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, January 2, 2016

Syria is the Middle Eastern Stalingrad

Click here to access article by Andre Vltchek from New Eastern Outlook.

It is always the ultimate question that we humans at various times in our life must face. To paraphrase the great bard, "in the face of outrageous fortune whether it is better to fight or to submit and wait for another day."

Everything that individual humans enjoy is dependent on so many other humans both living today and those unknown billions that came before us. It is the ultimate and selfish betrayal of this fact so well articulated by Margaret Thatcher who justified her capitalist class serving policies with this statement: "There is no such thing as society: there are individual men and women, and there are families."

The will to resist against "outrageous fortune" has been eloquently expressed by others such as Martin Luther King who said:
And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular; but one must take it because it is right.
Or Mario Savio who said:
There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part; you can't even passively take part, and you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop. And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!
And as Vltchek reminds us, when the people of Stalingrad faced the evil of being enslaved to the ultimate selfishness of Nazi barbarism, they rose up against overwhelming force and fought to the death to preserve their lives and human dignity. 

And so it is for the Syrian people.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Revolutionary Transgressions: an Interview With Margaret Randall

Click here to access article by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz from CounterPunch

Dunbar-Ortiz interviews a very prominent woman activist of my generation who demonstrated the best qualities of activists in those heady days when we aspired to deep changes in the world according to revolutionary ideals. I am referring to a rejection of conventional thought which held obeisance to corporate hegemony and commercial culture, to act on behalf of inclusiveness and social justice rather than exclusiveness and the individualistic pursuit of wealth and advantage over others.

It was an uphill battle against a growing capitalist monster-empire that was intent upon smashing everywhere every expression of independent thought and deed that might interfere with their global agenda. Margaret Randall was one of those who fought so courageously against this monster and suffered for it. Yet, she survived and triumphed. 

In this interview Dunbar-Ortiz describes another heroic woman, with whom she was acquainted, who fought for revolutionary ideals in Cuba, accomplished so much, but in the end took her own life in the process. Fighting for revolutionary ideals is a hazardous path to embark on, but it is living a very meaningful life because it is dedicated to the most fundamental truth: humans can only survive by caring for each other and their environment. All of these women--the interviewer Dunbar-Ortiz, Margaret Randall, and Haydée Santamaría of Cuba--have lived heroic lives by taking this revolutionary path.

Double dilemma for Paris climate deal

Click here to access article by Alex Kirby from Climate News Network
Within days of the conclusion of the Paris Agreement at the UN talks in mid-December, two leading US scientists have cast serious doubt on its ability to avert dangerous levels of climate change.

One, James Hansen, says that to think world leaders are doing something significant about the problem is “baloney”, and urges the use of nuclear power and every other form of energy which does not involve the release of carbon.

The other, Michael Mann, argues that the world is “closer to the dangerous 2°C warming mark than many experts acknowledge”, and that continuing global carbon dioxide emissions from human activities at present rates will commit the Earth to 2°C in less than three years from now. 
Although Hansen is an honest and highly qualified climate scientist, he has also been brainwashed by capitalist propaganda that insists on economic growth regardless of consequences.

A Chip Off the Old Pharmaberg

Click here if you wish to access this cartoon by Khalil Bendib directly from Other Words

The cartoon relates to the recent report about Martin Shkreli's takeover of a pharmaceutical company and the subsequent 5000%+ price hike for a vital life saving drug.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Creating Sunnistan: Foreign Affairs Calls for Syria and Iraq to be Balkanized

Click here to access article by Steven MacMillan from New Eastern Outlook.

In the following paragraph MacMillan makes reference to a recent paper published by Foreign Affairs, a publication of the Council on Foreign Relations which is a prime hangout for the directors of the US-led Empire:
The Western elite’s strategy is to create a Middle East (and a world for that matter) devoid of strong, sovereign, independent nation-states that can resist imperial advances. Fracturing countries into feuding micro-states ensures Western interests are not confronted with a cohesive entity which can collectively unite to oppose this belligerent force. “Divide and conquer” as Mendelsohn’s article is titled, the ancient strategy used by an array of imperial powers, from the Roman’s to the British, remains the strategy of the Western Empire today.

Imperial Social Media: Avaaz and the Arms Merchants

Click here to access article by Jay Taber from the Wrong Kind of Green
Promoting the imperial social media fad of equivocating on US and NATO invasions that destroy entire societies, ostensibly because the current head of state is ruthless or corrupt, Avaaz apologists neglect the growing list of countries where these invasions have made things worse. Indeed, I am at a loss to find a country in my lifetime (1952-present) where US military aggression — either directly or through proxy mercenaries and US-financed and trained death squads — made things better.

Of course, if you look at militarism as a market-oriented strategy, then making war or creating armed mayhem is just part of doing business.

2015: Just Another Year for Empire

Click here to access article by

'Free Basics' Will Take Away More Than Our Right to the Internet

Click here to access article by Vandana Shiva from Common Dreams. (Note: Shiva uses a couple of abbreviations commonly used in India: "SEZ" and "TRAI".)

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, has raised the ire of activists in India to what they see as another corporate attempt to exploit their society for profits.
Facebook’s Free Basics is a repackaged internet.org, or in other words, a system where Facebook decides what parts of the internet are important to users.
These activists have already witnessed the devastation that Monsanto Corporation has caused for farming in India (see numerous articles by Colin Todhunter by entering his name in one of my search boxes), and they don't like his latest profit-making effort to act as a gatekeeper to limit what people see over the internet.

Vandana Shiva has been one of the most vocal critics of this trend of corporate takeover and makeover of Indian society. As a strident critic of Monsanto Corporation and frankenfoods produced by using grains from Monsanto's bio-engineered crops, she writes:
The right to the internet is the right to choose what spaces and media we access; to choose spaces that enrich us — not what companies think should be our ‘basics’.

Our right to know what we are eating is as essential our right to information, all information. Our right to an open internet is as essential to our democracy as our right to save, exchange and sell open pollinated farmers’ seeds.

In the ultimate Orwellian doublespeak, “free” for Zuckerberg means “privatised”, a far cry from privacy — a word Zuckerberg does not believe in. And like corporate-written “free” trade agreements, Free Basics is anything but free for citizens. It is an enclosure of the commons, which are ‘commons’ because they guarantee access to the commoner, whether it be seed, water, information or internet. What Monsanto’s IPRs
[Intellectual Property Rights] are to seed, Free Basics is to information.

Tax evasion and weapon production: Letterbox arms companies in the Netherlands

Click here to access introduction to a study (pdf) by Martin Broek from Transnational Institute (TNI) which is based in the Netherlands.
Amongst the big companies using the Dutch evasion routes are a large number of arms manufacturers and major international defence companies. Their almost empty offices or even only mailboxes in the Netherlands gives them the legal possibility pay as little tax as possible with all available legal tricks.
.... Who are these tax evading arms companies and what are their strategies? In this report, Stop Wapenhandel publishes its findings resulting from a search through the Dutch Chamber of Commerce. We found a large number of arms producing companies with shell companies established in the Netherlands. The major production of these companies takes place in the major western arms producing countries; the United States, United Kingdom, France and Germany.

Climate Image of the Year: Hurricane Patricia

Click here to access article by Brian Kahn from Climate Central.
In October, Hurricane Patricia became the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the western hemisphere. It grew from a tropical storm to a hurricane in the span of a few days and became a roaring Category 5 storm — the highest level on the Saffir Simpson scale — with winds up to 200 mph before slamming into Mexico.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Where did ISIS fighters go too before the battle of Ramadi? [and] The United States is imposing radical changes on Baghdad

Click here to access article by Elijah J. Magnier from Middle East Politics.

You may have already noticed translation errors from the original article written in Arabic. Still, one can get the implications that the author, a Kuwaiti reporter, is making as to the real involvement of US forces in Iraq. 

It appears from this report that the new Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is, for several reasons, much more amenable to US influence than the former Prime Minister al-Maliki; and the US is using this influence to both appear to be aiding Iraq in the battle against ISIS while securing the lives of the latter's troops. The US objectives appear to be the carving up of Iraq as seen by the author and his sources:
The Iraqi Prime Ministre is aware of the possibility that the U.S would like to see 3 Iraqi cantons, one for the Kurds, one for the Sunni and another one for the Shia. The Americans are also supporting the Turkish presence in Iraq, to meet the say of the French Intelligence Service director who said: The Middle East will never be the same as before. What is becoming more clear now that ISIS is a toy used by players for their agenda and plans to reshuffle the map of the Middle East”.

ISIS medieval style combined with modern technology

This cartoon was posted in an article by Elijah J. Magnier, a Kuwaiti reporter. I can't decipher the cartoonist, but this dramatically points to a major contradiction about the Empire's favorite terrorist army.  

Saudi "Anti-Terror Coalition" a Facade to Hide Yet More Terrorism

Click here to access article by Tony Cartalucci from New Eastern Outlook.
Likely what Saudi Arabia is doing, is attempting to reboot a narrative that, as of late, is increasingly implicating it and many of the members of its "coalition" as the very source of global terrorism. 
It appears to me that the Saudi medieval leaders have learned from their US and Zionist advisers how to deceive people with facades and false-flag operations. Although Saudi Arabia still uses an ancient method of executing people for petty crimes, their official statements look very similar to those typical of Empire officials. For example, look at the CNN quote from a Saudi leader:
“This announcement comes from the Islamic world’s vigilance in fighting this disease so it can be a partner, as a group of countries, in the fight against this disease,” Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman said.
Asked whether the new coalition could include ground forces, Saudi Arabia’s top diplomat told reporters in Paris on Tuesday that “nothing is off the table.”
Cartalucci provides material from the Empire's euphemistically named "Department of Defense" which actually acknowledges the reality behind the deceptive facade constructed by Saudi leaders. But don't worry, our media will never report this. So, clearly it never happened. (sarcasm)

Star Wars and the Death of American Cinema

Click here to access article by John Wight from CounterPunch

I recently watched as TV "news" program after program dramatically announcing the current showing of the latest Star Wars flick thereby insuring not only a big box office bonanza of profits, but more importantly, another propaganda loaded movie to insure that Americans understand that their country and its military are heroes by fighting all the "evil-doers".
‘Star Wars’ is a simple story, simply told, of good versus evil, light versus darkness, and freedom versus tyranny. In other words it is the story of America’s struggle to preserve democracy and civilization in a world beset by evil and ‘evildoers’.

Movies and political propaganda have long walked hand in hand. Indeed if ever a medium was suited to propaganda it is the medium of cinema. 
He also makes an astute comparison of movies today in contrast with movies made in the 1960s, an era when our generation questioned everything and caught our masters by surprise. We also spawned the movements for minority, feminist and gay rights. But this questioning of conventions and authority was not to last. Our masters in the capitalist ruling class rallied to install increasingly repressive administrations, more wars, more censorship, more propaganda loaded "news" programs, movies, etc to dumb down succeeding generations of young people in support of Empire interests of profit and power.

Which came first, the prayer or the bomb?

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

The poem, which is much like the "chicken and egg" dilemma, attempts to answer another quandary about whether prayer (or one's religion) or the bomb came first. It begins this way:
My God is bigger than your God
My weapons are bigger than your weapons
Because my God is bigger than your God

Inside the Paris Climate Agreement: Hope or Hype?

Click here to access article by Brian Tokar from CounterPunch

Tokar begins this excellent review of the recent climate conference in Paris this way:
It has become a predictable pattern at the annual UN climate conferences for participants to describe the outcome in widely divergent ways. This was first apparent after the high-profile Copenhagen conference in 2009, when a four-page non-agreement was praised by diplomats, but denounced by well-known critics as a “sham,” a “farce,” and a mere face-saver. UN insiders proclaimed the divisive 2013 Warsaw climate conference a success, even though global South delegates and most civil society observers had staged an angry walk-out a day prior to its scheduled conclusion.

So it was no surprise when this happened again on December 12th in Paris.
He then launches into what we might expect in the future, but finally concludes with the observation that it will take much more than conferences and promises to turn around our trajectory that is headed straight toward climate destabilization.
Clearly, it will require more than statements of ambitious climate goals to corral the overarching capitalist imperative to grow and expand, or even to rein in political pressures to keep diverting public funds to support fossil fuel corporations.

This, of course, is where the worldwide climate movement comes in.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Production of inequality ignorance and knowledge

Click here to access article by David Ruccio from Occasional Links & Commentary

Ruccio offers several explanations as to why American workers have been mostly in the dark about knowledge of gross inequality under capitalism.

Saudi riyal in danger as oil war escalates

Click here to access article by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard from The Telegraph (Britain).

This highly respected international business analyst writes about the deteriorating economic conditions in Saudi Arabia. 
Saudi Arabia is burning through foreign reserves at an unsustainable rate and may be forced to give up its prized dollar exchange peg as the oil slump drags on, the country’s former reserve chief has warned.

“If anything happens to the riyal exchange peg, the consequences will be dramatic. There will be a serious loss of confidence,” said Khalid Alsweilem, the former head of asset management at the Saudi central bank.
The latter is a key Empire ally that has furnished all kinds of contributions to US-Israeli false-flag terrorist operations in many parts of the world from Afghanistan to the New York trade center

Saudi Arabia also provides key backing for the US dollar ever since the US went off the gold standard in 1971 following the run-up of huge debts incurred during the Vietnam War. This dramatic event was followed in 1974 by an agreement secured by Henry Kissinger with Saudi authorities who agreed to sell oil only in US dollars and to recycle those dollars into US Treasury bonds and US stocks. In return the Saudis were guaranteed security by the US. As Michael Hudson stated:
Saudi Arabia realizes that it exists only with U.S. support. Doing what U.S. diplomats tell them to do lets them keep their oil resources rather than being treated like Iraq and Iran.
This crucial agreement effectively backed US dollars with oil ("petrodollars") because other nations since then have been forced to buy and hold US dollars in order to purchase oil.

We’re #1!

Click here to access article by David F. Ruccio from Occasional Links & Commentary
Last year, the United States led the world in arms sales, with a total of $36.2 billion in worldwide arms transfer agreements. Russia took a distant second place with $10.2 billion in agreements, out of a global total of $71.8 billion in 2014.

In other words, according to new report from the Congressional Research Service on “Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations, 2007-2014” (pdf), dated 21 December 2015, the United States is far and away the number one military-industrial complex in the world.

Identity politics: dead end for student activism

Click here to access article by Miriam Padilla from Freedom Socialist

Padilla, a student at Evergreen College in Olympia, Washington, writes about her experience with activist groups on campus.
...the divisiveness that I have seen on campus has been one of my most disappointing experiences in college.
Many campus groups claim to be in solidarity with other organizations and struggles, but in reality they act more like exclusive social clubs. They think we should stick within our own circle of the persecuted — Chicanos with Chicanos, Blacks with Blacks, etc. This makes no sense to me. You can’t truly be in solidarity if you intentionally isolate yourself. Many students of color care about radically changing things. We all need to seek out each other and organize in one big circle. That’s often just not happening.

Monday, December 28, 2015

“How money corrupts academic world”

Click here to access article by David F. Ruccio from Occasional Links & Commentary

He makes his point of how the rich are shaping higher education by focusing on two illustrations: what has happened to two major public universities in Kentucky. 
I was wrong: it’s not just a Koch problem. The problem is much larger. It’s the selling-off of higher education to the highest bidder.
In Kentucky, the two major public universities—the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville—have been undermining the idea of the university since at least 2003, when BB&T Corporation and the BB&T Charitable Foundation pledged $2.5 million to the University of Kentucky Gatton College of Business and Economics to "support a learning laboratory on capitalism, a speaker series, an annual student paper competition, and annual fellowship and research grant awards."
I have always argued that the control of all institutions of indoctrination--media, education, and entertainment--is vital to the continuing hegemony of capitalists over their nations and the world.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Fall of the Arab Spring: From Revolution to Destruction

Click here to access article which consists of "Excerpts from the introduction of Christopher L. Brennan's recently released Book" posted on Global Research.
...the West’s ongoing involvement in the “Arab Spring” is part of a larger offensive to maintain the status quo of Western and Israeli hegemony. This was done—not through the crude and direct means of the Bush II regime—but more indirectly and via a sustained synergy of hard and soft power: so-called ‘smart power.’ This was supplemented and spearheaded through the techniques of the ‘color revolution.’ Thus, although a new cadre emerged with the onset of the Obama regime, the status quo imperative to secure Israel remained, and Obama administration introduced new techniques of projecting power. Whereas the second Bush administration was blunt and bellicose, the Obama regime acted more indirectly and surreptitiously, often relying on local proxies and ambitious regional powers such as Qatar and Turkey. This approach can be aptly labeled ‘imperialism on the cheap.’ It has been the defining foreign policy strategy of the Obama presidency.
Based on these excerpts, it appears that Brennan's analysis of Empire's policies, both hard and soft, corresponds well with a book I am now reading entitled Force Multipliers by M. Forte (see this post). The latter book also examines these imperial strategies, but Forte's focus is on the pseudo-scientific language that current imperial directors use to refer to them.

Syria: Has Anyone Stepped Back from the Brink?

Click here to access article by Michael Jabara Carley from Strategic Culture Foundation.

The new peace process adopted by the UN with the backing of all major powers has me puzzled. Carley in this article expresses most of my doubts about how this quagmire in Syria/Iraq can be solved given the wide and dedicated conflicting interests that are involved.

(Note: Carley must be from Texas because he uses a metaphor that completely escaped me--"asps". I initially thought it was a typo error that was meant for "wasps", but I finally realized that he was referring to a stinging caterpillar commonly found in Texas.)

Cli-fi is all the rage

Click here to access article by Kieran Cooke from Climate News Network.

"Cli-fi" is now a recognized literary category.
Cli-fi – along with its elder brother sci-fi – is now considered part of modern literature’s classification system. Though some titles make only a passing reference to climate change, while others are more concerned with murder, mayhem and sex than with global warming, others are more thoughtful, science-based works.

Well-established novelists have used climate change as a backdrop in their books. 
Read the article to peruse some illustrations of this type of literature which sees disasters in our human future.

Rich helping the poor (and the shrinking middle class)

by Ruben Bolling posted on Occasional Links & Commentary

The cartoonist's reference to "polo ponies" escaped me, but here is an explanatory link.