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, April 13, 2013

Exxon Pressures Arkansas TV Stations To Ban Critical Ad Following Mayflower Tar Sands Spill

Click here to access article by Molly Haigh from The Price of Oil.

This illustrates how the constitutional concept of "free press" functions in a plutocracy.
Amidst reports of media intimidation at the site of the Mayflower, Arkansas tar sands oil spill, ExxonMobil has now taken to bullying local Little Rock television stations into canceling the airing of a satirical but cutting advertisement critical of their business practices.
Another example comes from the "Anglo" part of the Anglo-American Empire. It seems that there is strong ruling class opposition to the broadcast of a number one hit song in Britain as this piece via ABC News reports.

Learning from the Netherlands About Bikes

Click here to access article and 13:50 video by James Huang posted on WhoWhatWhy
How did the Netherlands get almost everyone out of cars and onto bikes? No, it’s not the hash, and it’s not something particularly about the Dutch character. It has a lot to do with intention, planning and execution. Lessons we all can learn for a cleaner environment and a saner lifestyle.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Wikileaks Releases Kissinger Cables and Two Decisions in Manning Trial

Click here if you wish to access the original posting of this interview with Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights on The Real News Network. (Note: the website did not provide a transcript of the interview.)

There are two parts of this interview: the first relates to the great significance of the recent release of declassified government document by Wikileaks, and the the second provides an important update on the latest news about the Army's pre-trial hearings on Bradley Manning.

In the first part Ratner explains that Wikileaks has organized the documents in a very convenient searchable index. And in this part Paul Jay appeals to the public to use the new database to find information for The Real News Network to use in future programming. 

In this second part Ratner, among other observations, cites a "military spokesperson" who at the recent hearing claimed that the public's right to know about what their government is doing is now a "privilege not a right".

Britain and the 'war on terror' throughout the ages

Click here to access article from The Rebel Griot blog (Britain).

I was a bit relieved reading this article after learning that our US torture agents learned their heinous craft from their Anglo counterparts in the current Anglo-American Empire. (Maybe Americans are good guys after all--they just shouldn't hang out with evildoers like the Brits.) In this blogger's review of the recently held literary festival in Oxford, he reports on a number of participants who disclosed many previously secret torture operations and other war crimes of the British Empire.
There is an unfortunate tendency in this country – including, perhaps especially, on the ‘left’ – to think of the ‘war on terror’ and its attendant horrors as a US crime. Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, drone strikes…all have become bywords for US atrocities; virtually household names. But how many are aware that the modern system of secret prisons, the interrogation techniques used in the prison abuse scandals, and the use of aerial bombing to suppress resistance, were all pioneered by the British....

Korea: B2 bombers offering a path to peace?

Click here to access article by Pepe Escobar from Al Jazeera.

Escobar repeats some information that I've posted recently on the military confrontation in the Korean peninsula, adds some more, and most importantly, adds his always penetrating analysis of what it all means.

His reference to The Korean War: A History v.1 & v.2 by Bruce Cumings shows me that he is well grounded in reliable information sources. For me, these two books--volume 1 is most important--shed more light on post-war US policies than any other single source I have ever encountered. Few Americans have any idea what actions the US policy makers pursued in this war that has been deliberately obscured by the US ruling class.

Elizabeth Warren’s Foreclosure Settlement Bombshell: Banks Determined the Number of Victims of Their Own Foreclosure Frauds

Click here to access article by Pam Martens from Wall Street on Parade.

The players in this Senate hearing drama are the 1) government regulators from the Office of the
Controller of the Currency (US Dept. of the Treasury) and the so-called "Federal Reserve" which is overwhelmingly owned and controlled by major banks with a thin veneer of government participation; 2) outside, and ostensibly "independent", consultants hired by the regulators to investigate fraud; 3) senators on the Banking Committee. 

I think that there are several aspects that we should focus on: 1) the excerpted video below in which Sen. Warren of Massachusetts is questioning the bank regulators which illustrates how little effective power our elected Congress has over crimes perpetrated by banksters; 2) the fact that the formal foreclosure process was suddenly halted midstream to stop the "independent" review of fraudulent practices leaving the banksters to decide on the settlements, and 3) the final dismal settlement with some of the foreclosed homeowners and the fees paid the independent consultants.

Once again we see in this video graphic evidence of the frustration experienced by Sen. Warren over the refusal of regulators to fully reply to the Banking Committee's requests for information and the evasive and obfuscating replies that she receives during the hearing. Of course, the formal remedy for this kind of situation is the threat and the actual holding of contempt charges against the bank regulators, but of course they are much too big and too powerful to mess with--and they know it! 

You see, what you learned about the government of the United States in your education was largely wrong. Congress doesn't have much power to decide anything if and when they are opposed by major sectors of the One Percent. Hence, I think the dramatic headline about a "bombshell" is extremely misleading; and worse, it serves to reinforce such wrong notions. The headline should read something like this: "Freshman Sen. Warren learns some lessons about the power of banksters".

It Can Happen Here: The Confiscation Scheme Planned for US and UK Depositors

Click here to access article by Ellen Brown from her blog The Web of Debt.
A joint paper by the US Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Bank of England dated December 10, 2012, shows that these plans have been long in the making; that they originated with the G20 Financial Stability Board in Basel, Switzerland...; and that the result will be to deliver clear title to the banks of depositor funds. 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Sequestration: Crisis by stealth

Click here to access article by Warren Davis from Solidarity.

The author provides an accurate picture to describe his headline, a picture where we see the One Percent striving to save themselves on the sweat and backs of workers throughout the One Percent's neoliberal world. 

He concludes his essay with a choice that the 99 Percent must make, a choice that reminds me of the choice that Rosa Luxembourg posed while in prison opposing the first world war nearly 100 years ago: "it's either socialism or barbarism". 

Why Las Vegas and Megachurches Are the Pinnacle of Human Achievement

Click here to access article by Stoya from Vice

I'm posting this piece because it is rather cleverly and humorously written, but I think it also contains some serious messages. The writer throughout the article seems to be suggesting that debauchery is a significant part of human nature. However, there were a few brief indications that he/she thought another factor was operating to promote such behavior:
I'm not sure where capitalism comes into the equation, but (at least in the developed world) our lives are dominated by this set of rituals and laws surrounding pieces of paper and chunks of metal that only have value because we agree that they do… and the pieces of paper and chunks of metal are now secondary to intangible bank-account balances and debit card transactions.
But, in the very next paragraph this brief sentence-clause suggests that he/she does have some idea "where capitalism comes into the equation".
Vegas casinos are fueled by capitalism....
Otherwise, the writer stays safely on script according to journalistic formulas approved by the ruling class that always frame such pieces as describing human nature.

As I see it, Las Vegas and the whole casino industry--actually most of the entertainment industry-- illustrates the updated capitalist version of the infamous quote attributed to the aristocratic Marie Antoinette--"let them eat cake!" In other words, if you organize a society to serve only the needs of a small fraction of the people, you must serve the rest with cheaply produced fantasies of wealth and fun.

Hundreds gather in Glasgow, Liverpool and Brixton to 'celebrate' death of Margaret Thatcher

Click here to access article by Kevin Rawlinson from The Independent (Britain). 

As an antidote to the widespread fawning commemorations of Thatcher's life pervasive in US media, I thought I should offer this expression from British workers who know her best. Also, because I was unable to unblock the picture at the top of the article, I refer you to this brief video to give you an illustration of views from at least some ordinary Brits toward the neoliberal iconic figure.

Seven State Keystone XL Resolutions -- Where Are the Environmentalists?

Click here to access article by Nick Surgey from PR Watch.

The author is referring to the official environmental organizations who seem to be "missing in action" on this issue.
The cleanup is still underway from a massive pipeline spill in Mayflower, Arkansas, but you don't hear anything about it at public hearings across the nation dealing with the Keystone XL (KXL) pipeline. Resolutions supporting the controversial KXL pipeline have now been introduced in seven states, but while TransCanada, the American Petroleum Institute (API) and the Chamber of Commerce have been lobbying in force for the bills to pass, there have been few opposing voices by either Democrats or environmentalists at public hearings dealing on the measures.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Social security cuts: Work until you drop

Click here to access article by Pete Dolack from his blog Systemic Disorder
Republicans want to privatize Social Security — the ultimate dream of Wall Street and good for industrialists, too, as retirements become a quaint relic of the past. More people are forced to remain in the job market longer; more competition for jobs means lower wages and more profits. President Obama simply wants to phase this in more slowly.

Against Germany's One-Party System

Click here to access article by Oskar Lafontaine from MR Zine

The author reports on another political stage play that, this time, is being performed in Germany. I think it illustrates the high degree of integration of Germany into the Anglo-American Empire. 
The Americanization of German politics has undoubtedly led to the fact that today, in Germany, too, we have a one-party system with four wings....
Having failed by using a formal one party state under the Nazis, the German One Percent has learned how to create the illusion of democracy using American methods.

Misreading Xi On North Korea

Click here to access article by Bernhard from Moon of Alabama

The author puts the lie to US mainstream media interpretations of statements made by China's new president, Xi Jinping, in a recent major speech. Even more important, he cites a report carried in the One Percent's chief financial organ, The Wall Street Journal (behind a pay-wall), which suggests that the current crisis was engineered by Empire agents.
The U.S. has planned the current crisis and even written a "playbook" for its escalation. Nuclear capable B-52 and B-2 are a clear threat to North Korea. It is no wonder that it responds to such threats by upping its own propaganda.
China is concerned about the Korea crisis. But if that concern influenced that paragraph in Xi's speech at all it did so in a rebuke to the United States not to North Korea. 

NAFTA Corn Fuels Immigration

Click here to access article by Josh Healey from The Progressive

After noticing the absence of men in a Mexican town, the author learns much about mass migration and the neoliberal policies driving it. 
I couldn’t believe it. Migration seemed to have hit Teotitlan like a plague, wiping out the town’s sons and fathers in one generational swoop. How was this possible?

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Former U.S. Nuclear Chief: Nuclear Plants Should Be Phased Out — “Can’t Guarantee Against Accident Causing Widespread Land Contamination”

Click here to access article from Washington's Blog.

The disposal of dangerous nuclear wastes continues to be a problem across the US because it is enormously expensive and very difficult to accomplish. None of this seems to be factored in the cost of nuclear energy when proposals come up about building new nuclear energy plants. Recently I've been hearing very brief reports in local mainstream media about dangerous leaks from old aging storage tanks located at the Hanford nuclear site in central Washington state located just over the Cascade mountains from where I live. These dangers are now showing up in more mainstream websites such as Huffington Post

From my readings it appears that Hanford has more nuclear waste than any other site in the world. In my opinion, it is a mind-boggling accident waiting to happen! I have recently become especially sensitized to this issue after reading a recently published book Full Body Burden: Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats by Kristen Iversen. It suggests a powerful message built around a story of her childhood history living near another such installation located about 50 miles upwind from Denver. 

It is a story of extreme government secrecy, of government and media lies, mysterious illnesses and known cancers and never-ending efforts by local people, whose lives were devastated by radiation related illnesses, to seek legal justice and compensation. Protests over a number years and law suits finally succeeded in shutting the plant down, however no compensation has yet been awarded to the survivors or members of their families who suffered the effects of radiation.

Going Underwater in the Long Recession

Click here to access article by Barbara Garson from TomDispatch. (Note: If you wish skip Engelhardt's introduction, you will need to scroll down to the article.)

The author found herself inadvertently following the life of a Vietnam veteran whose work history illustrates some very significant truths about American worker lives and the capitalist economy since the early 1970s. It is a tale of alienated work, adapting to technological changes, increasing productivity with only a slight increase in wages, financing of consumption, all leading to the economic collapse of 2008.
In the 1960s, I met a young man about to be discharged from the Army and then, by happenstance, caught up with him again in each of the next two decades.  Though he died two months before the Lehman Brothers collapse, those brief encounters taught me how the Long Recession led directly to our Great Recession.

Thatcher’s zombie ideology preying on our imagination

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

While capitalist media organs are busy extolling the virtuous legacy of Margaret Thatcher upon her recent death, Roos writes about the real significance of the "useful idiot" who served so well her British neoliberal masters.

Beginning with this ironic statement,
...Tony Blair proved that it was never really Thatcher who ruled Britain, but the financial interests in the City of London all along. [my link]
he develops the argument that Thatcher's vicious attack on the British 99 Percent has morphed into today's public relation's designed neoliberal product:
This is capitalism with a human face; a blend of market fundamentalism specifically tailored to making you believe it is in your best interest to obey.

Oklahoma Grandmother Locks Herself to Keystone XL Heavy Machinery — Halts Construction

Click here to access article from Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance.

 Oklahoma grandmother Nancy Zorn, 79, from Warr Acres, has locked herself to a piece of heavy machinery effectively halting construction on TransCanada’s Keystone XL toxic tar sands pipeline. This action comes in the wake of the disastrous tar sands pipeline spill in Mayflower Arkansas, where an estimated 80,000 gallons of tar sands spilled into a residential neighborhood and local waterways.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Obama Budget to Include Cuts to Programs in Hopes of Deal

Click here to access article by Jackie Calmes from The New York Times.

It is clear that we are in the final act, maybe the final scene, in this political stage play about government operations. The first scene, act one, was when Obama early in his first term decided to set up a Deficit Commission, headed by none other than billionaire and dedicated-to-the- destruction-of-Social Security Peter G. Peterson. The second act was called the "Sequester Fight" in which the evil Repubicans were adamant that severe social spending cuts were necessary. In the early scenes of this 2nd act we saw Obama championing and protecting the poor and the elderly against these bad guys led by Speaker John Boehner. Now what we are likely to see in this final Act as presented by mainstream media is that Obama is forced into making a compromise in an heroic effort to prevent various budgetary doomsday scenarios.

Okay, enough of the play-acting--what is really happening? Well, it seems that the ruling class has figured out a way to adjust, once again, how they figure the cost of living so that they can cut benefits to Social Security recipients. They have been raiding these funds for years to finance their wars and tax cuts for the rich.  Now they are faced with either cutting the programs, cutting drastically the huge military-industrial parasite, or raising taxes on the rich in order to pay back into these programs what they have stolen. 

Various analysts have been examining the details to see what the consequences might be for recipients. See this, this, this, and this.

The Whites Go to the SEC: Why Wall Street Still Owns Washington

Click here to access article by Pam Martens from Wall Street on Parade.

This report focuses on the careers of two individuals, John W. and Mary Jo White (a married couple) and their journeys through the revolving doors of corporations and government in order to use the latter to serve the interests of the former. This provides another among thousands of illustrations of how the One Percent control the government. Yes, it is the same old story of the corporate/financial foxes guarding the public hen-house. The story of this couple...
...tells us a great deal about why Wall Street remains unrepentant and continues to pillage and plunder.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Golden Rule: Theirs and Ours [a must read]

Click here to access article by Paul Street from Z Communications

This article inspired by the author's reading of Gary Olson's new book, Empathy Imperiled: Capitalism, Culture, and the Brain, expresses the core values and political outlook of this blog better than any other article I have posted in the three plus years I've been maintaining my blog.

Read it and you will inevitably be led to the profound conclusion contained in his last sentence:
Our task as “dangerous Samaritans” and revolutionaries is to more properly align our institutional and ideological order with our underlying human and caring nature. Given the currently “ecocidal” level of capitalism’s threat to a livable environment, that task would now appear to be nothing less than a life or death matter for the species.

The Necessity of Revolutionary Violence in Egypt

Click here to access article by Philip Rizk from Jadaliyya.

The author proceeds from the use of violence (including economic violence) to sustain state rule (I would argue its necessity for any class-structured society) to Nkrumah's excellent definition of neoliberalism (the current stage of capitalism), on to neoliberal's archetypal manifestation in Egypt, all of which lends support for his thesis of the necessity of revolutionary violence.
We are now in a new phase of the revolution, in which the decisive battle for the system’s perceived legitimacy manifests itself as an almost daily occurrence on Egypt’s streets. The most vital arena of this contestation is over the use of violence, without which this revolution could not go on. “Decolonization is always a violent phenomenon,” Frantz Fanon wrote, reflecting on the Algerian revolution. Without the violence of colonization – whether wrought by foreign or local powers – the violence of decolonization would not be necessary. If we are to take the neocolonial reality in Egypt seriously, then we have much to learn from Fanon’s analysis of colonial Algeria.

Anti-Iran Sanctions: Francis A. Boyle: I’m Ready to Help Iran Freeze the Sanctions

Click here to access interview of Prof. Francis A. Boyle by Iranian journalist Kourosh Ziabari from Iran Review.

The widely respected international journalist interviews Prof. Boyle who...
...is a professor of international law at the University of Illinois’s College of Law. Prof. Boyle has a Ph.D. in political science from the Harvard University. He is a vocal critic of the U.S. foreign policy, and especially the War on Terror which has claimed the lives of thousands of innocent people across the world, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Ziabari's introduction contains a sentence--the best description of Israel in one sentence that I have ever seen--which quotes Boyle's view of Israel.
...Israel is “nothing more than a Jewish Bantustan, set up by the Western colonial powers, in the Middle East, to control and dominate the Middle East at their behest.”
Although the article doesn't explain the setting, this piece appears to be a transcript of an audio interview done probably at a radio or TV station.

In Sign of Warming, 1,600 Years of Ice in Andes Melted in 25 Years

Click here to access article by Justin Gillis from The New York Times. 

This article contains an excellent, interactive picture of the glacial melt over time. One can move the split picture from before and after 1,600 years to see the effects.
Glacial ice in the Peruvian Andes that took at least 1,600 years to form has melted in just 25 years, scientists reported Thursday, the latest indication that the recent spike in global temperatures has thrown the natural world out of balance. 
I often wonder and worry about how the glaciers, and indeed, the world will look like 25 years from now. Because of the increasing use of fossils driven by the obsession of capitalist elites for profits (along with power which is always associated with wealth under capitalism), it seems reasonable to believe that global warming will accelerate. Because of my advanced age, I feel fortunate that I won't be around to see it.