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, October 9, 2010

A Surprise Boost for Euro from China

by F. William Engdahl from Voltaire Net

Given the current buzz about "currency wars" and the mortgage/foreclosure frauds, these are very fluid financial times that we are living in. This article written by a highly respected economist reports on a fascinating financial move by China which I haven't seen reported elsewhere.

...China has made a strategic decision to counter any future attempt by US-based hedge funds and banks to attack the weak countries of the Eurozone, including Ireland, Spain, Portugal or Greece. Early this year, as we noted at the time, Wall Street banks such as Goldman Sachs, working in tandem with the US-based credit rating agencies, Standard & Poors and Moodys and Fitch, exploded the Greece financial crisis at the precise time China and other major investors were beginning to have serious doubts about the fiscal stability of the United States and of the dollar.

Is A “Mortgage Meltdown” Foreclosure Moratorium Imminent As The RoboSigning Scandal Goes Mainstream?

by Tyler Durden from Wall St. Cheat Sheet

The securitization of mortgages scam is in the process of meltdown as more fraud is uncovered in foreclosures. It is a giant mess and who knows where this will end up. Some suggest that the banks will be looking for another bailout. Read this and other articles below to keep informed. 

Foreclosuregate and Obama's Pocket Veto by Ellen Brown 
By most reports, it would appear that the voluntary suspension of foreclosures is underway to review simple, careless procedural errors. Errors which the conscientious banks are hastening to correct. Even Gretchen Morgenson in the New York Times characterizes the problem as “flawed paperwork.”

But those errors go far deeper than mere sloppiness. They are concealing a massive fraud.

They cannot  be corrected with legitimate paperwork, and that was the reason the servicers had to hire “foreclosure mills” to fabricate the documents.

These errors involve perjury and forgery -- fabricating documents that never existed and swearing to the accuracy of facts not known.

US banks fake documents to rush foreclosures by Tom Eley

And if you really need to understand this mess more, read "Foreclosure Fraud For Dummies" from Rortybomb. 

 And to extract some humor out of it:
Jon Stewart on the Foreclosure Fiasco

Paul Krugman and the Wily Rich

by Jamie Johnson from Vanity Fair

Often on Saturdays I try to keep in touch with the One Percent of our fellow Americans by reading Johnson's columns in this publication. This writer specializes in reports on the lifestyles of those who benefit most from the system of capitalism. The article reports on how pissed off these folks are about the possibility of paying more taxes and what they intend to do about it.
...the most fascinating thing about right now is what the rich are doing when they aren’t complaining. Most of them are strategizing to pay minimal capital-gains tax by cashing in whatever profitable assets they can before the tax rate rises above its current level of 15 percent.

American People Hire High-Powered Lobbyist To Push Interests In Congress

from The Onion. (Warning: Some might consider this rather sick humor.)
"The goal is to make it seem politically advantageous for legislators to keep the American people in mind when making laws," Weldon said. "Lawmakers are going to ask me, 'Why should I care about the American people? What's in it for me?' And it will be up to me and my team to find some reason why they should consider putting poverty and medical care for children on the legislative docket."

"To be honest," Weldon added, "the American people have always been perceived as a little naïve when it comes to their representative government. But having me on their side sends a clear message that they're finally serious and want to play ball."

Friday, October 8, 2010

Small Change: Why the revolution will not be tweeted.

by Malcolm Gladwell from The New Yorker

I've argued before that The New Yorker is used to reach those in the ruling class and all their middle class supporters who function as opinion shapers and disciplinarians against those who stray from the capitalist party line. See this, this, and this.

The author's chief concern in this piece is the widely ballyhooed claims that electronic social media were very successful in fomenting the Iranian (and other) demonstrations that occurred there earlier this year. If social media could cause problems for the establishment there, why couldn't it also cause problems for the Empire? However, the claim regarding Iran is thoroughly debunked by the author, and I'm sure that this was a great relief to many in the security agencies of the ruling class. 

As one can expect from this publication, the article is well written and founded on solid research to bolster the author's argument main thesis that social media is no threat to the established order. He argues and supplies the evidence that it is no threat because it is unable to foster the close personal ties that occurred during the Civil Rights campaigns in the South during the early 1960s and were successful in sustaining that movement. But then Gladwell makes this additional argument about the latter's success:
It was also, crucially, strategic activism: a challenge to the establishment mounted with precision and discipline. The N.A.A.C.P. was a centralized organization, run from New York according to highly formalized operating procedures. At the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Martin Luther King, Jr., was the unquestioned authority. At the center of the movement was the black church, which had, as Aldon D. Morris points out in his superb 1984 study, “The Origins of the Civil Rights Movement,” a carefully demarcated division of labor, with various standing committees and disciplined groups. “Each group was task-oriented and coordinated its activities through authority structures,” Morris writes. “Individuals were held accountable for their assigned duties, and important conflicts were resolved by the minister, who usually exercised ultimate authority over the congregation.”
He is arguing that a top-down, strong hierarchical structure is required to make an organization effective, that a self-organizing, horizontally organized network cannot achieve success in any program that involves significant risks to participants. This is where I part company with him. (Of course, it is completely understandable that he makes this argument--a strong hierarchical structure is required to sustain capitalism, or indeed, any class structured society--because he is writing for a prime outlet for ruling class views.)

His argument that the Civil Rights organizations were well disciplined hierarchies is patently false. They depended on the allegiance and support of many volunteers. There are few ways to "discipline" volunteers.  Volunteers overwhelmingly supported actions of these organizations simply because there was a complete correspondence of goals and values. Thus the officials of these organizations had to listen to criticisms and, as a result, often modified strategies and tactics and thereby conceded some power to their volunteers. I know this from personal experience.

Affinity groups, which support close personal ties, have been used with considerable success not only in the Civil Rights movement, but in many others including anti-war, anti-nuclear power, environmental, animal rights, and anti-WTO actions. Such organizations that use this model are totally opposite of hierarchical organizations. Authority resides at the bottom and works its way up the organization.

The fact that the Civil Rights movement accomplished so much was because the ruling capitalist class in the US eventually realized that it could accommodate the demands of the movement within the capitalist structure without harm to their rule or their system.

The great transition (beyond carbon)

by Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed from Our World 2.0.
If there is one thing that defines the 21st century, it is the end of oil. But not just oil. Over the coming decades, we face the prospect of terminal depletion of the world’s major mineral energy reserves, with major ramifications for the future of industrial civilization. 
Unfortunately, his essays is weakened a bit by the omission of the prospects for fusion energy which, in my opinion, is a wildly optimistic hope of some people.

Notice, that he also is not able to use that unmentionable word--"capitalism". Instead, he uses euphemisms like "industrial civilization" and "post-carbon civilization". That's because capitalism is in today's world a religion, and it is taboo to use that word.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Business unionism vs workplace democracy

by Wanda Pasz from New Unionism Blog. (I'm confused about authorship here. A note at the end of the article indicates that the piece was excerpted from a paper by Rune Kvist Olsen--which I also highly recommend reading. While skimming the latter's paper, I found that he liberally borrowed from Wanda's writings and I didn't find any material directly inserted into her article.)

This article provides an excellent, concise history of unionism, the functions that unions serve to support capitalism, and how today's unions have little to do with workplace democracy. Both the commentary by this Canadian author and Olsen's paper are must reads. I plan to print out the latter and study it further.
The hierarchical structure is so deeply ingrained in our consciousness that it’s hard for people to think of the workplace without it. Even as we become more and more aware of the downside of hierarchical relations, we just can’t shake the monkey off our backs. We continue to try hard to wedge democratic practices into the autocratic system and hope that some good will come of this – participative management, employee centred management, open door policies and other human resources management innovations are all half-baked attempts at democratizing the cell block and making the prisoners feel a little bit free.


Obama taps food-industry exec for top ag-research post

by Tom Philpott from Grist
Somewhere in the East Wing, Michelle Obama must be fuming. The first lady has labored hard to fight the rising tide of diet-related maladies among children -- and her husband has now handed the nation's agricultural research agenda to someone who recently owed her living to robust sales of stuff like Milky Way, M&M's, Twix, Skittles, Wrigley's gum, and Snickers bars, all heavily marketed to kids.
Surely she must realize by now for whom her husband works. She'll likely "stand by her man" because of all the perks, influence, and wealth that comes with the relationship. She knows that the First Lady's job is to do good works and create a positive public image. She is performing her role very well, as he is his--to serve the interests of major corporations who sponsored him.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Ignominious Surrender On The Mall

by Glen Ford from Black Agenda Report

This offers an African-American view on the "One Nation" performance at the Washington Mall last Saturday. (It is a transcript of a commentary that can be listened to by accessing the 3:54m audio recording at the end of the transcript.)

I have only one criticism of this post which is that it offers more "heat" than "light"--too much moral outrage and not enough penetrating analysis of this event.

As the author suggests, I believe the event was probably staged by Democratic party operatives. It would be very interesting to have the details on that--possibly, they will be forthcoming sometime in the future. 

In any case, most of the people who spoke at the event have been co-opted by the liberal wing of the US ruling capitalist class. Political liberals serve to defuse discontent and channel it into fairly harmless directions. These people long ago "sold their souls to the establishment store" in order to secure comfortable careers within the Empire. 

This is a perfect illustration of the ruling class's use of co-optation to control dissent. This technique is made possible by the concentration of ruling class control over hierarchical structures in all important institutions, and hence their control over jobs and careers. 

Other tools of control include indoctrination in educational classes, insertion of ruling class propaganda in the mass media, setting up right-wing organizations to channel protest against false targets (Muslims, migrant workers, "liberals", big government, etc.).

IMF Calls for Huge New Round of Bank Bailouts

from Washington's Blog
Turmoil in sovereign debt markets necessitating another round of bailouts?

This is amusing, given that it was the last round of bailouts which caused the sovereign debt crisis in the first place.

Specifically, the Bank for International Settlements – often described as a central bank for central banks (BIS) – slammed the failure of the Fed and other central banks to force companies to write off bad debts years ago.

BIS also warned that the Fed and other central banks were simply transferring risk from private banks to governments, which could lead to a sovereign debt crisis. That is what caused the sovereign debt crisis in the first place!
The blogger explores recent statements coming from financial institutions that suggest they will be looking for more bailouts. The financial crises appear to be increasing and it is bloggers like this who can help us understand what is happening.

Is America Under Attack ... Or Are the Barbarians Inside the Gates?

from Washington's Blog

This brilliant blogger tracks so much of the essential information regarding the Empire's misadventures. One could spend hours on all the support links that he uses to support his thesis that the enemies lie within the Empire. 

He assembles massive amounts of data, but is unable, or prefers not to, lead the facts to their ultimate conclusion--the capitalist system has produced a nightmare scenario for the human race if it is not prevented from continuing its criminal ways. Instead the author writes:
Barbarians inside the American financial system have destroyed that system.
My contention is that the system--capitalism--is unsustainable and is destroying itself, and we must see to it that it does not destroy us.

US corporate profits soar on layoffs, wage cuts

by Barry Grey from World Socialist Web Site

Capitalists use economic crises to their advantage--among them are the opportunities to buy up distressed companies and assets on the cheap, to cut wages and benefits, to weaken unions, etc.  Remember Obama's Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel's quote? (“You don’t ever want a crisis to go to waste....")
US corporate profits are soaring in the midst of the deepest economic slump since the Great Depression, on the basis of a ruthless policy of using mass unemployment to slash wages and heighten the exploitation of American workers. In order to make the impoverishment of the working class a permanent feature of American life, companies are hoarding vast amounts of cash rather than hiring workers and expanding output.

These are the conclusions that flow from a Wall Street Journal analysis of second-quarter 2010 corporate profits....

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Icelanders Egg PM as Global Protests Condemn Corruption and Banksters

by Rady Ananda from Dissident Voice

This provides excellent coverage (including great links) of the fight-backs by working people in Europe and beyond against the banksters and international capitalists. 
As proceedings begin against Iceland’s former Prime Minister, Geir Haarde, for the banking crisis of 2008, at least two thousand Icelanders took to the streets in two days of protest this weekend. Iceland joins over a dozen other nations protesting economic measures taken out on the public while banks and large corporations receive bailouts. Class war is on, and it’s gone global.
The Real News Network presents a 4:44m video in which Richard Wolff (an Economist, Author, and Professor Emeritus of Economics at the U. of Massachusetts) after just returning from Europe contrasts the militancy of Europeans with their tame counterparts in the US as illustrated by the "One Nation" rally in the US. Regarding the latter, you may also want to check out Chris Hedges' take on this "March to Nowhere".

Quelle Surprise! Team Obama Having Trouble Selling TARP Success

by Yves Smith from her blog, Naked Capitalism

The astute author of this piece inadvertantly offers argument after argument for the thesis that we have monolithic rule in the US--the Republican and Democratic alternatives are not. The political theatrical production staged by the ruling class hides the reality of the rule by financial elites and their military-industrial goon squads. 

However, in spite of offering these arguments, the author can't let herself arrive at the obvious conclusions. I think that this is because capitalism is not merely an economic system in the US. The ruling class has managed to elevate it to the status of a religion. Anyway, let me go through her arguments.
  1. ...Obama administration...chose to reconstitute, as much as possible, the very same industry whose reckless pursuit of profit had thrown the world economy off the cliff.
  2. ...the tacit assumption...was the program that the Administration implemented or no intervention at all. But that is bunk. There were plenty of other options....
  3. The Obama crowd took a tough line with the auto companies, dispatching its top brass, forcing the recipients to produce long term plans, forcing bondholders and union members to take haircuts. Why did the banksters get kid glove treatment? The answer is all too obvious: financiers are one of the biggest sources of campaign contributions.
  4. The TARP was created by the Bush regime; why not distance yourself from it or deploy it differently? 
Her lame explanation is:
...incoming president Obama failed to act. Whether he failed to see the opportunity, didn’t understand it, or was simply not interested is moot.
In argument 3 above, she offers the explanation of campaign contributions being bigger from the banksters. But that explanation begs the question as to why the latter can offer bigger contributions. 

Industrial companies have become like commodities to the capitalist elites and they don't choose one over another on the basis of geographical boundaries, rather they choose to help those who can offer the most profits. Her explanation offers more support for the argument that it doesn't matter who is elected, and explains why the transition between political actors Bush and Obama was such a seamless one.

Yes, US capitalists don't give a hoot if Detroit is transformed into one vast slum. They find that enterprises in low-wage third world countries with lax environmental regulations a lot more profitable.

However, it is clear that there is one industrial sector in the US that the ruling class does care about--those industrial companies that are a part of the military-industrial complex: Raytheon, General Dynamics, Haliburton, Defense Solutions, Veritas Capital, DynCorp, Blackwater, etc.

The reasons for the lavish support of these companies are obvious--they supply the weapons to the enforcers (US military and NATO) of the capitalist Empire.  The enforcers keep countries like the former Yugoslavia, Iraq, and Afghanistan under their rule. Though the threat of state terrorism they keep many other countries complying with the policies of US and NATO. They encourage capitalists all over the world to store their wealth in US Treasury securities for safekeeping which supplies us with all of our consumer credit. The enforcers insure the continuing sale of oil in mostly US dollars, and thus supports the currency that the Fed creates out of thin air.

Bailout Not Over, Taxpayers Still Owed $2 Trillion In Federal Reserve Loans and TARP Program Funds

from the Center for Media and Democracy

While mainstream keeps putting out the disinformation that the bank bailouts are all being paid back, this report sets the record straight for those of you who refuse to depend upon the ruling class to keep informed.
...Center for Media and Democracy research shows that money is still due to taxpayers under the TARP. More importantly, the research shows that the U.S. Treasury Department's ten TARP programs represent less than seven percent of the $4.7 trillion disbursed by the U.S. government in an effort to aid the financial services industry.  Far more money has been disbursed by the Federal Reserve to prop up the financial system than by the U.S. Treasury, and those loans are still outstanding.

The collapse of the U.S. housing bubble led directly to the largest industry bailout in U.S. history. While it will be many years yet before we can put a hard number on the amount of taxpayer dollars actually lost in the bailout, the Center for Media and Democracy's latest assessment of dollars disbursed in the bailout graphically illustrates the comparatively extraordinary lengths to which the federal government went to bailout the financial sector.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Who Wins?

by Michael Hudson from his blog

The author is a widely quoted economist in the liberal and left-wing press, and consultant to several governments in Europe. He clearly is not an anti-capitalist, but probably more like a social democrat (one who advocates liberal labor and welfare laws). But he has a clear grasp of the failings of contemporary capitalism. (See below, the intro to his 2006 predictions about the imminent economic collapse)  Apparently he thinks that the system can be reformed. As you must know if you follow this blog at all, I am convinced that the system of capitalism IS the problem.

In any case this article has a lot of insightful material regarding the current economic collapse and the application of neo-liberal policies. Although he focuses on Europe, I fail to see much in the way of differences between Europe and the US, except that the attack on labor in the US has occurred over the last 30 years while in Europe it is happening rather quickly.
...so far the neoliberals are fully in control of the bureaucracy, and they are reviving Margaret Thatcher’s slogan, TINA: There Is No Alternative. But there is an alternative, of course. In the small Baltic economies, pro-labor parties are pressing for the government to shift the tax burden off employees and consumers back onto property and financial wealth. Bad debts beyond the reasonable ability to pay must be scaled back. It may be necessary to let the banks go under (they are mainly Swedish), even if this means withdrawing from the Euro. The choice is between who will be destroyed: the banks, or labor?

European politicians now view this as being truly a fight to the death. This is the ideology that has replaced social democracy.

His May 2006 Harper's cover story, “The New Road to Serfdom: An illustrated guide to the coming real estate collapse,” was the first major national article forecasting - in precise chart form - the bursting of the real estate bubble and its consequences for homeowners and state and local government solvency. The November 2008 “How to Save Capitalism” issue of Harper's includes an article by Hudson on the inevitability of a large write-off of debts and the savings they back. (Wikipedia)

The following introductory paragraphs were copied from the online Harper's article (subscription required):

An illustrated guide to the coming real estate collapse
By Michael Hudson from Harper's Magazine, May 2006.

Even men who were engaged in organizing debt-serf cultivation and debt-serf industrialism
in the American cotton districts, in the old rubber plantations, and in
the factories of India, China, and South Italy, appeared as generous supporters
of and subscribers to the sacred cause of individual liberty.

-H. G. Wells, The Shape of Things to Come

Never before have so many Americans gone so deeply into debt so I 

willingly. Housing prices have swollen to the point that we've taken
to calling a mortgage-by far the largest debt most of us will ever 

incur-an "investment." Sure, the thinking goes, $100,000 borrowed
today will cost more than $200,000 to pay back over the next thirty
years, but land, which they are not making any more of, will appreciate
even faster. In the odd logic of the real estate bubble, debt has come
to equal wealth.

And not only wealth but freedom-an even stranger paradox. After all,
debt throughout most of history has been little more than a slight variation
on slavery. Debtors were medieval peons or Indians bonded to Spanish
plantations or the sharecropping children of slaves in-the postbellum South.
Few Americans today would volunteer for such an arrangement, and therefore
would-be lords' and barons have been forced to develop more sophisticated

The solution they found is brilliant, although--it is complex, it can
be reduced to a single word--rent. Not the rent that apartment dwellers
pay the landlord but economic rent, which is the profit one earns simply
by owning something. Economic rent can take the form of licensing fees
for the radio spectrum, interest on a savings account, dividends from a
stock, of the capital gain from selling a home or vacant lot. The distinguishing
characteristic of economic rent is that earning it requires no effort
whatsoever. Indeed, the regular rent tenants pay landlords becomes
economic rent only after subtracting whatever amount the landlord actually
spent to keep the place standing.

Most members of the rentier class are very rich. One might like to join
that class. And so our paradox (seemingly) is resolved. With the real estate
boom, the great mass of Americans can take on colossal debt today and realize
colossal capital gains--and the concomitant rentier life of leisure--tomorrow.
If you have the wherewithal to fill out a mortgage application,
then you need never work again. What could be more inviting--or, for that
matter, more egalitarian?

That's the pitch, anyway. The reality is that, although home ownership
may be a wise choice for many people, this particular real estate bubble
has been carefully engineered to lure home buyers into circumstances
detrimental to their own best interests. The bait is easy money. The trap
is a modern equivalent to peonage, a lifetime spent working to payoff
debt on an asset of rapidly dwindling value.

Anti-outsourcing bill fails in Senate

by Lori Montgomery from The Washington Post

Notice how prominent members of Congress oppose a bill against outsourcing of American jobs. Instead they like to bash China. 

Tweedledee sometimes appears to differ from Tweedledum, but it's all for show. And guess who Americans will be voting back into Congress this November? Yes, they are going to throw the rascals out! Ain't "democracy" wonderful? 

Donald Duck Meets Glenn Beck in Right Wing Radio Duck

The moral of this 7:46m cartoon might be..."don't be a stupid duck!" And, if you are one, wise up like Donald did.

Marching on Washington: The Joy of Victory and the Agony of Defeat as my Feet Hurt and Heart Ached

by Danny Schechter from Global Research.

I am presenting this article, not because I think it is so important, but to report on another liberal political event that received little coverage by corporate media--I never saw it reported except in some articles on the internet like this. (Incidentally, I am not a liberal (someone who wants a kinder, gentler capitalism--an oxymoron, in my opinion.)
My hunch is that this event got nowhere near the mainstream coverage of the Beckathon or the expected coverage of Jon Stewart’s October Rally for Sanity. Don’t forget celebrity coverage usually trumps political coverage of all persuasions, and Jon and Glenn are seen as dueling celebrities. Unless Paris Hilton is going to jail, they will get a lot of airtime.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Anti-corporate pirates lampoon corporate plunderers

by Paul Benedek from Green Left

Corporate executives are meeting at a conference in Australia organized by Forbes, a privately owned, premier multi-media company catering to the information needs of the world richest corporate plunderers. Sponsors of the conference consist of a combination of Australian governments and corporations. 

It is places like this, not in your congresses or parliaments, where real economic policies are formulated that decide the fates of working people, communities, nations, and the planet. Then they are referred to the fake democratic institutions, sponsored by these corporations, for ratification.

The political attitudes of the true global leaders of our fates were candidly expressed by one US billionaire investor:
I believe in capitalism. Capitalism to me is a spiritual concept. Democracy just gets in the way. Democracy is annoying. Let them buy stuff and eat cake. Where I come from, if you don't believe in capitalism you're going to hell.
Australian activists aware of their plundering activities showed up at the conference to protest.

Police and protesters scramble for the upper hand outside the Forbes Global CEO Conference at the Opera House last night.

For other photos, check this out.

Henry Kissinger: Vietnam Failures 'We Did To Ourselves'

by Robert Burns from Huffington Post.

America's premier war criminal tries to explain his war policies in Vietnam that resulted in millions of deaths of Vietnamese, 58 thousands of US soldiers, and many thousands of post war casualties among veterans that resulted in many thousand of suicides, drug addictions, broken homes, and broken lives. 

He said that the central objective [of US policy which he crafted was] preserving an independent, viable South Vietnamese state! This war criminal was the recipient of the Nobel Peace prize! You can't get more Orwellian than that!

See also more about recent revelations of his crimes in Chile.

Vote … or Revolt?

by Gary Corseri from Dissident Voice.
They want me to go and vote again,
To sanction their rigamarole;
For all their rot and all their snot—
To trade my immortal soul!

Genetically inserted insecticide contaminates U.S. waterways

by David Biello from Scientific American

Better living through genetically modified crops?
Add another compound to the long list of agricultural pollutants in the nation's streams, rivers and waterways: the Bacillus thuringiensis or Bt toxin, a protein crystal known as Cry1Ab that kills caterpillars and other agricultural pests. A wide variety of crops, including 63 percent of the corn planted in the U.S. in 2009, have been genetically engineered to build the bacterial protein in their leaves and stems.