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 28, 2010
This article features an interview with Matthew Alford, author of “Reel Power: Hollywood Cinema and American Supremacy", about the myth of liberal Hollywood and the power of entertainment as propaganda.
It provides an excellent illustration of how concentrated the system of capitalism has become in the US by focusing on the Hollywood entertainment industry and its carefully crafted messages that serve the Empire. More than ever before, all significant sectors of this system including also mainstream media and educational institutions faithfully serve the needs of the ruling class by indoctrinating their subjects with the right ideas and information.
The author catches a major columnist from mainstream media (Washington Post) citing some glaring factual errors, and then launches into his thesis, and bemoaning the fact, that the Democratic party is allowing the Republicans and the right-wing to use racial issues to hide the sins of those who destroyed the economy.
I can't believe that this astute political observer doesn't realize that both parties represent the same ruling interests. In order to save his journalistic career, he doesn't dare make that connection in print.
Virtually every Fox News/right-wing-talk-radio controversy relies on scaring economically anxious white Americans into ignoring the prime cause of their economic insecurity -- plundering by Wall Street bankers, abetted by the government they own -- and focusing instead on some manufactured menace from powerless racial and ethnic minorities....
The two major civil service unions on strike against the South African government have vowed to intensify pressure in coming days, in a struggle pitting more than a million members of the middle and lower ranks of society against a confident government leadership fresh from hosting the World Cup.These developments provide an example of how adaptable capitalist ruling classes can be when faced with major obstacles--in this case, the worldwide opposition to apartheid. After years of fighting to maintain this system, the white South African ruling class decided to co-opt Black leadership by formally ending the system and bringing into the government compliant and cooperative Black African leaders. Thus the system was saved and only the color of the faces have changed.
Along with many smaller public sector unions, educators from the South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU) and nurses from the National Health and Allied Workers Union (NEHAWU) continued picketing schools, clinics and hospitals, leading to widespread shutdowns starting on August 18. Skeleton teams of doctors and military personnel were compelled to send non-emergency cases home.
This outstanding investigative journalist stumbles across a letter written by "Gerald Posner" to the NY Times purporting to represent President Karzai's brother who has been widely reported in US media of involvement with the opium trade. Baker then goes on to make all kinds of other interesting connections with this guy that illustrates how the CIA makes use of unscrupulous writers and journalists.
I had to wonder about this report on the current crop of one percenters--they seem to be limiting their fun to September. Surely, things can't be that bad.
One thing that’s interesting to consider is that a generation or two ago, wealthy jet setters vacationed non-stop through all four seasons of the year. I can recall having a conversation with a veteran fixture on the international party circuit who told me that in his youth members of society always spent summers on the French Riviera, the fall in London or New York, winters in St. Moritz, and the spring in Paris. To them, the possibility of ever putting an end to the bacchanalian fun was unthinkable, he said. So, according to the gold standard established by the original jet-setters, spending the entire month of September on holiday may not even be that impressive a feat after all.
Friday, August 27, 2010
Everyone involved with politics understands the current dynamic. It’s not hard to grasp. You take very tough economic times, add them to a heavy dose of political opportunism, and multiply both by the aggravating factor of a nihilistic commercial media, and what you get is ethnic scapegoating on a massive scale.Divide and rule has always been in the arsenal of illegitimate rulers. The author touched on a couple of them--Nazis and the Rwanda ruling class. But the Empire has made recent and extensive use of this technique in Yugoslavia, Iraq (also see this), and now in Afghanistan. (Read Strange Liberators by Gregory Elich)
With the rapidly disintegration of the US economy which is having serious adverse impacts on even the middle class, it is not surprising that the ruling elite is up to a lot of dirty tricks to keep Americans divided and at each others throats. Hence the mass media play on the Muslim mosque issue in New York and the anti-migrant worker issue in Arizona and the Southwest.
We can similarly expect to see efforts to divide Black Americans from Latinos, older Americans versus the younger generation. Fox media empire and all the other right wing organizations in the US are busy stoking the fires of intolerance and hate.
This film explores the evolution of propaganda and public relations in the United States, with an emphasis on the “elitist theory of democracy” and the relationship between war, propaganda and class.
The continent’s own elites, the West and now China are still making Africans progressively poorer, thanks to the extraction of raw materials. Reinvestment is negligible and the prices, royalties and taxes paid are inadequate to compensate the wasting away of Africa’s natural wealth. Anti-extraction campaigns by civil society are the only hope for a reversal of these neocolonial relations.The author fights the disinformation regarding African development emanating from CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corp.) and a representative from the World Bank.
While the researchers of the World Bank may acknowledge some real facts that suggest policies in contradiction to the agency's policies, the agency exists to serve the needs of their masters--the world's capitalist classes.
At the heart of these conflicts is a question leftist governments and social movements across Latin America are grappling with: what should this “other world that is possible” look like?
“Is it one based on constant economic growth, even if this is ‘socialist’ and would raise the real income of people in the global South?” sociologist Immanuel Wallerstein asks about today’s Latin America. “Or is it what some are calling a change in civilizational values, a world of buen vivir [living well]?” This latter philosophy includes living in harmony with others and with nature, rather than accumulating capital and material things while destroying the earth.
Thursday, August 26, 2010
I was about to protest the characterisation – but I had been arrested, more than once. And I had testified in defence of others who had broken the law. Sure, we only meant to draw attention to problems of continued fossil fuel addiction. But weren't there other ways to do that in a democracy? How had I been sucked into being an "activist?"It brings to mind how Galileo was tormented by the Catholic Church authorities after offering more evidence to support Copernican's theory that the Earth was not the center of the universe. The analogs here are the "church of capitalism" and heretics such as Hansen whose findings clearly suggest that the growth imperative of capitalism is on a collision course with human life support systems of the Earth.
As another casualty of the economic collapse, the author reports on his personal experience with the Obama administration's touted "Make Home Affordable" program that is supposedly designed to help distressed homeowners stay in their homes. Guess what? It ain't what it's cracked up to be.
At this time I would like to express my unvarnished admiration for the ruthless cynicism that led the executives at Chase Home Finance to conceive of a fake lending branch entirely dedicated to increasing foreclosures, improving their public image, and driving distressed homeowners crazy.
I don't think that this document (which is presently unobtainable directly from WikiLeaks) does really reveal much that most informed people already know--that the US exports (conventional) terrorism; but it does spell out what is hidden in US mainstream media--the support of American Zionists for terrorism against Palestinians. However, you can be sure that, once again, this document will not "see the light of day" in US mainstream media.
And it really is only a "think piece" as stated by the representative from the CIA. I do not believe that the ruling elite is really worried about any kind of backlash from abroad (meaning capitalist governments) regarding the issue of US citizens supporting terrorist groups.
And, of course, the CIA document doesn't even consider the more ominous form of terrorism--its own state sponsored terrorism.
It is clear that the capitalist system is running into some major contradictions. It will be interesting to see in future segment(s) of this interview how Henwood sees these contradictions being played out.
Gulf Chemist: Mercenaries Hired By BP Are Now Applying Toxic Dispersant - at Night and In an Uncontrolled Manner - Which BP Says It No Longer Uses
In addition to efforts to convince us that the oil is all gone in the Gulf (it's not), the government has been promoting the idea that seafood from the region is totally safe. Obama himself has been banging this drum, noshing on plenty of seafood during his trip to the region last week, serving it up at his birthday bash, and of course, taking a dip in the Gulf with his daughter.
This honest blogger, who has had a long career in the financial services industry, is very well connected to the elite of US society. She reports on recent conversations she's had with others who also are well connected that may illustrate how the ruling elite view the current economic collapse. Smith provides us with the rare privilege of sort of eavesdropping on a few of their conversations.
Normally, I don’t report on anecdotes from my immediate circle, but a set of conversations in less than a 24 hour period suggests that even those comparatively unaffected by the crisis are bracing themselves for the possibility of sudden, large-scale, adverse changes. And that sort of gnawing worry seems to be growing in New York despite being buoyed by TARP funds and covert bank subsidies.What I find so interesting is that people close to the ruling class look on the future as portending ominous events while mainstream media pour reassuring messages to working people that this is just another economic cycle and things will be fine (we are winning our wars, the Gulf is being cleaned up, no climate change that can be proved, etc.) if we just tighten our belts a bit.
Wednesday, August 25, 2010
I confess that I didn't read every line in this rather lengthy article, but her main argument is this:
Whether regionally or nationally, rationing is one way, probably the best way, to ensure reasonably equitable distribution - so while presently people see rationing as unimaginable, I would argue that we need to be laying the groundwork for just rationing strategies, administered equitably now - and that this isn't actually as hard as we might think. No, it isn't politically possible right yet - but it could become possible very rapidly. So I present a lightly revised version of a piece I wrote more than three years ago - suggesting that we need to consider strategies for the eventual implementation of resource rationing, whether at the national, state or local levels.I totally agree that it would be the "best way to ensure reasonably equitable distribution" of scarce items, but I think that she doesn't understand the obstacles preventing such an arrangement. Thus her proposal to lay a groundwork would not succeed.
Her two main arguments were that rationing has already demonstrated feasibility by citing water rationing in Australia and the US experience during WWII.
Regarding the former, capitalist ruling classes, although they have tried, have not succeeded in turning water into a privately owned commodity. Bechtel corporation tried it in Bolivia and utterly failed. Because it is not a commodity that they sell, they do not mind rationing it. But it is a very different matter when other commodities are considered, commodities that are sold and enrich the ruling class.
Rationing in WWII succeeded because the capitalist ruling class needed the widespread support of the American people to collaborate with them to defeat the competition for world hegemony posed by the same classes in Germany and Japan. Capitalist ruling classes will always make such major concessions to working people when it is in THEIR interest.
Take the origins of the US, as another example. The Declaration of Independence, written before the War of Independence, placed a lot of stress on equal rights and social justice, but after independence from Britain was achieved, the Constitution that was drawn up placed much greater emphasis on the protection of private property. It was only due to widespread dissatisfaction that a "Bill of Rights" was added to it to get it passed. Since then the Bill of Rights was poorly enforced and nowadays it is largely meaningless given all the post 9-11 "security" (read "police state") measures that have been passed.
The present ruling class in the US has little concern for the deteriorating lives of ordinary Americans. They have moved on to their Empire. For example, a major US export are farm products while many children in the US experience poor and inadequate nutrition. See this article entitled, "Study: Hunger in America jumps ‘unprecedented’ 46 percent". And food stamp programs are being cutback.
So long as this class of sociopaths rule, we can forget about rationing of essential food and fuel supplies. We need to be "laying the groundwork" for taking power away from them.
Good News for a Change, Or More Faulty Science? Newly-Discovered Species of Bacteria Claimed to be Breaking Down Oil in Deepwater Plumes in the Gulf
As Lawrence Berkeley Labs notes, the research was funded by BP:Unfortunately too many corporations have insinuated themselves and their influence into public institutions via these grants.
Hazen ... conducted this research under an existing grant he holds with the Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI) to study microbial enhanced hydrocarbon recovery. EBI is a partnership led by the University of California (UC) Berkeley and including Berkeley Lab and the University of Illinois that is funded by a $500 million, 10-year grant from BP.
Also uncovered by this blogger was that the fact that many scientists are skeptical of the results. Such skepticism has been completely omitted by corporate media that wants the issue to go away from the minds of the public.
“Almost certainly, downtime lets the brain go over experiences it’s had, solidify them and turn them into permanent long-term memories,” said Loren Frank, assistant professor in the department of physiology at the university, where he specializes in learning and memory. He said he believed that when the brain was constantly stimulated, “you prevent this learning process.”
As shocking as the behavior of the right has been, the spinelessness of political leaders who claim to stand against racism and for tolerance has been equally infuriating.
A few days after Obama spoke out of both sides of his mouth, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid issued a statement declaring that "the mosque should be built someplace else." And there's Howard Dean, the supposed "liberal maverick" of the 2004 campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, who said the Islamic center would be "a real affront to people who lost their lives, including Muslims," on September 11.
A corporate offensive is rolling down upon us, aimed at wholesale privatization of the public sector. If the Left has learned anything in the last year and a half, it should be that President Obama is Wall Street’s guy, having “delivered the highest return on corporate campaign investment in the history of bourgeois democracy.” In this struggle, the people will be left to their own devices.
The Jenpoj ("winds of fire) community radio station in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca, which plays an important role in keeping the Mixe indigenous community informed, has had its equipment confiscated and has fought and won a court case to get a broadcast license.
There are definitely contradictions in the policies being pursued in many of these left oriented Latin American countries. I'm not sure that I would describe them quite like this author does.
One thing they have in common is that they are pursuing many more independent courses of economic development than they have in the past, particularly independent of US interests. However, the ethos of capitalism with its emphasis on economic growth to profit the few is still having a major influence on the decision makers of these countries. This is because the capitalist classes are still very powerful in all of them, thus any efforts to develop their economies democratically for the benefit of all is considerably weakened--it mostly takes the form of rhetoric from their political elites who wish to assert some independence from the Empire.
Until their societies take the ownership of significant economic enterprises away from private ownership and put them into public ownership under the control of thoroughly bottom-up democratic system, we will continue to see these contradictions.
Tuesday, August 24, 2010
The authors offer some very sensible solutions to an out-of-control financial industry.
However, I argue that such solutions are shortsighted because they are only possible, along with other measures to promote sustainability, if ordinary people can take back control of their societies to serve the interests of everyone.
Capitalism with its privately held system of debt financing is the logical outcome of an economic system run for, and by, private interests. The current system promotes economic booms and busts which results in ever greater concentrations of capital, and that is precisely what capitalists want.
This system has thrived on cheap, and what appeared to capitalists to be unlimited amounts of fossil fuels and other resources and an environment capable of absorbing all the waste that the consumption of these resources creates, have combined to threaten our eco-system's ability to support human life. We simply cannot allow capitalism to continue to drive us to extinction.
The hell we have made in Iraq -- "between 25 and 50 percent unemployment, a dysfunctional parliament, rampant disease, an epidemic of mental illness, and sprawling slums ... the killing of innocent people ... part of daily life," as Adil Shamoo aptly puts it -- is far from over. And if our militarist elites have their way, it will never end.
While President Obama insisted when announcing his plans for an Afghanistan “surge” that the US had no intentions of permanently occupying the country, the base construction proposals suggest the opposite. Plans are being implemented based on the assumption that US military forces will be fighting there for years if not decades to come. This protracted war is being waged not to defeat “terrorism” or promote democracy in Afghanistan, but to secure US hegemony in the energy-rich and geo-strategically vital region of Central Asia.As cutbacks and a ruined economy are forcing young people to look to the military for jobs, health care, and advanced educational opportunities, the military-industrial complex continues on its merry way.
Dispersants Cause Gulf Fish to Absorb More Toxins and then Make It Harder for the Fish to Get Rid of the Pollutants Once Exposed
The data is starting to come in regarding the harmful environmental effects of dispersants used by BP to break up the oil in the Gulf. "Our" government never questioned BP's use of these chemicals even though there was little reason to believe that they were safe to use.
I think this BP disaster has really pushed people’s tolerance for accepting the myth that we live in a functioning democracy—whether they’re red or blue of Tea Party or whatever.
Monday, August 23, 2010
Also, check this out--A Tale of Two Dairy Farms (One of Which Milks 30,000 Cows) at Politics of the Plate.
The outrage here is not that Wright County Eggs has released nearly half a billion tainted eggs into the market, exposing untold numbers of people to sickness. DeCoster's record of abuse -- of people and the environment -- has taught anyone who's paying attention to expect such things from his operations.
The outrage is that regulatory authorities at both the state and national levels have allowed him to continue hiring workers and producing food as violations piled up.In the US any kind of government regulation regarding issues affecting ordinary Americans is a farce. The government exists to serve its master--the military-industrial complex.
...not every investor is trembling with anxiety over the next financial blowup. Some are embracing the market's volatility—and constructing portfolios to profit from it.At the Wall Street casino you can bet on economic disaster--you know, the kind that destroys communities, families, creates homelessness, alcoholism, suicides, etc.--and get rich! Ain't capitalism wonderful?
...humanity will be consuming more natural resources and producing more waste than the forests, fields and fisheries of the world can replace and absorb. By doing so, the life -support systems that we all depend on are worn ever thinner. Farms become less productive, fish populations crash and climate regulating forests decline. All become less resilient in the face of extreme weather events.This phenomenon is occurring because capitalism requires ever greater growth of consumption and production in order to exist. We either dump this disastrous economic system or the ecosystem will dump us!
Portions of the Gulf are So Toxic that Dolphins, Fish, Crabs, Stingrays and Other Animals are "Trying to Crawl Out of the Water"
There is time, but that time is short. We live at the edge of imagination… a place we have only dared imagine in science fiction. Children alive today will live the real thing. Who says? Not me. But arguably the smartest member of our species. See below. Of course, Hawkins would not be the first wise man to be ignored by selfish, self-indulgent, chattering humans submerged in their own mass denial.I am alarmed also, but it doesn't help much to blame "chattering humans" when there is overwhelming evidence that the capitalist system is driving us to consume more (mostly needless junk) all in the name of profits for those who benefit from the system. If you don't identify the source of a problem, what hope is there of solving it?
This article with its pictures and descriptions gives the best portrayal that I have found of what the scene is like on much of the Gulf coast. Mainstream media cannot, or will not, provide this kind of report on the worst environmental disaster in US history.
Sunday, August 22, 2010
...the world's most powerful takers can never be the givers; as the world's plutocrats will not be the ones to create a more just egalitarian society. It is correct to point out that to change the world the majority of the world's population must act together, but ironically the act that is required is not one of giving -- especially not one of donating money or time to capitalist-friendly charities. Instead what we need to do is to become takers, in that we need to take power away from the ruling elites. Once we have decided on the importance of making this political step we can then start planning on how we might create a world that is premised on giving and not taking. This form of give and take will wipe the smile off capitalism's smug face and place it upon its rightful owners, the people of our planet.
The blogger makes some very important points about how "self-seeking politicians and ratings-seeking media...are obsessed with driving wedges between us."
The picture of America fed to us by the media and our politicians—those hand-in-glove bandits—is not of an America that produces great art, that cures diseases, educates its children, gives everyone a hand, minds its own business, likes to sing and dance and laugh. No, the picture of America we are handed is grim, mean and disruptive, not unlike a prison yard.However, he misses the underlying reality of a ruling class and its power structure that rules the US, and their interests in keeping their subjects, working people, divided, isolated, misinformed, and competing against each other. The politicians and media managers he refers to are merely agents of the ruling class. If we are going to create a sustainable society, it is absolutely essential that we understand what we are up against.
Every oppressor in history has always used the principle of divide and conquer to control people. The challenge is for us to understand how this currently works and to promote cooperative efforts in every way we can. Probably the most essential means of bringing people together is for working people to create their own means of communication or media.
This article illustrates the extravagant lifestyle of a member of the 1% in the US who through their connections and wealth shape America's domestic and foreign policies. People like the Rennerts are the lead killers of the planet and destroyers of communities and the lives of working people.
But it is not such people that I like to focus on. Rather it is the system of capitalism that produces such people that we must understand and change.
"For two years I saw people suffering and I didn't do anything – and that's really scary," said Michelzon. "At the end, it felt like the army betrayed me – they used me, I couldn't recognise myself. What we call protecting our country is destroying lives."The working people that make up the armies of ruling classes are always being used by the latter to promote their interests which under capitalism consists of access to cheap raw materials, labor, and markets. Working people are fooled into thinking that they are serving and protecting their country.
Israel as a country was largely brought into existence by Zionists and Anglo-American ruling classes whose main interest was to insure control of, and access to, the vast oil reserves in the Middle East.
See also this excellent article on the same subject entitled, "A case of decency deficit: Israel’s sickness goes beyond one soldier and her Facebook pictures"