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, February 27, 2016
This article gives us a report on the accomplishments of the "new silk road", a major project that China, which to my surprise, has already begun. The young authors seem all a "gaga" over this development. I see it as more worrisome for two reasons.
Ever since 1978 when Deng Xiaoping took control of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), China has launched a broad policy in pursuit of economic development. To accomplish this they have opened China to the outside world, particularly to Western capitalist countries, under a "one country, two systems" policy. This combines capitalist development under the control of the CCP. Western capitalist development was obtained by offering China's cheap labor and other inducements to foreign corporations to build factories in China as a method to obtain high technology of the West while improving China's economy. Since then the CCP has pursued a peaceful strategy that attempts to use economic development as a method to deal with conflicts both internal to China and external in foreign relations.
This general policy has succeeded beyond even the CCP's wildest dreams. However, the risk has always been that the capitalist pursuit of profit by any means would have a corrupting influence on China and the CCP. Although China is strongly supporting renewable energies and implementing changes to improve the environment, they appear to be promoting economic development that favors production for profit as a major priority over sustainability. This report does nothing to allay that concern.
Another concern is that has come with China's success is a threat to the Empire's clear intention to impose their hegemony on the world. This has resulted in the Empire's "pivot to Asia [China]" foreign policy which seems to be posing another threat to world peace.
Reverend Andrew Ashdown is an Anglican priest in England. He has been visiting and leading groups to the Middle East for over 25 years, and has visited Syria four times since April 2014, both as a member of faith delegations, and more recently independently. Andrew is undertaking research into Christian/Muslim relations in the region.Ashdown gives a graphic picture of Syria's current situation through the eyes of Syrians while conversing with many of them in a Damascus cafe.
That evening I joined a group of young Muslim [Sunni and Alawite] and Christian friends in a bustling Damascene cafe in the Old City, where Sunni, Shia, Kurds, Christian, Alawite, from all parts of the country still mingle quite happily. Talking to people it is evident that no-one has escaped the horrors of war – whether it be close friends,loved ones killed and/or kidnapped, and/or homes and livelihoods destroyed. Yet, whilst realistic about the multiple complexities of the realities, all are determined to keep living, and most want to preserve the integrity of Syria, and reject the sectarian agendas that outside forces are creating.
Researchers predict that the hothouse effect of runaway greenhouse gases would ultimately boil our planet dry and make it incapable of sustaining life.
Friday, February 26, 2016
Because of personal affairs interfering with my time this morning, I have not been able to read all of this article; but it offers so much valid history of the Middle East and US interference in this oil-rich region. To understand the present turmoil in Syria, this knowledge is an absolute must.
Even as America contemplates yet another violent Mideast intervention, most Americans are unaware of the many ways that “blowback” from previous CIA blunders has helped craft the current crisis. The reverberations from decades of CIA shenanigans continue to echo across the Mideast today in national capitals and from mosques to madras schools over the wrecked landscape of democracy and moderate Islam that the CIA helped obliterate.I think that the appearance of this article together with Steven Kinzer's article entitled "The media are misleading the public on Syria" from the Boston Globe signals a shift with regard to the Empire's policy to destabilize Syria. I don't think that this is a mere coincidence. Thus, as I see it, our ruling class is preparing us for this shift by publishing these articles, which provide a very accurate and revealing history of US involvement in this region, in mainstream media outlets. Although Politico is not exactly "mainstream", I regard it as a mouthpiece for ruling class views. I think that Kinzer's article was published for a more conventional American audience while Kennedy's was targeting America's more informed intellectuals.
Minqi Li's intellectual journey has taken him down many paths that seem incompatible, to say the least. However, I am impressed by his sincere desire to understand the major issues that are confronting humans in this new century. Thus, I recommend that you read this review and especially the interview which Minqi Li had last year that was referred to in this article. I found that the latter interview gave much more of an appealing exposure to his ideas than this rather conservative reviewer did. To substantiate this latter claim, I offer the following passage from the interview:
In particular, the defining feature of capitalism has to do with its capacity to accumulate capital on increasingly larger scales. This is what really distinguishes capitalism from all pre-existing social systems. An obvious limit to this tendency towards “endless accumulation” has to do with the ecological constraints. Of course, a technology optimist will argue that we can have both infinite economic growth and ecological sustainability. I think there are fundamental reasons why ecological sustainability cannot be achieved under the condition of endless economic growth, or at least with an economic growth rate high enough to sustain economic and social stability required for capitalism, no matter how you measure “economic growth”. In any case, it is beyond dispute that, despite all the talks about “sustainable development” or “green growth”, the world continues to head relentlessly towards global ecological catastrophes. We know this as we observe that the global ecological deficit (the gap between ecological footprint and bio-capacity) continue to widen and the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases keeps rising year after year.
In presidential elections in the US, especially in recent times, the ruling class's Democratic Party always trots out candidates that make noises about social issues that appeal to liberal-left populists. It has now become clear that to reinforce these noises, they want their candidates to represent traditionally excluded categories of people so that the hoi polloi are doubly fooled. In 2008 they produced an African-American appearing candidate who filled this role perfectly, so perfectly that the ruling class media provided supportive political coverage backing him and he was elected to office. This year they have chosen a woman to play this role with Bernie Sanders as a ranch hand to corral the dissident sheep and lead them down the chute to the slaughterhouse of the Democratic Party.
This election year's populist candidate to help the ruling class's choice of Hillary Clinton to be elected wears "socialist" attire to fool left-liberal people. This article helps to expose the real naked Bernie Sanders and his obscene politics.
Sanders’ citing of Sweden and Denmark as examples of “democratic socialism” thus reveals perhaps more than the Vermont Senator intended. He has made clear throughout his campaign that he fully endorses the United States’ imperialist foreign policy, including its wars in the Middle East, while promoting a nationalist domestic economic policy.
Thursday, February 25, 2016
What I don't understand from this leaked report is the fear expressed by the Saudi author about Syria's revenge against Saudi Arabia:
The fact must be stressed that in the case where the Syrian regime is able to pass through its current crisis in any shape or form, the primary goal that it will pursue is taking revenge on the countries that stood against it, with the Kingdom and some of the countries of the Gulf coming at the top of the list.
Washington neo-conservatives embedded inside the Obama Administration in a form of “Deep State” secret network, and their allied media such as the Washington Post, advocated US covert backing of a pet CIA project known as the Muslim Brotherhood. As I detail in my most recent book, Amerikas’ Heiliger Krieg, the CIA had cultivated ties to the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood death cult since the early 1950’s.Thus, it is understandable that the Saudis are now furious with the US and its apparent abandonment of this destabilization plan.
Now if we map the resources of known natural gas reserves in the entire Persian Gulf region, the motives of the Saudi-led Qatar and UAE in financing with billions of dollars the opposition to Assad, including the Sunni ISIS, becomes clearer. Natural gas has become the favored “clean energy” source for the 21st Century and the EU is the world’s largest growth market for gas, a major reason Washington wants to break the Gazprom-EU supply dependency to weaken Russia and keep control over the EU via loyal proxies like Qatar.
[Update: see also this recent article by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. posted in Politico, which gives a considerable amount of the history of US interference in the oil rich countries of the Mid-East-- specially (p. 2) in reference to the pipelines that Saudi Arabia and Qatar wanted to transport their gas through Syria.]
Wednesday, February 24, 2016
What I think is most useful about this essay is that Zuesse by using the results of an opinion poll offers an excellent illustration of the influence of corporate media to distort the minds of ordinary Americans. The poll finding shows that Americans fear Iran as a prime terrorist nation. I have encountered this phenomenon personally and it has baffled me.
What I fault Zuesse for in this piece is when he provides a key bit of evidence about a bookkeeper and quotes this person extensively, but without naming him or providing any linked reference to a source! I had to spend about 20 minutes looking for such a document and found it here. I suppose that people often write pieces for online publication in haste and don't always find the time to research them properly, but I think this mistake is quite improper.
Putting this criticism aside, I think his main point is very well taken. Americans simply cannot trust corporate media, but they still turn to it for information and opinion. This begs the question why. Corporate media have a long record of lying to Americans, but in spite of this most Americans continue to be easily influenced in believing their lies. There are more obvious reasons such as the time required to search out accurate information is prohibitive, that these lies are so ubiquitously spread by corporate media that it is hard to dismiss them, and there are so many distractions offered by our capitalist masters that most Americans are simply diverted away from accurate sources. But, I would like to speculate on another reason: the infantilization of Americans.
We Americans generally have no authentic sense of our history. We have been indoctrinated with a fake history which supports allegiance to the ruling capitalist class and all of its many authorities. As we grow up physically, our loyal obedience to our parents is transferred onto these authorities. We are never taught to think critically. We have had little exposure to the scientific method of inquiry or research in spite of the fact that it has created all the technology that we enjoy daily. (Science, like everything else of value, was also captured by our ruling capitalist class and has delivered to them so much wealth and power.) Instead we are conditioned to look to authorities for what is to be believed. At the same time we are also thoroughly indoctrinated in capitalism's extreme individualism to focus only on our own needs or our family's. This kind of perspective is very characteristic of a young child who views the world only as a means to satisfy his/her needs.
This morning I was stuck in front of a Fox “News” broadcast for a short period and then with a NPR news program. It was enough to convince me that Nazi propaganda during Hitler’s Third Reich was very mild compared to the constant stream of dangerous lies that are pumped out constantly by the American media.
The New York Times, Washington Post, and a couple of think-tank types were represented on NPR. They delivered the most crude propaganda imaginable and questioned no US government statement.
Did you know that all the trouble in Syria is due to the Russians and Assad?
If you have been "out of the loop" or confused by the many stop and start negotiations regarding this conflict, SouthFront offers an excellent and accurate summary of the latest ceasefire agreement engineered via communications between Russia and the US. The script in the article follows exactly the audio report in the 3:01m video provided.
On February 22, the US and Russia released a joint statement on the Terms for a Cessation of Hostilities in Syria and proposed the ceasefire commence at 00:00 (Damascus time) on Feb.27, 2016. The ceasefire is to be applied to those parties that have indicated their commitment to and acceptance of its terms and does not apply to ISIS Jabhat al-Nusra, Ahrar ash-Sham and other terrorist organizations designated by the UN Security Council.
This week's order by a federal magistrate judge requiring Apple to engineer new security flaws in its iPhone software operating system has prompted widespread and escalating controversy. Legitimate concerns about its implications have driven users around the country to raise their voices in defense of not only their privacy, but also the security of their online platforms threatened by the FBI's demands.
While the FBI has framed its demand as addressing a single phone, it has failed to address concerns that the implementation of the order—which was issued on the same day the FBI submitted its motion, without changes—would necessarily place at risk the security of millions of other devices and the people who use them.
This article is an excerpt from Dolack's very recently published book entitled It's Not Over. Dolack has not only been extremely helpful in our understanding of the social ravages caused by capitalism, but he has been busy looking at alternative ways of organizing an economy and society. This book offers some of his ideas derived from a variety of sources about what a new system might look like.
Tuesday, February 23, 2016
The secret 28 pages of Congressional committee report, that our masters in the ruling capitalist class won't let us read, has recently been alluded to by Donald Trump.
“It wasn’t the Iraqis that knocked down the World Trade Center. We went after Iraq, we decimated the country, Iran’s taking over…but it wasn’t the Iraqis, you will find out who really knocked down the World Trade Center, because they have papers in there that are very secret, you may find it’s the Saudis, okay? But you will find out,” Trump said at a Wednesday campaign event in Bluffton, South Carolina.
Trump’s implied promise to declassify 28 pages from a 2002 joint congressional intelligence inquiry into 9/11 sets him apart from the remaining Republican and Democratic presidential aspirants....
I read this book shortly after it was published, but Roberts reminds those of us who have read the book of its importance because the book furnishes inside information from someone who was involved in the Empire's debt scam that was run on other countries. It is a "must-read" for those who have not read the book.
One sees the latter's scam operative everywhere in the world where the Empire is involved (which is nearly everywhere). Consumers (think of the predatory lending practices in general and housing mortgages in particular that contributed to the 2007/2008 economic collapse), cities, as well as nations are encouraged to go into debt. Now everyone in the US has a debt rating or "credit score" which they can access. It is commonplace for people in my country to take on debt to finance everything in their lives. This gives the banksters, who are ensconced at the highest level of power in our capitalist society, incredible power over us as individuals, over their Empire of nations, and a threat to the sovereignty of other nations.
Russia delivered to the members of the UN Security Council an intelligence report concerning the activities of Turkey which support the jihadists operating in Syria. The document lists about ten facts, each one of which violates one or several Council Resolutions.
By doing so, Russia puts the Council, and, by extension, several other inter-governmental organisations, face to face with their responsibilities.
...from the ‘Introduction’ to A People’s History, is an essential passage that betrays [reveals] Harman’s view on structure, and even suggests that his methodology is structural and systemic:
Simply empathising with the people involved in one event cannot, by itself, bring you to understand the wider forces that shaped their lives, and still shape ours. You cannot, for instance, understand the rise of Christianity without understanding the rise and fall of the Roman Empire. You cannot understand the ﬂowering of art during the Renaissance without understanding the great crises of European feudalism… You cannot understand the workers’ movements of the 19th century without understanding the industrial revolution. And you cannot begin to grasp how humanity arrived at its present condition without understanding the interrelation of these and many other events.The aim of this book is to try to provide such an overview. First, Harman speaks of wider forces, forces that go beyond the actions of individuals and thus become forces that are systemic. Not only this, such wider forces actively shape the actions and ideas of individuals.
The video (English translation) shows mostly activists who are commenting on the current "State of Emergency" declared by the French President Francois Hollande after the November 13 attacks across Paris which was recently extended. The main effect has been a clamp down on activist demonstrations of all kinds starting with the COP21 conference on Climate Change held in Paris in December.
A look back on the first months of the state of emergency in Paris: activists in custody, protests shut down, warrantless house arrests, and the COP21 strangled by anti-terrorist measures.
Unlearning economics has a nice post up “outlining the major reasons why economists can be completely out of touch with their public image, as well as how they should do ‘science,’ and why their discipline is so ripe for criticism.” He presents a list of 18 common failings encountered time and time again in discussions with mainstream economists:
Monday, February 22, 2016
I don't know anything about this author, but he offers (in rather awkward English) an historical perspective on Turkey which adds much understanding to the government's seemingly crazy policies.
You might want to follow this up with an article from the Washington Post entitled "Turkey’s increasingly desperate predicament poses real dangers". This newspaper is an important mouthpiece of Empire directors which gives clues to their foreign policy intentions. Because such articles serve to camouflage their imperial policies with propaganda giving legitimacy and credibility to such policies, one needs to de-code them (always risky intellectual business).
The author expresses the Empire's disapproval of Turkish President Erdogan's military actions against the Syrian Kurds and his (and those of the Saudis) threats of military invasion of the country. In addition the author's seems to suggest in the following paragraph that the Empire wants to stabilize and withdraw from the chaotic situation that it previously encouraged and supported:
Turkey’s predicament is not entirely self-inflicted. Some of the broader global trends — such as Russia’s increasing assertiveness and the United States’ waning interest in the Middle East — could not readily have been foreseen when Turkey set about crafting its ambitious foreign policy earlier in the decade, analysts say. [my emphasis]Finally, you may want to focus in on Syrian President Assad's views of the current situation as he well articulated in this interview entitled "President Assad: Cessation of military operations requires preventing terrorists from using it to improve their position".
From the "About" section:
This is not an academic platform. Neither is it simply a news agency for the lefties about the region. It seeks to offer a mixture of theoretically – and analytically – informed contributions about current matters, local but not parochial, seeking to engage audiences beyond the national publics and beyond the academic circles. It aims to inform, illuminate and mobilize.The author attempts, and I believe he succeeds to a great extent, in shedding light on the recent changes in European politics and attitudes, particularly with regard to the immigration issue. This somewhat lengthy article is not something you can read quickly and superficially like so much other content on the World Wide Web.
The aim is to constitute an alternative to the way we see the region....
Because the New Deal-like policies of the Kirchner governments failed to substantially improve Argentina's economy after the neoliberal collapse in 2000 and 2002, the ruling capitalist class in Argentina decided to make a right-turn into what Petras describes as a "neo-liberal counter-revolution". Petras reports on the many indications of this right-turn.
The class struggle from above found its most intense , comprehensive and retrograde expression in Argentina, with the election of Mauricio Macri (December 2015). During the first two months in office, through the arbitrary assumption of emergency powers, he reversed, by decree, a multitude of progressive socio-economic policies passed over the previous decade and sought to purge public institutions of independent voices.
Sunday, February 21, 2016
I have a very uneasy feeling that the US President is about to set off a chain of events that will literally blow up the Middle East. Earlier I’ve detailed the very careful steps, seductions and actions of key players of the Obama Administration, from the President himself to Secretary of State John Kerry to CIA director, John Owen Brennan, to Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman, General Joseph “Fightin’ Joe” Francis Dunford, Jr., Washington dirty tricks specialist and now UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey D. Feltman, and numerous others not in the spotlight. Their reactions to the provocative actions of ... [Turkey and Saudi Arabia] Washington has set a huge, deadly trap for the delusional Saudi monarchy’s Prince Salman and his bosom buddy, Erdoğan. Now it looks like they are about to spring their trap.Although no one is infallible, I have great respect for Engdahl's many efforts to shed light on the geopolitical plans of the Empire. His efforts have always reflected an honest attempt to get at the truth. In this piece he focuses much attention on a report (his link is no longer valid) that has surfaced in many major or respectable websites such as Stratfor, Haaretz, Arena (Australia), apparently on Wikileaks (but I couldn't find it within a few minutes), and many others. His summary of the report looks extremely authentic--it has the trust inspiring "ring of truth" embedded in it.
The "trap" he refers to in the last few sentences in the above quote is one in which he implies that these two countries (Turkey and Saudi Arabia) are being used by the Empire to do their dirty work, and will not reap the benefits of the plan. In a recent article he also sees a trap set for Russia as a result of the UN brokered ceasefire in Syria which, according to Bernhard (Moon of Alabama), is not being honored by the US, Turkey and Saudi Arabia.
I think, although I can't be sure, what might escape the author is that all news provided by corporate media has become carefully managed to insure citizen's compliance if not support for policies of the capitalist Empire. This is done using various techniques such as ordinary deceptions, big lies, censorship, planting testimonials from carefully selected people who support their points of view, etc.
I believe, as this writer implies, that the problem of the credibility of corporate media has grown worse especially since 9/11. Where decades ago their coverage was filled with 50% lies, nowadays it is around 90%. However everyday I see evidence that people, even intelligent people, believe the garbage that's fed them.
Gone are the times when the BBC’s John Simpson liberated Kabul single-handed. Nowadays, we are mostly fed the opinions of pre-programmed stenographers comfortably seated behind desks in London,Washington, Paris or Berlin. That might give a clue as to why the Aleppo, Oborne reports on, doesn’t seem to fit the prevailing narrative of a city recently occupied by ‘moderate’ rebels that has dominated our daily news over the last few weeks.
I am really impressed with this simple (not "simplistic") explanation of the necessity of both theory and practice as inherent parts of an effective revolutionary strategy. Although directed to a British audience, most all of it applies to the US except for some details.
In the midst of a discussion of mainstream economics in Capital, Marx comments, ‘all science would be superfluous if the outward appearance and the essence of things directly coincided‘. In other words things are normally not as they appear on the surface or in our immediate experience. This is why we need theory.
Capitalism in particular works in a way that conceals its own dynamics.
This was posted for the 40th anniversary of Robeson's death (January 23, 1976). Aluko's brief history of Paul Robeson is correct as I remember from my readings many years ago. The birth date of Robeson's slave-father was 1844, not in the 1830s as Aluko thought.
It's a bit sad as an American to see his remembrance being commemorated in this left-liberal British website while it is being ignored in left and liberal alternative media in the US. (I only found a rather sterilized and childish version of his life and its significance posted on Huffington Post.)
It is certainly true that Robeson has been erased from American history, but then there is so much real history of ordinary people and events that has been erased and substituted with a lot of indoctrination to insure that people growing up in the US receive the "proper" understanding of capitalist rule and the American ruling capitalist class with all its "democratic" freedoms. If the people knew their true history, they might not be so eager to join the armed forces and travel to foreign lands to kill people. They might question corporate media's reports about what goes on in this country and abroad. And, horrors of horrors, they might revolt against the capitalist state and establish an equitable and just society capable of co-existing with nature.
This is an excellent critical review of an article I posted a few days ago on my website entitled "The media are misleading the public on Syria" by Stephen Kinzer posted originally on the Boston Globe's website. I was so astonished to see Kinzer's article posted that I overlooked the deficiencies in it. Cook does not make this mistake.
...one has to commend the Boston Globe for publishing this piece by Stephen Kinzer, a former foreign correspondent, warning that the media is not telling us the truth about what is going on in Syria.
But those constraints are also why Kinzer glosses over deeper problems with the coverage of Syria.