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, May 19, 2012

Senate Banking Chair Calls Jamie Dimon to Testify: But JP Morgan Chase is His Biggest Contributor!

Click here to access article by Thomas Ferguson from AlterNet. 

This brief piece offers an illustration of the central feature of our capitalist "democracy", representative democracy, or republican government. While we are allowed to vote among candidates selected by the One Percent and that these people, according to capitalist scripture, are elected to represent us, one sees here the reality of who they represent. Of course, this must be obvious to everyone--but, it isn't. So, 1) why do all the authorities in our lives keep talking as if this were a valid form of "democracy"? And, 2) why do ordinary people go around spouting nonsense about living in a "democracy"?

Here are my answers, what do you think?

1) Because these authorities have authorities or bosses that they report to, and so on until one reaches the class of people, nowadays referred to as the One Percent, who quite literally own our economy. They have a huge stake in maintaining this arrangement and the myths about "democracy" which serve to justify it.

2) Because it can be very expensive to impose and enforce such a system on millions of people, great efforts are expended to convince people that the system is just, rational, and moral. If everyone can be convinced of the latter, then the class of people who benefit from this societal arrangement don't have to spend money on doing messy things like beating and killing people even though they are always prepared to do that.  That is one of the essential functions of police forces as we've recently witnessed with their brutal use of force on protestors. The other being to protect the property of the One Percent.

Meanwhile, there are many among ordinary people who do not succumb to this indoctrination, but go along with it because there are a variety of rewards for doing so, and a variety of negative consequences for not doing so. Ordinary people in general go along with this fairy tale arrangement much like the people in the Hans Christian Andersen's fairly tale: they are not bothered by negative thoughts of taking action against authorities and it helps to keep peace in their lives.

American Empire and the Future: High Noon for the Imperium

Click here to access article by Paul L. Atwood from CounterPunch.

This writer covers a lot of ground while trying to establish the truths about our current political realities--possibly too much ground. But, he does it so well in this piece. My only criticism, and a frequent one regarding social-political critics, is the glaring omission of the name of the underlying system which is the source of many of the disasters facing us today: capitalism--the system that insures the private accumulation of socially produced wealth. Instead, he uses circumlocutions like "globalism" or "American way of life". 

I don't know if he is a liberal who feels that there is no alternative, or if he fears adverse consequences from colleagues and authorities if he should mention the taboo word of capitalism in connection with disasters and war crimes.

No Freedoms to Hate Us For Anymore

Click here to access article by Missy Beattie from CounterPunch.

Well put. She is referring to all the police state measures that have been implemented since 9/11 up until and including the draconian preparations to deal with protestors at the NATO summit meeting in Chicago on Sunday and Monday.

Here is the "Police Forces" section of Wikipedia she referred to in the article.
The summit has been designated a National Special Security Event (NSSE) by the Department of Homeland Security. Final authority over law enforcement thus belongs to the Secret Service. The NSSE steering committee, which also includes representatives from the Chicago Police Department and has 24 subcommittees, began meeting in October 2011.
Local security forces are being trained by an Illinois company, Controlled F.O.R.C.E., which specializes in subduing crowds. Police are being trained in "Mechanical Advantage Control Holds," as well as the use of tasers.
The city has signed a $193,461 contract with Super Seer for the procurement of new face shields that fit over gas masks; the shields are intended to protect police officers from liquids. The Chicago Police Department will also prepare its mounted unit with riot gear: armor for horses along with "crowd control training."
If what we now have in the US is freedom and democracy, I wonder what fascism looks like.

B.C.-based actress Nina Rhodes-Hughes speaks of Robert F. Kennedy's assassination (with video)

Click here to access article by Denise Ryan from the Vancouver Sun (Canada). 

I haven't seen this report, or similar one, published anywhere in US media. I've always wondered why there has been so few challengers to the official stories published by mainstream media. It suggests to me that US security agencies and powerful political operatives were so well coordinated, organized, and confident that no one dared challenge them for fear of their lives. And, indeed, it was well known by then that many witnesses to Jack Kennedy's assassination lost their lives in a variety of mysterious ways. No doubt, many witness to Robert's assassination kept their mouths shut, and some like this witness, Nina Rhodes-Hughes, left the country.

Bring on the Beautiful Trouble

Click here to access a book review by David Swanson from War is a Crime. 
Beautiful Trouble is a terrific addition to Gene Sharp's catalog of nonviolent tactics, less comprehensive, more up-to-date, more U.S.-centric, and focused on the artistic and the entertaining. When someone whines about what they can possibly do if it's really true that voting won't fix everything, hand them this book.  When someone proposes violence as the only serious option available, hand them this book.  

Quebec: Students mobilise against draconian law aimed at breaking four-month strike

Click here to access article by Roger Annis from International Journal of Socialist Renewal. 
The Quebec government provoked the student strike with its proposal last year, confirmed in its March 2012 budget, to increase tuition fees by 60% over the next five years. That was then modified to a 75% increase over seven years.
There have been massive student protests and strikes in Quebec during the past four months which has been met by brutal police methods. 
Some 160,000 students are on strike, approximately 35% of the post-secondary student population in the province. Of those, 65,000 are CEGEP [essentially all public post-secondary institutions] students, all in Montreal and surrounding regions.
With a recent law passed, it appears now that the government of Quebec has declared all out war on the students.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Make the Choice: Wall Street or Society

Click here to access article by Glen Ford from Black Agenda Report.
This is the lesson that movements such as Occupy Wall Street must learn, or be ultimately waylaid and demoralized. You cannot “regulate” the behavior of Tyrannosaurus Rex while he still has the size and teeth to kill you at will. The T-Rex, here, is a class that, even if chopped into many Velociraptors, will still dominate the societal jungle if they are not removed from dominion over the economy.

Foundations for Empire: corporate philanthropy and US foreign policy

Click here to access article by Michael Barker from Ceasefire. 
...Michael Barker argues that, far from eradicating poverty and aiding economic development, major US philanthropic foundations have played a key role in undermining efforts to promote a meaningful democratic alternative to capitalism, both at home and abroad. 
Surprise, surprise! Okay, so I am descending into sarcasm once again--sorry. Using historical examples of the subversion of corporate unfriendly governments of Sukarno in Indonesia and  Allende in Chile, the author provides an excellent exposition of how soft power has played a major role in establishing the US Empire in addition to military intervention.

An Ordinary Person’s Guide to Overthrowing the Corporate Elites

Click here to access article by Chris Hedges from The Occupied Wall Street Journal. (Modified at 7:45 pm Seattle time, 5/18/2012)

This is a re-posting of an article posted on Truthdig last Monday entitled, "Colonized by Corporations". While it offers some useful perspectives on revolutions, it appears to me to be primarily a more sophisticated version of his February article entitled, "The Cancer in Occupy", in which he rather hysterically trashed the Oakland Black Bloc anarchists for smashing a few windows. That article has already been sufficiently critiqued--see this, this, and this

His most useful contribution in this essay is to highlight the growing status of American citizens as colonial subjects in this globalized New World Order. Hedges is very well educated (Harvard) and well read. He borrows the following insight from Robert E. Gamer’s book The Developing Nations:
We have been, like nations on the periphery of empire, colonized. We are controlled by tiny corporate entities that have no loyalty to the nation. They strip us of our resources, keep us politically passive and enrich themselves at our expense. The mechanisms of control are familiar to those whom the Martinique-born French psychiatrist and writer Frantz Fanon called “the wretched of the earth,” including African-Americans. The colonized are denied job security. Incomes are reduced to subsistence level. The poor are plunged into desperation. Mass movements, such as labor unions, are dismantled. The school system is degraded so only the elites have access to a superior education. Laws are written to legalize corporate plunder and abuse, as well as criminalize dissent. And the ensuing fear and instability—keenly felt this past weekend by the more than 200,000 Americans who lost their unemployment benefits—ensure political passivity by diverting all personal energy toward survival.
However, the rest of the essay is filled with a very selective reading of revolutions in history carefully laced with his theme of non-violence to prove the alternative argument: non-violence must be the only method of confronting the Empire. His constant harping on this theme might suggest that activists were attacking police with knives and guns rather than vandalizing property.

I hesitated to post this article at all, but I thought it useful as an example of a carefully crafted piece that makes essentially the same argument as his February article, and for the same purpose--to discourage any application of more militant tactics beyond complete passive resistance.

I also dislike the pretentious title of this article, but I doubt that Hedges is responsible for that. What is more worrying is the framing of the article this way, and the possible consequences. Whether consciously entitled this way or not, it serves the purpose of helping to drive a wedge through the US Occupy movement. Strategy and tactics can only be decided by the Occupiers themselves through their experience, not by intellectual elites.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Federal court enjoins NDAA

Click here to access article by Glenn Greenwald from Salon. 

Don't get your hopes up that this represents a new direction for the ruling class in support of the Bill of Rights in the US Constitution. This was only a lower court decision and may be overturned by higher courts that have been stuffed with compliant conservative justices. And as the author writes,
There are still other authorities (including the AUMF) which the DOJ can use to assert the power of indefinite detention. Nonetheless, this is a rare and significant limit placed on the U.S. Government’s ability to seize ever-greater powers of detention-without-charges, and it is grounded in exactly the right constitutional principles: ones that federal courts and the Executive Branch have been willfully ignoring for the past decade.
The Bill of Rights, the first 10 amendments to the new constitution drafted by the new capitalist class in 1789, was added to appease irate citizens who objected to the centralized control of the new nation by a new ruling class of property holders. The amendments have been mostly ignored throughout the history of the US. Let me give you a brief history regarding the US Constitution that was likely missing from your formal education.

Originally the gathering of the young nation's ruling class in 1787 was publicized as intended only to reform or revise the Articles of Confederation which was the constitution of the 13 colonies. Instead, this new landed and commercial aristocracy decided on a revolutionary course of their own design by crafting a whole new Constitution which centralized control over the nation under their supervision. Only by tacking on the Bill of Rights and the use of political chicanery, could they get the state assemblies to ratify it finally in 1791. 

Contrary to the indoctrination you received in school, the designers of the Constitution intentionally structured the government into three branches (a so-called system of "checks and balances") not to impede the development of authoritarian rule, but to serve as a bulwark against democratic influences from below: they were profoundly fearful of the town meetings and other popular assemblies

Then the new capitalist class of the United States went about rearranging other political affairs to gain greater control of the country. They established huge voting districts or even state-wide candidates for the election of representatives. Given that roads were poor and the means of communication were rather primitive, it was difficult for ordinary people who might have the right to vote, such as small farm landholders, to organize any effective political action. (Nowadays, ruling class control of all major media insures their continued rule.) This new ruling class found that such an arrangement encouraged voter apathy since only the wealthy were known by most of the people in these huge districts. Some people of the ruling class even went so far as to claim that this was America's single greatest contribution to political theory. Well, from their class perspective one has to admit that it was quite brilliant.

(One of the best single sources for further study on this subject that I know of is historian Woody Holton's book entitled, Unruly Americans.)

Not Your Cold War NATO: Alliance To Examine Itself

Click here to access article by Jackie Northam from NPR

In this piece one gets the definite impression, which has been reported by others, that NATO is experiencing some real difficulties in the Empire's pursuit of global hegemony. Are these the first real cracks in the Empire's armor? Perhaps this is what next week's NATO meeting in Chicago is really all about: repairing and restoring harmony. All the more reason that activists turn out to protest.

Another reason to protest may also be to register opposition for another NATO war--this time against Syria à la Libya as discussed here.

The NSA Is Watching You

Click here to access article by Amy Goodman from Truthdig. 

She reports on the stories of three Americans and their encounters with the National Security Agency (NSA):
A career government intelligence official, a filmmaker and a hacker. None of these U.S. citizens was charged with a crime, but they have been tracked, surveilled, detained—sometimes at gunpoint—and interrogated, with no access to a lawyer.

Fracking's Methane Trail: A Detective Story

Click here to access article by Elizabeth Shogren from NPR.
Gaby Petron, an atmospheric scientist with NOAA, stands in front of a natural gas well. Several years ago, Petron stumbled upon data suggesting northern Colorado's natural gas production fields were leaking surprisingly high levels of methane into the air.
This government funded agency has only measured methane at one site in northern Colorado. The results together with widespread reports--which are not mentioned--of water contamination from families living in areas of fracking operations should alarm people sufficiently to demand much more extensive monitoring of these wells.  So, why isn't there more action? 

As you can see, the report is limited only to atmospheric concerns. There is no mention of public health concerns from the toxic chemicals used in fracking operations. The reporter implies that only monitoring by the fracking companies is possible, and they don't want to do it only for the lame reasons cited in the article, not for the obvious reason that the capitalist One Percent insist that the public and the ecosystem be damned--no one can be allowed to interfere with their pursuit of profit and the energy needed to fuel their industrial engines to produce more profitable stuff.

Shale gas: Halliburton’s weapon of mass devastation

Click here to access article by F. William Engdahl from Voltaire Network. 

Compare this informative article, that US mainstream media will never publish or broadcast, with the one above from NPR. (I'm wondering if the quiet change of the radio network's name from National Public Radio into strictly "NPR" has to do with the fact of falling revenues from listener contributions and increasing revenues from private corporations including those hiding behind non-profit institutions like the Open Society Institute.)

Find out what the author means when he refers to "Halliburton's weapon of mass destruction" and the "Halliburton Loophole”. 

I take issue with his last paragraph. The data I've seen shows clearly that fossil fuel production has been at a plateau since 2005. Because new oil and other fossils fuels are much more expensive and time consuming to extract, I do not think that their production will increase sufficiently in the future to offset the loss of production in older oil fields. In addition, with contamination of water supplies, fracking is going to meet with increased opposition. 

(See also this, this, this, and this.)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

JP Morgan Debacle Shows Deep Systemic Risk Unchanged

Sourced from The Real News Network, where your can get the transcript for this interview with Prof. Bill Black, professor of economics and law and former chief Savings and Loan regulator.

Prof. Black's comments show clearly that the banksters are still up to their old tricks that has for so many ordinary people across the globe already destroyed the economy and created so much hardship.



Also, for another excellent interview with Prof. Black see this on Democracy Now via Washington's Blog .

Blockupy Frankfurt: taking the struggle to the next level

Click here to access article by Jerome Roos from Reflections on a Revolution.
On May 18, organizers have vowed to block the ECB and financial district for a day. Not just as a symbolic action, but as a direct attempt to physically stop financial activities in the city and thereby block the endless flow of capital that sustains European ‘zombie capitalism‘.
...wherever you are, make sure to keep an eye on Frankfurt these days, for the confrontations we are likely to see there will have an enormous impact both on the direction of our movement and the future of the austerity politics currently being shoved down our throats by the political and financial elites.
For the latest report I've seen on this event, read this.

US Chutzpah on Bahrain

Click here to access article by As'ad AbuKhalil from Al Akhbar. 
The State Department held a meeting with Bahraini activists in Washington, DC. During the meeting, the activists were lectured and hectored by a US official. They kept being told over and over again that the government can’t reform while the “youth are resorting to violence”.
Many Arabs are finding that US government officials' hypocrisy in their pursuit of Mid-East policies unbelievably shocking.

See also this article reporting on "US to resume weapons sales to Bahraini regime".

Why the Green Economy is a wrong path to restore the equilibrium with nature and what alternatives do we have?

Click here to access article by Pablo Solon from Focus on the Global South.

Using the June meeting of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio + 20) that will take place in Rio de Janeiro, he frames his argument that sustainable development under the neoliberal version of a “Green Economy” is a hoax based on observable facts of the last 20 years. The hoax will soon be a deadly one for human and many other life forms if it is allowed to continue down this path of capitalism and its addiction to growth and the commodification of nature.
The unsustainable development model that gained dominance in the world resulted to grave loss of biodiversity, melting of polar ice caps and mountain glaciers, alarming increase in deforestation and desertification and the looming danger of an at least 4ºC increase in temperature, which will threaten life as we know it. Science is saying that we are approaching a point of no return that will change the way our planet has behaved over 650,000 years”.
Unfortunately, he offers a long list of "shoulds" or reforms that are needed to prevent capitalism from destroying the planet. But then he concludes with this sentence:
The collective global response that is needed to confront the crisis we face requires structural changes. [my emphasis] We must change the capitalist system, not the Earth system.
But, what does he mean by this? The implementation of his reforms to the capitalist system? That is not structural change! Is he asking that the wolves of capitalism change to a vegetarian diet? Or is he suggesting that humanity must change from a capitalist system to another system whose basic principles are based on respect for, and the promotion of, all life forms--not exploitation for the profit of a few. Capitalism is completely incompatible with sustainability. Such confusion on his part only contributes to the delay in making any significant progress toward an ecosystem that can support human and many other life forms.

Having been a member of the Bolivian government of Evo Morales, perhaps the author is mirroring their confusion: espousing policies of sustainability while pursuing mostly neo-liberal policies that promote exploitation of natural resources. It appears that they have bought into the One Percent's self-serving mantra: "there is no alternative".
 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Ah-Anti-Anti-Capitalista

Click here to access article by Mickey Z. from World News Trust. 

Beautifully written, very inspiring.
I often wonder what the cops, passersby, media types, etc. are thinking when occupiers break into the joyous song/dance of ah-anti-anti-capitalista.

Here in the Land of the Free™, we are consciously conditioned to worship capitalism (and capitalists) so I'll bet some outsiders perceive such a chant as a very convenient excuse to dismiss Occupy Wall Street (OWS) as -- pick one -- naïve, anarchist, communist, socialist, anti-American, selfish, lazy, or "too radical."

Losing potential allies might understandably lead some to ditch any blatant anti-capitalism slogans but what if we instead put in the time and effort to explain the simple -- and I do mean simple -- reasoning behind such sentiment?

Koch-ing the Climate: Exploiting the Tar Sands

Click here to access article by Andy Rowell from Oil Change International. 

Just last week I watched a re-run of the 2011 PBS TV special entitled, "Deadliest Tornadoes", which was heavily funded by David Koch who also sponsors other NOVA science programs along with Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Lockheed Martin Corporation. 

The show's focus was all about solving the problem of advanced warnings which is currently only about 13 minutes of lead time. At one point in the program the narrator made the emphatic statement that tornadoes are a "freak of nature and they cannot be stopped". Another questionable statement made was that we can expect more destruction from tornadoes simply because there will be more population growth and buildings to destroy. Only at that the end of the program there was a very brief general statement that global warming could be a factor.

Clearly David Koch had a material conflict of interest in sponsoring a program on this subject and the results were evident. But, this is "business as usual" for all media in the US whether commercial or government media--the latter is clearly controlled by the One Percent and reflects their interests in coverage of major issues.

Bush & Associates Found Guilty of Torture

Click here to access article from Global Research. 

This independent war crimes tribunal based in the capital city of Malasia has officially declared what many of us already knew: the Bush administration committed war crimes and are judged to be war criminals.
The Tribunal finds that the prosecution has established beyond a reasonable doubt that the Accused persons are individually and jointly liable for all crimes committed in pursuit of their common plan and purpose under principles established by Article 6 of the Charter of the International Military Tribunal (the Nuremberg Charter), which states, inter alia, “Leaders, organizers, instigators and accomplices participating in the formulation or execution of a common plan or conspiracy to commit war crimes are responsible for all acts performed by any person in execution of such plan.” 

The boycott will work, an Israeli perspective

Click here to access article by Ilan Pappé from Ceasefire Magazine. 
...Ilan Pappé, celebrated Israeli Historian and author, argues that the BDS movement [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions] is the best means to end Israel's oppressive occupation and prevent another Nakba. 
After reading this article, you may want to follow up with some boycott action: see this handy guide.

Protesting NATO: What to Know About the Secret Service and H.R. 347

Click here to access article by Gabe Rottman from American Civil Liberties Union.
The forthcoming summit of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, set for May 20 and 21 in Chicago, could be the first public test of H.R. 347, the recently passed law that expanded the ability of the Secret Service to suppress protests in or around certain restricted zones near individuals under its protection.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Sanctions Against Iran: A Duplicitous "Alternative" to War

Click here to access article by Raha Iranian Feminist Collective from Jadaliyya. (An online magazine produced by the Arab Studies Institute based in Washington DC and Beirut, Lebanon.)
The Western drumbeats of war are a death threat hanging over their heads, and sanctions erode living standards and hope for a viable future. In this context, we feel it is necessary to lay bare sanctions against Iran for what they really are—the consolidation of geopolitical hegemony and war by other means. This article responds to the stated justifications for sanctions and outlines the impact of sanctions on ordinary people. As feminists, we insist that lasting peace and security will be built by people on the ground in Iran who are mobilizing for political and economic justice—democratizing Iran “from the inside out.”

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The meaning and necessity of revolution in the 21st century

Click here to access article by Jerome Roos from Reflections on a Revolution. 

This is not a posting that one should read in haste or superficially. This is a posting that offers a powerful overview of all the problems that are currently facing the human race across the globe. It also shows that the human spirit is alive and well and fighting for its continued existence and dignity everywhere.  The author connects...
the dots between the crisis of global capitalism, the Arab Spring, and the movements in Europe, North America and elsewhere, I will try to address one overarching theme: the meaning of the word ‘revolution’ in the 21st century. What does it mean to be a revolutionary today?

12th of May: the “Indignados” are back

Click here to access article, videos, and pictures from Eagainst.

This website has given us a lot of material to show that the Spanish people have no intention of accepting austerity, public spending cuts, and selling off of public assets as proposed by the One Percent and banksters.
A year after the birth of the 15M movement, the Indignados returned to the streets of Spain.

Thousands of protesters gathered in Madrid and marched to the square of Puerta del Sol. The protesters intend to remain there for at least four days, setting up a “permanent assembly” ignoring the official ban, according to which no protest should take place after 22:00.

Protests were held in Seville and Valencia. El Pais reported protests in at least 80 cities of Spain, while the Spanish media report that strong police force is expected to grow in all areas of demonstrations.