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, January 16, 2016
Lazare reviews a recent study by Global Policy Forum which concludes that the increasing influence of the rich via charitable organizations is having a huge impact on government policies at all levels.
It is widely known that the rich are getting richer and the poor poorer, but it is less well known that the rich have always used their money-power to get rich with the result that they have always had a disproportionate effect on public governing bodies. It's almost obscure knowledge that their system of capitalism with its enshrinement of private ownership of economic enterprise has accelerated the wealth of a few at the expense of the many. This is the reason behind what we see today all around us: a most dramatic phenomenon of extreme inequality and so many problems associated with that reality: wars, rampant crime, huge number of refugees fleeing from war ravaged areas, poverty, huge prison populations, ignorance, etc.
Some have speculated on the motives of the rich and their use of charitable foundations. They range all the way from guilt expiation, to trying to "do good", to tax write-offs, to imposing their capitalist values and methods on the rest of us, or some combination of these motives. What is so clear from the study is that this trend is undermining any pretenses about democratic governing processes. But then, it was never a reality anyhow. So I think this trend could be good if it awakens enough people to change the anti-social, anti-nature system of capitalism into an economic system that can sustain humans with a reasonable amount of dignity and equality and a natural environment that can sustain human life.
Dying to Forget: Oil, Power, Palestine and the Foundations of U.S. Policy in the Middle East – Book Review
In her new book Gendzier has uncovered many unknown facts about US support of Israel following its establishment. For example:
...once the Truman administration determined that Israel would become a strategic U.S. ally, Gendzier notes that it adopted a policy to defer to Israel in matters related to the Palestinians. As early as July 1, 1948, Philip Jessup, the U.S. special delegate to the UN, had argued the case for withholding U.S. pressure on Israel due to its strategic importance and its “strong military position” which was “more than a match for most of Arab states put together.” ...he also stated: “‘From the strategic viewpoint we assume that Palestine, together with the neighboring countries is a major factor presumably in any future major conflict this region would be of vital importance to US as a potential base area and with respect to our lines of communication. Presumably also the oil resources of the area are considered vital.’” As a result Jessup argued for not pressuring Israel regarding the return of refugees.
This realignment came about even though U.S. officials were increasingly aware of Zionist aims in Palestine.
Following a brief history of the island and its resistance to US colonialism, Haiphong examines the impoverishment of the island as result of privatization and other capitalist policies.
...colonialism was never truly eradicated from the global picture. African revolutionary Kwame Nkrumah fathered the theory of neo-colonialism to explain this phenomenon. Nkrumah described neo-colonialism as a form of indirect, but no less exploitative, form of colonial domination where a native ruling class administers the plunder of a country on behalf of the former colonizer. One country, Puerto Rico, has remained a colony of the US imperial state.
Today, the people of Puerto Rico are facing a devastating economic crisis made in the USA. To understand the crisis in Puerto Rico, we must look into its root causes.
Well, maybe "defense" contractors. They seem to be whooping it up and partying like there is no tomorrow. But then military spending creates jobs, doesn't it?! So, I guess it's okay. (sarcasm)
It seems that Canadian arms dealers are happy too. You might want to follow up this bit of satire with a piece entitled "Canada Condemns Saudi Executions, But Arms Sales Speak Louder Than Words".
Keynes back in the 1930s tried to reform the capitalist system through re-distributive government policies. Little did he realize that capitalists would have nothing to do with such policies--they wanted it all for themselves--and they proceeded as always to shape the government to serve their needs. Thus the government became entirely as we see today: their government.
But enough of Ruccio who as a professor must not annoy his capitalist masters too much or else join the line at the unemployment office. I want to direct your attention to this political cartoon and its real source at the Capital Drawing Group in London. This group of four cartoonists have drawn numerous cartoons to illustrate various themes about capitalism based on Marx's writings.
The cartoon below illustrates "The General Law of Capitalist Accumulation" as a monster of devouring workers for the wealth benefit of the capitalist pocket shown at the top.
Friday, January 15, 2016
Repeatedly, over hundreds of thousands of years, glaciers expanded south and north from the polar regions, covering much of the Earth with ice sheets several kilometres deep. Twelve thousand years ago, the Earth warmed and the ice retreated — the relatively warm and stable time since then is known to geologists as the Holocene epoch. It’s the time when agriculture was invented and all great human civilizations were formed. Holocene conditions, as Johan Rockström of the Stockholm Resilience Center likes to say, are the only ones in which we know for sure that humans can survive and prosper.
Is the Holocene now over? Has human activity changed the Earth System so much that a new epoch has begun? Are we now in the Anthropocene?
Although the author doesn't offer any final answer to the question posed in the headline, but he provides numerous pieces of evidence that indicate the affirmative.
My own position based partly on my experience at a university and the reading of the experience of others (sources like Disciplined Minds by Jeff Schmidt) clearly and emphatically answers this and a more general question in the affirmative: does US academia act to discourage anti-capitalist ideas or anti-Empire material? This is one part of my theory that the ruling capitalist class has infiltrated their ideologists in every sector of society: mainstream media, entertainment, education, and most of all in the political institutions of the nation.
Cartalucci advances a theory to explain why all the terrorist events are happening in so many areas of the world. I think it makes much more sense than the propaganda put forward by Empire media.
Thursday, January 14, 2016
The interviewer, Omrani, asked various questions that were designed to get Biehl's opinion as to how much conformity there was in the actual decision-making operations as practiced by the people in Rojava with the ideology of Bookchin's bottom-up political ideology.
Specifically to Bookchin, the institutions of democratic self-government that they described corresponded to much of what he had envisioned (under the name libertarian municipalism). At the base of democratic confederalism is the citizens’ assembly (in Bookchin) or commune (in Rojava). The commune sends delegates to the confederal council at the neighborhood level, and the neighborhood council sends delegates to the district, and the district to the canton. In this multi-tiered structure, as Bookchin described it, power is to flow from the bottom up.Although Biehl's observations were interesting, I finished reading the interview without any conclusive answers. And I think one should not expect any conclusive answers at this point in time.
Has the vision become real?
One part of the interview compared the historical experience of the Russians during their revolution and their subsequent war with the West which supported factions that were inclined to capitalism (the White armies).
People in Rojava seemed very aware of the danger that a bottom-up system can turn into a top-down system. That’s what happened, after all, in Russia. In 1917, the multi-tiered system of soviets, or councils, all over Russia, was originally supposed to carry power from the base to the summit. But once the Bolsheviks came to power, they were able to use those very institutions as conduits for top-down power, indeed for totalitarian domination.Essentially this question dealt with the question whether such a bottom-up political apparatus could survive particularly in a wartime situation. The specific Russian experience and the latter general question has always intrigued me. My studies of various writings particularly by Trotsky, who commanded the Red Army, and Isaac Deutscher, who studied and wrote about the revolution extensively, caused me to reach a tentative conclusion about what went wrong with the Russian Revolution.
Trotsky and others both in the Bolshevik party and outside did not question the authoritarian structure of a military command once the war began in earnest. Thus they readily adopted it. After the Bolsheviks won the war, they relied on this structure to defend the revolution from all the problems they faced after victory: widespread famine, poor crops, epidemics, destroyed infrastructure, etc. Then it was only a matter of time when the top-down command structure completely replaced any independent power of the Soviets. People such as Stalin, who were particularly susceptible to the addictive power of control and domination (like people predisposed to alcoholism are particularly susceptible to alcohol), took over the command structures of the Communist Party and the Soviet Union.
This always led me to the following questions. Could the Russian Revolution have succeeded if they had adopted a bottom-up command structure to prosecute the war against the White and Western capitalist armies? Given that wartime conditions often see people supporting a tight and efficient command structure, how can a people suddenly dismantle a military command structure and foster a bottom-up political structure after the war is won?
Of course the Communist party leaders always explained the success of the revolution depended upon the revolution immediately spreading to other advanced capitalist countries, especially to Germany, and when this did not happen, deterioration of communist practice was inevitable.
Madsen has gleaned through some recently released CIA documents (heavily redacted, of course) to discover that various operations under their control have been going on since at least 1953. This corresponds with other information that has been uncovered regarding the efforts of the nascent Empire using both soft weapons of propaganda as is described in this article and more terrorist type organizations such as Gladio (example, Operation Gladio--see this and this) which was used to rig elections, infiltrate, and crush leftist organizations and unions all over Europe and nearby areas.
Although he does not furnish any references for his analysis, I have long held this independent journalist as one of the best. No one is infallible and above criticism, but I consider Madsen as one of the most reliable and qualified sources of information and analysis regarding government secrecy. I've only found very minor errors such as his claim that Asst. Sec. Victoria Nuland spoke to Congress about the $5 billion dollar support of subversive efforts in Ukraine. I've been able to find that she only made this claim to the National Press Club (7:42m).
Heinberg apparently thinks that our capitalist masters are stupid rather than desperate in their actions to support their addiction to power and wealth with which their system supplies them so abundantly. According to him, our masters are guilty of reductionist thinking.
The reductionist mindset is relentless: if one technofix leads to a problem, surely there will be a technofix for that too. Some habitual practitioners of reductionism do realize that their proposed tactics merely buy time before the next crisis hits, but they see no realistic alternative. Still, each new increment of time seems more expensive than the previous one.Actually he doesn't see capitalist masters at all. He separates the economic system ("Wall Street") from government and labor. Apparently "holistic" thinking doesn't apply to capitalism. (sarcasm)
The lure of the technofix is that we won’t have to fundamentally change our behavior. We can go on extracting resources, using energy, and making money, all at an ever-accelerating pace. Wall Street is happy, government is happy, workers are happy. Here’s the thing: this line of action cannot solve the cascading complex of crises that will hammer civilization to bits during the remainder of this century. Until we start thinking holistically and alter our systemic behavior, we are locked into a trajectory that leads inevitably to a chain of mutually reinforcing planetary breakdowns that start with droughts and superstorms and won’t end until everything we hold dear is either destroyed or rendered meaningless.
Wednesday, January 13, 2016
If Rupert Murdoch's staff at their lead online news site in Australia says that the West (aka "The Empire") is worried, then I think its safe to assume that it's quite true.
HE’S just 30 years old and could soon be one of the most powerful people in the Arab world — and that’s probably not a good thing.While the US Empire directorate may be "worried" about the new Saudi leadership that they have been publicly supporting, the French geopolitical analyst, Thierry Meyssan, has an interesting conspiracy theory about how they may have hidden motives behind their support in an article entitled "Towards the collapse of Saudi Arabia".
The new, 80-year-old king of Saudi Arabia, who suffers from dementia, has been criticised since taking the throne last January for his bloodthirsty style as ruler. But it’s his favourite son who has the Western world really worried.
Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is considered the likely successor of his ageing father.
He is currently the gulf kingdom’s defence minister and has been privately criticised for his dangerous geopolitical gambles in the region as Saudi Arabia plays out proxy wars in both Syria and Yemen.
Another article about the current political situation in Saudi Arabia from what appears to be a solid independent source is this piece entitled "Paul Aarts and Carolien Roelants, Saudi Arabia: A Kingdom in Peril". It is an interview with the authors about their new book.
US Role as State Sponsor of Terrorism Implied in US Congressional Research Service Report on Syria Conflict
Written in October 2015, the report was prepared by the Congressional Research Service, an arm of the United States Library of Congress. The Congressional Research Service provides policy and legal analysis to committees and members of the US House and Senate.
Titled “Armed Conflict in Syria: Overview and US Response,” the report reveals....
Tuesday, January 12, 2016
The sale of oil denominated in dollars is essential for the support of the US dollar. In turn, maintaining demand for dollars by world central banks for their currency reserves to back foreign trade of countries like China, Japan or Germany, is essential if the United States dollar is to remain the leading world reserve currency. That status as world’s leading reserve currency is one of two pillars of American hegemony since the end of World War II. The second pillar is world military supremacy.However Engdahl finishes his essay by suggesting that this will be good for world peace!
Because all other nations need to acquire dollars to buy imports of oil and most other commodities, a country such as Russia or China typically invests the trade surplus dollars its companies earn in the form of US government bonds or similar US government securities. The only other candidate large enough, the Euro, since the 2010 Greek crisis, is seen as more risky.
That leading reserve role of the US dollar, since August 1971 when the dollar broke from gold-backing, has essentially allowed the US Government to run seemingly endless budget deficits without having to worry about rising interest rates, like having a permanent overdraft credit at your bank.
Step-by-step, Russia, China and other emerging economies are taking measures to lessen their dependency on the US dollar, to “de-dollarize.” Oil is the world’s largest traded commodity and it is almost entirely priced in dollars. Were that to end, the ability of the US military industrial complex to wage wars without end would be in deep trouble.I have long argued that wealth and, especially under capitalism, its associated drug of power has taken hold of the Empire's ruling class in the form of an addiction. I really mean this literally, not rhetorically!
Perhaps that would open some doors to more peaceful ideas such as spending US taxpayer dollars on rebuilding the horrendous deterioration of basic USA economic infrastructure.
So, you know what often results when an opium addict or alcoholic can no longer afford their drugs? Often this results in more violence and criminal activities perpetrated by the addicts to secure money to buy their drugs. This has been the history of capitalist nations for several hundred years during colonialism and nowadays in neocolonialism and neoliberalism. The main difference, and a very dangerous one, is that most of the major nations today have nuclear weapons to fight each other with. I don't see how Engdahl can be so sanguine about the future.
The only peaceful future is one that we ordinary people must secure for ourselves by ending the rule of capitalists and their destructive, unsustainable system. There is simply no other alternative.
(Note: For more background on the petrodollar you might be interested in reading this and this.)
I have posted numerous articles on Avaaz in the past (see this, this, this, this, and this), but I still think that this organization needs more light shed on it. Organizations like Avaaz have often been used in "color revolutions" to destabilize countries that refuse to follow orders from the US Empire or to gain a more friendly ally. And such organizations also are meant to seduce well-meaning liberals and leftists to work for them by their appeals to human rights, democracy, and freedom.
Avaaz is, indeed, part of the color revolution apparatus, having apparently received funds from George Soros’ Open Society Foundation to start up in 2007. Avaaz was founded by Res Publica and Moveon.org, both Soros-funded organizations that attempt to co-opt the American left into supporting ideas and campaigns closely associated with the communitarian foundation oligarchs.
...for imprisonments, the U.S. really does have no close second: it’s the unquestionable global market-leader, for prisons and prisoners.Historian Zuesse examines one significance aspect that law-breaking has regarding the legitimacy of a nation's governance.
...by definition, people are presumed to be in prison for law-breaking, irrespective of whether the given nation’s laws are just — and, if they’re not just, then this fact reflects even more strongly that the nation itself is corrupt. So: a high incarceration-rate does strongly tend to go along with a nation’s being highly corrupt, in more than merely a technical sense — it’s almost more like being the definitive measure of “corruption.” So, the correlation between incarceration rates and corruption must be assumed to be high, and any measure of corruption which fails to at least include countries’ incarceration rates should be rejected.
Monday, January 11, 2016
Ruccio supplies data to show that there really is a core .01% that is concentrating wealth (and power) in their hands.
This is an illustration of the phenomenon about the rising discussion of the "deep state" or "shadow government" in American discourse, especially in alternative blogs. In general I think it is also an illustration of an attempt at damage control by our masters to prevent radical consequences that such an awareness could bring about. This time the damage controller is surprisingly an editor of Russia Insider.
I'm referring to Waggaman's use of quotes toward the end of the article from an interview by the former Congressional staffer so that we don't reach any "wrong" conclusions. Essentially the former Congressional staffer, Lofgren, asserts that it, the "deep state", doesn't qualify as a conspiracy because it is all done in the open; and that we, the people, already know who runs the US. Yes, Lofgren trots out the old "blame the victim" trick to provide cover for the real deep state, and then Waggaman ends with a joke so that we don't get into a tizzy about it all.
However I'm not sure about Waggaman's point. As always with my commentaries, you must decide.
It’s getting harder to focus on the “news”.What follows this relatively bland introduction might make you throw-up!
Considering that all media is filtered through just five megacorporations (compared with 50 companies in the early ’80s), not to mention (but I will) the fact that domestic propaganda was officially “approved” for use against the American people a few years ago, it’s kinda hard to tell the difference between what is real and what isn’t anymore.
Besides, it’s all “hey look, shiny things”. Pay attention to the right hand so you won’t see what the left is doing.
The distractions on the “news” also serve another purpose. To fill up your short term memory like junk food for the brain. To keep you from remembering what happened last week, let alone last year. From putting these things into perspective, especially historical perspective.
We’ve undertaken a large-scale research project. We’re six months in. I was reading The Plutonium Files, a book on the American government’s top secret medical experimentation against mostly unwitting, clueless American citizens during the Cold War.
The author describes a very disturbing and provocative visit to Chicago and seeing Star Wars, the latest Hollywood flick. He describes this visit in the language of a poet.
We have a lot of masters. We are made pitiful by clerks as well as clocks. We are degraded not just [by] politicians and police but by abstractions and imaginary lines. We so badly need to forge time and space to be quiet, to meditate, to speak softly about just who we think we are. Technology interrupts. The buzzing of other people’s demands seeps in through the cracks to find us, to distract us, to constantly hurry us up, to tire us out, to intoxicate us, to leave us slumped over and worn.
So we go to the movies and watch civilization collapse. We envy those who get to rebuild, if only on the screen. If we keep buying such stories, they will keep selling them. And we will surely never live them.
Throughout the world, there is now a desire to improve public health and combat climate change. As a result, Copenhagen’s renowned cycle-friendly policies are now serving as a template for some of the world’s most congested cities.This piece by Todhunter brought back so many pleasant memories of cycling with my Canadian friends through various parts of Canada. One benefit he didn't elaborate on--because he was focused on cycling as an efficient way of transporting people and as a way to promote a healthy environment--was the personal health benefits of cycling. I'm referring to both physical and mental health. After moving back to the US I have lived in an area that is not conducive to cycling, and also because of my advanced age I no longer cycle. I miss it, and I miss the health benefits--I use to be in such great shape!
Anyway, his description of cycling in Denmark reminded me of Quebec where I cycled in 2005 and found cycling, especially between cities, to be especially convenient and pleasant.
Sunday, January 10, 2016
It appears that the old religious fantasies about heaven used to pacify plundered populations in the past has gone through a series of updates. The latest under the rule of capitalism is the use of state lotteries to induce workers to dream about heaven on earth today to distract them from thinking about the deterioration in their standard of living.
For American workers, achieving the “American Dream” of a stable job and one’s own home is becoming increasingly unrealizable.
Following more than 10 million foreclosures during the financial crisis, America’s home ownership rate has hit the lowest level in two decades, and for young households, the rate of home ownership is the lowest it has been since the 1960s.
For the tens of millions of America’s poor, and the more than 100 million on the threshold of poverty, the dream of winning the lottery has replaced the “American Dream” of living a decent life.
The US is an Empire of global capital and for global capital. Its reign of terror has divided the globe into two camps. In the imperial camp, numerous states around the world serve as willful partners of US Empire or hold positions as subjugated neo-colonies. In the resistance camp, non-aligned nations such as Russia and China have maintained relative independence from the US Empire despite varying modes of development and differing interests within the resistance. Racism has been a central component to US Empire's endless warfare on the resistance camp. It has been the primary means from which the Empire has sought to achieve its objectives.Haiphong then continues with historical illustrations of the Empire's use of racism in an attempt to achieve world hegemony.
The entire industry would not exist without massive government subsidies. Quite an insult: Subsidies prop up an industry that points a dagger at the heart of the communities where ever it operates.Toward the end of the article he does provide many links to documents that give some idea of the huge subsidies that this industry receives.
The building of nuclear power plants drastically slowed after the disasters at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, so it is at a minimum reckless that the latest attempt to resuscitate nuclear power pushes forward heedless of Fukushima's discharge of radioactive materials into the air, soil and ocean.
There are no definitive statistics on the amount of subsidies enjoyed by nuclear power providers - in part because there so many different types of subsidies - but it amounts to a figure, whether we calculate in dollars, euros or pounds, in the hundreds of billions.
An ever expanding capitalist economy must have growth and only nuclear power can fuel this growth after the inevitable decline in accessible fossil fuels. Our masters are addicted to capitalism which provides them with so much power and wealth. They are perfectly okay with having you support this industry with your taxes (because they pay little), and are perfectly willing to experience one disaster after another in a desperate attempt to save their goose of capitalism that lays for them so many golden eggs. Thus out of a fake concern for the environment, capitalist sponsored leaders in government are now pushing nuclear energy.
What is ahead for 2016? Most people don’t realize how tightly the following are linked:
It looks to me as though this linkage is about to cause a very substantial disruption to the economy, as oil limits, as well as other energy limits, cause a rapid shift from the benevolent version of the economic supercycle to the portion of the economic supercycle reflecting contraction. Many people have talked about Peak Oil, the Limits to Growth, and the Debt Supercycle without realizing that the underlying problem is really the same–the fact the we are reaching the limits of a finite world.
- Growth in debt
- Growth in the economy
- Growth in cheap-to-extract energy supplies
- Inflation in the cost of producing commodities
- Growth in asset prices, such as the price of shares of stock and of farmland
- Growth in wages of non-elite workers
- Population growth
In a dramatic example of the powers assumed by the corporate world through trade deals, energy infrastructure corporation TransCanada has commenced legal actions against the US president for cancelling the Keystone XL pipeline project.