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, October 19, 2013

Economic democracy is the solution to global warming

Click here to access article by Al Engler from New Commune-ist Manifesto (Canada).

For those people who are not sufficiently motivated by concerns of social justice, this author provides excellent arguments for concerns about preventing climate disasters and the necessity for economic democracy as a solution.
When everyone is equally entitled, communities will focus on meeting human needs, on providing employment and social services, on sustaining and improving the quality of present and future life. Instead of focusing on what is the most profitable, communities—responsible to all equally—would aim to balance employment opportunities with available labor. Public revenues would be balanced with needed social services. Imports would be balanced with exports. Industrial activity would be deliberately limited to the carrying capacity of environments.

Beyond Savage Politics and Dystopian Nightmares

Click here to access article by Henry A. Giroux from Uncommon Thought Journal

I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with this author's writings. I admire his writing abilities and his dramatic critiques of existing society. However, I also sense in his lengthy rants about the deterioration of contemporary society either an intellectual cowardliness or a deliberate attempt to co-opt anti-capitalists and lead them back safely to the fold of supporting a capitalist organization of society, albeit a kinder, gentler form of capitalism. I have not yet reached a final conclusion, but I often fear that it may be the latter which is essentially the characteristic of intellectual "gatekeeping" employed by intellectuals who consciously or unconsciously promote deceptive views that buttress the system of capitalism and the rule of society by its capitalist beneficiaries. 

I make this claim based on the following key excerpts from his article which is very representative of all his writings. My analysis follows the quotes.
What kind of society emerges when it is governed by the market-driven assumption that the only value that matters is exchange value....

What happens to democracy when a government inflicts on the American public narrow market-driven values, corporate relations of power and policies that impose gross inequities on society....

Evidence of the decay of American democracy....
In the above paragraphs he obliquely refers ("market-driven") to the ill effects of capitalist values, but assigns the fault in the second paragraph to the "government". The third paragraph suggests that we have enjoyed some kind of genuine democracy in the past. 
Witness the almost-hysterical displays of public anger by Sens. John McCain and Lindsay Graham over President Barack Obama's decision to avert bombing Syria in favor of a diplomatic solution. State violence is now the sanctioned norm of rule in a society in which political fanatics, such as Ted Cruz, Paul Ryan and Sen. Marco Rubio define policy according to a friend/enemy distinction and in doing so transform politics into an extension of war. Unrelenting in their role as archetypes of the hyper-dead, the Tea Party fanatics and their gutless allies spectacularize hatred and trade in fear, lies and misinformation while trying to hold the American public and the government hostage to their fanatical market-driven principles.
They are the face of the emerging counter-revolution taking over the nation - an updated and kinder version of the fascist brownshirts now dressed in suits carrying black briefcases and living in guarded communities. They are the dark angels of violence, and they trade in the mass psychology of fear and hate. They despise compromise and live by a take-no-prisoners political sensibility. They want to eliminate any vestiges of the government that provide social protections.

...they [the right-wing] also want to shut down the government and strip the American public of health care benefits while consolidating power in the hands of a party that, as former President Jimmy Carter pointed out, removed America from the pretense of being a functioning democracy.[viii] But they are not alone.

Casino capitalism and its right-wing apostles lack any sense of ethics or respect for the social contract and spew feverishly an endless rhetoric of hate and vile over the airwaves.
In the above paragraphs he presents Democratic officials as good guys, and the right-wing as the bad guys or "evil-doers" (a borrowed term from George Bush, Jr.) Also, notice in the last paragraph that he identifies the system as "casino capitalism". Throughout his writings you will see such expressions ("narrow market-driven values", "fanatical market-driven principles", "right-wing market fundamentalists", "market society", "market economy", "market authoritarianism", "global capitalism" , and frequently throws in references to "neo-liberalism", which serve to paint him as a radical, that is, someone who espouses a need to fundamentally organize the economy, which is at the very center of society, according to very different principles. 
There are some who suggest that such critiques of the growing authoritarianism and repression in American society are useless and in the long run do nothing more than reinforce a crippling dystopianism. I think this line of argument is not only wrong but complicitous with the very problems it refuses to acknowledge. From a left suffocating in cynicism, there is the argument that people are already aware of these problems, as if neoliberal hegemony does not exist and that its success in building a consensus around its ideology as a mode of common sense is passé. At the same time, liberals detest such criticism because it calls into question the totality of American politics rather than focus on one issue and gestures toward a radical restructuring of American society rather than piecemeal and useless reforms.
Here he again portrays himself as a radical by criticizing liberals who he accurately describes as mostly wanting to focus on particular issues instead of the system.
The enemy is not a market economy but a market society and the breakdown of all forms of social solidarity that inform democratic politics and the cultural, political and economic institutions that make it possible.
In this brief and isolated sentence he finally gives an indication of what he really believes in: a kinder, gentler, capitalist system; the kind that contains remnants of a "social contract" (see my comments regarding this subject here.): a thin layer of social welfare to mitigate the most egregious effects of capitalism, and rule of law to protect citizens against arbitrary rule of authorities. This is what people often refer to as "liberal capitalism" or even "liberalism" in the classical sense. 

The latter was essentially the propaganda component used by early capitalists who fought against restrictions imposed on their activities by monarchical-aristocratic rulers. It was sold to other classes as freedom in general from government authority in order to gain support in their struggle to overturn the existing ruling class and become the new ruling class. After becoming the ruling class, capitalists have been to some extent saddled with this liberal propaganda ever since and have been forced to pay lip service to it. It's only now that right-wing capitalists want to totally do away with this notion and such socially funded programs in order to fund their Empire ambitions. As for "rule of law", I don't think I need to argue that it has been revealed as a sham. Mostly the new capitalist class has used extensive indoctrination and control of information generally to counter any misgivings that their subjects might have about the actual self-serving rule of the capitalist class.
The contradictions of neoliberalism are unraveling....

There is a need for a systemic alternative to the existing system of global capitalism. But such an alternative will not happen unless the courage to take power is matched by the pedagogical imperative to address and inform a new cultural imaginary and mode of individual subjectivity and agency. Getting to the root of the problems facing the United States suggests building broad-based social movements that can imagine some form of democratic control over wealth, the use of direct action to challenge dominant economic institutions, the reclaiming of public spaces where the formative cultures of democracy can flourish, a need to shift resources away from militarization and wars to the needs of children and everyone else who believes that equality and democracy inform and enrich each other.

Judith Butler is right in arguing that any viable movement for a radical democracy needs not only to fight manufactured ignorance, economic inequality and racial injustice but also "produce a community that manifests the values of equality and mutual respect ... missing in a world that's structured by neoliberal principles."
Here again he targets "neoliberalism" in place of capitalism, and elevates it to a separate system. And, "getting to the root of the problems" means building movements to gain "some form of democratic control over wealth". Here he again reveals that he only wants a reformed capitalism which in the last paragraph he describes as a "radical democracy"!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Will China ‘de-Americanize’ the world?

Click here to access article by Pepe Escobar from RT

From all the mainstream media coverage which portrays the Tea Party Republicans as evil doers (even while they and their ruling class fund them) and thus sidestep the issue of increasing out-of-control government debt, it's clear to me where the core of the ruling class has positioned itself. They are caught in the spiraling debt game to finance their Empire maintenance expenses. While sticking more debt on the shoulders of American taxpayers, they also are intent on cutting all public expenditures such as health and welfare to Americans. So, they have set-up the evil-doers to blame for the cutbacks while portraying the Obama administration as the good-guys. Sooner or later, however, the public austerity measures will increase the pressure on ordinary Americans who are already under considerable stress. Meanwhile, there will be no cutbacks to Empire military adventures, government surveillance, and local police forces.

The directors of the ruling class went down this debt path many years ago due to the huge expenditures for the Vietnam War, particularly the funding of the "guns and butter" policies of the Lyndon Johnson administration. As this war was winding down, Nixon in 1971 was forced to unilaterally and radically disengage from the 1944 Bretton Woods agreement which established the gold-based US dollar as a world reserve currency. 

Then, compounding the problem was the stampede by US corporations to take advantage of cheap labor in other countries when technological advances made this possible.
The corporate US response to the rising cost of labor in the West plus automated mass production was to transfer practically the whole American industrial base to China, thus multiplying its profits (and in most cases paying for the delocalization through tax breaks).

In the long run, Asia could not but win. Washington tried all sorts of monetary scams to slow the decline. To no avail; productivity kept falling in the West and rising in Asia.

And then the Federal Reserve kept printing paper like there’s no tomorrow, buying bad debts from ‘too big to fail’ banks and US Treasuries, and thus funding Washington’s ballooning spending.

Freedom of the Press Foundation Launches SecureDrop, an Open-Source Submission Platform for Whistleblowers

Click here to access article by Trevor Timm and Rainey Reitman from Freedom of the Press Foundation.

There are occasionally small victories that activists achieve in the growing police state called the USA. This is one of them. The San Francisco based group has developed a means of securely and anonymously supplying information to media outlets that use their software program. Now that the government is on a rampage to persecute dissidents who reveal state crimes against the people (see this and this), this internet activist group is fighting back.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Big business allowed to precook climate negotiations behind closed doors – for the foreseeable future

Click here to access article from Corporate Europe Observatory.

I'm posting this piece because it provides an excellent illustration of a reformist or liberal take on the issue of dealing with climate catastrophe (euphemistically known as "climate change"). Here the writer/writers complain about the fact that capitalist ("business") interests have far too much influence over climate talks under UN sponsorship (COPs). It is essentially a long rant that totally misses the real issue: the fact of global political control by capitalists. Therefore, it totally misses the only real solution: the construction of popular revolutionary movements all over the world.

What is the UN which sponsors these events? It is a world body filled with representatives from the world's nations, the vast majority of which, are run by capitalist elites. Capitalism cannot function without growth--nobody disputes this. As Kenneth Boulding, one of the earliest ecologically sensitive economists put it: "to believe that you can have unlimited growth in a finite world you have to be either a fool or an economist!" Therefore, they simply must continue to use available cheap energies, which are fossil fuels, to keep a system, which provides them with so much power and profit, going until it destroys our human habitat. Nuclear energy is completely out of the question as Colin Todhunter explains in "A future that's not nuclear".

We have no choice. If we want to survive as humans on a healthy planet, it is imperative that we begin immediately to construct a worldwide revolutionary movement to overturn the capitalist system and replace it with one that is genuinely democratic and compatible with the Earth's ecosystem.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Two American epochs: Growing Together 1947-1979 and Growing Apart 1979-2012 (charts)

Click here to access article by David Ruccio from Real-World Economics Review Blog

The charts have been designed by an economist, and as such will require a bit of study to see some rather startling differences between two post-war periods. It appears that the dramatic changes in income by percentile groups radically changed after neo-conservatives took over leadership in the ruling class starting in 1981 under the Reagan administration which promoted reduced tax rates for the rich, attacked unions, promoted deregulation of the economy (sold as "trickle down economics"), and began the development of a police state infrastructure under the cover of the War on Drugs (see this, this, and this). 

Liberals would like to view the social-economic events after 1979 as some kind of aberration in the system of capitalism. I see it in part as only a natural evolution in its dynamics which rewards only a tiny segment of the population--those who "own" all significant economic enterprises. But, I also see the rise of capitalist rightwing agendas as retaliation against the American populace for their opposition to the Vietnam War and their support of the Civil Rights Movement.

Obamacare and the assault on workers’ health benefits

Click here to access article by Kate Randall and Barry Grey from World Socialist Web Site
The essential aim of the ACA is rapidly emerging. Behind the talk of providing coverage for the uninsured, Obamacare was devised from the outset as a means of dismantling the employer-based system of health insurance that for decades guaranteed a basic level of health care for tens of millions of workers in the US. While Obama’s counter-reform will still leave some 31 million people uninsured, it will dramatically reduce health care costs for private and public employers by hiking workers’ out-of-pocket costs and slashing their benefits.

Oceans on the brink of ecological collapse

Click here to access article by Simon Butler from Climate & Capitalism.
In late September, many mainstream media outlets gave substantial coverage to the UN’s new report on the climate change crisis, which said the Earth’s climate is warming faster than at any point in the past 65 million years and that human activity is the cause. It was disappointing, though not surprising, that news reports dried up after only a few days.

But another major scientific study, released a week later and including even graver warnings of a global environmental catastrophe, was mostly ignored altogether. The marine scientists that released the State of the Ocean 2013 report on October 3 gave the starkest of possible warnings about the impact of carbon pollution on the oceans....

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Empire Under Obama, Part 2: Barack Obama's Global Terror Campaign

Click here to access article by Andrew Gavin Marshall from The Hampton Institute
A major facet of Obama's foreign policy strategy has been the implementation of an unprecedented global terror war with flying killer robots ("drones") operated by remote control. By 2011, the Washington Post reported that no president in U.S. history "has ever relied so extensively on the secret killing of individuals to advance the nation's security goals."
As you know if you have followed my blog, I would never attribute the nation's foreign or domestic policies to Obama or to most other presidents since Kennedy. Obama is merely the Empire's current public relations officer or super-salesman whose job is to sell the Empire directors' policies to the American people. In his role as public relations officer for the ruling One Percen, he has performed his role splendidly.  

The ruling class learned with George H. W. Bush, who was a member of the Directorate (The informal circle of people in the One Percent ruling class, primarily from the financial sector, who directly influence government foreign and domestic policies, manage the electoral systems. and appoint trusted members to key positions in the government such as the CIA, the Supreme Court, and Secretary of the Treasury.), that they needed to appoint people with some charm and sales skills for this top position in the government. George Bush Jr. was a part of the ruling Bush clan, but unfortunately he was not bright enough to influence policies. (It was widely known that Vice President Dick Cheney was far more influential.) However, Bush Jr. had great appeal to a cross-section of Americans who like people like themselves, and because of this he was appointed to the position.

Next Step In Dismantling The Dollar And US Credit Hegemony

Click here to access article by Wolf Richter from his blog Testosterone Pit.

There have been increasing calls from various foreign economic figures (Chinese are the most vocal, but also the Russians) to establish a new international currency for use in international trade. In this piece the author reports on a concrete development to promote this change. Such a change could have revolutionary consequences for the hegemony of the US Empire. 

Given the abuses of the present world reserve currency by Empire directors, changes are, of course, justified--but what are the implications? 

As I've argued before, the status of the US dollar as a safe-haven is at stake for the Empire without which the Empire couldn't exist. Empire directors sell US government paper to some extent like the Mafia use disguised threats to get protection money. Up till now, because Empire directors have been able to use the threat of violence against any adversary, the world's capitalists have purchased US government securities in order to safely store their ill-gotten wealth. (See also this piece entitled "Empire Under Obama, Part 1: Political Language and the 'Mafia Principles' of International Relations" by Andrew Gavin Marshall.)

However, as this author points out, other nations are now becoming powerful and don't like the way US capitalists are destabilizing the world economy with their reckless gambling on steroids made possible by the new derivative-types of financial instruments. Because rulers of other nations have accepted these US government securities for such a long time, our ruling class directors have caused our nation to be deeply in debt to these nations. Do you see where this might be going?  Well, Colin Todhunter does:
In order to sustain its empire, US aggression is effectively pushing the world into different camps and a new cold war that could well turn into a nuclear conflict given  that Russia, China and Pakistan all have nuclear weapons.

The US economy appears to be in terminal decline. The only way to prop it up is by lop-sided trade agreements or by waging war to secure additional markets and resources and to ensure the dollar remains the world reserve currency. Humankind is currently facing a number of serious problems. But, arguably, an empire in decline armed to the teeth with both conventional and nuclear weapons and trapped in a cycle of endless war in what must surely be a futile attempt to stave off ruin is the most serious issue of all.

Blowing the Whistle on the New York Fed and Goldman Sachs

Click here to access article by Pam Martens from Wall Street on Parade.

This brief story illustrates where real power lies in our nation--and, it's not with "the people" as you were taught in school. It also illustrates that no matter how many regulations and regulators this nation has, it won't matter to those who rule behind the scenes of official government.
There are a number of interesting aspects to the lawsuit filed by Carmen M. Segarra against the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and three of its employees. Segarra was a bank examiner at the New York Fed who is charging in her lawsuit that she was told to change her negative review of Goldman Sachs and when she refused to do so, she was terminated in retaliation and escorted from the Fed premises.

Sequesters, Shutdowns and Defaults

Click here to access article by Stephen Zarlenga from Huffington Post.

If it is true, as I believe, that the core of any capitalist ruling class are its financial/banking people, then this otherwise brilliant idea will go nowhere under the existing system. It will take a revolution by the people who must take real democratic control of the economy to effect the changes to the money supply and the Fed which he proposes. 

Another shortcoming is that Zarlenga, in his enthusiasm for this new arrangement, does not see the threat of dramatic climate changes and increasing cost of diminishing resources. However, his valid conception of money goes a long way to demystifying what money is. I highly recommend his book.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Multi-Trillion Dollar Question: How Much of Our Debt Is Odious?

Click here to access article by Don Quijones from Raging Bull-Shit.
In international law, odious debt is a legal theory that holds that the national debt incurred by a regime for purposes that do not serve the best interests of the nation shouldn’t be enforceable. Such debts are hence regarded as personal debts of the regime that incurred them and not debts of the state.
This sort of argument to abrogate many sovereign debts is a part of a broader movement to solve the many debt crises popping up all over the world, and thus to reform and save the capitalist system. The most outspoken exponent of this movement appears to be the Committee for the Abolition of Third World Debt (CADTM).

Another exponent of cancellation of sovereign debts as a solution to correct the dysfunctional capitalist system is Michael Hudson who nevertheless offers some useful insights on how debts are used as weapons. Read my July posting of his article entitled "The Weaponization of Economic Theory" in which I quote an excerpt from his article.

I think such proponents of sovereign debt cancellation are entirely sincere about creating some measure of social justice in the world, but their goal of abolishing debts to impoverished countries can be realized at best for only the most extreme cases given the existing system of global capitalist rule. 

Debts, especially sovereign debts is one of the main instruments of imperial control for the US Empire and a major source of wealth for the Empire's One Percent in a world of diminishing resources and ever increasing costs of fossil fuels to drive capitalist economies.

The Cause of the Student Debt Crisis: Corporate Control of our Political and Economic Systems

Click here to access article by Joseph Schwartz from Democratic Socialists of America.

This piece is essentially a liberal take on the student debt crisis. It only probes the causes of the crisis to a level acceptable to the ruling class: a defunding of education because of neo-conservative ("neoliberal") views on good governance that started around 1982 (Reagan administration) and the mis-allocation of income from lower and middle classes to the upper income class. These are effects, not the causes. Yes, the author throws in words like "corporate control" and "neoliberal capitalism" but he doesn't explain how the effects are caused by the system. All this inevitably leads to his politically safe conclusion:
The student debt crisis will only be solved when we, the people, force the government to serve our needs.
By only targeting the government, he suggests more letters to your Congressional representatives, petitions, voting in elections, and maybe even protest marches will do the trick. 

I only post such a piece because it, like tons of other articles, will only serve to lead people away from questioning the system of capitalism, and thereby perpetuating its rule over our lives. As such, it is a clever piece of gatekeeping propaganda, whether consciously done or not, that uses radical-sounding words while staying safely within discourse acceptable to the capitalist ruling class.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Our Oil Problems are Not Over!

Click here to access article by Gail Tverberg from her blog Our Finite World.

This author has done a considerable amount of research on this topic and I always find her articles very clarifying with regard to the issues related to "peak oil". She continues to argue that the vanishing cheap access to fossil fuels portends major problems for the economy. Although I've never read where she has ever considered changing the economic system, I think we can gather considerable insights from her writing in the context of a capitalist system continuing indefinitely. 

I've also have never read any concern in her writings about the harmful effects of the continuing use of fossil fuels to the environment and climate. But setting the latter concern aside, if we just consider the long term (next several decades) problems for the economy posed by the continued reliance on fossil fuels, we can see from the evidence and arguments that she presents many other profound problems that will occur to the system of capitalism itself.
Now we are faced with what looks like an unsolvable problem. We need a cheap oil substitute, yesterday. The stories we heard saying, “Substitutes will work when the oil price rises high enough,” were a bunch of nonsense. The folks who came up with this idea didn’t realize what a negative impact high oil prices have on the economy. A high-priced substitute for oil is not at all helpful. Neither is one with huge transition costs.
Without a substitute, we need to figure out how to live in a very changed world, one facing financial collapse–a very difficult problem indeed. 

On being shit-canned

Click here to access article from Recomposition

This piece brings into focus a form of terrorism that is always present in worker environments. It is so much a part of our work experience that we sometimes fail to even recognize it. It's so engrained in our consciousness that it is hard to imagine other methods of management and discipline. And, if by chance we are placed in positions of authority, we tend to behave the same way toward those we supervise--not only because our jobs depend on it, but because we often see such hierarchical behavior as normal. People who have internalized such hierarchical norms are required in a system in which a few people on top control everything of importance.

It's like water that fish swim in or the (polluted) air we breath, it is ubiquitous, and we often aren't even conscious of it. But the fact is, we work daily with this threat to our lives and it shapes our behavior so that we remain tolerant of conditions of exploitation and abuse while producing goods and services that may have harmful effects to us or others, or the environment. It is the primary method that capitalists use to insure that we continue to serve their interests of profits and power. 

All worker wage-slaves have had to deal with this throughout the reign of private ownership of the social economy, otherwise known as capitalism.

Your fired!

Workers often say that the fear of firings is one of the main reasons it’s so hard to get people to fight back. The power that bosses hold over workers through firings can put them on the curb for standing up. This fear is often unspoken, but present everyday in our workplaces. This piece we share explores how truly arbitrary that power is and its effects. When bosses can hurt us and sometimes ruin lives without any reason at all, it also reminds us why we need to organize.