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 Lapp√©, excerpt from Time for Progressives to Grow Up

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Will S&P Downgrade Be Another Y2K Scare?

Click here to access article by Yves Smith from Naked Capitalism. (Amended commentary)

This downgrade of US debt is the Empire's way of continuing their neo-liberal war on US society following the recent debt ceiling agreement reached in Congress. Their end game is total capitalist control over everything that is of value to their profit machine. That means smashing the social contracts that have held people together in nation states that previously served the interests of national capitalist ruling classes. 

To understand the concept of social contract, one must place it in its historical context. The concept arose to public attention during and after the capitalist revolutions in the US and France in the latter part of the 18th century. It was essentially a deal made by capitalists with the rest of their populations to gain control of society from the aristocracy and monarchy and to promote their hegemony when they were relatively weak. It was mostly an unwritten philosophical position (although made explicit in the US with the addition of the Bill of Rights to the new US Constitution after considerable citizen opposition to its original form), but it informed the policies and public statements of the new ruling class in their relations to their subjects. Essentially, it stated that these new states under the control of capitalists would guarantee and actively promote individual and collective social security, social justice and effective forms of social solidarity.1 

Over time and after considerable social strife during the industrial revolution, this thinking evolved into advocating direct assistance to the weaker parts of the population. Also the capitalist state, especially after WWII, would ensure the loyalty of the middle class by providing them with numerous perks and a better income so that they could afford to buy their own homes and maintain a decent standard of living (aka "the American Dream"). In return, all citizens were expected to support their capitalist states and their wars, and not interfere with the rights of private ownership and management over socially produced goods and services.

Following the 20th century and its horrific wars between the competing dominant capitalist states and the demise of one state (USSR) that did not permit private ownership of social enterprises, the US-led empire of capitalists have been trying to establish a global hegemony which some have called a "New World Order". This new political arrangement consists of global capitalists who no longer need nor want national boundaries that interfere with their profit seeking pursuits. (They do like to use boundaries to control working people and to stash their money in tax havens.) They are intent on destroying any elements in societies that impede their profit-making activities such as government regulations, social safety nets, environmental and labor protections. And, they are intent upon extending their control over areas of the planet that resist this domination by using NATO forces to quell opposition.

Privatization is the new key word of the New World Order. They want to "own" everything that has any value. Thus, their almost religious affirmation of "market forces" which must be supreme. Of course, it has been "market forces" that they have used to concentrate so much wealth under their control and for their benefit. 

Another core belief was succinctly expressed by Margaret Thatcher who said, "There is no such thing as society. There are only individuals and their families." This provides a rationale to get rid of any social safety nets. This, of course, is a radical change of thinking from the collective sense of security that has sustained and fostered the growth of human populations during the past 150,000 years. Thus, under this new regime one's rights, opportunities, and security will be determined by one's relationship with the ownership of economic enterprises and immediate family, and not with one's neighbors, community, or nation.

Note
1. I don't take a cynical view that people such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Thomas Paine were insincere, but I think that they were used by the new capitalist class to deceive workers and peasants. In any era there are a variety of views expressed by people, but only those that serve a ruling class are ones that are permitted to reach large audiences.

A model for the world: Iceland's loud 'No'

Click here to access article by Silla Sigurgeirsdóttir and Robert H. Wade from Voltaire.

 Learn how a small group of people in Iceland gradually gained "ownership" over so much wealth, and gained control of Iceland by their collusion with neo-liberal forces in the world.
There is a direct line of descent from the quasi-feudal power structures of the 19th century to the modernised Icelandic capitalism of the later 20th century, when a bloc of 14 families, popularly known as The Octopus, were the economic and political ruling elite. The Octopus controlled imports, transport, banking, insurance, fishing and supplies to the Nato base and provided most top politicians.
But Icelanders are not fools, nor do they wish to become neo-liberal slaves--they are fighting back!

The Biggest Criminals Are Out of Sight: Shop and Shoot America

Click here to access article by Linh Dinh from Counterpunch.

The author sees signs of social disintegration gripping American society and explains how it relates to the interests of the military-industrial complex.
...one in six Americans is on food stamps, and more and more Americans are losing jobs, including teachers, firemen and cops, as unemployed and deranged teens run wild in “flash mobs” to beat up random strangers. It has happened repeatedly in Philadelphia, my neck of the woods, as well as Chicago, Milwaukee, Kansas City, Boston, Brooklyn, South Orange and Greensboro. There are racial and class components to this phenomenon, as these wilding youngsters are invariably poor blacks converging on white shopping districts.

Friday, August 5, 2011

The New Normal: Billion-Dollar Disasters

Click here to access article by Julia Whitty from Mother Jones.

Climate disasters will become the new normal if we continue to let the system of capitalism go unchallenged. The system which depends upon growth to produce profits for a few is driving us off the cliffs of climate disasters and resource exhaustion. Even if we could change systems today, we would still experience climate disasters for years to come. However, if we could change the system soon, we might survive and even thrive as fully functioning human beings in harmony with the ecology of our planet.

Exxon and Shell Announce Massive Profit Gains — All the More to Spend on Influence Peddling and Climate Denial

Click here to access article by Noreen Nielsen from Climate Progress. 
Exxon reported a whopping $10.7 billion in profits, an increase of 41% from the same period last year. Overall, Exxon has earned over $20 billion in profits in just the first six months of the year. Not surprisingly, ExxonMobil is also one of the most politically engaged of the top five oil companies.
Who says the economy is not doing well? The big corporations, particularly Big Oil is doing fine. And read the details about what they do with their profits to increase profits.

Bahrainis fight torture with hunger strike

Click here to access video interview from Press TV (Iran).
Press TV has conducted an interview with Nabeel Rajab, president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights in Manama, to further talk about the issue.
I am posting this because of the disappearance of any news about the Bahraini insurrection in US mainstream media. This lack of coverage is in stark contrast to the extensive coverage being provided for the insurrection in Syria.

Bahrain is the site of the US Fifth Fleet, and Bahrain has close political ties with Saudi Arabia, a key ally of the US government. Both are autocratic kingdoms where violations of civil and human rights are routinely committed by their governments.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

War, Hollywood, and the Saviors and Slaughterers of Freedom [post of the month]

Click here to access article by Keith Harmon Snow from Dissident voice.
On July 22, 2011, thirty-two year-old Norwegian Anders Behring Breivik massacred 77 people in Norway. Hollywood released the new Captain America film the same week. Some people see Captain America as ugly Americana at its worst; others think anyone who criticizes it should be killed. The savior story Captain America follows the earlier 2011 premier of Marvel Comic’s Nordic superhero THOR. Meanwhile, ordinary people of both developed and underdeveloped countries suffer more and more as the captains of industry profit from massive global high-tech warfare and the manufacture of misery. How do such seemingly benign Hollywood films affect mass psychology? How do they influence individuals? Is there any relationship between martyr-massacres and mass entertainment media? Some call the Nordic Aryan a psychopath. Others are calling him a savior. Is he a self-styled Norwegian version of Captain America?
I regard this author as of one of the best independent journalists that the US has. They are a rare breed, and because of this they can only be accessed through alternative sources on the Web.

In this piece he provides an in-depth--and I mean in-depth--analysis of this phenomenon of right wing assassins and wannabe heroes such as Breivik and Jared Lee Loughner. He clearly explains the cultural context that produces such people: a cultural context created by the close cooperation between Hollywood and the Pentagon to insert ruling class values and war propaganda into the minds of ordinary people, especially young people. 

There is so much material here that I have some questions about its length for the internet. I think he has content for several separate articles. Most internet surfers are unable to stay with an article of this length. But, on other hand, it contains so much excellent material.  I particularly recommend  RT's 4:15m video critique of the movie, "Captain America" which he links to in the article.

NATO facing military stalemate in Libya

Click here to access article by Peter Symonds from World Socialist Web Site. 

It seems that NATO's "humanitarian mission" is not doing so well in Libya. And, I have been puzzled as to why I've seen almost no mainstream media coverage of events in Libya for some time. Now, foreign coverage is limited to Syria. I'm sure people who follow this blog can figure that out.
In a revealing comment, Hague defended the NATO bombing campaign, saying it had saved “many thousands of lives and stopped the destabilisation of Egypt and Tunisia.” Saving civilian lives is the pretext used to justify NATO’s illegal war on Libya. The reference to Egypt and Tunisia, however, confirms that, along with securing control of Libya’s oil, the US and NATO are intent on establishing a beachhead against the revolutionary uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa.

Junk Food Industry Battles Attempts to Reduce Consumption

Click here to access article from Good Food World. 
The bad guys – junk food industry, including soda makers – are winning the war. That is, they’re doing their level best to continue to market and sell their products and prevent any constraint of their trade by government agencies or even “advisory committees.”
Nowadays ruling class corporations are winning battles on all fronts. This piece reports on their victories to keep people eating their highly profitable junk food. It's clear why they fight any government attempts to regulate or curtail their profit making, health impairing industries.

21st-Century Slaves: How Corporations Exploit Prison Labor

Click here to access article by Rania Khalek from AlterNet.
There is one group of American workers so disenfranchised that corporations are able to get away with paying them wages that rival those of third-world sweatshops. These laborers have been legally stripped of their political, economic and social rights and ultimately relegated to second-class citizens. They are banned from unionizing, violently silenced from speaking out and forced to work for little to no wages.
Whenever ruling class spokespeople talk about their concern for jobs, you know that they have something very different in mind. They hate jobs. They hate to pay people to perform jobs because jobs are costs that are deducted from their profits. Thus, they always search for new ways to eliminate jobs through efficiencies of operation, through investment in labor saving equipment, by pressuring people to work harder and longer, outsourcing jobs to cheaper locations throughout the world or to non-unionized subcontractors, and then there is this method.

In the past 10 years we have also seen immigrants criminalized by the ruling class and their servants in mainstream media and Congress in order to add more cheap labor to this burgeoning and highly profitable industry. When you realize that a considerable amount of public money has been allocated to police services rounding up immigrants to feed this system, it's clear that these corporations are also being supported by public money. 

This is a perfect scam for capitalists--using prison slave labor and public subsidies to enrich themselves. See this, this, and this. In addition to military related corporations in the US, the private prison industry is booming and highly profitable. See this.  

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Ruling Class Victory

Click here to access article by Margaret Kimberley from Black Agenda Report.
The class war is nearly over, and those at the top of the heap have once again achieved a clear victory. They and their minions can be held in abeyance but only if there is a realization that we are in a war in the first place.[My emphasis] The much discussed congressional deal on the budget ceiling is a win only for the people who want to do away with the little bit of safety net and democracy we have left.
Many people all over world have come to this conclusion and are fighting back in every way they know how. Unfortunately, here in the US I continue to see too many symptoms of a disintegrating society where the vast majority of citizens are unaware of what is happening to them, and even worse, are turning on themselves.  See this, and this

However, we must all keep things in perspective. This is only the latest battle we, as working people, have lost. The war is far from over.

From Economic to Social Crisis: Deficits, Debt, and a Little Class History

Click here to access article by Richard D. Wolff from MR Zine. 

The author provides an excellent perspective on the history of capitalism's booms and busts, and ends on an upbeat note:
Resignation never was the only response of working people to capitalism's dysfunctions.  After the initial shock -- at an American Dream fast disappearing and lasting economic decline looming -- rebuilding old and/or creating new labor and left organizations will resume.  The old mole of real class struggles will return to the surface of contemporary politics.
 

How to Start A Worker Co-op

Click here to access article by Mira Luna from Shareable.

This article deals with the prospects and problems of worker coops better than any other article I have ever read. With the rapid deterioration now unfolding in capitalist controlled economies, there may be no other short term solution to sustaining the lives of working people other than this solution. Argentinians certainly found that to be true. 

I certainly don't mean to imply that this method is only short term because capitalism will once again straighten itself out and become a somewhat viable system for working people. There is no shortage of material on the internet that describes the deterioration of economies and the lives of working people under the present system. I simply used "short term" because ultimately the whole society and economy will need to be reorganized along very different principles: something like the principles of Inclusive Democracy.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

CIA Forced to Release Long Secret Official History of Bay of Pigs Invasion

Click here to access article by Peter Kornbluh from Global Research.

To cover up their crimes, the ruling class simply "classifies" everything of a sensitive nature. It often takes 50 years or more to find out what their government has actually done.

This article reports on the latest release of documents concerning the outrageous war crimes committed against Cuba in April of 1961. This war was engineered covertly and hidden from the American public and most members of Congress. But it was poorly designed and quickly unraveled with many truths uncovered, although suppressed in mainstream media. The best source of information regarding this and other events related to the invasion, that I know of, is the book written by Warren Hinckle and William Turner entitled, The Fish is Red.  

Since then the ruling class no longer engages in such complicated plans when they want to invade another country. Since 9/11 and the never-ending War on Terror they find that the US public is much more willing to go along with their war adventures. Some people think that 9/11 was engineered to bring about this compliance.

Two-Faced Washington

Click here to access article by Tom Engelhardt from Tom Dispatch.

The author does a pretty good job of teasing out the duplicity of our ruling class in its media extravaganza called "The budget Crisis" in order to get the public to accept cuts to health, education, welfare, Social Security and Medicare. Meanwhile the Pentagon plans to continue war making and occupation of other countries as usual. And, there are no tax hikes. The ruling class much prefers lending the government money, burdening the American public with more debt, than paying taxes.

Yes, there have been noises about cutbacks in the Pentagon budget, but this is also more about deception. The author finds evidence of this:
The “cuts” in the White House proposal, that is, will only be from projected future Pentagon growth rates.  Nor were the “savings” of up to one trillion dollars over a decade being projected by Senator Harry Reid as part of his deficit-reduction plan cuts either, not in the usual sense anyway.  They are expected savings based largely on the prospective winding down of America's wars and, like so much funny money, could evaporate with the morning dew. (In his last minute deal with John Boehner, President Obama's Pentagon "savings" have, in fact, been reduced to a provisional $350 billion over 10 years.)
When one understands the amount of effort going on in Washington to hide the realities of a war machine owned and profited from by the capitalist elites, one certainly cannot expect to uncover the real facts easily. At the time the deceptions are occurring, one can only read between the lines and scrounge for bits of information. For example, after considerable time looking, I found this rare gem at Politico:
...a solution to the impasse: Redefine “defense” cuts as “security” cuts to include homeland security, veterans affairs and foreign aid, diluting the impact on the Pentagon.
Such accounting tricks are often used to disguise Pentagon funding. Much of their budget is found in other departments, their favorite being the Department of Energy. See this, this, and this

And, a budget is only sort of a promise to spend. When the time comes that the ruling class wants to wage more wars, there is never any serious debate in Congress. They just pass supplementary bills to provide more funding as they did in Afghanistan and Iraq. They no longer bother going through the Constitutional requirement of asking for Congressional approval.

Bill Gates and His $10 Billion Vaccine Scam

Click here to access article by Thomas C. Mountain from Foreign Policy Journal. 
[Thomas C. Mountain is an independent western journalist based in the Horn of Africa, and has been living and reporting from Eritrea since 2006. He was a member of the 1st US Peace Delegation to Libya in 1987.]
 This independent journalist asks a penetrating question:
Why is it that worldwide headlines greet Bill Gates announcement of his “vaccine” program while the biggest breakthrough in one of the major threats to life in much of the world remains unknown?
and suggests an answer.

Social Security Reform Bill Encourages Americans To Live Faster, Die Younger [1:56m video]

Click here to access video from The Onion Review. 

Here is some great satire to lighten your day.

Monday, August 1, 2011

The FBI and the CIA Pressured US Lawyer to Betray his Arab and Muslim Clients

Click here to access article by Sherwood Ross from Global Research.

The author's report on this form of government intimidation clearly illustrates how far down the road to a police state we actually are in the US.

The US debt ceiling deal

Click here to access article by Patrick Martin from World Socialist Web Site. 

This author provides the gruesome details of the current class war on US citizens that are largely missing from mainstream media.
The initial impact of the cuts will be on the social infrastructure of education, public housing, mass transportation and environmental protection, as well as the Medicaid program for the poor, disabled and blind. In the longer term—in other words, as soon as the 2012 elections are safely past—the cuts will begin to be felt by the more than 50 million elderly covered by Medicare.

 

Ultimately the problem of the debt is a political problem

Click here to access article by George Katrougalos from the Committee for the Abolition of Third World Debt. 

I found it a bit difficult to follow all the European legal structures and operations, but it is clear that the capitalist ruling classes are doing everything they can to circumvent democratic principles in order to impose their self-serving neo-liberal policies. And, as here in the US the Greek ruling class political operatives are using fear to intimidate their citizens into complying with the neo-liberal demands. However, the Greeks are not so easily intimidated or fooled.
...fortunately in the last two or three months we have seen the rise of a very genuine and massive political movement, an independent movement that has escaped this trap of fear and tried to reinvent democratic solutions that are going to be imposed by the people and not by foreign powers or our creditors.

What the USDA Doesn't Want You to Know About Antibiotics and Factory Farms

Click here to access article by Tom Philpott from Mother Jones. 

Read about a report that was "disappeared" from USDA's website concerning the abuse of antibiotics in factory farms. 
The researcher, Dharmarha, has been silenced. Not only has her report been erased from the USDA site, but she has been forbidden to talk to media.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

For the Benefit of Mr. Kite

Click here to access article by David Glenn Cox from OpEd News. 
Let's be clear here, the debt ceiling impasse isn't a question of doing the right thing or the wrong thing. It is show, a stunt, a mere question of how many Christians to throw to the lions or how many hostages to have shot. When Barrack Obama says, he wants a comprehensive solution he is speaking Washington speak for tax cuts.

The Tyranny of Bondholders [18:01m video]

Click here to access video and transcript from The Real News Network.  (The transcript can be accessed by clicking on a tab within this website.)

In this video Paul Jay interviews Kevin Gallagher who is a professor at Boston University, a research fellow at the Global Development and Environment Institute, and also associated with Tufts University.

This subject is quite complicated and is not easily covered in 18 minutes. Also, Professor Gallagher discusses the subject in rather abstract academic terms, and always within the context of the reigning capitalist system. However, the subject deals with urgent contemporary issues and needs to be understood by working people. 

The picture that the professor paints of the sovereign debt crisis suggests to me that the capitalist elites, who are the bondholders, have structured in all kinds of laws and mechanisms to prevent any kind of democratic response or solution to the problems by working within the system. 

Instead of paying taxes--and they don't pay much--the ruling class prefers lending money to the government in form of bonds and treasury bills. According to Bloomberg News, this ruling class of bondholders are making sure that their loans be paid back and that their bonds have priority over Social Security recipients, military personnel, welfare recipients, and unemployed.   

Is this the brave new world?

Click here to access article by Djelloul Marbrook from his blog. 

This is a light piece and a bit of a brain tease.
Who was right, Huxley or Orwell?

The crimes of Emperor Rupert

Click here to access article by Tony Iltis from Green Left (Australia). 

The Rupert-British government scandal is revealing what many on the left have been arguing for years: the close integration of right-wing media with the ruling capitalist elites: to sustain and promote the interests of that class. In other words, mainstream media is an indispensable propaganda organ of the governing class and used to manage the minds of working people
The illusion of pluralism in corporate-dominated democracies is promoted by the media, like mainstream parties, having a spectrum of opinions but none which question corporate rule.

Extreme Weather: The New Normal

Click here to access article by Dahr Jamail from his blog, Dispatches.

Of course, the framing of this phenomenon of extreme weather as the "new normal" is carefully engineered by the governing class so that we are not alarmed sufficiently to demand real changes to an economic system that is hellbent to promote growth and to satisfy their addiction to profits. You will have to look far and wide to find this UN report published anywhere in mainstream media.
According to a UN report released July 5, humanity is close to breaching the sustainability of Earth, and needs a technological revolution greater and faster than the industrial revolution in order to avoid “a major planetary catastrophe”.
Instead we are fed commercials from Exxon and other oil companies that assure us that they are taking care of any environment problems caused by fossil fuels.

Oil industry analysts are making it clear that regardless of environmental disasters, Big Oil and "market realities" will have their way:
The idea that such reserves will now be deemed ‘off limits’ by legislative moratorium is about as likely as developed countries ever signing off on any serious emissions policies. Political bluster says one thing; political logic tells Congress (et al) another. Analysts should duly take note: we can expect to see offshore drilling, lots of it, and in very deep waters.

This thinking also comes in handy when looking at the Arctic, or indeed Canadian tar sands when considering whether environmental musings or market realities will hold sway.
I think that we are only beginning to see extreme weather. I think it is likely that extreme weather will accelerate over the next few decades and cause all kinds of human crises--unless, of course, we put a stop to the system that is producing this crisis.

How the Rich are Spending in 2011

Click here to access article from Economy Watch. 

The people at Citgroup were right about the growth of the rich and their opportunities to flaunt their riches. Those rich among my readers--I'm sure there are many--will be reassured that the world is their oyster and its time to start shopping for the right goodies and having the right credit card to show everyone that you've arrived in this world. Be sure to peruse their slide show to know what to buy!
They earn, they invest and they splurge. Only that they do so more ostentatiously and extravagantly. They are the ultra high net worth individuals....