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, December 29, 2012

Inside Story Americas - Has capitalism proven its durability?

From Al Jazeera via YouTube an interview featuring Chris Hedges and Richard D. Wolff.

Hedges and Wolff dramatically describe the horrible state of today's societies caused by the ravages of advanced capitalism. I was surprised to hear that Hedges believes it is too late to turn things around. From some of his remarks and in other writings it seems to me that he is as worried about the "fringe or extremists"--you know, like anarchists who break windows--as his apocalyptic vision of the future. Forgive my cynicism, but Hedges sometimes reminds me of a fundamentalist preacher who loves to give impassioned sermons on hell and damnation.

Wolff holds out hope for sudden dramatic changes once a critical point is reached, like what happened in the Soviet Union. In this interview Wolff briefly suggests that democratizing corporations is the answer, whereas in other media he has proposed worker cooperatives. He really doesn't say anything about worker cooperatives as suggested by the super-inscribed message on the video which reads "Worker-Owned Co-operatves Fastest Growing Business Model in the World". This and Al Jazeera's headline for the interview indicate that they intended to frame this depressing discussion in a much more positive framework than it turned out.

America’s Deceptive 2012 Fiscal Cliff: Part I

Click here to access article by Michael Hudson from Naked Capitalism

This American economist provides excellent arguments and evidence that support his conclusion:
...as long as the financial sector is winning its war against the economy at large, it prefers that people believe that There Is No Alternative. Having captured mainstream economics as well as government policy, finance seeks to deter students, voters and the media from questioning whether the financial system really needs to be organized in the way it is. Once such a line of questioning is pursued, people may realize that banking, pension and Social Security systems and public deficit financing do not have to be organized in the way they are. There are much better alternatives to today’s road to austerity and debt peonage.
He is absolutely right, but the problem is he and his fellow left-Keynesian economists (Bill Black is another one--read this.) do not go far enough; and because they don't, they become utopian capitalists. That is, they indulge in wishful thinking about how a capitalist economy could work "if only people understood." It's a chronic disease among left capitalist economists, one which they cannot seem to rid themselves of. They want people to believe that a capitalist economy can do something which it is incapable of doing--it's like trying to teach a wolf to become a vegetarian.

Whenever you have societies structured by classes, by definition you have a ruling class whose powers give them control over nearly everything. They write the histories and economics that people learn in school because they control education. They control how reality is interpreted in all significant media--because they control the media.  

In our present period they exercise this control because of a system they forcibly introduced approximately 300 years ago called capitalism, most dramatically and stealthily during the American and French revolutions. This system based on "ownership" of the economy promotes the private accumulation of wealth, and over time capitalism has lead to the accumulation of wealth on a huge scale. The concomitant factor of wealth, and even more important than wealth, is the power this gives people as a class (of owners) over the rest of society.
  
Power is extremely addictive--much more so than cocaine, heroin, meth, etc. The people of this class are driven by this addiction. After all, after the first $1 million, what have they need for more in the way of material comforts? It's the accumulation of power, that is, the ability to exert influence over others to do one's bidding, to be catered to, to be flattered, even adored that they are after. The system of capitalism is the perfect delivery system which supplies them with this drug.

Friday, December 28, 2012

For love of neighbor: Social Security & the ‘Fiscal Cliff'

Click here to access article by Nathan Paulsen from WarTimes
In a world where masses of humanity do not have millions of dollars tucked away in a bank account to support retirement or weather unexpected economic disruptions - like disability or death of a spouse – Social Security is a key to our survival. Little wonder that a solid majority prefer cutting military expenditures over slashing the cornerstone of our welfare state.
The author explains how the psychology of the vast majority in the 99 Percent differ from the sociopaths in the One Percent:
In the wake of nearly every disaster, stories quickly emerge of human beings lending helping hands to other human beings in need.  The acts themselves range from those of extraordinary courage to simple kindness. Legends are made of the selfless heroism of people like Sandy Hook Elementary School principal Dawn Hochsprung who lost her life attempting to stop the recent massacre in Newtown, Connecticut. Frequently we encounter the more mundane news of folks participating in blood drives, or helping to stack sand bags that protect local towns from rising flood waters, or donating money for storm relief. In each instant we celebrate people who give of themselves for their community and the common good.
The reason for celebration is at least twofold. On the one hand, these acts of caring occur outside the cash nexus that seems to govern so many of our relationships. There is no profit to maximize or capital to accumulate. The people doing the acting are not paid for performing their deeds. Most often they are not even concerned with getting paid back what they have given. In our longing for human connection unmediated by the marketplace, we rejoice – and rightfully so – when people come together for a cause greater than some narrowly defined economic interest.  
In the current New World Order it doesn't matter what the majority want, it's what the elite One Percents want. But that is the typical history of the last 10,000 years when ruling classes took over societies that existed for 140,000 years without them. It is only when ordinary people are organized and fight back that any benefits accrue to them. 

But, why tolerate ruling classes at all?! Why can't we construct societies where the best of human instincts can rule, instincts which enabled us to survive and thrive for 140,000 years?

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or “Moral Injury”?

Click here to access article by Shepherd Bliss from CounterCurrents

This veteran, a survivor from the CIA engineered coup in Chile in 1973, was diagnosed with "post-traumatic stress disorder". However, he has come to realize that this is not really a disorder; it is something which he identifies as a "moral injury". It is an injury that occurs when we are exposed to, or have committed, acts which violate our core human nature.
from 'raghead the friendly terroist'


The ruthless, recent murderof elementary students and teachers in Connecticut re-stimulates my grief about the deaths of children in wars. I have cried for hours about the loss of life in Newtown and what it says about us as Americans. The weapons used by the Connecticut killer were military weapons. His killing is connected to the ongoing murders by Americans in Afghanistan.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Making of "Untold History of the United States"

Click here to access this first video featuring Paul Jay interviewing historian Peter Kuznick on the Real News Network about the book entitled Untold History of the United States and the TV series based on the book being shown on the premium TV network Showtime. The other two succeeding video interviews with Kuznick released so far are here and here.

It is surprising that the film is permitted to be shown on TV, even on a premium channel where only people of moderate to upper income mostly view it. I cannot afford premium channels which show mostly junk anyway. After checking Showtime's website, it appears that only the book, not the DVD, is offered for sale.

Although I have only had time to look at parts of the 2nd Kuznick interview, my impression is that Kuznick (and Oliver Stone) provide a much needed antidote to the official US history as presented in the One Percent's agencies of indoctrination--schools, media, and Hollywood films. Still, I think Kuznick presents a very liberal view, albeit a left-liberal view of this historical period. Recently I have been reading a number of more difficult-to-get books about this period, and my interpretation is a bit different from Kuznick who goes out of his way to defend Franklin Roosevelt and his administration, especially Henry Wallace, as the good guys who could have taken the US in a very different and positive direction except for a kind of coup by the right-wing in the Democratic Party.

There are three essential observations that I've gained from my extensive readings of history that inform my position on this historical period. 

First, the administration and political section headed by Roosevelt pursued many of their policies based on the same capitalist bias as did the right-wing. All capitalists had a deep hatred for the Soviet Union which during the 1930s was making very rapid strides in building their industries and providing full employment for their workers. They had a powerful influence on labor activity all across the globe, and because of this, the Soviets were number one on the list of capitalists to be destroyed. 

Second, the US ruling class was inextricably linked to capitalists in both Britain and Germany through ownership and other business relationships. 

Third, the rise of fascism in Germany, Italy, and Spain was facilitated at every step of the way by American capitalists. However, as WWII approached the latter were very divided between pro-German fascists which were well represented in US industry and finance and another section that was pro-British. The Roosevelt administration merely used left-liberals such as Wallace as a counterweight against pro-fascists who he also had in his administration simply because they were powerful industrialists, and he needed them to win the war. The pro-British section of the ruling class was very much concerned about Anglo-American dominance after the war and saw Germany as a threat to that rule. As revealed in the history of the war, the Allies did little to threaten Germany until the back of the German army was broken at Stalingrad in the winter of 1942-43.

To understand the proclivity of capitalists for fascism, you must understand that fascism is merely a very aggressive form of capitalism. It is class rule with the gloves off. It is class rule without the pretense of a free media and expensive, but managed elections.

To summarize briefly, WWII was fought, and 65 million people lost their lives, to both crush the Soviet menace and to establish the dominance of the post-war years for either the Anglo-American ruling class or German ruling class. The war didn't crush the Soviet Union, but it did establish the dominance of the Anglo-American Empire which has morphed into the NATO empire that we see today. 

Immediately at the conclusion of the war, US authorities recruited top Nazi scientists and spies and brought them to the US to engage in anti-Soviet activities. In southern Korea US occupying authorities provided material support and military advisers to Koreans who had collaborated with the Japanese colonial administration in order to crush the popular Korean resistance forces who were seen as a bit too anti-capitalist. (Of course, this happened in various parts of Europe, particularly in Greece, but the Koreans had suffered so many years of brutal occupation.) The war against the Soviets resumed as a "cold war" following WWII, but the Soviet Union only collapsed under its own bureaucratic class weight.

Politics as Usual Doesn’t Work

Click here to access article by Kevin Zeese from Dissident Voice.

The author exposes the collusive nature of the two capitalist party's performance of "fiscal cliff".
...everything being talked about in the choreographed negotiations is items President Obama has shown repeated support for. His deficit commission, Simpson-Bowles called for cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and social programs. The grand bargain Obama offered to Speaker Boehner before the elections included all of these cuts and more, including to veteran health care and retirement, college financial support and food assistance. And, during the campaign Obama said that he agreed with Romney on Social Security.
The "compromise" that will inevitably be worked out will further weaken the social safety nets that our forefathers and foremothers fought for, and sometimes died for, on the streets across America during the 1930s.

Zeese points out that there is no compromise issue related to military spending:
The bi-partisanship of Washington, DC has also taken military cuts off the table. In fact, while the Congress, president and media elite were fretting over the deficit both Houses passed the $633 billon NDAA with super bi-partisan majorities, a vote of 315 to 107 in the House; 81 to 14 in the Senate. The reality is the Pentagon is so over-budgeted that many retired generals and admirals are calling for military cuts. There is a lot of waste in the Pentagon, much of it quite embarrassing in a time of economic collapse and austerity.
This, of course, is a liberal take on the issue. While exposing the One Percent's games, he fails to see that the whole system is rigged by and for the One Percent. You see, our One Percent masters need that money to intimidate all opposition and to wage secret and not-so-secret wars in Africa, Asia...actually, all over the world including in the US in order to maintain "full spectrum dominance" for their banks and corporations. Along with their control over agencies of indoctrination, our rulers mainly exist because of their control of overwhelming force. For them, money spent on instruments of violence is never "waste", and too much force is never enough. Without it, their Empire will crumble along with all their powers and privileges. 

However, the author gets it right when he implies--although doesn't state explicitly--that the One Percent don't spend billions on political campaigns to just put on a "democracy" show for the masses--they expect that their campaign contributions to pay off.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Unequal State of America: Why America is more unequal than most

Click here to access article from Reuters.

This piece is essentially an introduction to a series of three articles about the growing inequality in the US. (The links to the three are on the left side of this piece.)
America has a higher degree of income inequality than almost any other developed country. Only three of the 34 members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development rank higher - Chile, Mexico and Turkey.

The dilemma of the wars in the Kivus

Click here to access article by Gary K. Busch from Pambazuka News (So. Africa).

After spending a lot of time this morning doing research on this author, I am reasonably convinced that he is well informed and insightful regarding African affairs. I gathered the following biographic information from African Affairs website:
Dr Busch is a international trades unionist, an academic, a businessman and a political affairs and business consultant for 40 years.He has been Chairman and CEO of International Bulk Trade, Transport Logistics, Transport Africa and the North Pacific Lines. These companies have owned, chartered and operated marine dry cargo vessels and cargo aircraft worldwide.He speaks and reads 12 languages and has written six books and published 58 specialist studies.

Because Africa contains an abundance of valuable minerals and fossil fuels, the US has been engaged there in usually nefarious ways for quite some time. Many of these activities have been secret or not reported by mainstream media sources. This article provides a lot of details on the horrors happening in an eastern area of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Kivu region, that has surfaced in the news recently.
The reason this catalogue of horrors has continued unabated for the last six years is that the governments of Uganda and Rwanda are covered by the aegis of U.S. military initiatives in East and Central Africa. They provide, at great expense to the U.S. taxpayer and at a high level of reward to the Museveni and Kagame clans, the troops for the U.S. surrogate army. Their soldiers fight for the United States in Somalia, Afghanistan and elsewhere in the Horn of Africa. The United States gives them arms, equipment, training, air support, cash and immunity for their gross violations of human rights of their neighbors. The U.S. AFRICOM command relies on Uganda and Rwanda to carry out its missions in East and Central Africa.

Time out for some British humor [3:25m video]