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 26, 2014

Including the Young and the Rich

Click here to access article by Jamie Johnson from the NY Times.

For those of you who are not familiar with Jamie Johnson, he is a wealthy descendant of the Johnson & Johnson corporate entity founded by his ancestors. As such he should be considered as a part of the old wealth section of the ruling class. Such people often turn out to be considered as renegades by their contemporaries, and Jamie certainly fits that description. You see, he made two films that gave inside information on the rich: the film "Born Rich", a wonderful exposé, and followed it up with the sensational "The One Percent" which I think became the namesake of the target of the Occupy movement in 2011. (Coincidentally--or maybe not--he frequently wrote a column for Vanity Fair magazine, a magazine directed to the ruling rich; but ceased writing for them in the Fall of 2011.)

In this article we see the special access given to the rich by the official CEO of the government (in reality, he and most presidents serve as public relations officers for the ruling class) which, of course, the rich essentially own. According to Matthew Continetti of The Washington Free Beacon,
Here I learn that last month the White House held a secret meeting with “an elite group of 100 young philanthropists and heirs to billionaire family fortunes.” This “discreet, invitation-only summit” was intended, the author says, “to find common ground between the public sector and the so-called next generation philanthropists, many of whom stand to inherit billions in private wealth.” Media were not allowed, the author says in a parenthetical, but he was “invited to report on the conference as a member of the family that started the Johnson & Johnson pharmaceutical company.”  

What Makes Mainstream Media Mainstream?

Click here to access article by Noam Chomsky from Z Magazine. 

Chomsky, as a kind of elder statesman of radical academic circles, writes about his favorite subject: the way our capitalist masters use their institutions to manage our minds--those of the "outsiders". This is a well-developed technology which he has examined and written about extensively over many years. Now, more the ever before, it serves so effectively the narrowing ruling class of owners of our economy, and increasingly under neoliberalism, the world's economy. Those privileged technicians who practice this highly specialized technology, and their bosses, are restricted to a very few trusted people within the ruling capitalist class. By implication, they must be the "insiders". 

A few renegade intellectuals like Chomsky have long been aware of their game, and occasionally he likes to remind his fellow intellectuals of this by writing articles which tend to make vague references to things that only intellectuals have knowledge of. (For example, he makes reference to "what happened at San Jose Mercury News" to illustrate a point, which must be about their 1996 series of articles regarding government collusion in the illicit drug trade authored by Gary Webb.) 

I think Chomsky's own celebrity status as a left critic and his academic career also has meaning in relation to his favorite subject. It certainly raises the question of his role as a radical critic in a system which, as he has shown, is very well managed to exclude real criticism and inspection. From an examination of his career, I think he has had to make certain compromises with the "insiders" by carefully limiting his remarks to very select academic audiences and by not treading over any red lines of the ruling class. 

This article with its glib academic jargon and obscure references illustrates his first compromise. The second, which is much less known and acknowledged, is that he, like many others, refuses to cross the red lines of the ruling class. Here I am referring to his acquiescence to the official versions of the many assassinations such as John Kennedy, Martin Luther King, etc, and of the many suspicious "terrorist" events such as 9/11 and the Boston Bombing. By making these compromises with the agents of power, he has been allowed to continue with an academic career, be invited to many conferences, and write many articles such as this in obscure media outlets.

I certainly don't want anyone to interpret this commentary as a cynical criticism of Chomsky. He has contributed so much to the understanding of the function of mainstream media; and if he hadn't made such compromises, his insights would not be as well known and influential. We've all had to make compromises with power, some merely to survive, others in order to function in some kind of constructive fashion, and others who surrendered easily to the temptations of comfort and wealth. But, doesn't this offer us another reason to destroy capitalism and all such hierarchical, class structured systems so that we can freely associate with each other and contribute each of our talents toward building a healthy society that can coexist with nature?

Friday, April 25, 2014

Escobar on RT: US fears opposing views are gaining strength

RT in this 6:47m video interviews internationally renowned independent journalist about Sec. of State Kerry's attack on RT as a Russian "propaganda bullhorn". It seems that this US ruling class agent and others do not like the fact that they no longer are in possession of the only bullhorn. These alternative bullhorns are threatening the monopoly that the Empire's Ministry of Truth has enjoyed since WWII. We are already seeing attempts to censor them as we've seen with Iranian PressTV, limiting access in general to websites, and giving priority internet access to corporations.

The revolving door between Google and the Department of Defense

Click here to access article by Yasha Levine from PandoDaily.

Levine provides examples of several people who have gone through this revolving door to reveal a pattern that is working to integrate corporate information technologies with the needs of the ruling class's surveillance agencies located in NSA and CIA. Corresponding with these activities, the author sees a tendency for many such people to become identified and integrated with powerful figures in the ruling class.
Weslander Quaid told Entrepreneur Mag that a big part of her job at Google entails meeting with intelligence agency directors to discuss technology they want and/or need. She also spends quite a bit of time teaching rank-and-file Google employees on how to hard-sell government clients. “I act as a bridge between the two cultures.”
...Google has aggressively intensified its campaign to carve out a bigger slice of the lucrative military-intelligence contracting market. It’s been targeting big federal agencies, and pushing its intel technology onto local and state government structures as well.

Goodbye, Net Neutrality; Hello, Net Discrimination

Click here to access article by Tim Wu from The New Yorker.

Referring to a promise that Obama made in 2007 about internet neutrality, Wu writes:
If reports in the Wall Street Journal are correct, Obama’s chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, Thomas Wheeler, has proposed a new rule that is an explicit and blatant violation of this promise. In fact, it permits and encourages exactly what Obama warned against: broadband carriers acting as gatekeepers and charging Web sites a payola payment to reach customers through a “fast lane.”

The Politics of Pachamama

Click here to access article by Benjamin Dangl from CounterPunch.

Pachamama, which is translated into English as "Mother Earth", is rooted in Inca religious beliefs as a goddess of fertility. Dangl reviews this affirmation of nature which has informed the rhetoric of many new Latin American governments to find that the concept has not been reflected much in their policies. 
I spoke with CONAMAQ indigenous leader Mama Nilda Rojas of her view of the Mining Law. “The Morales government has told us that it ‘will govern by listening to the bases, and that the laws will come from the bottom-up.’” But this is not what happened with the Mining Law, Rojas said, which was created without sufficient input from representatives of communities impacted the most by mining. “This is a law which criminalizes the right to protest. With this law we won’t be able to build road blockades, we won’t be able to march [against mining operations],” she explained. “We’re well aware that it was the same Evo Morales who would participate in marches and road blockades [years ago]. And so how is it that he is taking away this right to protest?” 
“This government has given a false discourse on an international level, defending Pachamama, defending Mother Earth,” Rojas explained, while the reality in Bolivia is quite a different story. 
Meanwhile, outside of Latin America, governments, activists, and social movements are looking to places like Bolivia and Ecuador as examples for overcoming capitalism and tackling climate change.
This is not really news, but his information gives us much food for thought as to why this scenario is happening in so many places. Is it simply a matter of these leaders becoming co-opted by the old ruling classes? 

My immediate answer is that what Dangle describes is happening in Latin America is inevitable as long as the world is menaced by ruling classes armed with superior military and other technologies that can easily overwhelm lessor developed countries. To survive, the latter must rapidly develop their own countries in order to acquire what is needed to fend off their foreign acquisitive enemies. 

Still, I'm not satisfied with this. Hopefully, you and others can supply better answers.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

De-escalation in Ukraine as seen by Joe Biden

Click here to access article by Nikolaï Bobkin from Strategic Culture Foundation.

Administration officials and spokespeople like Biden continue talking peace while fomenting more conflict in Ukraine and against Russia. It appears to me that the American audience is only hearing what they say, but due to corporate media coverage have very little idea of what Empire agents are actually doing in Ukraine. 

At the very least, I think that the ultimate events in the Empire's project for Ukraine are risking a dangerous confrontation with Russia, but at the very least will provide a turning point which will result in the Empire's loss of power in the world. The latter may be desirable; but given the fact that there are power-addicted figures in their directorate, this trend could also ratchet up more very destructive wars. 

Meanwhile, back at the American ranch, very few people seem to be paying attention.

Does Washington want war with Russia?

Click here to access article by Bill Van Auken from World Socialist Web Site.
Presumably, those in the White House and the Pentagon believe that such a conflict would stop short of a nuclear war, but who knows?

The threat of a US war on Russia is also apparent in the flood of war propaganda being unleashed upon the public. Vladimir Putin is being subjected to the same kind of demonization previously reserved for Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi, while the State Department and its faithful scribes at the New York Times serve up “photographic evidence” of Russian troops in Ukraine that has all the authenticity of similar “proofs” of Iraq’s “weapons of mass destruction.”
What underlies the US war drive?
Van Auken then attempts to provide some answers.

Many others are speculating on the super-aggressive actions which are accompanied by the most outrageous hypocritical propaganda supported by altered photos much as we saw in the run-up to the Iraq War. For example, the anonymous blogger "The Saker" compares the lies of Empire agents to those of the nomenclatura of the late Soviet Union which led to the downfall of that regime; and he predicts the same will happen to the US Empire.

Confronting Injustice: A must-read book for today’s activists

Click here to access a review of the book Confronting Injustice: Social Activism in the Age of Individualism by Umair Muhammad posted on Climate and Capitalism.
...it’s a true delight to receive a book written by an activist for activists, a practical contribution to building real struggles for a better world. Confronting Injustice is a powerful call for collective action against the social causes of poverty and climate change. It’s a compact and well-written book that deserves to be widely read.
Here is one excerpt from the book:
“There can be no such thing as a democratic, socially just, and environmentally sustainable capitalism. … it unavoidably produces a world full of injustice and inequality in order to secure a global division of labour suitable to profit-making; and it unavoidably produces the kind of ecological destruction which makes its own longevity, and that of human civilization, impossible.”

So long, net neutrality? FCC to propose new pay-for-preferential treatment rules

Click here to access article by Grant Gross from PC World.
Some digital rights groups called the pay-for-priority proposal, reported earlier in a Wall Street Journal article, the death of net neutrality at the FCC.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Trade legerdemain on both sides of the Atlantic

Click here to access article by Pete Dolack from his blog Systemic Disorder.

I had to run to the dictionary to find out what "legerdemain" means and found that the term is very apt for this article. 

Dolack reports on the various tricks now being deployed to pass major neoliberal trade deals through Congress and the European Union, deals which are being negotiated in secret by ruling class officials and their counterparts in corporations. Of course, I am referring to the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. (Actually, the word "partnership" in these two agreements is also appropriate because they really represent an attempt to further the partnership between capitalist-owned multi-national corporations and capitalist-ruled governments.)

Kiev regime orders crackdown as US steps up threats against Moscow

Click here to access article by Bill Van Auken from World Socialist Web Site.

Van Auken reports on the latest moves by the Empire's coup-installed regime in Ukraine to continue pursuing their aggressive designs despite any agreements.
...the Ukrainian regime’s foreign minister joined his counterparts from the US, Russia and the European Union in drafting an agreement in Geneva to halt all violence and de-escalate tensions by disarming illegal groups, ending occupations of public buildings and spaces, freeing political prisoners and initiating a dialogue between the regions.
Shortly afterwards, the regime in Kiev added that it was observing an “Easter truce.” It was during this supposed truce that a column of four cars carrying Right Sector gunmen attacked a roadblock on the outskirts of Slovyansk on Easter Sunday, killing three local men.
Then Alex Lantier from the same website reports on the discovery of deliberate photo tricks used by the NY Times to promote the Empire's project in Ukraine. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Dollar dying; multi-polar world in offing

Click here to access article by William Engdahl from PressTV (Iran).

Engdahl is a brilliant geopolitical analyst, but fails to understand the nature of capitalism. He, like many other Empire critics, is placing his hopes on the rise of a multi-polar capitalist world. In this essay he examines what he regards as stupid strategies of Empire agents to preserve their dominant position in the world. 
Washington’s decision to go for the military coup in Ukraine...opened the door for a genuine multi-polar world where peaceful cooperation replaced military threats and sole Superpower domination.
I think his analysis is likely correct. But to see a multi-polar capitalist world as a desirable alternative is also stupid. The system of capitalism creates societies where social injustice is a natural consequence, and people who do well in it are logically sociopaths--people without any social justice scruples or who are reluctant to engage in wars to acquire wealth and power. We've had multi-polar capitalist worlds before now--in fact, the world has always been a multi-polar capitalist world from the advent of capitalism until the conclusion of WWII when the US led Empire has attained almost total dominance. So, was there peace before 1945?

Pieces of Madrid

Click here if you wish to access the original posting on Global Uprisings. 

The first half of the video portrays typical street battles by the people against the security forces of the ruling class. But what I think is a much more important part of the video starts at 9:00m. Although not as photogenic as the street battles, they show people engaged in self-organizing efforts to not only protect themselves and their communities, but to begin the critically important revolutionary task of constructing bottom-up infrastructures of a genuine democracy. They are busy constructing the foundation of a new society that serves the needs of everyone to replace the capitalist organization of society which delivers so much wealth and power to a few. The Spanish people are starting to realize that there is no alternative: they must construct a genuine democracy or our masters will continue to lead us down the road to a nightmarish fascism and the destruction of the biosphere for human habitation. 
This short documentary explores ongoing resistance and self-organization in the midst of the economic and social crisis in Madrid, Spain.
As social conditions continue to deteriorate across the country, people have been turning to the streets and to each other to find for solutions to the crisis. This film tells a story of the massive mobilization that saw millions of people converge on Madrid on March 22nd 2014, the story of the proliferation of social centers, community gardens, self-organized food banks, and the story of large-scale housing occupations by and for families that have been evicted. The film pieces together many of the creative ways that people have been coping with crisis and asks what the future may hold for Spain.
Filmed and edited in March/April 2014, it is part of the Global Uprisings documentary series.

Monday, April 21, 2014

‘Kiev desperately pushing for greater conflict with Russia’

Click here to access a 4:37m interview (with transcript) with German investigative journalist Manuel Ochsenreiter posted on RT.

Ochsenreiter argues that the right sector in Ukraine is trying desperately to bring on a wider war in Ukraine by violating any agreements reached by international parties. He poses the worrying argument that this is a deliberate ploy by Western agents so that they can have deniability for their aggressive agenda to bring all of Ukraine under NATO control. 

This argument is very bewildering to me because I do not see that the present US regime or their counterparts in Europe are prepared for the dangerous potential such actions have to bring about a wider war. To be sure there are right-wing elements in the the West who have a very arrogant attitude toward Russia and believe they can intimidate Russia, but there have been official statements coming from the Obama administration that suggest a desire to dissipate the crisis in Ukraine. So, what are the real policies informing US Empire actions? If the German journalist's argument is correct, then Western agents are playing a very dangerous game in Europe. He writes in reference to the new regime brought to power by the violent overthrow of the government: 
 It’s a failed state, so the government in Kiev is nothing else as satellite government. It’s a mix of oligarchs and organized crime, and of course terrorists – the Right Sector. We should see it as a terrorist organization, activists of the Right Sector fought in Chechen wars against Russia alongside Islamism terrorists. So we should see that Kiev doesn’t have a will as well as the power to crack down on those people [in Eastern Ukrainian], and that long since [for several] weeks other people telling [them] what to be done, what not, we have to see that American advisors already active there, that there are NATO advisors, we have to see this in a context that Poland is asking for 10,000 US troops on their soil. Something big is going on and the Right Sector’s aggression against the Eastern Ukrainian is just a little pretext of what we will maybe expect within the next weeks.

Taking On the Fashion Industry

Click here to access a book review of Stitched Up: The Anti-Capitalist Book of Fashion by Tansy E. Hoskins posted on MRZine. 

The fashion industry's operations provide an excellent example of how capitalism works from one end, the exploitation of working people, to the other end of consumption driven by advertising, the engine of consumption. This book appears to provide an excellent exploration of this key industry of capitalism. 
The exploitation of consumers in New York or London is clearly less horrifying than the treatment of workers in Bangladesh, but it remains exploitation.  Frequently using and reinforcing racist and sexist stereotypes, fashion pressures working people here to consume, and to consume more than they can afford.  Women especially are subjected to "constant messages that [they] must diet, must get cosmetic surgery, buy clothes and feel bad about themselves," Hoskins writes.  And those of us who can resist the omnipresent pressure to buy are still compelled to "dress for success" if we hope to get and hold most types of job.  

Towards the End of U.S. Propaganda

Click here to access article by Thierry Meyssan from VoltaireNet.

Meyssan proposes a very interesting, hopeful argument that the world of ruling class propaganda has changed, and changed for the better. He reviews the early, successful history of war propaganda starting in 1915 when the British issued the infamous Bryce Report on German war crimes to enlist their population in a war against Germany, and continues with such efforts during WWII. He argues that the present proliferation of alternative sources of information has radially changed things. I think he is referring to the internet and the access it gives to people all over the world, to TV media networks like RT, and such journalists as Pepe Escobar, that are independent of Empire control and accessible in the US.
Barack Obama and Benjamin Rhodes , John Kerry and Richard Stengel act only in the short term. Their propaganda convinces the masses for only a few weeks and then helps create revulsion when the people understand they are being manipulated. Unwittingly, they undermine the credibility of the state institutions of NATO who consciously relay them. They forget that the propaganda of the twentieth century could only succeed because the world was divided into blocks that did not communicate with one another, and this monolithic principle is incompatible with the new means of communication.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Ukraine: The Bloody Eastern Escalation

Click here to access article by Bernhard from his blog Moon of Alabama. 

For the very latest news on the Empire's latest victim, follow this blog. 
This is very bad news. The OSCE had reported that Pravyi Sektor paramilitaries were moving to the eastern Donbass region. It looks like they have arrived.

It seems the U.S. neocons found out that they can not have the Ukraine and are responding like they always do. "Can't have it? Will destroy it!"

Film of the Week: Quants — The Alchemists of Wall Street

Click here to access 47:48m video posted by Don Quijones from Raging Bull-Shit (Spain).
With the banks ruling the world, and the machines as good as ruling the banks, just how close are we to another major financial crash?

In this brilliant VPRO documentary, some of the world’s leading “quants” — that is, people who specialize in the application of mathematical and statistical methods to financial and risk management problems – voice their fears about the financial industry’s almost complete dependence on mathematical models, many of them deeply flawed.
What I got from the film is that the new financial products that capitalists gamble with are based on assumptions about the future which have their roots in the most basic of all capitalist assumptions--economic growth. Capitalism requires growth to exist, hence people who work for capitalists such as mathematicians create models and mathematics with growth built into them. Inevitably these assumptions are wrong because reality based on people is constantly changing. Investments, or the bets, based on these assumptions are huge, the payoffs huge, but also the consequences for economic destruction are huge most of which are born by ordinary people. 

The bust part of these cycles are happening at an increasing rate. Capitalists, who incidentally are a ruling class, use their control of the state and central banks to provide stimulus in the form of low interest rates to create more money (debts to nations) and another cycle of big payoffs is created for them. (For an interesting commentary on the role of the Fed, read this piece by James Kunstler.)

I would also argue that because their assumptions, on which their logarithms are based, are motivated by the basic capitalist requirement of growth, they are disastrously wrong given the fact that growth can no longer be sustained given the finite limits of the planet. So, we must choose between two options: change the system or experience a nightmarish dystopia and probably extinction.

View the fascinating video and see what you think.

Seed Wars: Latin America Strikes Back Against Monsanto

Click here to access article by Don Quijones from Raging Bull-Shit.

The author reports on a global backlash against corporate owned, engineered seeds in the form of protests and political actions particularly in Latin America.
...despite its tireless lobbying efforts in Brussels, Monsanto and its main rivals continue to hit a brick wall of resistance in many of Europe’s biggest markets, including Germany and France. And now, with popular resistance on the rise in Latin America, the U.S. agribusiness giant faces the prospect, albeit slim, of losing its grip on one of its most important strategic markets.

A new wave of environmental protest rocks China

Click here to access article by James Smart from Reflections on a Revolution.
Ahkok Wong is an activist and school lecturer from down the road in Hong Kong, potentially enjoying his last two days of freedom.

“Environmental problems are one of the main outcomes of a one party-ruled, corrupted, non-humane government,” he starts. “The citizens started discovering what harm the PX
[paraxylene]  plant can bring, so there are [a lot] of protests, and then the police arrest and kill protesters, forcing people to sign agreements that they support PX plants,” he continues. “They control the media and the internet so the news cannot get across the country.”

Protesters like Ahkok are sentenced by a judiciary with links to the government, which in turn has links to big business — for example, the Maoming PX joint venture between Sinopec and the state.

Climate Change Meets High Tech: An Eco-Future is Possible

Click here to access article by Robert Hunziker from The Greanville Post. 

This article assures us that it is okay to continue practicing our addiction to consuming all kinds of frivolous products. I'm referring to the drugs delivered by the global system of capitalism. Some people think that capitalism is a racket run by drug lords to supply us with all kinds of stuff to fill up our empty lives such as electronic gadgets, car-cars, the latest fashions, cosmetics to make us look younger, etc. That's nonsense! Forget about climate destabilization and environmental destruction. We humans can go on producing and consuming forever on our little planet. Yes, folks, the solution to all these crises is at hand! Fusion energy!

It seems that whenever we are sufficiently aroused out of our drug-induced slumber we become too concerned about some of the effects of our habit--such as, it will kill us--that our capitalist drug lords trot out their favorite fantasies such as climate engineering and carbon capture so that we keep practicing our habit of consuming frivolous stuff. When these fantasies don't work, they bring out their ultimate fantasy--excuse me, "fact"--this time from the United States Navy!
Looking ahead into the future, the Navy predicts seawater fuel will cost $3-6 per gallon, and it could be available on a commercial scale within 10 years.
Now, please excuse me, I must leave to go shopping for the very cool Nike Fingertrap Max sneakers.