] is simply implementing the policies of his boss, President Obama. And Obama is simply implementing the policies of his boss, corporate America, which is insisting that market relations are imposed on public education.
Following WWII the ruling One Percent engaged in a massive attack on labor unions that had accomplished so many gains during the 1930s among working people. These attacks were in the form of anti-labor legislation, notably the Taft-Hartley Act, and the purging of unions of their most active and politically conscious people during the vicious anti-communist campaign of the McCarthy period. The Democratic party then played "footsie" with the remaining "loyal" labor leaders to provide them with perks and rewards if they supported the Party. This relationship has since morphed into the superficial loyalties now evident because the Democratic party, under this arrangement, has mainly delivered benefits to the labor aristocracy, unions have declined in membership and influence, and the more liberal wing of the ruling One Percent realize that the loyalty of organized labor is no longer of much importance.

Is Occupy Corporatism/Susanne Posel a Disinformation Agent?

Click here to access article by Diabolical Avocado from Facebook.

The author provides some research he has done on the authors of Occupy Corporatism website that suggests an affirmative answer to the title question. 

While perusing the latter website this morning my curiosity was aroused sufficiently to start to look into the people behind it. In the "About" page, my curiosity was piqued even more by the fact that they were only a young married couple, they have published volumes of material, and most all, their final statement:
We are exposing the hidden agenda of the Zionist goal of One World Government.
After that my curiosity went into high gear and I found this piece which, I believe, contains substantial information on the Posels.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

China robots signal US challenge

Click here to access article by Joshua Jacobs and Eftychis Mourginakis from Asia Times Online.

This article provides an excellent illustration of minds that have been totally consumed by the addiction to profits or capital accumulation. The authors' considerations of the issues related to the application of recent technological advances are extremely narrow, limited by their desire to obtain their next capital accumulation fix.  

The authors' celebratory comments about the "next big thing" for Wall Street investors looks only at how these high tech applications can be used for the benefit of this small class of people which the system of capitalism guarantees, and the remaining legal restrictions which prevent this class from fully exploiting the new opportunities. 

Indeed, labor saving machines could liberate humans from mindless drudgery and provide opportunities for the enrichment of their lives through opportunities to become better educated, to develop all human capacities, to have better health, etc. But, alas, this will not be the case simply because only one small class will receive all the benefits provided by the capitalist fiction of "ownership", while the great majority will be left to scramble to survive without wage-slave jobs, to exist in ignorance, and to suffer ill health.

Meanwhile, the authors want to eliminate all restrictions on the use of fossil fuels because they refuse to see that their use is destroying our planet's ecosystem.

U.S. “Stalling” Could Force Acceptance of Onerous TPP

Click here to access article by Carey L. Biron from Inter Press Service.
According to a new brief released by MSF, U.S. TPP negotiators are pushing for rules that would “enhance patent and data protections for pharmaceutical companies, dismantle public health safeguards enshrined in international law and obstruct price-lowering generic competition for medicines”.
The result could be restrictions on access to affordable generic medicines for “millions” of people.
Probably one of the most egregious attacks that private property advocates use against the general welfare is the securing of intellectual property rights or patent rights on medicine by giant pharmaceutical corporations. This is the issue on which this article focuses in relationship to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) treaty negotiations currently being held in highly secretive sessions and stacked with representative from big corporations. The title references the "stalling" tactics that the author argues is being used to avoid discussion of the adverse humanitarian effects that the treaty would cause.

This article also provides an excellent opportunity for readers to inform themselves more on the political tool called "fast track" authority that has been used by the executive branch of the US government to do an end-run around the Constitution. I recommend reading more about this subject here and here. The latter, from Wikipedia, provides a good summary of its provisions as follows:
Although Congress [according to the Constitution] can't explicitly transfer its powers to the executive branch, the 1974 trade promotion authority had the effect of delegating power to the executive, minimizing consideration of the public interest, and limiting the legislature's influence over the bill to an up or down vote:
  •     It allowed the executive branch to select countries for, set the substance of, negotiate and then sign trade agreements without prior Congressional approval.
  •     It allowed the executive branch to negotiate trade agreements covering more than just tariffs and quotas.
  •     It established a committee system, comprising 700 industry representatives appointed by the president, to serve as advisors to the negotiations. Throughout trade talks, these individuals had access to confidential negotiating documents. Most members of Congress and the public had no such access, and there were no committees for consumer, health, environmental or other public interests.
  •     It empowered the executive branch to author an agreement's implementing legislation without Congressional input.
  •     It required the executive branch to notify Congress 90 days before signing and entering into an agreement, but allowed unlimited time for the implementing legislation to be submitted.
  •     It forced a floor vote on the agreement and its implementing legislation in both chambers of Congress; the matters could not "die in committee."
  •     It eliminated several floor procedures, including Senate unanimous consent, normal debate and cloture rules, and the ability to amend the legislation.
  •     It prevented filibuster by limiting debate to 20 hours in each chamber.
  •     It elevated the Special Trade Representative (STR) to the cabinet level, and required the Executive Office to house the agency.
Once again we see that if the Constitution, Congress, or the Supreme Court gets in the way of the capital accumulation addiction of our ruling class, that the latter will always find ways of working around these obstructions. Now with a Supreme Court stacked with neo-conservatives, they no longer are impeded by that body.

A popular anti-guerrilla force

Click here to access article by Thierry Meyssan from VoltaireNet
In guerrilla warfare, the victory belongs to those who have the support of the population. This is why Syria has recently formed popular militias to hold back the Contras supported by the West and the Gulf monarchies. In three months, the result is spectacular: the areas where local militias are already operating have been stabilized.
After reading this, can you see some reasons why there are leftists in the US who oppose gun control measures?

How the Postal Service Is Being Gutted

Click here to access article by James Royal from The Motley Fool.

It's clear that the Postal Service is the latest public entity to fall victim to neoliberal strategies to privatize the world. However, the author from this investment advisory website appears to live in a world constructed by capitalist propagandists when he asserts the following:
If capitalism is about delivering the best goods and services at the cheapest prices -- and not about plutocrats wringing profits from the rest of us -- then why is the USPS being forced to slowly kill itself?

The privatization of public assets is something we've seen over and over and it rarely, if ever, works for the public. The example of Chicago parking meters is just repeated time and again. With a strong profit motive, private companies are highly incentivized to cut service to the bone and raise revenues as fast as possible. That's not in the interest of good public service, where the origins of the post office are.

Monday, March 4, 2013

The financial aristocracy and the growth of working class struggle

Click here to access article by Andre Damon and Joseph Kishore from World Socialist Web Site
For 30 years, the American ruling class has built up its wealth through a process of financialization, in which the productive forces of the economy were steadily undermined. This process led to the Wall Street collapse of 2008, which has become the occasion for an even more frenzied orgy of speculation.
Meanwhile, "back at the ranch" of real working Americans, budgets cuts are automatically occurring which will further adversely impact their lives already hurting from the collapse of the real economy.

Debt Trial of the Century: NML Capital, LTD. v. Republic of Argentina

Click here to access article by Eric LeCompte and Bhumika Muchhala from MR Zine.

The brief article includes a 4:18m video which provides a concise explanation of vulture funds and how they function to intimate national governments into agreeing to pay onerous debts incurred by past leaders. 

This Western capitalist racket was so well explained by one its participants, John Perkins in his Confessions of an Economic Hit Man. Government leaders can rather easily assume debts on behalf of their nations through all kinds of direct or indirect bribes, and then leave their citizens saddled with paying off these debts for many years. 

If after viewing the video, you wish to gain more information on this racket, I recommend this report from the University of Iowa entitled, "What Is a Vulture Fund?".

North Korea and the United States: Will the Real Aggressor Please Stand Down?

Click here to access article by Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers from Truthout

Americans for the most part are completely uninformed about US-Korean history, and in particular, the Korean War. This is an outstanding brief article on this history and provides an excellent context for understanding present relations between the two governments. It also provides links to additional material.

If you wish to know more, I can't recommend enough a more thorough history of US-Korean relations in the 20th century than the two volumes by Bruce Cumings The Origins of the Korean War. If you don't have time to read both, be sure to read volume 1. This book more than any other single book I've read was a real "eye-opener".

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Draft Assessment of Tar Sands Pipeline “Devastatingly Cynical”

Click here to access article by Carey L. Biron from Inter Press Service
Particularly troubling in the new assessment is the State Department’s conclusion that the pipeline would be “unlikely to have a substantial impact on the rate of development” in the tar sands. This important contention appears to be undercut by widespread analysis, particularly from Canada’s oil and gas industry itself.