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, September 4, 2010

The Word - Control-Self-Delete (4:28m video)

by Stephen Colbert from Colbert Nation. Colbert makes some very good points in his humorous treatment of the social networking websites.

A World in Collapse?

by Alex Doherty, Robert Jensen from New Left Project. Doherty interviews Robert Jensen.
You dismiss the possibility of technological solutions to climate change but given the severity of the crises we are facing do we not have a duty to try everything we can to avert disaster? Shouldn’t we be ramping up research into alternate fuels and renewable energy resources? What about geo-engineering as way to avert the worst effects of climate change?
I like the answers that Jensen has to these key questions and others.

In defense of Alan Simpson

by Glenn Greenwald from Salon. The author trains his sights on Obama's super-secret Deficit Commission whose findings will come out in December after the Fall elections. Its organizers are clearly out to slash all the social-welfare programs they can including Social Security and Medicare. 
That's why Commission co-chair Alan Simpson -- with his blunt contempt for Social Security and and other benefit programs (such as aid to disabled veterans) and his acknowledged eagerness to slash them  -- has done the country a serious favor.  His recent outbursts have unmasked this Commission and shed light on its true character.  Unlike his fellow Commission members, who imperiously dismiss public inquiries into what they're doing as though they're annoying and inappropriate, Simpson -- to his genuine credit -- has been aggressively engaging critics, making it impossible to ignore what the Commission is really up to.

Sleep, the Newest Status Symbol Among the Wealthy

by Jamie Johnson from Vanity Fair. This is this week's contribution to us ordinary Americans to help us keep in touch with the one percent who have so much influence over our lives. Today we look in on the way they maintain self-esteem and the esteem of others (status) and how that has changed over time.
Ironically, wiling away hours in a state of blissful unconsciousness has become, of all things, a status symbol. Hallmarks of position and power change with the times, but present customs provide an unexpected and sharp contrast to the not-so-distant past. For much of the nation’s existence, industry and productivity represented what the rich wanted to project as a persuasive image. Unwavering devotion to Wasp- fundamentally Protestant—discipline was all the rage. Wealth and accomplishment were cast in material molds, the marketable fruits of productivity and profits. Now, it’s less tangible and more ethereal, like the dreams of carefree sleep. Today, there’s a growing appreciation for what isn’t done, rather than what is, a phenomenon marked by the telling yawn.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Military Study Warns of a Potentially Drastic Oil Crisis

by Stefan Schultz from Der Spiegel.

Given the predatory nature of capitalist elites, is there any doubt now as to why the US, with its huge military, has been invading and occupying nations and building bases in the Middle East and Eurasia?
A study by a German military think tank has analyzed how "peak oil" might change the global economy. The internal draft document -- leaked on the Internet -- shows for the first time how carefully the German government has considered a potential energy crisis.

Synthetic Sea ..... NEW version for 2010 (10:00m video)

Algalita Marine Research Foundation

Earlier this morning I tuned into Bloomberg TV program to listen to a Wall Street expert talking about the necessity of more consumption, either in the US or China, in order to drive the economy. Then I watched this. Do you see any contradiction between the type of economy we have and a healthy ecological system?
Captain Charles Moore describes the marine debris research he has conducted on behalf of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation over the past 12 years.
Current concerns include the ubiquitous presence of endocrine disrupting
synthetics in the marine environment, with pollutant loads being transferred up the food chain to haunt fish, cetaceans and humans.

What's More Important For Black Leadership? Turning Off Fox News? Or Stopping the President's Cat Food Commission?

by Bruce A. Dixon from Black Agenda Report
Rev. Al Sharpton and  the NAACP's Ben Jealous, along with most of the old black political class want us to think the most important thing happening is their ongoing clown fight with Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin. The newer crowd of tech-savvy, social-network-aware types around Color of Change think the most key and crucial thing to do is to make airports, bus and train stations Turn Off Fox News. They're both wrong. The real action is someplace else.
While the right-wing garners all the media hoopla, Obama's National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility & Reform is quietly going about its business of preparing plans to slash Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Covert Operations [Part 2: What the Article Reveals]

by Jane Mayer from The New Yorker

As I discussed in yesterday's review of this article, I was initially quite surprised by this magazine's exposé of the right-wing in the US because the latter have been operating this way for several decades without a peep from any establishment sources. 

But after further reflection, I offered the explanation posted in yesterday's article review which essentially argued that the liberal-wing of the ruling class and the more established capitalist class as a whole are concerned about the growing power and influence of the right-wing. (One must not equate the liberal-wing and the right-wing with Democrats and Republicans--the latter are pretty much inter-changeable.) 

As seen by the mainstream of the ruling class, the growing influence of the right-wing over the citizenry represents reckless political behavior given the current delicate condition of the economy and the treasury-draining, never-ending wars in the Middle East. Thus I see this article in a leading ruling class publication as a call to opinion shapers and decision makers within the US to put the brakes on what they see as dangerous right-wing activities that could be destabilizing for capitalist rule.

So, what does the article actually reveal? 
  • The extensive use of tax exempt non-profit think tanks to propagate right-wing propaganda which targets decision-makers in government, academia, and corporations to discourage any moves by the government to curb the profit making activities of businesses regardless of the destructive natures of those activities. I am referring to such issues as pollution, mishandling and dumping of hazardous substances, ozone depletion, climate change, acid rain, curbs on the tobacco industry, health care, illegal acts to enhance profits, and paying taxes.
  • The establishment of non-profit enterprises and foundations to funnel money into various right-wing citizen front groups, aka "astro-turf" organizations such as the Tea Party, Citizens for the Environment, Citizens for a Sound Economy, Americans for Prosperity, etc.
  • Their influence together with other right-wing forces such as Fox News has successfully spread a considerable amount of misinformation among the general public such as Obama is a socialist and Muslim, the Administration has a socialist vision for the US, and climate change is good for you because global warming will result in longer growing seasons in the Northern Hemisphere.  

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Covert Operations [Part 1: Why This Article?]

by Jane Mayer from The New Yorker

This is an exceedingly important article for working people, especially activists, to read and understand. There is so much meat in it that I fear that I haven't the time to deal with it all. By "meat", I mean real political substance that will enable you to understand how political power is used in the US by the rich and powerful against the interests of ordinary working Americans.

Few ordinary Americans ever encounter this magazine except for maybe in medical offices. Physicians often subscribe to it because the magazine, like Vanity Fair, is oriented to the interests of the ruling class, and physicians by nature are very status oriented and like to identify with those of the highest status. (Some people regard physicians as little more than pimps for the pharmaceutical corporations.)

The ruling class is not a card carrying, monolithic group with a paid membership. They are tied together by their powerful influence on the society over which they rule, and their power is based upon the "ownership" of the all the important engines of the economy that creates "their" wealth. 

The members of this ruling class have always had their differences over how to manage society so that their rule over it is enhanced and to prevent threats to their rule. The right-wing of this class has always preferred to aggressively attack working people, while the liberal wing is more focused on preserving their class rule by avoiding needless confrontations with working people. The very appearance of this revealing article begs the question as to why The New Yorker ran the article. Let me offer an explanation.

The interests behind The New Yorker are more tied to the older, established ruling class (the liberal-wing) that really doesn't want to rock the boat too much by aggressively attacking working people while the capitalists like the Koch brothers prefer to be much more aggressive. Hence The New Yorker, alone among major publications (although not mainstream), has chosen to run an article of this nature to curb the influence of the right-wing. The Koch brothers, and many others of this right-wing ilk, have been attacking the Obama administration and other establishment Democrats so vigorously and successfully that the liberal-wing is beginning to see them as a threat to public order, as stirring things up to the point where there is open class war. 

These developments remind me of the latter days of the Weimar Republic in Germany when the German ruling class turned to the Nazis in order to control the working class more effectively. Well, we know what happened then, and the current US liberal ruling class also knows.

This liberal-wing in the US prefers much more subtle and sophisticated strategies that combine some social concessions in the forms of labor laws, social benefit-welfare programs, and regulatory agencies to lend the appearance of social justice. Obama and his administration fill that role exceedingly well. Because the ruling class as a whole has engaged in so much casino capitalism with such disastrous results, the liberal wing is trying to steer a very careful course that includes cutbacks with a lot of nice sounding rhetoric to keep their good ship "Capitalism" afloat. Hence, they fear the reckless behavior of the right-wing. And that is precisely why this revealing article appears, and in a source where few working people will read it.

(Part 2: What the Article Reveals will appear tomorrow)

Why failure of climate summit would herald global catastrophe: 3.5°

by Michael McCarthy from The Independent.
The world is heading for the next major climate change
conference in Cancun later this year on course for global warming
of up to 3.5C in the coming century, a series of scientific analyses suggest. The failure of last December's UN climate summit in Copenhagen means that cuts in carbon emissions pledged by the international community will not be enough to keep the anticipated warming within safe limits. 

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

CIA in Honduras: the Practice of Selective Terror

by Nil Nikandrov from Strategic Culture Foundation

This is a very good update on the Empire's latest subversion of a government in Latin America that strayed from neo-liberalist dogma.
President of Honduras Manuel Zelaya was displaced slightly over a year ago in a coup staged by the local oligarchy and the US intelligence community. The coup came as a punishment for Zelaya's alignment with H. Chavez and other populist Latin American leaders. Since the time, the news flow from Honduras abounds with stories of political assassinations, the victims being activists of trade unions, peasant and student organizations, and the National Popular Resistance Front opposing the pro-US regime of Porfirio Lobo. Ten journalists who expressed support for the ousted Honduran president have been killed this year alone.

For-profit colleges can leave you dumb and broke

by Makaiya Brown from The Loop 21
A federal investigation  found that several for-profit colleges are involved in fraudulent acts and questionable marketing practices to attract students. The investigation unveiled that many of the colleges harass prospective students with repetitive recruiting phone calls after students request school information on websites. Several of the schools also encouraged students to falsify financial aid forms in order to get federal funds. By law up to 90 percent of the revenue of for-profit colleges can be derived from federal student aid. 

I know about this subject from my personal experience with a private school in San Francisco. I taught math courses to copier repair students in the late 1980s for about two months when I discovered what a scam they were running. They were aggressively recruiting anyone they could get off the streets to enroll and sign them up for Federal loans. Many had no aptitude whatsoever for this kind of work, and I was horrified at the amounts of the loans they were taking on.

This scam is strikingly similar to those run on many people to sign up for mortgages that caused the housing bubble in this past decade. But notice that this educational scam started in the late 80s and only now is the Federal Dept. of Education clamping down on them. 

These are illustrations of sociopathic behavior that the system of capitalism rewards and promotes; and as you can see, there is little enforcement or supervision of such activities by governmental authorities because the government is owned by this class of sociopaths. 

Natural health movement achieving key victories over HFCS, MSG, GMOs and more

by Mike Adams from Natural News. It's not all bad news on the food front as this author explains.
It's hard to see it sometimes, but the natural health community has achieved many important victories over the last few years in exposing the truth about dangerous chemicals and food ingredients. Here are some of the major victories we've collectively achieved:

Cooperatives and the crisis: “Our customers are also our owners”

from International Labour Organization
“Available evidence suggests that, with few exceptions, cooperative enterprises across all sectors and regions are relatively more resilient to the current market shocks than their capital-centred counterparts.”

The Food Safety Shell Game

by Mark Kastel and Will Fantle from Common Dreams.
The relatively new phenomena of nationwide pathogenic outbreaks, be they from salmonella or E. coli variants, are intimately tied to the fecal contamination of our food supply and the intermingling of millions of unhealthy animals.  It’s one of the best kept secrets in the modern livestock industry.  
I recall the TV coverage of the latest food disaster--the salmonella contaminated eggs. They only showed photos taken from at least 500 feet in the air of the large pens in which the chickens were raised. There was absolutely no mention of the conditions that the chickens were raised in. Isn't it wonderful how mainstream media supports factory farms? It might be because the same people own both, or that they all--the investor class--have an interest in advancing profits regardless of public consequences.

Time out

Veterans for Peace discuss Bradley Manning with McCord (7:29m video)

from War is a Crime

US veterans are increasingly speaking up against the horrors that the military-industrial complex of the US is inflicting on the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Heroic Americans like Bradley Manning risk so much to bring us the truth. 

Big grocers take aim at the UFCW

by Darrin Hoop from Socialist Worker.
THE LONG list of attempted concessions is stunning. But Allied Employers is only trying to build on many concessions it has won from the union in the past.
Notice the old "divide and rule" strategy that employers are using against workers in the form of two-tier wage and benefit proposals.

Losing Sight of What Matters in America

by Mary Newsom from the Charlotte Observer.
We’ve stopped valuing workers. The country apparently no longer believes people who work hard deserve wages that pay them enough to afford the rent or a modest mortgage, or deserve a pension to keep them from penury in retirement. We’ve stopped expecting those things from employers – or at least they’ve stopped providing them. We’ve even stopped valuing public schools, stopped expecting them to have mowed lawns and drinking fountains that work.
The author is dismayed at the deterioration of American life, that is, the lives of ordinary Americans. However she fails to make the connection with the class of people who run US society. This class no longer needs ordinary Americans with their high expectations of living standards. American workers are no longer of interest to them after they have been able to tap into cheap foreign labor through the efforts of so many--the World Bank, IMF, Bill Clinton, etc.

And now this ruling class, through their powerful mass media, is brainwashing Americans to believe that it's migrant workers and Muslims who are responsible.

Anti-Mosque Coalition’s Website Owned By Neo-Conservative Islamophobe Frank Gaffney

by Alex Seitz-Wald from Think Progress.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Glenn Beck in Washington: Preaching the gospel of Mammon and militarism

by Bill Van Auken from World Socialist Web Site
The real danger arises from the political subordination of the working class to the Democratic Party and the ruling elite that it serves. Those so-called liberals and “lefts” who promote illusions in Obama bear responsibility for this subordination, which impedes the emergence of a genuine alternative to the policies pursued by both big business parties and allows demagogues on the right to exploit the crisis for their own purposes.
 For an illustration of the games that liberals play in the US, see this.

See also the big money behind the Tea Party.

Free market has turned us into 'Matrix' drones

by Rachel Shields from The Independent.
A leading economist has likened the nation's acceptance of free-market capitalism to that of the brainwashed characters in the film The Matrix, unwitting pawns in a fake reality.
The economist makes some very good points, but it appears to me that he doesn't propose any alternatives to capitalism, instead advocates more welfare programs.

How Should Progressives Respond to the Gulf Oil Spill?

by Erik Lindberg from Transition Milwaukee. An excellent response to all the liberal green rubbish about alternative fuels.
...self-described progressives are also accustomed to technological fixes for nearly every problem and challenge, and the very possibility that some breakthrough technology or solution isn’t just around the corner is scarcely fathomable; that alternative energy might not be able to replace fossil fuels is so alien and so far removed from popular consciousness that this possibility need not even be discussed or rise to the level at which it is worthy of being dismissed in “The Progressive”: apparently it “goes without saying”-- the presumed untapped riches of renewable energy is, after all, “the only way”.
Liberals, in the American political sense of the word, like all others in mainstream US cannot imagine a world without capitalism which is dependent on ever increasing amounts of energy to exist.  Thus, "power down" options are not an option.

How to Boil a Frog (film trailer)


See also the film's website for further information or YouTube for further segments.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Zelaya: US subverting Honduran democracy (2:49m video)

by Melissa Abalo from Press TV. A brief update on the Latin American opposition to the US backed Honduran military government.

Mike Leung on the case for abolishing human rentals

from the P2P Foundation. (Supposedly sourced from "Abolish Human Rentals" website but I couldn't find it there.) The article, and the original website, contain some very interesting ideas about wage slavery and alternative arrangements.

Trends in environmental concern as revealed by Google searches: The chilling effect of recession

by Matthew E. Kahn and Matthew J. Kotchen from Vox. This is a very interesting piece of research that environmentalists need to be concerned about.

How limited global oil supply may affect climate change policies

by Gail Tverberg from The Oil Drum

The people participating in the Oil Drum website have extensive backgrounds in the technical sciences and thus are very knowledgeable regarding the technical aspects of the issues related to peak energy and climate change. However given the heavy investment in these specializations, IMO, they often suffer what some people know as "learned incompetence".

What I am referring to here is that they have invested so much time in their particular technologies that they have studied little about social-economic systems. I have occasionally checked in on this site for several years and have never noticed them considering any other system beyond capitalism. 

Thus, although very well-meaning people participate in the website, their discussions about the twin crises of peak energy and climate change are always within the constraints of capitalism, or else they suggest a future of doom. They seem unable to imagine any other system or they don't believe that another system is possible that would enable humans to live in harmony with nature and at a reasonable standard of living.

Nevertheless, I find many of their articles quite fascinating as well as the comments following the articles. 

(GHG in the article refers to "greenhouse gases".) 

The Age of easy, Cheap Oil Maybe Getting Over Slowly

by Syed Rashid Husain from Arab News. This very interesting article looks into the effects of climate change in the Arctic and the effects it might have on oil production. (The title would be better phrased as "The Age of Easy, Cheap Oil May Be Slowly Disappearing")

Time out

Fish Kills Worry Gulf Scientists, Fishers, Environmentalists

by Dahr Jamail from Dahr Jamail's Dispatches
Another massive fish kill, this time in Louisiana, has alarmed scientists, fishers and environmentalists who believe they are caused by oil and dispersants.

Break the Chains - Transform the System

from CADTM.  
Enough is enough!  What people and the planet are demanding is to break the chains of debt domination and the subjugation of all life to the dictates of the market in an economic system based on accumulation and over-consumption by the few, rather than justice and solidarity among the many. We, the peoples, must unite locally and globally to build alternatives of equity and equilibrium for all, without debts or domination.