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 LappĂ©, excerpt from Time for Progressives to Grow Up

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Profit Pathology and the Disposable Planet

by Michael Parenti from Truthout via Global Research.

Parenti lays out the details on capitalism's unrelenting pursuit of profit and the devastating impacts on a habitable earth. I think that the picture is much worse than what he presents.
Some of the very same scientists and environmentalists who see the ecology crisis as urgent rather annoyingly warn us of a catastrophic climate crisis by "the end of this century." But that's some ninety years away, when all of us and most of our kids will be dead - which makes global warming a much less urgent issue.

There are other scientists who manage to be even more irritating by warning us of an impending ecological crisis and then putting it even further into the future. "We'll have to stop thinking in terms of eons and start thinking in terms of centuries," said one scientific sage who was quoted in The New York Times in 2006. This is supposed to put us on alert? If a global catastrophe is a century or several centuries away, who is going to make the terribly difficult and costly decisions today whose effects will be felt far in the future?
The crucial concept are tipping points, which mean points in time whereby natural forces are set in motion that cannot be reversed. I've seen numerous studies like this one that foresees tipping points at mid-century. Tipping points are difficult to predict, but I've read where scientists think they could come even sooner. From all the extreme weather that is now happening and the accelerated rate of polar ice melting, I fear that the latter predictions are more accurate.

Friday, April 8, 2011

How to Pay No Taxes

by Jesse Drucker from Bloomberg Businessweek.
For the well-off, this could be the best tax day since the early 1930s: Top tax rates on ordinary income, dividends, estates, and gifts will remain at or near historically low levels for at least the next two years. That's thanks in part to legislation passed in December 2010 by the 111th Congress and signed by President Barack Obama. 
Have you noticed that in all the coverage about the US government shutdown, it is all about cutting back on public spending, not on increasing revenue? There are two basic sides to any budget: income and expenses. So why isn't there any discussion in the media, or Congress, about the income side--income taxes, particularly those not paid or underpaid by the rich? There has been a steady decline in the past 40 years in the rates that the rich and corporations actually pay. Hence, is it any wonder that the Federal and State budgets are out of whack?

‘Found’ Votes Tip Wisconsin Court Race to Walker Ally

by Mike Hall from AFL-CIo Now Blog
It’s not unusual in any big election for a few ballots to go missing or not get counted. But when a country clerk suddenly announces the discovery of more than 14,000 votes from an entire city two days after an election decided by just 204 votes—with more than 10,000 going to the loser—that’s hard to fathom.
Will we be seeing more phony elections a la Florida 2000 and Ohio 2004? Looks like it.

The Tea Party vs. The Left

by David Peterson from Z Communications

I think that the best interpretation of these poll results is that the US government is a subservient  branch of the ruling class that performs various theatrical productions. There are two plays currently being performed in Washington: "Shutdown" that stars John Boehner, Harry Reid, and Barack Obama; and "Libyan Humanitarian Mission" in which Obama and various generals are starring.

I don't mean to diminish the significance of the related issues dealt with in these staged productions, it is just that the plays are not the real action or actors. The Washington Theater is partly entertainment in the sense that it is designed to distract attention, but mostly it serves to have people think that this is where decisions are really made. 

You see, we are taught to believe that government is supposed to work as we were taught in school. The reality is that it has long been taken over by secret agencies and "think tanks" of the ruling class. Rather than simply declaring the government null and void and announcing a fascist oligarchy, the ruling one percent (you know, the people who "own" the economy) want to continue the farce about representative government in order to keep people in a comfortable state of mind. In short, the poll results reveal this huge gap between what people think about the military intervention in Libya and what the government actually does. 

This sort of gap is unusual. I think it has occurred largely for two reasons. The events in Libya, along with all the other uprisings in the region, came on very suddenly. The ruling class hasn't had time to "prepare" the minds of its citizens to justify and rationalize the invasion. They have managed to provide some legitimacy by getting the UN Security Council to approve it (with some key abstentions), but they've had little time to stir up enough hatred in its citizens by using its media to show the cruelty of the Libyan regime (women being raped, civilians being killed, etc). To be sure, the regime is oppressive, but so are many others, many that our government supports.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The No-Truth Zone

by David Chibo from Foreign Policy Journal

Over last weekend I watched the same story play incessantly over US TV networks about the alleged rape of a woman by Libyan authorities. Although the circumstances looked suspicious, the rape and mistreatment could very well have happened. After all, rape occurs frequently among US soldiers (See this, this, and this), but isn't given this kind of coverage. The coverage of the incident looked very much like the alleged incidents that played on the networks to prepare us for the Iraq invasion. This author explores this phenomenon in more detail and from a broader perspective.
Modern marketing companies would label this story a “hook.” According to journalists, every big media event ideally needs a “hook,” which becomes the central element of a story that makes it newsworthy, evokes a strong emotional response, and sticks in the memory. An ideal “hook” may turn public opinion from being opposed to the war to being supportive of the war.

Libya: The DC/NATO Agenda and the Next Great War

by Paul Craig Roberts from Foreign Policy Journal

This former member of the Reagan administration makes a compelling and frightening argument that the current "Caesar" in the White House is playing with fire with the latest military attack on Libya. (Of course, the so-called Caesar is really only a figure head for the underlying political operatives of the ruling class.) On the other hand, if Russia and China find this invasion so threatening, why did they both abstain in the authorization for the attack when presented to the UN Security Council?

Thus, I don't feel that this particular attack is threatening to them, however there appears to be a pattern emerging of aggressive actions to counter and contain China and Russia which can lead to the "Next Great War". He sees a similar pattern that played out in the 20th century with horrific results. 

Capitalist elites have a long history of fomenting wars in their competition to secure resources, markets, and cheap labor. And wars are generally profitable to them regardless of who wins. Corporations like the Krupp conglomerate, IG Farben, IT&T, Standard Oil, and Mitsubishi (many collaborated in business) nearly all prospered from WWII and continued in business after the war.

See also an article by Kevin Zeese entitled, "The Link Between War and Big Finance".

Japan nuclear crisis is here to stay

by Victor Kotsev from Asia Times Online.

The author gives us a worrisome update on the potential dangers of this ongoing nuclear disaster.
Accurate data are hard to come by: "There is a lot of information which is not available," the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency's safety department, Denis Flory, told Reuters. Much of what is known comes from laboratory simulations conducted thousands of kilometers away; a lot of that information, according to a New York Times report, is classified. "Public authorities have sought to avoid grim technical details that might trigger alarm or even panic,"....
Also, check out Washington's Blog piece about Tepco's video (1:45m) report on the ocean dumping of radioactive water.

2011 Drought: Oklahoma Sees Driest 4 Months Since 1921

by Justin Juozapavicius from Huffpost Green

More extreme weather for you to contemplate.
Neighboring states are in similar shape as the drought stretches from the Louisiana Gulf coast to Colorado, and conditions are getting worse, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. The area in Texas covered by an extreme drought has tripled in the past month to 40 percent, and in Oklahoma it nearly doubled in one week to 16 percent, according to the monitor's March 29 update.