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, November 27, 2010

So, How Does the Financial System Work?

by Dan Hind from The Return of the Public

This is some of the clearest writing I've found on the internet regarding money operations. The writer is a professor of sociology at an English university.
Quantitative easing can only be understood if we understand what central banks do – if we understand the mystery that lies beneath the day-to-day operations of the economy. The calculations of capitalist activity rest finally on something very like a magic trick. This is why criticisms [of] the Federal Reserve in particular often veer off into heated speculation about shape-shifting lizards or the urgent need to buy gold now. Once you understand that the so-called private sector is dependent on the operations of the state it is easy to lose your balance. So steady yourself. This is the secret of the temple.
Like the political institutions that are portrayed as "democratic", the creation and operations of money is hidden behind many layers of obfuscation so that ruling capitalist classes can have their way with us. 

In order to learn more from this author, I just ordered his new book, The Return of the Public, from a bookseller in England.

Senate Bill S 510 Food Safety Modernization Act vote imminent: Would outlaw gardening and saving seeds

by Mike Adams from Natural News

I haven't followed this Congressional bill as well as I should have. A lot of people with interest in natural foods and small farms are really upset about the bill. 
Senate Bill 510, the Food Safety Modernization Act, has been called "the most dangerous bill in the history of the United States of America." It would grant the U.S. government new authority over the public's right to grow, trade and transport any foods. This would give Big brother the power to regulate the tomato plants in your backyard. It would grant them the power to arrest and imprison people selling cucumbers at farmer's markets. It would criminalize the transporting of organic produce if you don't comply with the authoritarian rules of the federal government.

Friday, November 26, 2010

“US has unprecedented imperial military presence in the world” [10:26m video]

Tom Engelhardt is interview by RT

Engelhardt provides an excellent overview of US's military establishment, its bases protecting the Empire, the mad pursuit of a never-ending war policy that is destroying the US, and the present terrified state of ordinary Americans.

What is lacking in the interview is a systemic political understanding of this phenomenon as reflected in statements such as "the media is in bed with the militarists". Mass media and the military, along with all other significant institutions, are all under the control of a class of people who own, and reap the rewards from, all the important economic activities in the nation and in much of the world.

When Citizens Are Merely Political Spectators They Get Rolled Over by the Political Class

by Micah Uetricht from AlterNet

This is an interview with journalist Benjamin Dangl, author of Dancing With Dynamite: Social Movements and States in Latin America. Dangl describes the general pattern of leftist politics in South America and the implications they may have for political organizing in North America. Thus, instead of putting all of one's hope on electing progressive candidates, North Americans must organize their own independent bases of power like they have done in South America. Here is where to start:
For progressive changes to take place in the US, more people need to become participants in politics rather than spectators. And by this I mean making revolution a part of our everyday lives, not just something we watch on TV or a vote we cast for a politician.

Buffett Thanks "Uncle Sam" for Big Bailout Payday

by Michael Collins from The Economic Populist

The author exposes Buffett's cynicism and contempt for American working people in reference to the latter's article in the NY Times lauding the government for its bailout of the financial institutions. The author points out how the bailouts directly benefited Buffett's investments in Goldman Sachs. Collins responds to Buffett with this statement:
Mr. Buffett. You are no different than Goldman Sachs and the other exploiters funded by the hard work of everyone other than those who reap the benefits of that work.

There won't be a bailout for the earth

by Johann Hari from The Independent.
Why are the world’s governments bothering? Why are they jetting to Cancun next week to discuss what to do now about global warming? The vogue has passed. The fad has faded. Global warming is yesterday’s apocalypse. Didn’t somebody leak an email that showed it was all made up? Doesn’t it sometimes snow in the winter? Didn’t Al Gore get fat, or something? 
2010 is globally the hottest year since records began. 2010 is the year humanity’s emissions of planet-warming gases reached its highest level ever. And exactly as the climate scientists predicted, we are seeing a rapid increase in catastrophic weather events, from the choking of Moscow by gigantic unprecedented forest fires to the drowning of one quarter of Pakistan.
Read about the latest theory developed by the paleontologist Professor Peter Ward regarding the great extinctions in Earth's history.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Korean Crisis: Cui Bono?

by William Engdahl from Global Research

This author is a very astute observer of the Empire's shenanigans, and can always be counted on to balance the disinformation put out by the Empire's media machinery.

He points to the source of the tensions by referring to an earlier incident that took place in March of this year. For information on the most recent incident, the AP has probably provided the best report from Western sources which as usual have done a dismal job. 

There are few places in the world where Western media, especially US media, do such poor coverage of the news as that of North Korea. I don't believe (or disbelieve) anything that is reported from these sources. Instead I wait for reports from alternative news agencies which often takes some time. The only area of the world where coverage might be worse is in the Congo (DRC) where Western corporations are plundering their mineral resources and supporting mercenary armies. (See this, this, and this.) 

I am not very current in my knowledge of Korean affairs largely because of the poor coverage, but I have recently acquired an accurate knowledge of the Korean War by reading two excellent, well-written, extensively documented volumes by Bruce Cumings entitled, The Origins of the Korean War, v.1 & 2. 

While reading these two books, I was shocked at one revelation after another that clearly contradicted everything that I had been brainwashed into thinking about Korea during the Korean War when I was a young teenager and since. If you have only time for one book, I suggest reading v.1. These books are not easily obtainable. They are expensive in the used book market, and only large university libraries seem to have copies available. (I wonder why.) I can see now why the US media and academic authorities prefer to call it the "Forgotten War"--they would like you to forget about it.

The stench of the police state at US airports

by Patrick Martin and Joe Kishore from World Socialist Web Site

The authors furnish some good arguments to support this thesis:
The entire “war on terror,” from the initial 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001 to the most recent scare over cargo shipments from Yemen, is characterized by the unexplained and highly suspicious role of the American security apparatus, which has repeatedly acted in a fashion that suggests that it is promoting and facilitating terrorist provocations—which are then utilized to promote the military and foreign policy goals of American imperialism—rather than preventing them.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

It's Official: The Economy Is Set To Starve

by Chris Martenson from his blog

The author examines the recent report on energy released by the International Energy Agency (IEA) and mainstream media's coverage of the report. It is very interesting because he helps us to see the strong bias of capitalist elites both in the report and their media coverage of it. 

Now, the author is no critic of capitalism. It might be worth your while to examine his extensive background and credentials in science and finance. He clearly knows of what he writes. 

On the other hand, I don't think he believes, like many others who have spent a number of years in academia and have been subject to academic elite's indoctrination, that there is any alternative to capitalism. There certainly is no mention of the system in the article. The closest he comes is with this statement:
The IEA report indicates an enormous set of risks for an over-leveraged world reliant on constant growth. [my emphasis]
His strategy to deal with the implications of peak energy is to become as self-sufficient as possible--the individualist approach. He goes on to describe all the many ways his life has changed. He does say in his "About" statement, "...most importantly, I now know that the most important descriptor of wealth is not my dollar holdings, but the depth and richness of my community." However, in contrast to his individual adaptations, he doesn't elaborate at all on this statement.

"Effects of the Financial Crisis and Great Recession on American Households"

from Economist's View blog

This is a succinct, and rather cold-blooded, conclusion of a study published in the National Bureau of Economic Research. Both authors of the study are associated with the Rand Corporation.

Gap Between Science and Pledges Likely to Outlive Cancún

by Matthew O. Berger from IPS

In contrast to last year's hopeful expectations about the climate change meeting in Copenhagen, the upcoming meeting in Cancun is much more subdued. It is only a week away and there have been very few articles about it.
On Tuesday, the U.N. Environment Programme released a report that concluded those reductions [the non-binding reductions from the Copenhagen Accord], even if fully met, are only 60 percent of the reductions needed to keep global temperatures from rising by more than two degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, which scientists – and the accord – say is necessary to prevent catastrophe.

Schemes of the Rich and Greedy

by Michael Hudson from his blog

I don't agree with everything in the article, particularly with the way he frames his arguments. For example, the title of his essay. This serves to frame the social injustice that he illustrates with a number of examples as simply a matter of morality--greed. Well, I think that this should be overlooked because, after all, he is an economist not a political scientist, and most economists have been so thoroughly indoctrinated in the virtues of capitalism that they don't believe there is any alternative. On the other hand Hudson is a very astute and honest economist who has not lost his sense of social justice. 

Anyway read the article to find out about all the "schemes of the rich and greedy". Actually, there are other schemes as well, but he covers many of the current ones.
...the wealthy want just what bankers want: the entire economic surplus (followed by a foreclosure on property). They want all the disposable income over and above basic subsistence – and then, when this shrinks the economy, they want the government to sell off the public domain in “privatization” giveaways, and they want people to turn over their houses and any other property they have to the creditors. “Your money or your life” is not only what bank robbers demand. It is what banks themselves demand, and the wealthy 10% of the population that owns most of the bank stock.
Of course, the real underlying problem is the system which turns ordinary people with sociopathic tendencies into monsters.

Tuition fee protests: eight injured, five arrested as students turn violent [U.K.]

By Andy Bloxham from The Telegraph.

Students in the UK are fighting back against dramatic increases in higher education fees that are another way in which the capitalist class will make working people and their children pay for the crash in their casino economy. Unfortunately, their latest gambling activities at the casino have resulted in debts and they have the gall to stick us with the bill.  

Meanwhile, let us see how the children of capitalists are managing under the austerity measures by reading this Bloomberg article.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

TSA Gestapo Empire

by Paul Craig Roberts from Foreign Policy Journal.

The author provides an excellent perspective on the latest invasive security measures for airline travelers in the US under the cover of the "war on terror". His analysis suggests that the "war on terror" and its associated security measures are a fraud. So then, what might be the real reasons for the elaborate and growing security apparatus in the US, a country that increasingly is taking on  the appearance of a police state?  
With such expensive counter-terrorism activities, both in terms of the hard-pressed taxpayers’ money and civil liberties, one would think that bombs were going off all over America.  But, of course, they aren’t. There has not been a successful terrorist act since 9/11, and thousands of independent experts doubt the government’s explanation of that event.

Subsequent domestic terrorist events have turned out to be FBI sting operations in which FBI agents organize not-so-bright disaffected members of society and lead them into displaying interest in participating in a terrorist act.  Once the FBI agent, pretending to be a terrorist, succeeds in prompting all the right words to be said and captured on his hidden recorder, the “terrorists” are arrested and the “plot” exposed. 

What the TSA Patdown Searches Are Really About

by Robert Freeman from Common Dreams

I think he has hit on the right reasons.
The startling part of it was the mindlessness of it all.  The guards were simply being good Nazis.  Today, it is no longer mindless.  It is part of a sustained campaign to condition the American public to being humiliated by government officials in the name of national security.

Fighting Doom: The New Politics of Climate Change

by Brendan Smith from Common Dreams

Working people are slowly waking up to the overwhelming problems that we are faced with today. But, rather than feeling merely overwhelmed, they see the necessity for action.
The highlights of my political life -- as opposed to oystering -- have been marked by winning narrow, often temporary, battles, but perennially losing the larger war. I see the results in every direction I look: growing poverty and unemployment, two wars, the rise of the right, declining unionization, the failure of the Senate's climate legislation and of Copenhagen, the wholesale domination of corporate interests. The list goes on and on. We have lost; it's time to admit our strategy has been too tepid and begin charting anew.

This time can be different.


The view from inside Teach for America

by Eric Maroney from Socialist Worker

The radical author inexplicably finds himself in the company of the new education "reformers", and learns first hand what they are all about.
For all the talk of "equality" and "justice," the individuals at the helm of the reform movement are ruling-class cretins, concerned with creating an education system that is cheap to maintain and produces profit-maximizing entry-level workers. In this model, the students most affected by disability, language barriers, poverty and the achievement gap are sure to be left behind.

Why do we bother with elections?

by Danny Lucia from Socialist Worker
Danny Lucia wants to know why we had to pay attention to the elections when the two parties were getting together behind closed doors to plan how to screw us over.
My sentiments exactly. I stopped paying attention to the election circuses many years ago, and I keep wondering when the rest of my fellow Americans wise up. 

Instead of watching all the TV hoopla, attending candidate rallies, etc., why not spend your time reading about real current and historical events from alternative sources? Then after learning about how our society really functions to serve the few, you might be able to join with your enlightened fellow Americans to change it into one that is governed by, and serves, all of the people.

Evidence for Informed Trading on the Attacks of September 11

by Kevin Ryan from Foreign Policy Journal

The author re-visits this peculiar 9/11 phenomenon with new information that is extensively documented. 
In the last few years, new evidence has come to light on these matters.  In 2006 and 2010, financial experts at a number of universities have established new evidence, through statistical analyses, that informed trades did occur with respect to the 9/11 attacks.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Leaking Siberian ice raises a tricky climate issue

An AP report carried in Yahoo News

Wherever one looks, one sees threats to climate stability. The huge quantities of methane under the permafrost in Siberia and other northern regions appear ready to burst forth.
...in the past few decades, as the Earth has warmed, the icy ground has begun thawing more rapidly, accelerating the release of methane — a greenhouse gas 23 times more powerful than carbon dioxide — at a perilous rate.

Some scientists believe the thawing of permafrost could become the epicenter of climate change. They say 1.5 trillion tons of carbon, locked inside icebound earth since the age of mammoths, is a climate time bomb waiting to explode if released into the atmosphere.

The Economy Is Not Coming Back : The Reasons it Shouldn't

by Gilles d'Aymery from Swans Commentary

If you are looking for a one-stop "shopping center" for research about peak energy, environment, and climate change and the implications for societal organization, this appears to have most of what you might need. 
The socioeconomic paradigm built on capital accumulation, perpetual material growth, and financial profits for the infinitesimal few must be not just overhauled but buried, and replaced by an equitable new arrangement that takes into account all natural ecosystems.

Top FBI Officials Push Silicon Valley Execs to Embrace Internet Wiretaps

by Tom Burghardt from Antifascist Calling

As the class war, disguised as a "war on terror", heats up all over the world, the ruling classes are looking to "full-spectrum dominance" over their own "unruly" citizens by gaining complete access to information about your online activities. You are to submit meekly not only to full body scans and pat-downs at airports, but to have all of your communications scanned as well by ruling class spy agencies. This excellent investigative journalist and friend of working people delves into the latest developments in the US.
The weakest link in the battle to preserve privacy rights...are the corporate grifters feeding at the federal trough.

...it becomes clear that profit always trumps democratic control and privacy rights.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Dollar War in Detail

by Michael Hudson from his blog

I think that this is the most important article that I've read in some time--a must-read article of the month. It is not easy reading if you don't have a fairly strong background in economics, finance, and currency trading. Like most people, I don't have this strong background; thus with a light background I've had to spend a considerable amount of time studying the article. I continue to believe that Hudson has a sound grasp of the issues, although he often has difficulty in explaining the issues in terms that ordinary people can understand. I think he succeeds very well in this piece. 

There are so many insightful gems in this article that I'm not sure where to start. I have the sort of mind that likes to integrate or consolidate ideas. Here is a summary of my current understanding of how we have arrived at this currency war.

In the 20th century the US rose to prominence in the world largely due to its abundance of natural resources that was turned into wealth--goods, growth in technological knowledge, and services all created by working people to make their lives fuller and comfortable. Because the economy of the US was organized under the system of capitalism, a large part of this wealth came under the control of a few people whose primary interest was in accumulating wealth and the power that wealth brings with it.

Capitalist ruling classes clashed for dominance beginning with WWI and continued with WWII. After the devastating effects of the latter war on most of the world, the US's economy was intact having suffered no damage from the war. Driven by the engine of capitalism that serves the profit needs of a small class of owners, the US economy produced prodigious amounts of goods that required huge amounts of resources from all over the world. Americans consumed the great majority of these goods and enjoyed a very high (some would describe it as "profligate") standard of living. This activity, it turn, consumed much of the energy and other resources in the US. 

With a powerful economy and a powerful military, the US ruling capitalist class took control of most of the non-Soviet-communist controlled world and sought to impose its dominance on the latter through various smaller proxy wars in Asia, Latin America, and Africa. The collapse of Soviet style communism which occurred in 1989 left a vacuum for the capitalist classes which they eagerly filled.

However, the Cold War proved very costly for the US also. Shortly after the Vietnam War they had to go off the gold standard as backing for US currency. Instead, in a crucial move to insure its own currency as the prime world currency, they made a mostly secret agreement with the rulers of that oil rich, Medieval-like Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In this agreement, negotiated by Kissinger, the US guaranteed the security of the Kingdom and, in return, the Saudis agreed to sell oil only in US dollars and to recycle those dollars into US Treasury bonds and US stocks. This effectively backed the US dollars with oil. This explains Hudson's statement, 
Saudi Arabia realizes that it exists only with U.S. support. Doing what U.S. diplomats tell them to do lets them keep their oil resources rather than being treated like Iraq and Iran. 
As resources have become increasingly scarce and costly to obtain, the US ruling class became even more concerned with the control of resources abroad and pursued more aggressive campaigns to bring them under control. They organized the Western capitalist countries under NATO to move from the West into eastern Europe and the Middle East. They have also colluded with Zionists to insure Israel's military superiority in the Middle East. Today they occupy Iraq and Afghanistan and have over 700 military bases in the world. It is a US lead capitalist empire.   

The Empire has also employed two primary financial weapons to dominate other countries and to gain access to their markets, resources, and cheap labor. The use of debt against other countries through the US dominated IMF and World Bank has been used for some time. See this and this, and read Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by J. Perkins. (They have recently used this debt weapon against its own citizens in the Western countries during this current economic collapse. For US citizens see this article.) 

Currency manipulation is the other weapon and Hudson describes the current currency war in great detail in this article. He describes how the currency war that Geithner, Obama, and Bernanke have launched will impact other countries. The US ruling class is starting to see opposition from members of its own Empire who wish to protect their currencies and  maintain control over their economies. Like Rome, the center of the current Empire, the US, is starting to show opposition from its satellites. I think that we are at a crucial turning point in the history of the world, and it would be a good idea for all of us to pay attention.