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, April 23, 2016

Seymour Hersh Dishes on Saudi Oil Money Bribes and the Killing of Osama Bin Laden

Click here to access article by Ken Klippenstein from AlterNet.

It's hard to tell whether Klippenstein or the editors of AlterNet chose this headline, but it tends to downplay the excellent research that Seymour Hersh continues to do on all the lies of Empire spokespeople which are endlessly repeated by corporate media. For his efforts at seeking the truth, like many other investigative reporters Hersh is no longer employed by mainstream media corporations. Thus he must seek out foreign media such as the London Review of Books or in this case a minor blog like AlterNet to express his views. 

Nonetheless I think you will find Hersh's answers to Klippenstein's questions of the utmost interest. They are questions about--not only matters related to Bin Laden but--the whole phony War on Terrorism as officially "played" by the Empire and its sordid allies . Notice to his credit that Hersh is always very restrained about the implications of the real information he uncovers.

The real reason Dilma Rousseff’s enemies want her impeached

Click here to access article by David Miranda from The Guardian
The country’s elite class and their media organs have failed, over and over, in their efforts to defeat the party at the ballot box. But plutocrats are not known for gently accepting defeat, nor for playing by the rules. What they have been unable to achieve democratically, they are now attempting to achieve anti-democratically: by having a bizarre mix of politicians – evangelical extremists, far-right supporters of a return to military rule, non-ideological backroom operatives – simply remove her from office.

Indeed, those leading the campaign for her impeachment and who are in line to take over – most notably the house speaker Eduardo Cunha – are far more implicated in scandals of personal corruption than she is.
Politics in Latin America have always reflected real class power conflicts without much of the gloss of rights, justice, and due process that is superficially imposed on the conflicts in the leading Euro-American nations. Thus, like any real war, the ethics of these contests for political domination in Latin America tend to be that of real war: to the victor go the spoils. This has been true even under "progressive" regimes of Argentina and Venezuela. Consequently Latin Americans are much less deceived by the absence of morality under class rule, whereas in the leading Western nations the immorality of extreme inequality is glossed over by a huge propaganda apparatus. But another consequence is that these more "progressive" governments are also infested with corruption which doubtlessly is encouraged by the US Empire to bring down those governments.

The solution, of course, is the elimination of the organization of societies around classes. This would require a revolutionary movement whose objective would be elimination of the basis of inequality of power in today's societies--capitalism. This system gives property rights to a tiny minority to "own" the fruits of labor in economies which are almost entirely devoted to the profit interests of this minority at the expense of the benefits to the vast majority. But revolutions would make Latin American nations a definite target for the wrath of the Empire which would find, or create, some excuse to overthrow them.

Second Gilded Age

Click here to access article by economist David Ruccio from his blog Occasional Links & Commentary
There are still some who believe we’re all in this together. But we’re not, not by a long shot.

When the economy is organized so that the surplus is pumped out of one group (whose wages are stagnant), appropriated by another group (the tiny group of capitalists who sit on corporate boards of directors), and then distributed to still another group (who do all that is necessary to make sure the surplus continues to flow), and the top 1 percent get to spend the expanding surplus it receives on all manner of luxury goods and services—well, you get what can only be described as the Second Gilded Age.

Bernie Sanders: the Candidate Who Came in From the Cold

Click here to access article by Jeffrey St. Clair from CounterPunch

This piece is not terribly enlightening, but it conforms precisely to my recent observations about Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Bernie Sanders lost the moment he became entranced by the prospect that he might win. What did he lose? His grip on political reality.

For most of his life Sanders has cultivated the role of political cynic, a professional outsider, a grand-standing critic of The System. Once he came in from the cold and converted from independent socialist to a Democrat (for life, according to his campaign manager Jeff Weaver) that hard-boiled cynicism—one’s tempted to call it realism—eroded away in the face of large crowds of adoring supporters, from Portland, Maine to Portland, Oregon. Is it possible that Sanders became intoxicated by the floridness of his own rhetoric?

The best system for some people

by Steve Artley from his website.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Fear and Loathing in the Arabian Nights

Click here to access article by Pepe Escobar from Sputnik

Escobar furnishes a very different take on Obama visit to the Saudi kingdom than I did yesterday. With his inside sources and reportedly sources from the Financial Times he claims that it was to put additional pressure in the form of threats so that the kingdom would drop its support for from cutting production. The US wants the economic war against Russia to continue, and thus Obama, diplomatically I'm sure, "put the heat on" Saudi officials. This heat not only included the "28 pages" but also a new threat of freezing Saudi assets.
The heart of the whole matter is that Washington has been threatening Riyadh to freeze Saudi assets all across the spectrum if the House of Saud does not “cooperate” in the oil price war against Russia.

The 'Absolutely Disturbing' New Normal: Earth Just Smashed Another Climate Record

Click here to access article by Andrea Germanos from Common Dreams
Our ever-warming planet just passed another climate record.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said Tuesday that March 2016 was the warmest March since records began in 1880.

It also marked an 11-month of streak of record-breaking global temperatures.
During the past week temperatures here in the Seattle area have exceeded all past records not just by a degree or two but as much as ten degrees (Fahrenheit). It looks to me like global heating is accelerating.

Either capitalism dies or Mother Earth dies...

from TeleSur.  (Some additional comments were added to my commentary on 4/23/2016)

Of course what is meant here is that the part of nature which supports human life will die, not our planet's Mother Earth who, by casting off another species who failed to adapt to her rules, will go on into eternity to support other life forms. 

Also, of course, the concept of "Mother Nature" is an anthropomorphized version of the web of life that is for all practical purposes confined to our isolated planet. I emphasized the latter to clarify that we (or more likely the ruling capitalist class) cannot, as they often fantasize, simply toss the Earth into some metaphorical dumpster and then travel to another planet that can sustain humans. (Presumably in this fantasy they would eventually trash this new planet also, and then migrate to another, ad infinitum.) No, from what I've read (I can't find a reference now), scientific evidence has made clear that there might be other suitable planets in the vast universe, but they would be impossible for we humans to reach them. 

It looks highly probable to me that we humans have so trashed our only possible home that the planet's landlord, the web of life, is about to evict us. It is only that small chance that we might turn things around that keeps me posting these articles.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Obama: ‘If we let Americans sue Saudis for 9/11, foreigners will begin suing US non-stop’

Click here to access article from RT

It seems that Obama's employers in the ruling class directorate have ordered their chief of US public relations to scurry over to Saudi Arabia and mollify the medieval princes who are worried about the disclosure of the censored 28 pages of the official 9/11 Commission report. The Saudi royalty are famous for sponsoring terrorists and beheading people. 

What is surprising to me is that our capitalist masters don't see any contradiction between their government's support of the major trade agreements (TPP and TTIP) which gives corporations the right to sue governments for loss of profits in private tribunals with Obama's latest argument that it is unthinkable for ordinary people to sue governments, and especially the US government, for major crimes.

New York voting fiasco just the warm-up for the November game

Click here to access article by Greg Palast from Uncommon Thought Journal.

Before the 2000 presidential election I, who will soon be 80 years of age, had never heard of "voting irregularities". Now it seems they are a normal occurrence especially every four years during the presidential elections. I noticed that corporate media with their one-sentence references to the recent "voting irregularities" in NY City also seem to regard such occurrences as normal. (See also this and this for independent reports.)

It appears that when our aggressive capitalist masters fail to get us to vote right (no pun intended), they now resort to wholesale vote tampering. What's next?  Cancelling these election circuses? That would certainly save them a lot of money which furnishes the basis of all their power. But then the great hoax of American "democracy" would be finished, and they would have to spend even more on their militarized police forces to keep us in line. So I think we can expect them to keep the show going for the near future.

The BRICS: Still a Hegemonic, Not Anti-Capitalist Project

Click here to access article by François Houtart from TeleSur

Many alternative geopolitical analysts have lauded the BRICS countries for promoting a "multi-polar" world which challenges the dominant Empire. According to the author of this article the BRICS differ very little in their behavior from the Empire. Although the BRICS try to pursue independent policies, they are still considerably influenced by the dynamics of capitalist enterprise. So I don't see how we can expect major differences.
...even if the social and solidarity considerations are introduced in the development of the South-South relations by the BRICS, the logic of growth remains the same. Gosh Jayathi conclude: "Many trade and South-South investment agreements and their consequences, are unfortunately similar to those of North-South relationships, not only for investment protection, but also to guarantee the Intellectual Property Rights."
All this helps to reinforce the destructive character of the dominant model, at a time when many instances, notably international, alert governments and public opinion on the need for a radical change of perspective. To avoid that ecosystems deteriorate irremediably and also considerable human costs through the center-peripheries relations of the BRICS, it is necessary to propose a change of development matrix and finally also to promote the definition of a new paradigm. 

The Empire Files: Understanding Marxism and Socialism

Click here if you wish to access an interview conducted with Richard Wolff by Abby Martin posted by TeleSur on YouTube.

I highly recommend the first 29:50 minutes of this 31:18m interview in which Wolff explains the key concepts of socialism as interpreted by Karl Marx. In this major segment he offers with great clarity also an understanding of the criminal nature of capitalism, that capitalism is essentially organized crime.

The last 1:28m are marred by his promotion of Bernie Sanders' self-identification with socialism when in fact his political views are that of social democracy which represents a capitalist fix for all the chaos their system creates for working people. I challenge anyone to find among Sanders' speeches any statements that expresses his wish for public ownership and control of economic enterprises. The latter are the key ingredients of socialism and the direct opposite of capitalism with its fanatic emphasis on individual ownership and control. 

Social democracy only adds significant safety nets to capitalism to prevent the worst effects of the frequent capitalist crises on working people. Even the strongest forms of social democracy found in Europe, which were introduced following WWII to appease the widespread popularity of true socialism, is being dismantled due to the competition from transnational corporations that take advantage of global operations.

People who are true revolutionaries do not mix up these concepts, but people who have pursued careers in politics (Sanders) and in academia (Wolff) do often mix them up. They do this because their careers demand it, or to put it another way, the capitalist overseers of their careers demand it. It is the only way they can express opinions that are favorable to socialism and maintain their careers.

Press Release: 1.5°C vs 2°C global warming – new study shows why half a degree matters

Click here to access article from European Geosciences Union.
European researchers have found substantially different climate change impacts for a global warming of 1.5°C and 2°C by 2100, the two temperature limits included in the Paris climate agreement. The additional 0.5°C would mean a 10-cm-higher global sea-level rise by 2100, longer heat waves, and would result in virtually all tropical coral reefs being at risk.
It appears that the Great Barrier Reef off Australia is already in trouble judging by this report from the Independent entitled "Great Barrier Reef: Half of natural wonder is ‘dead or dying’ and it is on the brink of extinction, scientists say".

However, none of this matters to capitalists who are addicted to power and profits that is delivered to them by their system. I wonder how long the rest of us are going to let these drug addicts and their delivery system destroy the Earth's habitat that can support human life.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Breaks and broken

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

Combining his own research with that of Oxfam, this economist concludes the following:
Those breaks indicate that not only is the U.S. tax system broken; so, too, is the political system.

Except, of course, for U.S. corporations.
His data also adds more ammunition to the charge that the US government is ruled by a class that is aligned with the interests of corporations that are owned by people known as a capitalist class. This class lives off of the profits from productive activities that workers engage in while working in these corporation. Capitalists do not produce or create anything themselves. They justify this exploitative relationship with workers because of their devotion to property rights which they have built into a cornerstone of their legal system that supports capitalist class rule. 

The meaning of property has been extended far beyond the common notion of personal property into the "ownership" of things ranging from tools and machines that workers use in their daily productive activities to ideas and to life forms (DNA) created by scientists. With these rights of property capitalists justify their right of appropriation of all profits from economic enterprises that use such property, and nearly absolute control over how, when, and where the enterprises operate.

To provide cover for this exploitative relationship and to make it more appealing to workers, the capitalist ruling classes often lay on their legal structure a rather thin veneer of civil rights for its citizens, sponsor political elections to simulate a "democracy", and provide minimal social safety nets. But the reality is this: one must have money to assert these civil rights effectively, capitalists exercise total control over the election machinery, and the safety nets are limited--they are only designed to contain major dissent (this is why they were expanded in the Great Depression). These are only the key features. To be a true ruling class, they had to take control over not only the government, but all institutions of society--media, education, entertainment, etc.

The capitalist class when threatened often resort to an iron fist type of authoritarian rule (often depicted as "fascism") that have these basic features: a dictatorship or centralized rule, extreme promotion and protection of private property especially of major capitalists, a suspension of all civil liberties, and a visceral hatred and violent crackdown of any anti-capitalist political movements.

Military spending is the capitalist world’s fuel

Click here to access article by Pete Dolack from his blog Systemic Disorder.
...why is U.S. military spending so high? It’s because the repeated use of force is what is necessary to maintain the capitalist system. As top dog in the world capitalist system, it’s up the to the U.S. to do what is necessary to keep itself, and its multi-national corporations, in the driver’s seat. That has been a successful project. U.S.-based multi-nationals hold the world’s highest share in 18 of 25 broad industrial sectors, according to an analysis in New Left Review, and often by commanding margins — U.S. multi-nationals hold at least a 40 percent global share in 10 of those sectors.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Exit from the Megamachine [a 'best post']

Click here to access article by Fabian Scheidler from degrowth.

Unfortunately, I have run out of time this morning to comment on this excellent post. However my reaction is probably not needed because the essay can stand on its own. It sums up so much that is true about today's world and the system of capitalism that is destroying it, and written by someone who has a clear understanding of it.
In the twenty-first century, however, the five-hundred year-long expansion of the megamachine is reaching insurmountable limits. On the one hand the accumulation-machine is stuttering: the huge numbers of poor people across the globe and the crumbling middle classes do not have the money to keep buying a growing production at profitable prices. This is why the economy is shifting to finance speculations that erupt in ever deeper crashes, further destabilizing economies as well as states. 

World’s largest Earth science organization to continue accepting ExxonMobil sponsorship despite calls from 250+ geoscientists

Click here to access article by Geoffrey Supran, Ploy Achakulwisut, Ben Scandella, and Britta Voss from Skeptical Science.
Last week, the President of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) - the world’s largest association of Earth scientists - announced the AGU Board’s decision to continue accepting sponsorship from ExxonMobil, despite calls for an end to this relationship from more than 250 geoscientists owing to ExxonMobil’s past and present climate science disinformation.
This is another illustration among many of the overwhelming power of major corporations in today's world. When capitalist power can triumph over the conservative discipline of scientific inquiry, then we are all in trouble.

Democracy Sleepwalking

Click here to access article by Arun Gupta from CounterPunch.

Although he initially identifies the protest march near the capitol as organized by Democracy Awakening, the author subsequently also identifies it with another liberal group called Spring Awakening whose members apparently joined in. 
The Nation branded Democracy Awakening and Democracy Spring “the most important protest of the 2016 election.” But despite more than half a year of organizing, 300 endorsing organizations, and millions of dollars spent directly or in staff time, organizers could muster barely a thousand people for an outdoor rally on a gorgeous spring day.

The gathering was a throwback to soporific pre-Occupy Wall Street protests.
Could such events represent the "last hurrah" for liberal activism? Hopefully this signals a deeper, more relevant, and more revolutionary movement that will take their place. 
Little remains of the liberal world, however. With the precarity of most unions and the rule of the oligarchy, the political space for liberals has been almost completely eliminated. They seem to understand they need to take risks if they hope to counter the strength of capital and the right. But Democracy Spring and Democracy Awakening show half-hearted measures won’t work. Only by embracing the uncertainty and unpredictability genuine movements unleash, can they have any hope of outmaneuvering the ruling class.

The differing lifestyles of low-level drug offenders vs banksters

as posted on Occasional Links & Commentary.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Review: ‘The Measure of a Man,’ a Tale of a Man’s Lost Labor

Click here to access article by Manohla Dargis from The NY Times.

Here is a film featuring a main character that many of us can identify with. Bush's "ownership society" played out to enrich the One Percent, bankrupted the banks which were subsequently bailed out by us, causing unemployment to skyrocket and since then has disappeared many off the unemployment rolls and others onto low paid future-less jobs. This film is about a character who is in the latter situation.  
Midway through the quiet emotional storms in the French drama “The Measure of a Man,” the hero, Thierry, begins working as a supermarket security guard. It’s a bitter victory. There is little that’s secure about the job, which requires Thierry to view not just every customer but also each employee as a potential thief. Supplemented with the trappings of the badly paid — a stifling tie, ill-fitting jacket, squawking walkie-talkie — he embodies 21st-century labor at its most heroically alienated. As he stands and watches, liberty seems a distant promise, as do equality and fraternity.

This is a tragic story about a worker that has been repeated many millions of times over the history of the boom-and-bust system of capitalism. 

Hybrid War Hyenas Tear Brazil Apart

Click here to access article by Pepe Escobar from RT.

This world traveling, outstanding journalist is at home in Brazil and discovering that the Empire is trying to do what they have accomplished in many parts of the world: overturning a popular government to serve neoliberal interests. They have recent successes in South America with the Macri regime installed in Argentina and the weakening of Venezuelan popular government with the right-wing wins in their parliamentary election

He argues that the impeachment effort, the first step of which was approved by the lower house of the Brazilian congress, has the ultimate objective of targeting the former very popular President Lula da Silva.
It’s impossible to understand what happened at the Circus Maximus this Sunday without knowing there’s a gaggle of Brazilian political parties that are seriously threatened by the non-stop overspill of the Car Wash corruption investigation. To ensure their survival, Car Wash must be “suspended”; and it will, under the bogus “national unity” proposed by lowly Brutus Temer [the vice-president who would take over for President Rousseff during the impeachment hearings should they be approved].

But first, Car Wash must produce a high-profile scalp. And that has to be Lula in jail – compared to which the crucifixion of Rousseff is an Aesop fable. Corporate media, led by the noxious Globo empire, would hail it as the ultimate victory, and nobody would care about Car Wash’s enforced retirement.      

The 54 million-plus who voted for Rousseff’s reelection in 2014 voted wrong. The overall “project” is a government without vote and without people; a Brazilian-style parliamentary system, without bothering with pesky “elections” and crucially, including very “generous” campaign financing flexibility not bound to incriminate powerful companies/corporations.
You might also be interested in an article in TeleSur on the same subject.

The Race to the Bottom

by Khalil Bendib from his website.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

The myth of ‘free trade’

Click here to access article by Stephen Millies from Workers World

I think that "free trade" can be better understood as a euphemism for unrestricted capitalist exploitation of man and nature. Millies describes some of the most outrageous crimes committed by capitalists whenever and wherever they could due to a lack of restrictions.

Slavery and the History of Capitalism

Click here to access article from communists in situ

An academic style of writing can be very off-putting to ordinary educated people because of its use of obscure words and references in frequently lengthy articles, but this article I believe is well worth a read because it provides an excellent critical survey of writings on the title-subject both historical and contemporary which one can make use of.  By reading some of this literature, we can increase our understanding of racism and slavery and the important role they played in the rise of capitalism.

The article also directs our attention to what is happening in the world of academia regarding this subject. For example, my attention was drawn to the fact that there has been a renaissance of writing about capitalism and the history of capitalism since the economic crash of 2008. We as activists can benefit from this re-awakening.
An energetic startup within the U.S. historical profession, the history of capitalism has grown rapidly over the past few years and won media attention most academics only dream of. Its popularity was sparked in part by the 2008 financial crisis, which renewed doubt about capitalism’s promises, and it emerges in the long wake of the demise of identity politics and the cultural turn within U.S. scholarship. It looks beyond supposedly narrow, sectarian concerns with particular groups left out of mainstream history—women and workers, peasants and slaves, blacks and gays. Some scholars have indeed argued for the capacious, democratic, and inclusive capabilities of this new field; others have been at pains to demonstrate that it is not a recapitulation of social history centered on the white male worker or business history fetishizing the white male capitalist. Even so, its institutional and ideological biases often shine through in its favored subjects and its anointed practitioners.