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, December 18, 2010

Obama's Sellout on Taxes

by Michael Hudson from Counterpunch

He writes:
Yet Obama has only done what politicians do: He has delivered up his constituency to his campaign backers – the same Wall Street donors who back the Republicans. What’s the point of having a constituency, after all, if you can’t sell it?
What Hudson doesn't seem to understand is that the Democratic Party's function in capitalist America is to create the illusion of serving main street, the "little guy", working people, etc. and to create the impression among these people that they have a representative government, that is, they can choose their government leaders and policies through elections. Meanwhile, behind the scenes their Democratic leaders serve their masters in the ruling class. This is precisely what Obama has done. The same ruling class used Democratic Clinton to sell ordinary Americans on "free trade" policies that resulted in their jobs being shifted overseas.

The ruling class will reward Obama one way or another. Although they can't be too upfront about it, they love Obama as revealed in this publication. Also see this.

And the cuts in Social Security payroll tax deductions represent a stealth attack on Social Security which the ruling class also wants to destroy. See this.

Carbon Trading: How it Works and Why it Fails

by Oscar Reyes and Tamra Gilbertson from New Left Project
Emissions trading is the EU’s flagship measure for tackling climate change, and it is failing badly. While in theory it provides a cheap and efficient means to limit greenhouse gas reductions within an ever-tightening cap, in practice it has rewarded major polluters with windfall profits, whilst undermining efforts to reduce pollution and achieve a more equitable and sustainable economy.

‘Climate capitalism’ won at Cancun – everyone else loses

by Patrick Bond from International Journal of Socialist Renewal
Bribing those Third World governments which in 2009 were the most vocal critics of Northern climate posturing at Copenhagen became common knowledge thanks to Wikileaks disclosures of US State Department cables from February 2010. On February 11, for example, European Union climate action commissioner Connie Hedegaard told Washington that the Alliance of Small Island States “‘could be our best allies’, given their need for financing”.

WikiLeaks—Where’s the Oil?

by Charlotte Dennett from Who What Why.

After looking for information regarding oil in WikiLeaks, the author writes:
But in the absence thus far (and correct me if I’m wrong) of any significant oil-related diplomatic and/or military analyses among the leaks, allow me to provide some declassified — but rarely seen — documents of my own, which were released to me by the CIA once I sued for my father’s papers under the Freedom of Information Act. They relate to his activities as one of America’s first master spies in the Middle East during World War II., but they are rich in insights for the modern era.

Your Money or Your Life: Is There Really a Choice?

by Jamie Johnson from Vanity Fair

My favorite rich person (heir of the Johnson & Johnson pharmaceutical fortune) observes that the rich often commit crimes to obtain their riches which in a capitalist society bestows status as well as comforts. But like taking heroin away from an addict, once they lose their wealth, they can't seem to find any other reason to live.

Be sure to view Johnson's outstanding film, "The One Percent" to gain more insights on this class of people who rule over our lives.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Sen. Sanders Held a Tax Cut Filibuster [8+ hrs video]

from C-Span

C-Span has the links to his filibuster speech on December 10th in opposition to the tax bill that was recently passed by both houses of Congress and signed today by Obama. I think that this speech is destined to become one of the greatest speeches in the history of the US Congress.

Although the fact of the speech was widely reported, very few people actually heard it. Few people in the Senate stayed to hear it, mainstream TV media did not carry any significant segments from it, little of its content was reported in print media (I only found that the NY Times carried a link, now obsolete, to the speech), and I have seen no links to the speech on the internet although I'm sure there were some somewhere.

Bernie Sanders is no radical. He has labeled himself as a "socialist", but in the US that usually means a social democrat--one who supports a kinder, gentler capitalism which, of course, is an oxymoron. But Senator Sanders is a decent, honest man who knows of what he speaks. The only criticism I have is that he makes too many references to party labels with the Republicans being the bad guys. This is nonsense. Democrats are currently in the majority in both houses of Congress.

Because I am retired, I was able to listen to much of the speech on Dec. 10th.  Also, I have had the time to follow the many sordid activities of the ruling class before and during this economic collapse by following reports in alternative internet sources, but I still learned a lot more listening to this speech. He goes into the details about the bankster activities that enriched them and caused devastating consequences for many ordinary Americans and other workers in the world. He also sees so many things that could be done to put Americans to work on projects that would greatly contribute to everyone's lives for years to come. He provides many of the current details about the class war. Although few people heard it, those who did were greatly impressed. I highly recommend it. Over the holidays you may have time to play this while doing other routine things around your home.

The inhumane conditions of Bradley Manning's detention

by Glenn Greenwald from Salon.

The biggest hero for uncovering some of the secrets of the Empire has been essentially "disappeared" by the US Marine Corps. You see, when you become an enforcer (enter their police or military forces) for the Empire, you give up almost all civil rights. This author does what he can to find out how Manning has been treated during the past seven months of his incarceration.
From the beginning of his detention, Manning has been held in intensive solitary confinement.  For 23 out of 24 hours every day -- for seven straight months and counting -- he sits completely alone in his cell.  Even inside his cell, his activities are heavily restricted; he's barred even from exercising and is under constant surveillance to enforce those restrictions.  For reasons that appear completely punitive, he's being denied many of the most basic attributes of civilized imprisonment, including even a pillow or sheets for his bed (he is not and never has been on suicide watch).

Double-speak and waging psychological war against the people

by Larry Pinkney from Online Journal
From the genocide of the indigenous peoples, to the enslavement of Africans, to the serfdom of European so-called indentured servants, etc., the essence of this nation has historically been -- and continues to be -- steeped in wars and profiteering -- but wars that have always been rationalized by the established elite and for their profit -- to the ultimate detriment of everyday people of all colors. However, the most insidious war that has been carried on for generation after bloody generation is the psychological war against the people of this nation themselves. It is this war that has relegated everyday people to economic, political, and military cannon fodder -- putty in the hands of the corporate / military elite. This keeps everyday people in a constant state of manipulated and perpetual war -- war first and foremost with themselves.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

WikiRebels - The Documentary [4 videos, about 15m each]

If you are at all curious about the WikiLeaks controversy, you simply must view this documentary. The material reported in these videos (videos 2-4) usually do not make it in such a comprehensive form when mediated by mainstream media. The latter publish a lot of material, but they are under pressure from the Empire's authorities; and as a result they cooperate with these authorities by containing the damage as much as possible. Also, in segment four there are some issues within WikiLeaks that are very interesting.

Here are links to this excellent documentary on WikiLeaks:

Segment One

Segment Two

Segment Three

Segment Four

After viewing the videos, you might be interested in checking out OpenSecrets.org. 

What the Establishment Media Won’t Tell You About Richard Holbrooke

by Max Kantar from Global Research

Here in the US we have been subject to more disinformation about a ruling class servant who was eulogized following his recent death. This article corrects the disinformation and reveals that he was actually a war criminal.
Falsifying history is one of the most important functions of the establishment media. Whenever a statesman or lap-dog intellectual dies, it is important that the documentary record is suppressed in favor of telling comforting narratives that perpetuate the harmful myths of the dominant political culture.

MasterCard and Visa cut off Wikileaks, but the KKK is still OK!

by Henry Porter from Op Ed News

As you can see, the ruling class financial institutions have no problem with racist organizations that have a long history of violence toward minorities such as the Ku Klux Klan.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Former Greek minister attacked by mob as riots break out in Greece

by Nick Squires from The Telegraph

Class war is raging in Greece in the forms of violent clashes between protesters and police, attacks on government figures, and a general strike. See 1:46 video and read report which has more links to other reports.
The violence in Greece erupted during a general strike called by unions to protest against new labour laws which unions say will give employers too much power and take workers' rights "back to the Middle Ages." 
You will never see capitalists attacking protesters--they always hire unemployed, desperate working people to do their dirty work for them.

Also, see Al Jazeera's coverage

A sad day for the US if the Espionage Act is used against WikiLeaks

by Stephen M Kohn from the Guardian
Numerous US officials are calling for a resurrection of the US Espionage Act as a tool for prosecuting WikiLeaks. The dusting-off of the old law is all but certain. But the outcome of the constitutional dust-up that is sure to follow will result in triumph or tragedy for the US bill of rights.
Using the recent WikiLeaks incident as an excuse, the ruling class is coming up with more attacks against our civil rights.

It was actually the Sedition Act of 1918 which were amendments to the Espionage Act that resulted in such horrific attacks on the civil rights of the popular left wing movements. It was used after WWI was ending to insure that the great progress made by leftists before the war, which was interrupted by the war, would be dramatically rolled back. Such history is rarely treated with any depth in US schools.

The same thing happened after WWII using mainly the Smith Act, the Taft-Harley Act, and all the attacks on leftists during the McCarthy Congressional hearings in order to rollback all the labor gains made during the FDR administration and to stifle pent-up labor demands due to all the restrictions on strikes during WWII.

A Secretive Banking Elite Rules Trading in Derivatives

by Louise Story from the NY Times (free registration required.)

This is a fairly lengthy article about the derivative financial bets placed by an elite few. The bets are obscure, secretive, lucrative, and only the very rich can place bets at this casino. As the article makes clear, it is difficult to know how their bets effect the prices of commodities.
Perhaps no business in finance is as profitable today as derivatives. Not making loans. Not offering credit cards. Not advising on mergers and acquisitions. Not managing money for the wealthy.
The privileged elite guard their little domain fiercely using all their wealth and influence to protect it from any kind of regulation and competition. You see, the very wealthy do not like competition. Competition is for you and I to fight over the crumbs of capitalism.
“The revenue these dealers make on derivatives is very large and so the incentive they have to protect those revenues is extremely large,”.... “It will be hard for the dealers to keep their market share if everybody who can prove their creditworthiness is allowed into the clearinghouses. So they are making arguments that others shouldn’t be allowed in.” 
As a ruling class they influence so much of what our culture consists of. And competition is a major component of it. That is why we "little people" are taught to compete over everything--grades in schools, getting into the best schools, obtaining employment, and even in fun activities like athletics that were formerly associated with recreation. You see, fierce competition provides exceptional athletes to play on teams "owned" by the rich to enhance their profits.

Back in the 1980s I went into a large store in San Francisco that specialized in board games. They had something like 10,000 board games. I was looking for a game that was designed around cooperation where people played to win together. Guess what? They didn't have a single one!


Internet Worries

by Michael Albert from Z Space

He makes some very cogent observations about the effects of internet activities on the way we think about information. I share many of his concerns.

He raises two key issues:
  • Our online information practices are overwhelmingly defined by the choices and agendas of a relative few massive information corporations. Thus what are the implications of this dominance for our information activities.
  • What are the implications for our thought processes by accessing online information that "largely entail quickly perusing small nuggets or snippets of information, with constant flitting between options and almost no in depth, immersive attention to anything."

Better Than a Food Bank

by Colleen Kimmett from The Tyee (Canada). 

The article offers some good ideas about supporting small farms while providing nutritious food for low income people.
The organization's ability to harness a growing interest in local food has allowed them to not only boost their own programming, but also build local food infrastructure.

Veterans For Peace: The Permanent War Is Killing Us, Time for Solidarity

by Margaret Flowers from Global Research

This pediatrician reports on the health effects of permanent war on the citizens of the US.
There are the consequences of sending our people out to kill and the psychological harm which may lead to violence at home. There are the injuries from which many of our military members will never fully recover and the resulting costs to them and to their families, including bankruptcy and foreclosure from medical bills.

There is the squandering of our youth who, unable to afford college or to find a job, are lured by the promises of recruiters and see no other option but to join the military. Imagine if instead of spending one million dollars a year to send one soldier to Afghanistan we spent the money to provide twenty people with an education or jobs at home. Imagine if that person were employed not to kill but to create, to improve conditions at home.

Dying Beneath the Calm Waters

by Julio Godoy from IPS
At first glance, Lake Constance, trapped between Germany, Switzerland, and Austria, looks as peaceful as ever. But under the lake's apparently placid waters, a dramatic change is taking place - one that threatens to obliterate much of local biodiversity.
 This is only one example of many instances where climate change is directly responsible for environmental destruction: the rising lake temperatures have consequences that are not yet fully known. What is known, though, is that biodiversity suffers as natural processes are disrupted by these environmental changes.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Why are wars not being reported honestly?

by John Pilger from the Guardian.
Never has so much official energy been expended in ensuring journalists collude with the makers of rapacious wars which, say the media-friendly generals, are now "perpetual." In echoing the west's more verbose warlords, such as the waterboarding former US vice-president Dick Cheney, who predicated "50 years of war," they plan a state of permanent conflict wholly dependent on keeping at bay an enemy whose name they dare not speak: the public.
His explanation for this question clearly supports my argument that no substantial change is possible without the control of media being taken away from ruling class corporations and establishing media under the control of ordinary people.

Lowering Workers' Wages is the Objective [13:21m video]

from The Real News

Paul Jay interviews Leo Panitch, professor of political science at Toronto U. and author of Global Capitalism and American Empire

The professor has an excellent grasp of the contradictions and logic of capitalism that promote unemployment and result in the devastation of large parts of society. 

I think it is interesting that in an earlier segment Panitch describes capitalist behavior as "irrational"; but after being challenged by Jay, he clearly explains that their behavior is rational--from a capitalist point of view or logic.
...pressures have always existed on social programs not to interrupt the capitalist labor market, not to get in the way of people's fears that they may not be able to get employment. ...this is going to get much worse, unless we make very, very radical changes, unless labor movements and intellectuals start making far more radical and forward-looking demands than the defensive ones they're making at the moment, because there's an inherent logic of capitalist globalization.

EPA Document Shows It Knowingly Allowed Pesticide That Kills Honey Bees

by Ariel Schwartz from Solidarity Economy
The world honey bee population has plunged in recent years, worrying beekeepers and farmers who know how critical bee pollination is for many crops. ...Now a leaked EPA document reveals that the agency allowed the widespread use of a bee-toxic pesticide, despite warnings from EPA scientists.
Unfortunately, the article does not sufficiently link this finding with the profit interests of corporations and their influence over government agencies.

Quietly Ticking Time Bomb in Fed Data

from Center for Media and Democracy

The article provides some excellent graphs and clear explanations as to the reality about TARP and the other huge bailouts of mortgage-backed securities by The Fed. There has been a lot of congratulatory statements made in mainstream and financial media about TARP money being paid back. This article puts things in their proper perspective.
The Fed data supports our long-held contention that the Congressionally-approved and much despised $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) was only a small fraction of the total bailout.

Failing to Prosecute Wall Street Fraud Is Extending Our Economic Problems

from Washington's Blog

More empty rhetoric from financial experts designed to divert attention away from their participation in, and support of, a system which has inevitably evolved into the sociopathic monster that it is. Most of these people are all talk and no action simply because they are a creature of the system and they have done very well by it. The most sincere among them would like to reform the system which, of course, is like trying to train a wolf to become a vegetarian.
Bill Gross, Nouriel Roubini, Laurence Kotlikoff, Steve Keen, Michel Chossudovsky and the Wall Street Journal all say that the U.S. economy is a giant Ponzi scheme.

Virtually all independent economists and financial experts say that rampant fraud was largely responsible for the financial crisis.

Cancun climate change talks disappoint global expectations

from the Committee for the Abolition of Third World Debt (CADTM). 

The title of the article would probably be more accurate if "hopes" were substituted for "expectations".  As the concluding paragraph states:
In Cancun the world´s governments were under an obligation to find solutions to the climate crisis and offer answers that could guarantee the survival of humanity - but they were not up to the task. The results from these climate change talks show that the profit motive still trumps life itself and threatens the very survival of the planet.
The tragic fact remains that as long as the "profit motive" (capitalism) rules, there can be no progress in efforts to maintain a climate that can sustain human and other life forms. Therefore, we have no other choice than to replace this system with one that can permit sustainability.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Bernie's Rant & the Tax Bill War [13:04 video]

by Robert Oak from the Economic Populist.

(This is a speech he gave a week ago, not the more recent "filibuster" speech.)

Sanders who has identified himself as a "socialist" is really a social democrat. The political spectrum is so far right in the US that to be a social democrat is regarded as a socialist. However, his observations on the class war are right on the mark.

The Economy Cannot Recover Until the Big Banks Are Broken Up

from Washington's Blog.
 A lot of people still haven't heard that the economy cannot recover until the big banks are broken up.

But virtually all independent economists and financial experts say that it is vital to break up the giant banks....
I was quite impressed by the people he placed on this list: people who favor breaking up the big banks and letting them fail when they lose their bets. I inspected some of the links at random to check to see if they really took these positions, and they did. But a reading of their arguments leads me to the following interpretation: 

There is definitely a split within the US capitalist ruling class as to the policies pursued by authorities to bailout the banks during this recent crisis. On one side there are these people who fear that the reckless actions of hedge fund gamblers, banks, mortgage industry, etc. went too far this time.  If not reined in, they see that the latter could in the future actually kill the goose, capitalism, that lays their golden eggs. 

But, of course, hindsight is cheap. I wonder where these critics were when the economic crisis started to unfold and before the key decisions were made. And as for their views about breaking up the big banks--it's all hooey, it ain't gonna happen. They know it should happen. It is obvious that it should happen. But they really can't get up enough gumption to really spoil the party.

On the other side, of course, are all the people who benefited: those connected with the big financial institutions, those who continue to grow fabulously rich. The latter are like drunken sailors who won the lottery and regard the former as "party poopers".

Financial arms race underway in Washington

by Tom Hamburger and Matea Gold from Los Angeles Times

Learn, if you have been asleep forever, how American "democracy" functions by reading this piece. Learn how the US Congress is auctioned off to the highest bidder. But hey, it's only the guiding hand of the market place at work. Ain't capitalism wonderful?

The only real news is...it's getting worse!

Labor's Last Stand in 2011?

by Shamus Cooke from Workers Action.

So many attacks on working people by the government of the ruling class are performed by stealth--indirect methods that can easily slip underneath the radar of mainstream media. The author explains the latest strategy against public sector workers. As is evident in the article, both ruling class parties use these strategies.
...pensions for state workers are on the cutting board, to be replaced by the 401(k) scam, while state bankruptcy will "abrogate" [abolish] union contracts. But as it stands now, states cannot legally declare bankruptcy. This minor obstacle is being handled quickly for showtime....

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Environmental Protection Agency?

by Dahr Jamail from Al Jazeera.

This report illustrates how a government agency of the US ruling class functions--to serve their interests while pretending to serve ours. Officially it is an agency whose purpose is as follows: 
The mission of EPA is to protect human health and the environment.

EPA's purpose is to ensure that:

  • all Americans are protected from significant risks to human health and the environment where they live, learn and work;
  • national efforts to reduce environmental risk are based on the best available scientific information; 
  • federal laws protecting human health and the environment are enforced fairly and effectively; 
  • environmental protection is an integral consideration in U.S. policies concerning natural resources, human health, economic growth, energy, transportation, agriculture, industry, and international trade, and these factors are similarly considered in establishing environmental policy; 
  • all parts of society -- communities, individuals, businesses, and state, local and tribal governments -- have access to accurate information sufficient to effectively participate in managing human health and environmental risks; 
  • environmental protection contributes to making our communities and ecosystems diverse, sustainable and economically productive; and 
  • the United States plays a leadership role in working with other nations to protect the global environment.
So far the history of their performance reveals that the main interest of this government agency is far more directed to serving the needs of British Petroleum Oil Corporation.  See this, this, and this.
The sharp contrast between official purposes of federal agencies and their actual performance is hidden as much as possible by the propaganda organs of the ruling class, mass media corporations. These organs are a major weapon against any form of popular power. 

If the localization movement accomplishes anything else, it must establish independent grassroots media to counteract this brainwashing. The freedom and democratic nature of the internet is precisely why actions are now being undertaken to exert greater control over it by government and corporations.

Yet, I have not seen any evidence that localization organizations such as Transition Towns regard the development of an independent media as of any importance. Hence, it is easy to conclude that such localization efforts will largely serve to aid the capitalist ruling class by helping ordinary people to survive on less while the rich wage wars, consume ever greater amounts of fossil fuels, and destroy the Earth's habitat. If these trends continue, it seems to me that in the next 30 years the world will increasingly look like this: small islands of the rich living behind powerfully guarded gated communities that are surrounded by huge oceans of the poor everywhere in the world.

Cancún climate change deal falls flat, Kyoto Protocol on life support

by Betwa Sharma from The Christian Science Monitor.

This source provides the latest scoop from the UN Climate Conference concluded yesterday.
Two weeks of Cancún climate change talks ended Saturday, with a vague deal to help poor countries deal with climate change and the original Kyoto Protocol all but dead.
For another report and commentary, you might check this out.
The United Nation's climate change conference here in Cancun came to an end at around 4 a.m. this morning. It would be cynical to call it a bribe, but the Cancun agreements were largely reached because the rich countries continued their vague promises to hand over $100 billion in climate aid annually to poor countries beginning in 2020.
 This from Foreign Policy in Focus is a more comprehensive analysis as of 12-9-2010

You think WikiLeaks is the target?

by Djelloul Marbrook from his blog

Regardless of whether the recent WikiLeaks incident was created or aided and abetted by government authorities (see this), it seems likely they will use it to attempt to gain more control over internet access and content.
What is really going on? Could it be that Washington doesn’t give a fig about Assange or WikiLeaks or even the embarrassments? Could it be that this just happens to be tailor-made to build a national security case for controlling the Internet and limiting access to it?