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, August 29, 2015

Europe in Free Fall

Click here to access article by "The Saker" from The Unz Review.

The author offers a view from a European perspective and the European failure to cope effectively with many of their problems.
The sad reality is simple: the EU is a US colony, run by US puppets who are simply unable to stand up for basic and obvious European interests.

Up until the late 1980s, there used to be some more or less “real” opposition “Left” parties in Europe. In fact, Italy and France the Communists almost came to power. But as soon as the Soviet system collapsed, all the European opposition parties either vanished or were rapidly co-opted by the system. And, just as in the US, former Trotskysts became Neocons almost overnight. As a result, Europe lost the little opposition it had to the Anglo-Zionist Empire and became a “politically pacified” land. What the French call “la pensée unique” or the “single thought” has now triumphed, at least if one judges by the corporate media.

Black-out on tobacco's access to EU trade talks an eerie indication of TTIP threat

Click here to access article from Corporate Europe Observatory.

This European corporate watchdog have discovered that not only are the TTIP negotiations (the neoliberal trade agreement affecting Europe and the US) done in secret (held with corporate representatives, but hidden from the public), but documents related to these negotiations are heavily redacted from public representatives that are allowed access to the documents.

Looting Made Easy: the $2 Trillion Buyback Binge

Click here to access article by Mike Whitney from CounterPunch.

Whitney fills us in on a story missing from mainstream media: what the recent plunge in stock prices really mean for the pensions of retired people and those looking forward to retirement.The practice of gambling with pension funds is only another illustration of the predatory nature of capitalist class rule that hides behind a pseudo-democratic facade.
Corporations are taking the retirement savings of elderly public employees and using them to inflate their stock prices so wealthy CEOs and their shareholders can enrich themselves at the expense of their companies. And it’s all completely legal. Under current financial regulations, corporate bosses are free to repurchase their own company’s shares, push stock prices into the stratosphere, skim off a generous bonuses for themselves in the form of executive compensation, and leave their companies drowning in red ink.

Even worse, a sizable portion of the money devoted to stock buybacks is coming from  “massively underfunded public pension” funds that retired workers depend on for their survival.

Big Easy to Big Empty: The Untold Story of the Drowning of New Orleans

Click here to access this introduction to a free (but asking for donations) 25 minute video made by independent investigative journalist Greg Palast.

The film is an antidote to all the corporate produced coverage of the Katrina disaster that happened 10 years ago. Corporate executives hired by the ruling capitalist class don't want you to know the gross corruption and racism of their government. Instead, they want you to be inspired as well as misinformed by all the recovery that has occurred since the disaster. I also noticed that the recovery they are celebrating in ruling class media (NBC-TV, CBS-TV, ABC-TV, NPR, PBS) all reference work done not by the government, but by non-profit enterprises organized by ordinary people. 

And, of course, they exaggerate the amount of recovery work that has been done, but worst of all, they omit coverage of the government's poor construction of the levees (which was well known by engineers), the government's lack of post-Katrina recovery operations, and the destruction of an entire community, many of whom still remained scattered all over the country. This film tells a significant part of the real story missing from mainstream media: an unnecessary disaster laced with racism and capitalist exploitation.

Friday, August 28, 2015

China Rails Linking Eurasia

Click here to access article by F. William Engdahl from New Eastern Outlook

This American geopolitical analyst, who has lived in Germany for decades and has recently made several trips to China, gives us a report on the high-tech development of rail technology which appears to be the backbone for what many analysts have labeled as a grand "New Silk Road project" linking Asia with Europe. The Empire directors consider this as a direct challenge to their control of world, and thus it presents a dangerous threat of moving beyond a new cold war into a nuclear conflagration.
What is most impressive to me in my many visits to China over the past years is the extraordinary sense of doing things, of their countless building projects, something we in the West long ago had forgotten about in our post-industrial fantasy world. This drive to change their physical surroundings is emerging with impressive scale around President Xi Jinping’s highest-priority, the so-called One Belt, One Road Eurasian high-speed rail project.

China today has the world’s longest High-Speed Railway network with over 16,000 km (9,900 mi) of track as of December 2014, more than the rest of the world’s high speed rail tracks combined. China’s high speed rail system also includes the world’s longest line, the 2,298 km (1,428 mi) Beijing–Guangzhou High-Speed Railway. In short, China knows what it is doing in railways more than pretty much anybody and they are acting on that knowledge.
This development may also herald a new phase in China's development from a low cost factory for world into an export driven high-tech economy.
The image of millions of Chinese sweating away in low-paid textile labor for cheap exports is rapidly passing as the government’s current five-year plan aims to make China an exporter of high-net-value-added industrial and technology products. Rails are at the center of that strategy.
What is remarkable is that many Western economic analysts blame their recent hysteria-driven market collapse on China's economic slump.  Reliable independent journalist and geopolitical analysts like Pepe Escobar sees China's recent economic decline and market drop as only a temporary correction to an overheated Chinese market while also revealing the unstable nature of the West's economies that are based on neoliberal policies.

Migrant crisis in Europe: Who caused it?

Click here to access article by the editor from Workers World.
The corporate media’s coverage omits the back story. Why? Because this story exposes the role of imperialism and the major imperialist countries. 

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Assemblies for Democracy: A Theoretical Framework

Click here to access article by Richard Gunn, R.C. Smith and Adrian Wilding from Assemblies for Democracy (Britain).

In their actions against the Greeks, capitalist leaders in the Eurozone have inadvertently taught many activists all over the world that even the largely fake version of capitalist "democracy" doesn't matter when it conflicts with the interests of international capitalists. It was a wake-up call to all those activists who thought that working within the existing system could bring ameliorative relief from neoliberal austerity policies. This has invigorated many activists to study more radical solutions to the rule of international capitalists in this new neoliberal stage of capitalism. This article is an illustration of this kind of effort.
General elections are top-down events: attention focuses on political parties and their leaders. Personalities and success or failure move centre-stage. Policies get a mention, but are assessed like moves in a game of chess. Can this top-down perspective be reversed? Can a form of politics be found which retains a grassroots or ‘bottom-up’ emphasis?

In these notes, we attempt to do two things. We explain why, in our view, this question is important. And we explore challenges that a grassroots politics must face.

The Zapatistas on Elections and a Look Toward the Capitalist Hydra

Click here to access article by Zapatistas from Upside Down World

From reading this piece by the Zapatistas, it is clear that the rest of the world's activists have much to learn about participating in capitalist elections, self-governing, and bottom-up political structures from these people in Chiapas, Mexico.

Referring to naive leftist activists and reformers in their area, they say this:
You can see that they don’t realize that that if they get rid of the bad parts of capitalism, then it won’t be capitalism. And I’m going to tell you why: because capitalism is the exploitation of man by man, of the many by the few. Even if they include women, it’s the same. ....

But there are more than the two ways that they describe (the armed path and the electoral path) to get into government. They forget that the government can also be bought (or they’ve already forgotten how Peña Nieto got there?) And not only that, but perhaps they’ve also forgotten that it’s possible to rule without being in government.

If these people say that it’s only possible with weapons or with elections, the only thing that they’re actually saying is that they don’t know their history, that they haven’t studied well, that they have no imagination, and that they have no shame.

It would be enough for them to see just a little of what happens below. But their necks are already cramped from looking up so much.

That is why we, the Zapatistas, don’t get tired of saying organize yourselves, let’s organize ourselves, each person where they are, let’s struggle to organize ourselves, let’s work to organize ourselves, let’s begin by thinking about how to start to organize and let’s gather together in order to unite our organizations for a world where the people command and the government obeys.

Cracks in Correísmo?

Click here to access article by Alejandra Santillana Ortíz & Jeffrey R. Webber from Jacobin

Political observers on the left especially have portrayed much of South American politics has moving in an independent, leftward course from controlling influences of the US. In recent years there have been some disturbing signs that the countries leading this progressive movement (Ecuador, Bolivia, and Venezuela) have stalled and actually have moved in a rightward direction toward emphasis on extractive industries, export crops, and other compromises with international and domestic capitalist interests. 

The authors of this piece appear to have captured the complexities of politics in these countries with special focus on Ecuador. This is in sharp contrast to the views expressed by some left political observers such as the view expressed by the peripatetic political observer Andre Vltchek who visited Ecuador earlier this summer and came away with a right-wing backed by Empire subversion scenario. The authors of this article refute this simple "color revolution" perspective. Referring to an opposition march that was held earlier this month, the authors of this article write:
The accusation by the government that this march is trying to overthrow Correa is pure alarmism. Sections of the Right are probably thinking about this. The Left understands that what they need to do in this moment is to position themselves, to recover the political initiative.

The government is receiving ideological support from international organizations like Intellectuals in Defense of Humanity, including prominent Latin American left figures such as Marta Harnecker and Atilio Borón. The idea they have is to come out consistently in favor of progressive Latin American government because of the threat of imperialism. And it’s true that there is external financing directed to the domestic Ecuadorian right. I don’t doubt this whatsoever.

But it’s myopic to believe that the dynamics of Ecuador are determined by this financing, and that popular social organizations in this country are merely puppets of some external force, without their own capacities to enter into political struggles.

I think there is still important work to be done in terms of unveiling what kind of government Correa represents.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Smoke and Mirrors

Click here if you wish to access the transcript of this interview with Michael Hudson conducted by the Real News Network and posted on Hudson's website.

So the problem is in the real economy, not the financial economy. But Lawrence Summers and the Federal Reserve all of a sudden say look, we don’t care about the real economy. We care about the stock market. And what you’ve seen in the last few years, two years I’d say, of the stock run-up, is something unique. For the first time the central banks of America, even Switzerland and Europe, are talking about the role of the central bank is to inflate asset prices. Well, the traditional reason for central banks that they gave is to stop inflation. And yet now they’re trying to inflate the stock market. The Federal Reserve has been trying to push up the stock market purely by financial engineering, by making this low interest rate and quantitative easing.
Hudson made the startling claim that Summers and the Fed don't care about the real economy (or the society in which it is embedded) and that they just want to make easy money gambling at their casinos.  But wait...haven't we been told by all kinds of authority figures in schools, media, entertainment--actually everywhere--that when capitalists make money, we all benefit? Could it be that all these honorable, upright people were stupid or even lying? (sarcasm)

You may also be interested in a longer interview with Hudson on the Democracy Now! show in which he made similar comments about the recent Wall Street stock slump and touched on other subjects such as China's economy and political candidates running in US elections. Hudson in the last paragraph suggests that capitalists (he refers to them as financiers) control our government, that elections don't matter. Shocking! (sarcasm)
...you have Wall Street people basically running politics, whether they’re the actual politicians—Obama didn’t work on Wall Street, but he worked with the real estate families. No matter who the president is, they’re going to appoint Treasury heads and Fed, Federal Reserve, heads from Wall Street. Wall Street has a veto power on all the major Cabinet positions, and so, essentially, the economy is being run by the financial sector for the financial sector. That’s the problem with politics in America today. 

Iraq War General Ray Odierno Cashing In With New Job at JPMorgan Chase

Click here to access article by Murtaza Hussain from The Intercept

Here we see the latest example of how integrated the military-industrial-financial complex is at the nerve center of the Empire. This US war criminal, instead of facing a war crimes trial, is being rewarded with an important job with a leading financial institution. Never mind that his actions created millions of Iraqi refugees and many deaths in the illegal invasion of Iraq. This is a continuing lesson to other generals: follow the diktats of the capitalist class directorate and you will be rewarded regardless if they consist of war crimes.
Odierno rose to become U.S. Army chief of staff in 2011, and in that role was a consistent public critic of plans by the Obama administration to draw down troop levels from their post-9/11 peaks. He has also been a steadfast defender of the original decision to invade Iraq, stating earlier this year that Saddam “was moving toward terrorism and I believe if he continued to have problems, we don’t know what he might have done in terms of being part of the problem with terrorism.”

Odierno is far from being the only top military official to retire and take on a high-level position with a private sector firm.
Meanwhile, "back at the ranch" where mostly ordinary citizens hang out, a few liberals who serve the capitalist class are getting upset that we are losing all our civil liberties which they thought were guaranteed by that piece of paper called the Constitution. Such people, like John Whitehead, are alarmed about the fascist direction in which the country is heading. In the following quote his use of "we" seems very ambiguous. Is he shaming ordinary people by declaring that "we" are at fault for this, or is he shaming the ruling class that he has served so faithfully?
...not only are we developing a new citizenry incapable of thinking for themselves, we’re also instilling in them a complete and utter reliance on the government and its corporate partners to do everything for them—tell them what to eat, what to wear, how to think, what to believe, how long to sleep, who to vote for, whom to associate with, and on and on.

In this way, we have created a welfare state, a nanny state, a police state, a surveillance state, an electronic concentration camp—call it what you will, the meaning is the same: in our quest for less personal responsibility, a greater sense of security, and no burdensome obligations to each other or to future generations, we have created a society in which we have no true freedom.
Or maybe he wants to divert our attention away from the class nature of our society by suggesting that we all live in an egalitarian society in which we all participate equally in creating the conditions of our society. 

Visual of Global Military Expenditures

Click here to access article by Robert Barsocchini from his blog Empire Slayer.

Global Military Expenditures

I believe that the huge US military establishment is also a major factor propping up the value of the dollar, in addition to the US's Mafia-like arrangement with Saudi Arabia and vassals to sell their oil only in US dollars in return for US protection. After all, if you were a major capitalist or head of an oil producing medieval kingdom with billions to guard, where else would you want to store your loot  than with the biggest capitalist bully in the world in the forms of US government and other securities?

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

US vs China: US-Backed Mobs Seek to Overthrow Malaysian Government

Click here to access article by Tony Cartalucci from Land Destroyer

This very astute geopolitical American analyst who is based in Bankok, Thailand has uncovered evidence that the US is trying to do another regime change in Malaysia in addition to neighboring Thailand.
Malaysia's Bersih movement is yet another example of so-called American "soft power" in action. The use of US-organized and funded street mobs to carry out political destabilization and regime change has likewise transpired in similar fashion in Thailand through the use of US-backed Thaksin Shinawatra and his "red shirt" street mobs, and in Myanmar with Aung San Suu Kyi and her legions of anti-Rohingya, violent "saffron monks."

The goal is to string together a united front across all of Asia with which to encircle and contain China's rise.

Central Banks Have Become A Corrupting Force

Click here to access article by Paul Craig Roberts and Dave Kranzler from Roberts' website.

Although the article is not dramatically revealing of new information, the co-author, Roberts, is so highly qualified to write on this issue that I am posting it. The authors' central argument illustrates how the ruling capitalist class, especially with their ownership/control of the US central bank, the Federal Reserve, can get around any legal restrictions in order to support their failure-prone system and keep it going. 

An American dystopia

Click here if you wish to access the post directly from Moon of Alabama

Monday, August 24, 2015

The battle for your hearts and minds in Fallujah

Click here to access article by Ross Caputi from Insurge Intelligence.

This author has a personal relationship to the subject he's writing about judging by the bio that is offered.
Ross Caputi is an anti-war activist and Iraq War veteran. He served as a US Marine from 2004 to 2006, including during the Sirst Siege of Fallujah in November 2004. He became openly critical of the military and was discharged in 2006.

Ross holds an MA in Linguistics and is on the Board of Directors of the Islah Reparations Project. He is the director of the documentary film, Fear Not the Path of Truth: a veteran’s journey after Fallujah, and has written for The Guardian, Truthout, and Middle East Eye, among others.
He introduces his subject by reporting on the current bombing of Fallujah, Iraq by both US and Iraqi air forces, and how this is being reported in US media. The rest of the article is devoted to explaining how information is presented to the American public by the military section of the Empire's capitalist class in order to manage their perceptions. By focusing on the current bombing of Fallujah and how this is being reported in mainstream media, Caputi contributes to the understanding of the highly developed techniques used on us to obtain our consent, or at least neutralize our opposition, to the Empire's criminal acts of war. Thus, this analysis might fall generally under the subject of management of consent/dissent that the classic book Manufacturing Consent by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky brought to the attention of activists in the late 1980s. 

And I notice this morning that others are following up on their work. I'm referring to a collaborative work entitled Managing Democracy Managing Dissent (2013) published by Corporate Watch a London based cooperative which is devoted to journalism, research and publishing. I especially like their book's introductory announcement which offers a broader perspective on these information management techniques that Caputi writes about and which contribute to the pervasive indoctrination efforts by the capitalist class in education, media, entertainment to manage what we think about their fake version of "democracy" .
Democracy was once considered a dangerous new idea and a threat to ruling elites. It brought to mind fearful images of oppressed masses demanding social and political equality. Fast forward to today and democracy is a key method by which the inequality and injustices of capitalism are legitimated and popular consent engineered. Despite the fact that capitalism can tolerate neither equal access to decision-making or truly open dissent, and in fact prioritises profit-making above all social or environmental concerns, we are nonetheless persuaded to believe that capitalism is, or at least can be, democratic. Now a new book – published by Corporate Watch – uncovers how this contradiction is sustained, and the anti-democratic rule of capitalism protected.

The volume includes examinations of the inherent contradiction between genuine democracy and corporate capitalism, the use of corporate media, the entertainment industry, and celebrity activists as propaganda vehicles, the attempts to co-opt and neutralise NGOs and social movements, the demonisation and repression of unco-opted dissent, and the imperialist agendas behind so-called 'democracy promotion' interventions.

The capitalist transformation of rural China: Evidence from “Agrarian Change in Contemporary China”

Click here to access article from Chuǎng

Because I have posted articles by Jeff Brown who is an American living in China and whose articles are very favorable toward the Chinese government and their control of capitalist operations (for example, see this), I am also looking for other perspectives on what is happening in China. While trying to discern where the authors were coming from I learned from the "About" section that the authors could be contacted at chuangcn@riseup.net. Riseup.net is an anarchist collective based in Seattle, but has participating members elsewhere. So, this suggests that the article takes an anarchist perspective. I've only had time to superficially scan the summaries of articles he writes about from the Journal of Agrarian Change which appears to be an international academic journal devoted to agricultural issues (see this and this).  
Despite so much attention being spent on the woes of the Chinese stock market and currency wars, in other fields the Chinese state continues its liberalizing reforms. Over the last few years the state has pushed forward with its attempt to scale-up and capitalize agriculture, and Li Keqiang recently argued for the need to “industrialize agriculture.”1 This has led to a debate concerning the character of rural social and production relations. Some continue to claim China is not a capitalist social formation, and rural China and its land system are taken as major pieces of evidence. But this stance can no longer be maintained. Chinese agriculture is undergoing a rapid transformation as it is subsumed by capitalism. In order to understand rural China and contemporary peasant conflicts, therefore, we need to focus our attention on the processes of agrarian change and class differentiation that capitalism brings to the rural sphere.
A recent special issue of the Journal of Agrarian Change (volume 15, issue 3, July 2015) makes this clear. The issue deals with “agrarian change” in China since the late 1970s and especially focuses on the increasing capitalist transformation of agriculture and rural society over the past decade. The eight articles offer new insights into the changing terrain of social and environmental antagonisms in China today, which have implications for how we conceive of anti-capitalist intervention there and elsewhere. Below we summarize points of interest from each article. In the forthcoming first issue of the Chuang journal, we elaborate on points raised here and relate them to other debates to draw out their political implications.

As 2015 smashes temperature records, it's hotter than you think

Click here to access article by David Spratt from Climate Code Red (based in Australia).

We in the Northwest of the United States are experiencing record temperatures, a lack of rainfall, and numerous wildfires. I've been breathing smoky air during the last few days as the smoke from the wildfires in eastern Washington state drifts to the west over the Cascade mountains. Nearby fisheries which have already been harmed by the warm temperatures are causing unusual effects on sea life. Severe restrictions have been placed on harvesting of sea life, an important industry in Puget Sound. Of course, this not the only place that this is happening--it's a global phenomenon.
Yes, it is a strong El Nino period, and it may drop back for a short while, but 2016 could be just as hot and we may be entering a new phase of accelerated warming.
I agree. I think that we are only witnessing the first stage of a runaway climate. I'm no climate scientist, but I have been following scientific reports on climate change--rather than corporate media reports--and I sense that climate feedback loops are now in operation. For example, the widespread wildfires are sending huge amounts of carbon into the atmosphere which contributes to the carbon blanket in our upper atmosphere which, in turn, is elevating our planet's temperatures creating optimal conditions for more wildfires. Another example: the thawing of the grounds in Siberia and North America releases methane which adds an even stronger greenhouse gas to the blanket which contributes to the acceleration of global warming.

I also think that the puny efforts that our masters in the capitalist One Percent are making can only slightly delay one disaster after another due to accelerated climate destabilization.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Age of Imperial Wars

Click here to access article by James Petras from Information Clearing House

Like the wildfires appearing everywhere in eastern Washington state and Oregon, this retired professor provides a survey of mini-wars and chaos spreading throughout the globe. Meanwhile, the politicos in the US ruling class directorate and their cronies are threatening more in the future.
War is everywhere and expanding:  No continent or region, big or small, is free from the contagion of war.

Imperial wars have spawn local wars . . . igniting mass flights in a never-ending cycle.  There are no real diplomatic success stories!  There are no enduring, viable peace accords!

The Guardian Gets it Wrong on Latin America Again

Click here to access article posted by J.C. from TeleSur.

J.C. exposes the false reporting by a major British media company well known for its left-wing capitalist (aka "liberal") orientation. I have generally followed events in Ecuador and have known about these demonstrations, some of which are peaceful, some genuinely opposing the policies of exploitation of Ecuador's oil and mining resources, and some are based in the right-wing that are opposed to any of Ecuador's public expenditures and taxes on the rich policies. But recently there was a violent protest by an environmental group such as depicted in this video which reminds one of what occurred in Ukraine before their government was overturned in a right-wing coup. (See also this, this, and this.)

As the narrator in the video asked, can you imagine such a protest in the US? The police would simply respond with more violence up to, and including shooting the demonstrators like they did to unarmed, non-violent student protesters during the Vietnam War.

Could it be that a US regime-change project targeting Ecuador is in operation? Well, they certainly have motives to get rid of President Correa's administration because of his refusal to follow orders from Washington, his many criticisms of US policies, and his protection of Julian Assange in their London embassy.