Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Center For Balance: The Capitalist Commandments

Pledge To The USA
The Capitalist Commandments
By The Center For Balance article link
September 29, 2010 | Information Clearing House

1. Do unto others before they do it unto you. Beggar thy neighbor and trade their employments without offset, tariff, or compensation to secure a bountiful profit from the greater slave. Engage the most authoritarian of regimes and let no morality, nor powers of the vast majority, interfere with the greater profits to be had from preserving disparities and all the powers of predation enjoyed by the rich.

2. In all things, see that your capital-defined Efficiency shall remain the only god, and let no morality, freedom nor ecological concern interfere with your divine right to profit and enclose and privatize for your benefit.

3. Thou shalt make money and power thy only god and pursuit, and not suffer any foolish idleness opening one to other occupations or dangerous revelations.

4. To secure thy power, thou shalt not let the people own or control their central banks - despite constitutional purse powers to the contrary - for debt money is the central power and motive force before which all others pale and remain impotent.

5. Thou shalt own and control all media and news dissemination agencies. Let not any editor be elected lest the people influence what they see, hear and read. Let all books, media, and education grow our values exclusively. Let not any fairness doctrine nor any notion of labor-capital “factor” balance interfere with this, our grand design.

6. In all things, thou shalt make Growth and per-capita ruin thy only gods, and defeat Balance at every turn. Thou shalt see that humanity endlessly multiplies. Let no balance of population arise which might serve to pass on the same quantum of freedom, earthly space, natural right and pleasure even to thine own children - as this would destroy our precious and profitable Growth.

7. In all things, thou shalt resist Balance, and both factor and gender equity for I, your male Sky God, have told you so.

8. Let no free commune or cooperative emerge, nor any non-profit venture succeed - for such competition is to be feared and prohibited. Privatize everything as it is your right . Control the reigns of power so the vast majority own no debt-free estate, nor access any means with which they might secure their domestic freedom, independence, and democracy.

9. Let Nature’s realm be conquered and set to your profit purposes. Patent and own all of nature’s pharmacopeia. Change the nature of animals and humans alike to serve your ends. Render off limits those fertile lands and plants by which the masses might enjoy leisure, acquire natural freedom, secure refuge from our Free Market, or stumble upon any revelations of a non-egoic, cooperative, and spiritual nature.

10. Let enclosure reign, for the landless and dependent are fodder for thy greater objectives. Let our Interdependency forever be mediated by the rich and powerful, and secured in the name of an Efficiency serving our ends alone. Seek to destroy any remnants of natural freedom, commonwealth, and domestic independence. Let our Free Market of neo-slavery prevail and thy will profit beyond one’s wildest dreams.

Copyright 2010 -

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Steven Hill: The China Superpower Hoax

The China Superpower Hoax
By Steven Hill article link article link
September 23, 2010 Truthdig | AlterNet

China must have the best public relations maestros in the world. How else would a country with a lower per capita income than Iran, Mexico and Kazakhstan, one of the worst environmental records of any major nation, endemic corruption, jails stuffed with dissenters, and a dictatorship, besides, be hailed by so many as the next global superpower?

Certainly China is big—1.3 billion people big, a fifth of the global population. As Forbes’ columnist John Lee has written, China has long been the place for the world’s biggest anything: the Great Wall, the 2008 Olympics, Tiananmen Square, the South China Mall in Dongguan, dams, consumption of cement and production of automobiles; most recently, China even had the world’s biggest traffic jam—an incredible 60 miles long—which lasted a month and during which drivers were stuck in their cars for days at a time.

The world has never see anything like mega-nations the size of China (or India for that matter), and no one even knows if populations of this magnitude ultimately are sustainable. China’s voracious need to supply its population and avoid the social explosions that have plagued its history has made it one of the world’s largest consumers of natural resources, especially timber and energy, extracted from places like Africa, Southeast Asia and South America. With such large appetites, China has the ability to drive global markets, and, consequently, has become the new frontier where “get rich quick” investors and Western businesses go panning for gold by speculating in some hot Chinese start-up.

Unfortunately, the hype ignores a starker reality—that China is barely holding it together. Contrarian voices like Hu Ping, the chief editor of Beijing Spring, a pro-human rights and democracy journal, try to humanize the conventional wisdom of economic statistics and facts that obscure reality. “With China portrayed in the news every day as an economic and political powerhouse, the rest of the world, at least those parts that treasure freedom and peace, should pay attention to the real China,” says Hu.

The Paradox of China

To understand the “real” China, it is necessary to see it through the double lens of its paradoxical condition as both a major economy and a still-developing country. China is filled with contradictions and serious challenges. When I visited China in August and September of 2008, after the Olympics, the country that I saw, whether in Shanghai, Beijing or the rural areas, was a long, long way from being a global leader in any meaningful sense. Two hundred million people out of a working population of nearly 800 million are migrants, chafing at their lowly status and rotten wages. Inequality is rampant. Returning from the rural areas—where the vast majority of Chinese still live—to cities is like a form of time travel, moving from feudal conditions where plowing is still done by water buffalo to a land of impressively jutting skyscrapers. Corruption is epidemic, whether in banks, the legal system or the political leadership at national, provincial and local levels, causing an estimated annual economic loss of approximately 15 percent of GDP, according to economist Hu Angang.

Even China’s much-touted economic power has been misunderstood. Recently it was announced around the world that China had surpassed Japan to become the second-largest national economy. But compared to the United States and Europe, China is still an economic mini-me. Europe’s gross domestic product is $17.5 trillion, according to the latest IMF figures, while the U.S. figure is $14.8 trillion and China’s is $5.4 trillion (by Europe, I mean the EU 27 plus Norway, Switzerland and Iceland).

Beyond economic output, more than three-fifths of China’s overall exports and nearly all its high-tech exports are made by non-Chinese, foreign companies. Foreign companies take advantage of low Chinese wages to reprocess imports of semi-manufactured goods that are then shipped to Europe and the U.S. China remains, in essence, a subcontractor to the West, says Will Hutton, British political analyst and author of an influential book on China, “The Writing on the Wall.” Despite China’s export success, there are few great Chinese brands or companies. China needs to build them, says Hutton, but doing that in a one-party authoritarian state, where the party second-guesses business strategy for ideological and political ends, is impossible.”

Because of China’s climate of corruption and authoritarian secrecy, even the volume of industrial output has been questioned. Some doubt China’s numbers and official reports. Investment guru James Chanos, who rose to prominence when he predicted the Enron meltdown (and pocketed a billion dollars shorting Enron stock), is shorting China now.

Says Chanos, “China is cooking its books. State-run companies are buying fleets of cars and storing them in parking lots and warehouses” to pump up state-mandated production figures. As evidence of this, experts point out that while car sales have been rising by a huge 20 percent per month, auto fuel usage seems to be rising by only 3-5 percent per month. Chanos also says China is plagued by an ominously growing real estate bubble in high-rise buildings, offices and condos. Much of China’s high growth originally came from decades-long heavy investment in infrastructure, but increasingly it has been coming from construction. Chanos estimates that 50 percent to 60 percent of China’s GDP now comes from alarming levels of overbuilding, virtually none of which is affordable to the average Chinese. “This is not affordable housing for the middle class; this is high-end condos in major urban areas and high-end office buildings, which no one is buying,” says Chanos.

China is on this “treadmill to hell,” he says, because so much of its GDP growth comes from construction which can’t be sustained. If China were to slow down the construction industry, its GDP growth would go negative very quickly.

“That’s not going to happen, because in China people are rewarded at almost every level of government for making their economic growth numbers. The easiest way to do that is put up another building. They’re really hooked on this sort of heroin of real estate development to keep the numbers going,” Chanos says.

Sino enthusiasts are betting that China’s rulers, whom they see as having been competent stewards of a growing economy for decades, have the means to slowly let the air out of the bubble and avert disaster. But with entire building complexes—urban forests of office and condo high-rises—standing empty in China, Chanos and others are predicting a housing market crash like the one that occurred in the United States.

Walking an Environmental Tightrope Without a Net

The only thing cloudier than China’s economic model is the sky over its major cities, so choked with smog that some days you can’t see the high-rises a few blocks away. During the run-up to the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, many were concerned that athletes wouldn’t be able to breathe the foul air. To try to clear the air, the government instituted an odd-even auto policy, i.e. cars with license plates ending in an even number could drive one day, odd numbers the next. People in Beijing told me that the skies had not been so clear in decades (and they were greatly chagrined when the authorities eventually reverted to the previous laissez-faire policy, resulting in unprecedented traffic jams that make India’s look tame by comparison).

Four hundred thousand Chinese die every year of respiratory diseases caused by pollution. About 500 million rural Chinese—equivalent to the population of the entire European Union—still do not have access to safe drinking water. Acid rain, caused by sulfur dioxide emissions that belch from smokestacks of power plants, is endemic, with the state-run China Daily reporting that in Guangdong province—China’s most prosperous region, and also its most industrialized—53 percent of total rainfall in 2008 was acid rain.

Food scares, such as industrial toxins mixed into milk powder, pet food and cough syrup, have been frequent, and there have been instances of exported toys bearing lead paint and drywall containing highly toxic sulfur compounds that made brand-new homes in the U.S. and elsewhere unlivable.

These consumer dangers are additional manifestations of the amoral, corrupt, robber-baron business practices that have been unleashed in China. The 2008 earthquakes in western Sichuan province, which resulted in the collapse of more than 7,000 schoolrooms and thousands of deaths among schoolchildren, disproportionately impacted the poor who lived in areas where corruption had resulted in shoddy construction practices. The suicide rate among the elderly in rural areas is four to five times higher than the world average because 90 percent of the elderly have no retirement pension, even as there is a growing shortage of nursing home services, and so many elderly choose to quietly end their lives on a barren hillside or in a forest to avoid being a burden to their children. For all these reasons and more, China is plagued by 70,000 protests per year, many of them more like riots and quite violent (including occasional bombings), and had 300,000 labor disputes in 2006 alone, nearly double the number reported in 2001.

Young men and women I met in the cities had fled the Third World conditions in their farming villages only to accept the yoke of working in sweatshop factories or as bar waitresses, earning just enough to afford a bedroom shared with three others, four to a tiny room, two to a bed. Disposable income was practically nil and life was hard. Education is not a way out for most, since it is not free at any level and university is much too expensive for most young people to afford. The only hope they nurtured was that their country would one day be more affluent and some of that wealth would trickle down their way, as according to the Confucian virtues of “sacrifice” drilled into them by the ruling Communist Party. Recent strikes at factories producing products for Western corporations like Apple, Honda and others have managed to exact sizable wage increases of about 20 percent. But for most Chinese, life is a grim struggle and will remain so for years to come. Walking around China, even with all its tourist charms and ancient curiosities, it is hard to envision a superpower taking shape, no matter how far one peers into the future.

There’s Gold in Them China Hills

Welcome to China Inc., this ancient land where the entire country is run like a giant corporation. Certainly the land of “capitalist communism”—an oddball combination, to be sure—has made some impressive gains with its roaring economic growth rates and in lifting several hundred million people out of the abject poverty of the Mao years. Over the past 30 years, China has sustained nearly double-digit growth, a remarkable run which has produced a growing middle class of perhaps 200 million to 300 million people. But an important qualifier is that China started from a very low level of GDP. By 2009, China’s per capita GDP still was only $3,600, compared with $46,000 in the United States. China’s metrics indicate significant challenges for years to come, and considering all its other economic and environmental ills, its past record is no guarantee of future success. Prophecies of its global leadership are premature at best.

Beyond economic and ecological indicators, the hallmark of a great power is when other nations want to emulate you. What made the United States the great power of the post-World War II era was not just its military might but its promise of economic betterment and freedoms—glamorized by Hollywood, the best public relations machine ever—which caused people from all over the world to want to flock to our shores. The City on the Hill inspired people toward an ideal, however much America itself didn’t always live up to that ideal. But no one is banging down doors to get into China, and only the poorest countries aim to be like the People’s Republic.

China inspires curiosity with its ancient history and huge population, but not envy or emulation. That will not change anytime soon, and perhaps never unless China at some point opens up its political and economic system. The absolute unwillingness of Communist Party authorities to tolerate any public reflection, let alone protest, during the 20-year anniversary in June 2009 of the Tiananmen Square crackdown exposed their great fear of their own people, as well as the lack of confidence among China’s rulers in either their system or themselves. It remains to be seen how much of a “new China” will continue to emerge, but all these horizons certainly provide a different view of China from the one typically given by the Sino enthusiasts.

Given this reality, why does China receive so many rave reviews while Japan and Europe—which actually do a far better job of providing for their people—are treated with scorn and derision? The answer seems to boil down to the fact that China’s high-growth economy has become the place where corporations can realize the quickest return for their quarterly profit sheets. To many awestruck pundits, China represents the future, or at least the future of business success.

But it is also the case that China’s über-growth has become an ideological weapon in the hands of free market fundamentalists and pro-growth zealots. The Chinese economy and its high growth engine is used to browbeat other countries viewed as growing insufficiently. Europe and Japan are proof that high growth is not necessary to create the highest living standards in the world, yet in an ideological battle between free market fundamentalists and everyone else, China is a useful propaganda tool.

But once you peel back the curtain, as Toto did in “The Wizard of Oz,” the China reality doesn’t live up to Wall Street’s hype. In fact, the hype actually is damaging to China, as it causes members of the U.S. Congress to propose foolish ideas such as protectionist measures, when in reality China needs different forms of assistance—especially technical assistance—from Europe, the U.S. and other developed powers. The entire world has a stake in China succeeding, both economically and in greening its economy and reducing its carbon emissions. The prospect of China as a “failed state” is too terrible to contemplate.

China has come a long way, but it has a long, long way to go. It’s anyone’s bet whether China will sink or swim. So much for superpower status.

Steven Hill is a writer, columnist and political professional based in the United States with two decades of experience in politics. Hill is the author, most recently, of “Europe’s Promise: Why the European Way Is the Best Hope for an Insecure Age,” published in January 2010. His previous books include “10 Steps to Repair American Democracy” (2006), “Fixing Elections: The Failure of America’s Winner Take All Politics” (2003) and “Whose Vote Counts” (with Rob Richie, 2001).

© 2010 Truthdig All rights reserved.

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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Tom Eley: The Richest People in America

The Richest People in America
The Forbes 400 List: 2010
September 26, 2010 | WSWS | Global Research

While 2010 has seen the vast majority of the US population suffer the consequences of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression—mass joblessness, wage cutting, plummeting home prices, record foreclosures, and spending cuts by near-bankrupt states and cities—for the handful of plutocrats who control the nation’s wealth it has been a very good year indeed.

According to Forbes magazine, the net worth of the 400 richest Americans increased by 8 percent in 2010, to $1.37 trillion, in the year ending August 25. The figure is slightly greater than the entire gross domestic product of India, population 1.2 billion. It is also more than 10 times greater than the $121 billion combined budget deficit of all 50 states for 2011.

The household wealth for the great majority is going in the opposite direction. Last week, the Federal Reserve revealed that the net worth of all US households and non-profits fell 2.8 percent in the second quarter, to $53.5 trillion. This means that the richest 400 Americans have about 2.6 percent of the total national household wealth, the other 310 million splitting the remainder.

Though most Americans have experienced nothing of the “recovery” touted by the Obama administration, the extremely rich know different. The wealth level to gain admittance to the Forbes 400 club rose this year back to $1 billion—after falling last year to $950 million as the super-rich suffered, in their own particular way, the effects of the financial collapse of 2008.

Year-to-year changes aside, the 2010 list registers a longer-term accumulation of wealth that has been underway for three decades. When Forbes first published the Fortune 400 list in 1982, there were “only” 12 billionaires in the US, and the richest American, shipbuilding tycoon Daniel Ludwig, had net wealth estimated at $2 billion. Adjusting for inflation, Ludwig would wind up 58th on today’s list.

The richest individual in America for the 17th year in a row is Microsoft founder Bill Gates, with a personal fortune estimated at $54 billion ($24 billion in 1982 dollars, 12 times the value of Ludwig’s empire that year). Gates’s net worth is equivalent to the GDP of Sudan, population 42 million, and is about $7 billion more than the amount earmarked by the US government for the Education Department in the 2010 budget.

Gates is followed once again by Warren Buffett, net worth $45 billion. Buffett has made the list every year since 1982, when he had estimated resources of about $250 million. The intervening years have been good for the Omaha investment tycoon, his wealth increasing by a factor of 180.

As in other recent editions of the Forbes list, the virtual absence of billionaires whose fortunes are derived from manufacturing is striking. One exception is 85-year-old William Ford, Sr., whose net worth of $1 billion brought him back on the list for the first time in several years. Ford’s wealth increased largely as a result of wage-cutting at his eponymous motor company.

The list offers a glimpse at the socially malignant character of today’s ruling elite and its activities. The great majority of the Forbes 400 have derived their staggering fortunes through one or another type of financial operation, such as hedge funds, private equity firms, real estate, “technology” (mainly through bubble-driven Internet or software ventures), and retail empires.

To be sure, America has always had its “robber barons,” long associated with names like Vanderbilt, Carnegie and Rockefeller. Though they brutally oppressed their workers, their wealth was derived from the building up of enormous industrial empires. Today’s robber barons have instead made their fortunes from the destruction of industry and out-and-out financial swindling unconnected to any productive economic process.

The increased wealth of the Forbes 400 is further evidence that the social crisis—far from giving rise to redistributive or even vaguely reformist policies to alleviate the suffering of the great majority—is being used to further enrich the fabulously wealthy.

Tom Eley is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

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Social Inequality in America: 2009 income gap in the US highest on record
by David Walsh article link
September 29, 2010 | WSWS | Global Research
Global Research home page

Crony Capitalism: Wall Street’s Favorite Politicians
by Zach Carter article link
September 28, 2010 | AlterNet

Too Much: A Commentary on Excess and Inequality
Modest Tax on Billionaires Could Erase Budget Shortfalls of Every Single US State
The ten richest Americans on the new Forbes list carry, all by themselves, more than the inflation-adjusted net worth of the entire initial Forbes 400 list back in 1982
By Sam Pizzigati article link
September 28, 2010 | AlterNet
The Apex Press web page Books To Build Real Sustainable Democracy
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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Chris Hedges: Retribution For A World Lost In Screens

Retribution For A World Lost In Screens
By Chris Hedges article link article link
September 27, 2010 | TruthDig | CounterCurrents

Nemesis was the Greek goddess of retribution. She exacted divine punishment on arrogant mortals who believed they could defy the gods, turn themselves into objects of worship and build ruthless systems of power to control the world around them. The price of such hubris was almost always death.

Nemesis, related to the Greek word némein, means “to give what is due.” Our nemesis fast approaches. We will get what we are due. The staggering myopia of our corrupt political and economic elite, which plunder the nation’s wealth for financial speculation and endless war, the mass retreat of citizens into virtual hallucinations, the collapsing edifices around us, which include the ecosystem that sustains life, are ignored for a giddy self-worship. We stare into electronic screens just as Narcissus, besotted with his own reflection, stared into a pool of water until he wasted away and died.

We believe that because we have the capacity to wage war we have the right to wage war. We believe that money, rather than manufactured products and goods, is real. We believe in the myth of inevitable human moral and material progress. We believe that no matter how much damage we do to the Earth or our society, science and technology will save us. And as temperatures on the planet steadily rise, as droughts devastate cropland, as the bleaching of coral reefs threatens to wipe out 25 percent of all marine species, as countries such as Pakistan and Bangladesh succumb to severe flooding, as we poison our food, air and water, as we refuse to confront our addiction to fossil fuels and coal, as we dismantle our manufacturing base and plunge tens of millions of Americans into a permanent and desperate underclass, we flick on a screen and are entranced.

We confuse the electronic image, a reflection back to us of ourselves, with the divine. We gawk at “reality” television, which of course is contrived reality, reveling in being the viewer and the viewed. True reality is obliterated from our consciousness. It is the electronic image that informs and defines us. It is the image that gives us our identity. It is the image that tells us what is attainable in the vast cult of the self, what we should desire, what we should seek to become and who we are. It is the image that tricks us into thinking we have become powerful—as the popularity of video games built around the themes of violence and war illustrates—while we have become enslaved and impoverished by the corporate state. The electronic image leads us back to the worship of ourselves. It is idolatry. Reality is replaced with electronic mechanisms for preening self-presentation—the core of social networking sites such as Facebook—and the illusion of self-fulfillment and self-empowerment. And in a world unmoored from the real, from human limitations and human potential, we inevitably embrace superstition and magic. This is what the worship of images is about. We retreat into a dark and irrational fear born out of a cavernous ignorance of the real. We enter an age of technological barbarism.

To those entranced by images, the world is a vast stage on which they are called to enact their dreams. It is a world of constant action, stimulation and personal advancement. It is a world of thrills and momentary ecstasy. It is a world of ceaseless movement. It makes a fetish of competition. It is a world where commercial products and electronic images serve as a pseudo-therapy that caters to feelings of alienation, inadequacy and powerlessness. We may be locked in dead-end jobs, have no meaningful relationships and be confused about our identities, but we can blast our way to power holding a little control panel while looking for hours at a screen. We can ridicule the poor, the ignorant and the weak all day long on trash-talk shows and reality television shows. We are skillfully made to feel that we have a personal relationship, a false communion, with the famous—look at the outpouring of grief at the death of Princess Diana or Michael Jackson. We have never met those we adore. We know only their manufactured image. They appear to us on screens. They are not, at least to us, real people. And yet we worship and seek to emulate them.

In this state of cultural illusion any description of actual reality, because it does not consist of the happy talk that pollutes the airwaves from National Public Radio to Oprah, is dismissed as “negative” or “pessimistic.” The beleaguered Jeremiahs who momentarily stumble into our consciousness and in a desperate frenzy seek to warn us of our impending self-destruction are derided because they do not lay out easy formulas that permit us to drift back into fantasy. We tell ourselves they are overreacting. If reality is a bummer, and if there are no easy solutions, we don’t want to hear about it. The facts of economic and environmental collapse, now incontrovertible, cannot be discussed unless they are turned into joking banter or come accompanied with a neat, pleasing solution, the kind we are fed at the conclusion of the movies, electronic games, talk shows and sitcoms, the kind that dulls our minds into passive and empty receptacles. We have been conditioned by electronic hallucinations to expect happy talk. We demand it.

We confuse this happy talk with hope. But hope is not about a belief in progress. Hope is about protecting simple human decency and demanding justice. Hope is the belief, not necessarily grounded in the tangible, that those whose greed, stupidity and complacency have allowed us to be driven over a cliff shall one day be brought down. Hope is about existing in a perpetual state of rebellion, a constant antagonism to all centers of power. The great moral voices, George Orwell and Albert Camus being perhaps two of the finest examples, describe in moving detail the human suffering we ignore or excuse. They understand that the greatest instrument for moral good is the imagination. The ability to perceive the pain and suffering of another, to feel, as King Lear says, what wretches feel, is a more powerful social corrective than the shelves of turgid religious and philosophical treatises on human will. Those who change the world for the better, who offer us hope, have the capacity to make us step outside of ourselves and feel empathy.

A print-based culture, as writer Neil Postman pointed out, demands rationality. The sequential, propositional character of the written word fosters what Walter Ong calls the “analytic management of knowledge.” But our brave new world of images dispenses with these attributes because the images do not require them to be understood. Communication in the image-based culture is not about knowledge. It is about the corporate manipulation of emotions, something logic, order, nuance and context protect us against. Thinking, in short, is forbidden. Entertainment and spectacle have become the aim of all human endeavors, including politics, which is how Stephen Colbert, playing his television character, can be permitted to testify before the House Judiciary Committee. Campaigns are built around the manufactured personal narratives of candidates, who function as political celebrities, rather than policies or ideas. News reports have become soap operas and mini-dramas revolving around the latest celebrity scandal.

Colleges and universities, which view students as customers and suck obscene tuition payments and loans out of them with the tantalizing promise of high-paying corporate jobs, have transformed themselves into resorts and theme parks. In this new system of education almost no one fails. Students become “brothers” or “sisters” in the atavistic, tribal embrace of eating clubs, fraternities or sororities. School spirit and school branding is paramount. Campus security keeps these isolated enclaves of privilege secure. And 90,000-seat football stadiums, along with their millionaire coaches, dominate the campus. It is moral leprosy.

The role of knowledge and art, as the ancient Greeks understood, is to create ekstasis, which means standing outside one’s self to give our individual life and struggle meaning and perspective. The role of art and scholarship is to transform us as individuals, not entertain us as a group. It is to nurture this capacity for understanding and empathy. Art and scholarship allow us to see the underlying structures and assumptions used to manipulate and control us. And this is why art, like intellectual endeavor, is feared by the corporate elite as subversive. This is why corporations have used their money to deform universities into vocational schools that spit out blinkered and illiterate systems managers. This is why the humanities are withering away.

The vast stage of entertainment that envelops our culture is intended to impart the opposite of ekstasis. Mass entertainment plays to the basest and crudest instincts of the crowd. It conditions us to have the same aspirations and desires. It forces us to speak in the same dead clichés and slogans. It homogenizes human experience. It wallows in a cloying nostalgia and sentimentalism that foster historical amnesia. It turns the Other into a cartoon or a stereotype. It prohibits empathy because it prohibits understanding. It denies human singularity and uniqueness. It assures us that we all have within us the ability, talent or luck to become famous and rich. It forms us into a lowing and compliant herd. We have been conditioned to believe—defying all the great moral and philosophical writers from Socrates to Orwell—that the aim of life is not to understand but to be entertained. If we do not shake ourselves awake from our electronic hallucinations and defy the elites who are ruining the country and trashing the planet we will experience the awful and deadly retribution of the gods.

Copyright © 2010 Truthdig

Chris Hedges, whose column is published Mondays on Truthdig, spent nearly two decades as a foreign correspondent in Central America, the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. He has reported from more than 50 countries and has worked for The Christian Science Monitor, National Public Radio, The Dallas Morning News and The New York Times, for which he was a foreign correspondent for 15 years.

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Shamus Cooke: How Corporations Own Congress

How Corporations Own Congress
By Shamus Cooke article link
September 26, 2010 | Information Clearing House

With the November elections quickly approaching, the majority of Americans will be thinking one thing: "Who cares?” This apathy isn't due to ignorance, as some accuse. Rather, working people's disinterest in the two party system implies intelligence: millions of people understand that both the Democrats and Republicans will not represent their interests in Congress.

This begs the question: Whom does the two party system work for? The answer was recently given by the mainstream The New York Times, who gave the nation an insiders peek on how corporations "lobby" (buy) congressmen. The article explains how giant corporations — from Walmart to weapons manufacturers — are planning on shifting their hiring practices for lobbyists, from Democratic to Republican ex-congressmen in preparation for the Republicans gaining seats in the upcoming November elections:

Lobbyists, political consultants and recruiters all say that the going rate for Republicans — particularly current and former House staff members — has risen significantly in just the last few weeks, with salaries beginning at $300,000 and going as high as $1million for private sector [corporate lobbyist] positions. (September 9, 2010)

Congressmen who have recently retired make the perfect lobbyists: they still have good friends in Congress, with many of these friends owing them political favors; they have connections to foreign Presidents and Kings; and they also have celebrity status that gives good PR to the corporations.

Often, these congressmen have done favors for the corporation that is now hiring them, meaning, that the corporations are rewarding the congressmen for services rendered while in office, offering them million dollar lobbyist jobs (or seats on the corporate board of directors) that requires little to no work.

The same New York Times article revealed that the pay for 13,000 lobbyists [!] currently bribing Congress is a combined $3.5 billion. It was also explained how some lobbying firms keep an equal amount of Democrats and Republicans on hand, so they can be prepared for any eventuality in the elections.

This phenomenon is more than a little undemocratic: when millions of people vote for a candidate, the outcomes are quickly manipulated and controlled before the election even happens.

Interestingly, the corporate-directed Wall Street Journal wrote a similar article in 2008, as the Democrats had begun to dominate politics in Washington:

Washington's $3 billion lobbying industry has begun shedding Republican staffers [politicians], snapping up Democratic operatives [politicians] and entire firms, a shift that started even before Tuesday's ballots were counted and Democrat Barack Obama captured the presidency. (November 5, 2008)

This article was appropriately titled “Lobbyists Put Democrats Out Front as Winds Shift.”

The corporate money flows from party to party, so that the same goals are achieved: higher profits for corporations. The sums thrown at these politicians are mind boggling: the Associated Press reported that the corporate-orientated Chamber of Commerce spent "... nearly $190 million since Barack Obama became president in January 2009." (August 21, 2010)

These numbers explain the "deeper" differences between Democrats and Republicans — money. Each party is a machine that vies for power because this power carries with it vast sums of corporate money. The longer a party is in office and the more connections it makes, the more its net worth to corporations, the more that these rewards can be spread to the different layers of the party. There is indeed a real-life, nasty fight between the Republican and Democratic Parties to dominate this corporate money.

One "interest group" that ex-Congressmen don't work for is labor unions. Unions spend millions of dollars to help get Democrats elected, and millions more is spent trying to get their ear while they're in office.

But unions cannot out-spend the banks; and they can't offer millionaire retirement packages to retired Senators. The corporate retirement plans of Congressmen prove where their minds are while in office, and whose interests are being looked after.

Unions cannot continue to pretend that the Democrats are their "friends.” Labor has very little to show for this dysfunctional, decades-long friendship: union membership continues to shrivel as do jobs, wages and benefits for workers — a losing strategy if ever there was one.

A “lesser of two evils” approach to politics equals evil politicians for labor, no matter who wins. In fact, the lesser-evil Democrats have become increasingly evil over the years, to the point where the party as a whole is more Conservative than the Nixon-era Republicans.

The point has been reached where — in various states — Democratic governors are being endorsed by unions after promising to attack the wages and benefits of public workers!

To get out of this vicious, dead-end cycle, unions could unite their strength to form coalitions that promote independent labor candidates: 100 percent funded by labor to govern 100 percent in the interest of working people. All other roads lead back to the corporate lobbyists.

Shamus Cooke is a social service worker, trade unionist, and writer for Workers Action. He can be reached at

Information Clearing House home page


The Rejection Of God: The Power Of The State

The Rejection Of God: The Power Of The State

Now therefore hearken unto their voice: howbeit yet protest solemnly unto them, and shew them the manner of the king that shall reign over them.

1Sa 8:1 And it came to pass, when Samuel was old, that he made his sons judges over Israel.
1Sa 8:2 Now the name of his firstborn was Joel; and the name of his second, Abiah: [they were] judges in Beersheba. 1Sa 8:3 And his sons walked not in his ways, but turned aside after lucre, and took bribes, and perverted judgment. 1Sa 8:4 Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah, 1Sa 8:5 And said unto him, Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations. 1Sa 8:6 But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto the LORD. 1Sa 8:7 And the LORD said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them. 1Sa 8:8 According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt even unto this day, wherewith they have forsaken me, and served other gods, so do they also unto thee. 1Sa 8:9 Now therefore hearken unto their voice: howbeit yet protest solemnly unto them, and shew them the manner of the king that shall reign over them.

1Sa 8:10 And Samuel told all the words of the LORD unto the people that asked of him a king. 1Sa 8:11 And he said, This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: He will take your sons, and appoint [them] for himself, for his chariots, and [to be] his horsemen; and [some] shall run before his chariots. 1Sa 8:12 And he will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fifties; and [will set them] to ear his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and instruments of his chariots. 1Sa 8:13 And he will take your daughters [to be] confectionaries, and [to be] cooks, and [to be] bakers. 1Sa 8:14 And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, [even] the best [of them], and give [them] to his servants. 1Sa 8:15 And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants. 1Sa 8:16 And he will take your menservants, and your maidservants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put [them] to his work. 1Sa 8:17 He will take the tenth of your sheep: and ye shall be his servants. 1Sa 8:18 And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the LORD will not hear you in that day. 1Sa 8:19 Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, Nay; but we will have a king over us; 1Sa 8:20 That we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles. 1Sa 8:21 And Samuel heard all the words of the people, and he rehearsed them in the ears of the LORD. 1Sa 8:22 And the LORD said to Samuel, Hearken unto their voice, and make them a king. And Samuel said unto the men of Israel, Go ye every man unto his city.


Monday, September 27, 2010

Gary Houser: Nonviolent Resistance or Climate Hell

Nonviolent Resistance or Climate Hell
Climate and Mountaintop Activists Must Unite for a Better World
by Gary Houser article link
September 27, 2010 | CommonDreams

"The world's top climate scientists are now ringing the alarm bell at a deafening volume because the time to act has virtually passed, yet it is as if the frequency of the chime is beyond the threshold of human hearing". - Clive Hamilton (Professor of Public Ethics, Australian National University)

"Civil disobedience becomes a sacred duty when the State becomes lawless or, which is the same thing, corrupt.... Nonviolence is the greatest force at the disposal of humankind." - Mohandes Gandhi

As courageous activists from Appalachia prepare to confront a government seemingly held hostage by the inordinate wealth and influence of fossil fuel based corporations, there is a unique opportunity for alliances to be formed that can build a stronger and more empowered movement. Those same forces engaged in a military style bombing assault on the beautiful and biodiverse mountains of Appalachia now threaten the very foundation of life on earth through an assault on the atmosphere and climate systems that sustain us all. The same corporations rendered blind by their greed to the "collateral damage" known as mountaintop removal are equally oblivious to the climate Hell they are bringing to our planet.

Mountaintop Movement Shows the Way

Those who have travelled to Washington DC to take part in "Appalachia Rising" - the largest protest in history calling for the abolition of this abomination - represent a tremendous breath of fresh air. After years of trying to appeal to policy makers through lawful means, they understand the extent to which government has yielded to the power of the coal industry and have gained the clarity of vision to know that the struggle must now be taken to a higher level. Along with Gandhi and Martin Luther King, they recognize a time has come to put bodies on the line and engage in nonviolent resistance.

Co-opted and Pushed Off the Radar

Those who are working to prevent a climate catastrophe have much to learn from the gut level passion on display at this action. Mountaintop activists are to be praised for not becoming entangled with the mainstream "environmental" groups inside the Beltway that have been seduced into a cynical and disastrous culture of endless compromise and appeasement. With treasuries expanded by a willingness to refrain from confronting corporate power and adopt only the most mild and politically "safe" stances, groups like Environmental Defense Fund have stolen the limelight from genuine grassroots activists and presented themselves to the public as the "voice of environmental protection". With their much larger budgets, such groups have pushed the grassroots activists off of the media radar screen.

The Unique Challenge of Climate Activism

Although both grassroots movements fight a common foe, climate activists are also dealing with another significant challenge not faced by their mountaintop counterparts. The monumental planet-wide devastation that awaits humanity if these corporations are allowed to press the climate system beyond its tipping point is much more difficult to convey to the public. Although the signs of climate breakdown are already appearing, they are not as immediately tangible as images of explosions or moonscapes in West Virginia. What makes the climate threat so uniquely dangerous is that by the time the impacts are in full swing, the tipping point will already have been crossed and the breakdown of life support systems will escalate out of human control.

Already Approaching the Tipping Point

Scientists warn (pdf) that tipping points are already rapidly approaching. Loss of reflective ice is causing more heat to be absorbed by open water. Ocean acidification is threatening critical organisms in the food chain. Evidence is mounting that an ominous "methane time bomb" is being triggered.

Methane is a greenhouse gas 30 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. In seabeds off the Siberian coast, recent findings confirm that a substantial amount of formerly frozen methane is thawing and entering the atmosphere. According to a press release by the National Science Foundation: "Methane is leaking from the East Siberian Arctic Shelf into the atmosphere at an alarming rate ...... Release of even a fraction of the methane stored in the shelf could trigger abrupt climate warming."

Compounding this danger are two other factors. As it has already been established that the Arctic area is warming more quickly than the rest of the planet, this thawing is on track to only increase. Secondly, the release of frozen methane sets off a self-perpetuating cycle. The more the Arctic warms, the more methane that is released - which in turn accelerates the warming. A nightmare scenario feared by many tracking the climate emergency appears to be manifesting. (Two recent postings on Common Dreams provide further detail: here and here)

A "Doomsday Machine" That Cannot Be Stopped

What is clear for those brave enough to not stick their heads in the sand is that we are truly in an emergency. We are heading toward a level of suffering comparable to the worst plagues, mass starvation, and acts of genocide in human history. Though the level of devastation would be comparable to nuclear war, the prognosis for climate breakdown is actually worse. In the case of the former, there is always a hope that sane human leaders will refuse to launch the missiles. When climate tipping points are crossed, there is no such hope. The laws of physics take over and the process of ecosystem breakdown cannot be stopped. In essence, a climate "doomsday machine" is being launched that will operate on its own autonomous and inexorable timeline.

Humanity at a Crossroad

As the hourglass of humanity runs out, the people of the world have failed to mobilize on the level necessary to prevent catastrophe. While scientists remind us of the mass extinction of life already caused by previous climate disruptions, the great bulk of humanity appears to be deaf and proceeding with "business as usual". We stand at a crossroad. We must either recognize and confront the forces in our society driving the destruction and holding us in bondage, or the great experiment known as human civilization may well pass away from the earth.

Reclaiming the Moral High Ground

Three environmental networks that have not been captured by the appeasement culture of DC are Greenpeace,, and RAN. Recently, their leaders issued a joint statement calling for a strong increase in direct action in response to the collapse of climate legislation. They ask for ideas on how to facilitate this.

History is replete with inspiring examples of movements based on nonviolent resistance. Gandhi used the term "satyagraha" to describe the spiritual power that is emanated when people cling tenaciously to the truth and refuse to let go. Any study of the movements led by Gandhi and Martin Luther King will yield innumerable ways to apply this power.

Rousing examples are already being provided by grassroots activists in places like the UK and Australia. On the very day preceding the Appalachia Rising action, 45 activists associated with Rising Tide in Australia closed down the largest coal-loading port in the world. In England, large numbers have massed together in "climate camps" to become empowered by group camaraderie and a culture that supports activism, learn how to live sustainably, and nonviolently disrupt climate exchanges, banks, and "business as usual". A 10 minute video documents a climate camp "convergence" nonviolently blockading a street outside the European Climate Exchange in downtown London. This successful strategy begs to be imported into the U.S. A climate camp should be set up outside Washington DC in order to support a whole series of creative nonviolent actions next spring in the nation's capitol.

The public figure most associated with the climate issue - Al Gore - has already called for young people to commit civil disobedience in opposition to coal power plants. It would be only fair to challenge him to personally take part in that which he encourages others to do. If there was ever a time for Gore to break away from the failed attempt to "reason" and "reach a compromise" with the fossil fuel industry, it is now. It is way past time for him to truly provide leadership in responding to what he calls the "moral imperative" to act.

The Crucible Through Which Humanity Must Pass

The truth is that those of us living within industrial society have become seduced by the power which accrues from the burning of fossil fuels, and entrapped by the destructive consequences. We have created an entire social structure which bows at the altar of fossil fuel and have in essence entered into a massive "Faustian bargain" with the gods of oil and coal.

It is a time of testing, when our moral character must evolve and mature to a higher level, when we must pass through a spiritual crucible and emerge intact on the other side. It is a passing that will find us more whole and more healed as a result, and constitute a great advance for the human species. But if we fail to confront those forces that hold us in bondage, the doomsday clock already set into motion will run out and the destruction we have unleashed will overwhelm us.

Without a Vision, the People Will Perish

At a point when human survival itself is at stake, time rapidly running out, and powerful entrenched forces actively assisting the disintegration, there is an overwhelming need for clarity of vision in the formation of any movement capable of turning back such a juggernaut. Those entities that have positioned themselves to make enormous profit from our addiction will not yield their economic dominance voluntarily. There is a profound and urgent need for spiritual battle, and the most powerful tool we have is nonviolent resistance.

The leadership for this battle will not come from the mainstream supposedly "green" organizations. It will come from those in the grassroots who see the catastrophe approaching and who maintain a clear vision about what will be required to stop it. We must reach out and establish common ground with all whose eyes are open to this need. We must build a united movement that will earn the blessing of future generations rather than their curse.

Gary "Eladiah" Houser is a longtime practitioner of Gandhian nonviolence, author of several commentaries on tipping points, and an activist with Climate SOS dedicated to expanding the network of those prepared to increase the scale of nonviolent resistance. He can be reached at:

CommonDreams home page


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Bill Van Auken: Obama at the UN: The Arrogant Voice of Imperialism

Obama at the UN: The Arrogant Voice of Imperialism
by Bill Van Auken article link article link
September 25, 2010 | World Socialist Web Site | Global Research

President Barack Obama used his speech at the United Nations General Assembly Thursday to defend US wars and state terror abroad and to proclaim that the economic crisis has been resolved thanks to his Wall Street bailout.

The US president received a noticeably tepid response from the assembled UN delegates. While in his first address to the body last year, he was able to pose as a fresh alternative to the crimes carried out by the Bush administration, by now it has become clear to most on the international stage that his administration’s policies are largely in continuity with those of its predecessor.

In its tone and its content, the Obama speech was the authentic and arrogant voice of US imperialism.

Parroting remarks delivered by George W. Bush from the same podium, Obama began by invoking September 11, 2001, once again exploiting the terrorist attacks of that day to justify the acts of military aggression committed by both US administrations in the intervening nine years.

In the same breath, he referred to Wall Street’s financial meltdown of September 2008, as an event that “devastated American families on Main Street,” while “crippling markets and deferring the dreams of millions on every continent.”

These two events were presented as the source of the core challenges confronting the US administration. Supposedly in response to the first, the Obama administration has continued and escalated wars in Iraq and Afghanistan-Pakistan, while reaffirming Washington’s “right” to carry out unilateral military aggression anywhere on the planet.

In response to the second, the administration continued the massive bailout begun under Bush, committing more than $12 trillion to propping up the US banks and financial institutions, while holding none of those involved responsible for the criminal forms of speculation practiced on Wall Street.

Obama claimed that the so-called Wall Street reform legislation passed by his administration would ensure “that a crisis like this never happens again.” It does nothing of the kind, placing no serious limits on the speculative activities and profitability of the big banks and leaving Wall Street to continue with “business as usual.”

“The global economy has been pulled back from the brink of a depression,” Obama told his UN audience. This statement flies in the face of the grim conditions confronting working people on every continent. This includes the US itself, where the official unemployment rate remains near 10 percent, the unemployed and underemployed account for 17 percent of the workforce, some 30 million people, and one out of every seven Americans is living below the poverty line.

While profits have returned to pre-crisis levels, the reality is that none of the underlying contradictions that have given rise to the deepest world economic crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s has been resolved. They have only grown in intensity. The response of the ruling classes throughout the world has been to redouble their attacks on the working class in an attempt to force it to pay for this crisis.

Obama followed his assertion about the economy being pulled back from “the brink” with an even more absurd claim that he would not “rest until these seeds of progress grow into a broader prosperity, not only for all Americans, but for peoples around the globe.”

In the US, throughout Europe and in much of the rest of the world, governments are pursuing unprecedented austerity policies that are ripping up basic social rights and dramatically lowering the living standards of working people. Meanwhile, Obama himself spoke before a global poverty summit the day before his speech, warning the world’s poorest that Washington was determined to break their cycle of “dependency.”

The US president’s lies about the economy were followed by the fraudulent claim that the military operations his administration is pursuing abroad are aimed at upholding “our common security.”

Obama said that he is “winding down the war in Iraq” and will pull out all of its occupation troops by the end of next year. At the same time, he declared Washington’s intention to forge “a lasting partnership with the Iraqi people,” by which he means maintaining a US protectorate over the oil-rich country in order to advance the geo-strategic interests of American capitalism.

He said that the drawing down US troops in Iraq had allowed the US military to be “refocused on defeating al Qaeda and denying its affiliates a safe haven” in Afghanistan. This is another lie. US military and intelligence officials acknowledge that there are no more than 100 al Qaeda members in all of Afghanistan. The nearly 100,000 US troops deployed in that country are not combating “terrorism,” but asserting US neo-colonial control in a bid to advance Washington’s quest for hegemony in Central Asia.

In one of the speech’s more chilling passages, Obama bragged that “from South Asia to the Horn of Africa, we are moving toward a more targeted approach” in the war on terror, that did not require “deploying large American armies.” In other words, while constrained in its ability to carry out another major military occupation, US imperialism is pursuing its policies by means of assassinations, drone missile attacks and the deployment of elite killing squads, and has arrogated to itself the right to target and kill its perceived opponents anywhere on the planet.

Obama used the speech to once again threaten Iran. Only days before his appearance at the UN, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered a speech urging elements within the Iranian ruling elite to carry out regime change in the country. He reiterated the vow made in his speech last year that Iran “must be held accountable” for its alleged violations of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

At least a quarter of Obama’s address was dedicated to the US-brokered Israeli-Palestinian “peace talks” that appear to be on the brink of yet another breakdown in the face of Israeli intransigence and provocation.

For all the hackneyed rhetoric about the “Holy Land” and “our common humanity,” the Obama administration is pursuing these negotiations as a means of solidifying support among the Arab regimes for its escalating threats of aggression against Iran and to further its domination of the Middle East.

The content of the speech made clear the US administration’s unwavering complicity in Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people. Obama urged that a limited moratorium declared by the Israeli government be extended beyond September 26, when it is set to expire. He said Israel should do this because it “improved the atmosphere for talks,” not because the entire settlement activity in the Israeli-occupied West Bank is a violation of international law and multiple UN resolutions. In the same breath, the US president asserted that “talks should press on until completed,” presumably regardless of what Israel does.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has insisted that his government will not extend the moratorium, while Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas had initially insisted that his delegation would be forced to walk out if it does not. An ever-pliant servant of Washington, Abbas has since indicated that he might back down on this threat.

The rest of Obama’s remarks on the Israeli-Palestinian question had an Orwellian flavor, in which Israel was presented as the victim. “The slaughter of innocent Israelis is not resistance—it’s injustice,” Obama declared. He made no mention of the slaughter of 1,400 Palestinians in the US-backed siege of Gaza in 2008-2009 or the criminal attack on the Gaza aid flotilla that killed nine Turkish civilians last May. The day the US president spoke, the UN issued a report charging that Israel’s actions were illegal and employed an “unacceptable level of brutality,” meriting war crimes prosecution.

The US president concluded his speech with an exaltation of “democracy” and “human rights,” which again echoed similar language employed by his predecessor, George W. Bush.

In Bush’s case, this phony democratic rhetoric was employed to justify US imperialism’s drive for dominance in the Middle East, where Washington demonstrated its commitment to “human rights” by carrying out mass killings, the detention of tens of thousands without charges or trial, and the infamous acts of torture at Abu Ghraib, Bagram and Guantánamo.

In Obama’s case, the posturing as the global champion of democratic rights is no less contemptible. The target, however, appears to have shifted.

The Council on Foreign Relations, the establishment thinktank that enjoys close ties to the administration and the State Department, spelled this out. Noting Obama’s “full-throated endorsement of democracy as the best form of government,” it commented: “Yet the appeal of such an idea faces challenges at bodies like the UN. This is not, for example, the future world that Chinese leaders envision.”

Indeed, Obama followed his celebration of democracy by calling attention to his upcoming trip to Asia, ticking off the countries he will visit—India, Indonesia, Korea, Japan—and praising each for having promoted “democratic principles in their own way.” The itinerary includes the four largest countries that US strategists envision as bulwarks against the expansion of Chinese influence.

On the same day that Obama delivered his speech, the New York Times published a front-page article on the increasingly tense US-China relationship that was clearly based on the perspective of the US administration. The Times reported that “rising frictions between China and its neighbors in recent weeks over security issues have handed the United States an opportunity to reassert itself—one the Obama administration has been keen to take advantage of.”

It noted that Washington has inserted itself into territorial disputes between China and Southeast Asian countries, organized provocative joint military exercises with South Korea near Chinese waters and has solidified its alliance with Japan, largely in opposition to China’s influence.

Under conditions of rising conflicts between Washington and Beijing over currency and trade relations, Obama’s praise for “democracy” at the UN represents a thinly veiled threat of new and far more catastrophic eruptions of American militarism.

Bill Van Auken is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Global Research Articles by Bill Van Auken
World Socialist Web Site (WSWS) home page

The Collapse of Western Morality
by Paul Craig Roberts article link
September 23, 2010 | Global Research
Global Research home page

Black Man Lectures UN Delegates On White Imperialist Foreign Policy
A black American president, backed by Wall Street and serving its investment bankers in cowardly and murderous wars in various innocent Muslim nations, has the balls to lecture the General Assembly on morality.
By Jay Janson article link
September 24, 2010 | CounterCurrents
CounterCurrents home page


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Paul Craig Roberts: It Is Official: The US Is A Police State

It Is Official: The US Is A Police State
by Dr. Paul Craig Roberts article link
September 25, 2010 | Global Research

On September 24, Jason Ditz reported on that “the FBI is confirming that this morning they began a number of raids against the homes of antiwar activists in Illinois, Minneapolis, Michigan, and North Carolina, claiming that they are ‘seeking evidence relating to activities concerning the material support of terrorism.’”

Now we know what Homeland Security (sic) secretary Janet Napolitano meant when she said on September 10: “The old view that ‘if we fight the terrorists abroad, we won’t have to fight them here’ is just that--the old view.” The new view, Napolitano said, is “to counter violent extremism right here at home.”

“Violent extremism” is one of those undefined police state terms that will mean whatever the government wants it to mean. In this morning’s FBI’s foray into the homes of American citizens of conscience, it means antiwar activists, whose activities are equated with “the material support of terrorism,” just as conservatives equated Vietnam era anti-war protesters with giving material support to communism.

Anti-war activist Mick Kelly whose home was raided, sees the FBI raids as harassment to intimidate those who organize war protests. I wonder if Kelly is under-estimating the threat. The FBI’s own words clearly indicate that the federal police agency and the judges who signed the warrants do not regard antiwar protesters as Americans exercising their Constitutional rights, but as unpatriotic elements offering material support to terrorism.

“Material support” is another of those undefined police state terms. In this context the term means that Americans who fail to believe their government’s lies and instead protest its policies, are supporting their government’s declared enemies and, thus, are not exercising their civil liberties but committing treason.

As this initial FBI foray is a softening up move to get the public accustomed to the idea that the real terrorists are their fellow citizens here at home, Kelly will get off this time. But next time the FBI will find emails on his computer from a “terrorist group” set up by the CIA that will incriminate him. Under the practices put in place by the Bush and Obama regimes, and approved by corrupt federal judges, protesters who have been compromised by fake terrorist groups can be declared “enemy combatants” and sent off to Egypt, Poland, or some other corrupt American puppet state--Canada perhaps--to be tortured until confession is forthcoming that antiwar protesters and, indeed, every critic of the US government, are on Osama bin Laden’s payroll.

Almost every Republican and conservative and, indeed, the majority of Americans will fall for this, only to find, later, that it is subversive to complain that their Social Security was cut in the interest of the war against Iran or some other demonized entity, or that they couldn’t have a Medicare operation because the wars in Central Asia and South America required the money.

Americans are the most gullible people who ever existed. They tend to support the government instead of the Constitution, and almost every Republican and conservative regards civil liberty as a coddling device that encourages criminals and terrorists.

The US media, highly concentrated in violation of the American principle of a diverse and independent media, will lend its support to the witch hunts that will close down all protests and independent thought in the US over the next few years. As the Nazi leader Joseph Goebbels said, “think of the press as a great keyboard on which the Government can play.”

An American Police State was inevitable once Americans let “their” government get away with 9/11. Americans are too gullible, too uneducated, and too jingoistic to remain a free people. As another Nazi leader Herman Goering said, “ The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. Tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peace-makers for lack of patriotism and for exposing the country to danger.”

This is precisely what the Bush and Obama regimes have done. America, as people of my generation knew it, no longer exists.

Paul Craig Roberts is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Dr. Roberts was appointed Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury by President Ronald Reagan. He served in the Congressional Staff of the House and Senate. He was Associate Editor and Columnist for the Wall Street Journal, columnist for Business Week, the Scripps Howard News Service, Creators Syndicate, and for major newspapers in France and Italy. He was Senior Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, for 24 years and occupied the William E. Simon chair of Political Economy in the Center for Strategic and International Affairs, Georgetown University for 12 years. Dr. Roberts has also had academic appointments at Virginia Tech, Tulane University, University of New Mexico, and George Mason University. He was a member of Merton College, Oxford University, during 1963-65. In 1969 he presented a Special University Lecture to the faculty and student body of Oxford University. He was awarded the US Treasury’s Silver Medal in 1982 and the French Legion of Honor in 1987.

Global Research Articles by Paul Craig Roberts
Global Research home page


David Michael Green: The Dismantling of Civilized Society

The Dismantling of Civilized Society
by David Michael Green article link
September 25, 2010 | CommonDreams

How stupid are you?

I mean, let's just face it, shall we? That is precisely the question the right has been asking the American public for thirty years (and more) now. And that is the question the American public has been enthusiastically answering for the same period of time.

Like a crack junkie, in fact.

In the 1980s, Ronald Reagan presented America with a set of economic lies so transparent that even a monster like George H. W. Bush called them "voodoo economics". When he was contesting Reagan for the Republican nomination, that is. Once Bush had lost it, and when he wanted to be added to the ticket as the Vice Presidential nominee, everything became hunky dory, and no more voodoo critiques were uttered. That was one of the greatest acts of treason (I choose my words carefully) in American history.

But back to Reagan. "Watch this", he said. "I'm gonna slash taxes, especially for the rich, spend huge sums on ‘defense', and balance the budget at the same time".

Okay, so he wasn't a math major in college. Two out of three ain't bad, though, eh? Well, it is if you have to pay for his ‘mistakes', plus interest, as so many of us continue to do to this day. Prolly not a big problem, though. Even though Americans hate taxes with the passion of the truly infantile, I'm sure they don't mind working extra hours flipping burgers each week to pay for the enrichment of the previous generation of plutocrats and defense contractors. Right?

Or maybe it's just that their answer to the "How stupid" question is: "Very".

You might think that, because Reagan and Bush actually managed to quadruple the national debt with their little exercise in national folly. Or you might especially think that because Lil' Bush came along with the exact same snake oil a decade later. You had to be stupid to buy it the first time, but you had to have been really stupid to buy it the second time. We, of course, were.

And not just in terms of federal debt, either. A generation of Reaganomics has now succeeded in suspending ninety-eight percent of the country in standard-of-living formaldehyde, so that they felt zero effect whatsoever from the substantial growth in GDP over the last thirty years, and now those policies are cutting off their legs from underneath them altogether. All while the people of Reagan's class, of course, just piled on the riches. How stupid do you have to be to not notice who's diddling you?

Very, of course, but not necessarily as stupid as is maximally possible. ‘Cause, guess what? Here they come again. This week Republicans once again have issued a manifesto calling for slashing taxes on billionaires and cutting deficits, all at the same time. And once again they will win big electoral landslide victories in November despite that patent idiocy. Or perhaps because of it.

Why don't they just come out and do magic tricks, instead? Oh wait. That's their Jesus bit. Never mind.

On the one hand, I don't blame Americans for voting for the party that isn't the Democratic Party this fall. Obama and crew are miserable failures, as completely unable to provide meaningful solutions to the problems facing Americans today as they are inept at winning political fights against manifest criminals. Looking at the landscape in front of them as it appears to voters' blinkered vision, it makes perfect sense to desperately swing to the party not in government when the house is on fire and the party in government is showing up with squirt guns. What could be more logical? This is, indeed, the fundamental notion of ‘responsible government' itself, and it is at the core of democratic theory.

On the other hand, of course, there are two very excellent reasons why such a vote is completely idiotic. First, because there actually are more than two alternatives to choose from. I wish we had viable third parties in America but I don't normally advocate for them, given the massive systemic improbability of their success. That said, if there was ever a moment for which a third party vote was called for, this is it.

And second, because ‘the alternative' to the Democrats are the very folks who put us in these crises to start with, and they are now explicitly devoted to making conditions even worse for ordinary Americans. That's exactly what will happen, of course, and if you think the present moment is grim, wait until you see how much fun the next two years are gonna be. They're gonna look like the mangled and ferocious spawn of a tainted marriage between the Depression politics of the Hoover era, the sick depravity of McCarthyism, the relentless scandal-mongering of the Gingrich era, and the completely unmitigated greed of the Cheney years. Welcome to the dismantling of civilized society in America. Yes, yes, I know - it's quite arguable whether such a beast ever existed. Well, at least that's one debate we're about to put to rest definitively.

And we also know for sure of yet one more thing Ol' W was wrong about. Remember when he said: "There's an old saying in Tennessee - I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee - that says, fool me once, shame on - shame on you. Fool me - You can't get fooled again!"

He shoulda checked with Karl Rove and the rest of his party of predatory shucksters, who seem quite incapable of not constantly trying to fool the public. And he shoulda considered the ridiculous improbability of his own presidency before attempting to quote Pete Townshend. Not to mention the current moment. We know why the GOP has to lie, and does so compulsively. Even in contemporary America, surely the stupidest country on the planet, the homo sapiens are still sentient enough to opt out of the most overt cases of self-immolation. If kleptocratic Republicans told the truth, who in the world would ever vote for them, other than the richest two percent of Americans?

The bigger mystery is why people continue to fall for this crap over and over. This is the "shame on me" concept that Dauphin George was reaching for but couldn't quite grasp (too bad he didn't actually, er, study, when he was at Yale). How many times can fools be told the same foolish line and be fooled into foolishly falling for it, like a pack of so many fools?

It would appear that for Americans, at least, there is no limit, based on the contents of the Republicans' just released "Pledge to America" manifesto, which I could have drafted for them, so predictable is its contents. There is of course, loads of debauchery and rampant destruction in there, dressed up as piety and patriotism. But the fiscal insanity is the most egregious. Can they really pledge the old voodoo economics once again - slashing tax revenue while simultaneously cutting deficits - and get away with it? Yes they can, and yes they have.

Perhaps their lies are more plausible because they have promised to cut spending. It's just that there are two little caveats they hope you won't notice. First, that they somehow miraculously fail to specify in advance of the election what they intend to cut. Gee, I wonder why that is? Could it be that if people knew what those cuts would be they would be aghast? Or could it be - and this brings us to the other small footnote - that what they are proposing is to mathematics what a dropped object falling upward would be to physics?

As Paul Krugman notes, the Republican Pledge claims that "everything must be cut, in ways not specified - ‘except for common-sense exceptions for seniors, veterans, and our troops.' In other words, Social Security, Medicare and the defense budget are off-limits. [Krugman should have also mentioned service to the existing debt, which is one of the biggest single items in the federal budget today, and absolutely cannot be touched.] So what's left? Howard Gleckman of the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center has done the math. As he points out, the only way to balance the budget by 2020, while simultaneously (a) making the Bush tax cuts permanent and (b) protecting all the programs Republicans say they won't cut, is to completely abolish the rest of the federal government: ‘No more national parks, no more Small Business Administration loans, no more export subsidies, no more N.I.H. No more Medicaid (one-third of its budget pays for long-term care for our parents and others with disabilities). No more child health or child nutrition programs. No more highway construction. No more homeland security. Oh, and no more Congress.'"

And yet - of course - poll data shows that the folks purveying this heap of garbage are about to be swept into office. Meanwhile, city governments are folding their tents across America, slashing all their services entirely, and the GOP is nominating former witches, anti-masturbators, racists, wrestling promoters and every other form of personal screw-up and jive con-artist to be found everywhere killers and thieves congregate.

I'm sorry, but surveying the landscape, it just feels so over now in America. We seem like little more than a popped balloon, with only the faux blustering fart noises of rapid deflation remaining where once there was an empire and once there were truly revolutionary and truly valuable ideas.

It's no accident, either, that the near-complete obsession of the tea party right and their followers is taxes. It's naked greed, it's more infantile than the politics of a kindergarten sandbox, and it's as corrosive as can be. Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote "Taxes are what we pay for civilized society". He meant it, too. When he died, he donated his estate to the US government.

What is happening to America today is nothing short of the dismantling of such civilized society. Does anyone think the country is economically better off today than in the 1950s or 1960s? Does anyone seriously think that the Millennial Generation will be better off than their parents? Would anyone seriously bet on America today, as an economic comer? Does anyone think that the next hundred years will be the American century?

There is so much tragedy to this story that it is hard to know where to start. Perhaps the greatest ugliness of the whole affair is the self-inflicted nature of our demise, and, therefore, the complete lack of necessity for all the pain and suffering already endured and the vastly greater amounts still to come. It never had to be this way, which just makes it all the more pathetic.

If there is any silver lining here it is that the hooligans of the right will manifestly fail at governing, which at least opens up the potential for them to be rejected once again.

I will be interested - as a political scientist, not as a citizen - to see what sort of budget proposal Republicans will pass out of the House once they control it. Like Reagan and Bush before them, their numbers cannot possibly jibe. Unlike Reagan and Bush, however, they will have far less luxury to resort to the shell game of grossly irresponsible deficits as a way out of their own lies, having made deficit reduction so overtly the centerpiece of their campaign this year. The freaks of the tea party right don't seem so likely to let them off the hook for another round of campaign lies as they were the last two times out. How's that for an irony? The only prospect of real accountability for these monsters would be coming from the monsters of their own constituency.

But, assuming the GOP can find a way around that problem (perhaps by proposing a draconian pretend budget that they know could never be accepted by congressional Democrats or Obama?), I would expect them to prevail again in 2012. Unless the jobs picture changes radically in 2011 - and no economist that I know of is predicting that - Obama is complete toast. Indeed, he is probably so wounded that we might expect a Democrat or two to challenge him in the primaries for the nomination. Doesn't matter, though. Either way, whoever the Republicans nominate will be the next president.

Which is where I start to get real nervous. Governments that combine a commitment to holding power at all costs with a total absence of real policy solutions and an amoral willingness to do anything to serve their true aspirations are a truly scary prospect. History suggests that the years after 2012 could be the ones during which the wheels finally came off the wagon of what is left of American democracy.

But it could be far worse than that, too, for us and for others. The prospect of a hugely powerful empire lashing out at the rest of the world - whether in rage or seeking domestic diversion - is not a pretty one at all. The Soviet superpower was kind enough to implode rather innocuously. I'm not at all convinced that we yanks would be quite so gracious about doing the same.

I remain haunted to this day by the words of John le Carré, written on the eve of the Bush invasion of Iraq: "America has entered one of its periods of historical madness, but this is the worst I can remember: worse than McCarthyism, worse than the Bay of Pigs and in the long term potentially more disastrous than the Vietnam War".

Sadly, I think he had everything right in his assessment, save for the word "periods". That term implies a temporariness to our condition that might at least make it somehow barely tolerable.

But what if it only gets worse from here?

And let's be honest. Given the nature of the Republicans, the Democrats, the media and the public in America today, how does it not?

© 2010

David Michael Green is a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York. He is delighted to receive readers' reactions to his articles (, but regrets that time constraints do not always allow him to respond. More of his work can be found at his website, The Regressive Antidote.

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Thomas C. Mountain: Hush Money For Human Rights Watch?

Hush Money For HRW? George Soros And The $100 Million “Gift”
By Thomas C. Mountain article link
September 24, 2010 | CounterCurrents

George Soros is a shrewd, ruthless, billionaire Western businessman. Heavy hitters like him just do not give away large sums of money, in this case, $100 million dollars to Human Rights Watch, out of the goodness of their hearts.

In some circles George Soros is considered to be a financial terrorist, who counts among his latest victims the PIGS family, as in Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain. In the shadowy world of 21st Century finance, George Soros and his ilk can bring nations such as the PIGS to the brink of collapse, with their populations seeing their jobs, pensions and medical care disappearing into the offshore accounts of Soros and his fellow money mongers. This, of course, is nothing new, for Soros has been destabilizing and carrying out regime change for decades going back to his financial attacks on the Malaysian government for having the temerity, for amongst other things, to criticize Israel.

Far more sinister than the financial terror wreaked upon the world by Soros is the political havoc that he has caused under the guise of “democratic elections”. B,R or S its called, buy, rig or steal, George Soros has done it all. Under the code names of the “Orange Revolution”, the “Rose Revolution” and just plain “Unnoticed Revolutions” a long series of electoral coup d’etats have been carried out with the financial support of George Soros, all to often in close cooperation with the CIA.

One of his favorite targets has been the former Soviet Union states, though his electoral crime sprees aren't limited to such.

A sovereign nation such as Norway, even if it has troops in Afghanistan, has much less blood on its hands than the likes of George Soros.

So why does HRW take his filthy lucre, all $100 million worth? To start with, HRW isn't the only human rights group or non governmental organization to do so. For decades now George Soros has been spreading the loot around, buying good will and keeping the inevitable criticism muted or when impossible to silence, feeble and short lived.

All one has to do is go back over the history of George Soros involvement in political crimes and misdemeanors and you will find a serious hush falls over HRW’s coverage of the events.

Can anyone find any serious example of HRW every calling Soros out for his dirty deeds? Or Amnesty International for that matter?

For someone like George Soros, whose wealth puts him far above most of the nations in the world, $100 million tax deductible dollars is a cheap price to pay for a very effective peace of good public relations, and with the connivance of the corporate media in the west, hush money well spent.

Thomas C. Mountain
Asmara, Eritrea

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Friday, September 24, 2010

Ben Dandelion: Howard Zinn's Last Testament to the Immorality of War

Howard Zinn's Last Testament to the Immorality of War
by Ben Dandelion article link article link
September 23, 2010 | The Guardian/UK | CommonDreams

Howard Zinn died this year. He is perhaps best known for his People's History of the United States, a book that has featured in The Simpsons and was recommended by Matt Damon's character in the film Good Will Hunting. This book, which offered a view of US history in terms of 500 years of imperialism, colonisation and racism, was less well received academically, with critics calling it polemical and revisionist. Zinn ultimately was an activist and it shone through his academic work as well as his more political essays.

Delivered to the publisher one month before his death, The Bomb falls into the latter category. In it, Zinn puts two essays side by side, one entitled "Hiroshima, breaking the silence", the other "The bombing of Royan". As a young man eager to be demobbed, Zinn recalls celebrating the dropping of the atomic bomb; it meant the end of a war he did not wish to return to. He had taken part in the bombing of the French town of Royan just three months earlier. The essays revisit that unthinking celebration and desire to follow orders of those months in 1945. Using historical evidence, it also argues that neither mission was necessary and asks what prompted military action that would transcended military logic and moral sensibilities.

Like Zinn, I have changed my mind over the need and glory of war. Leaving Quaker school at 17, I wanted to be a fighter pilot. But travelling the world on my bicycle, I came to the same realisation as Zinn - that there is no "them", but only a global "us". I will gladly say that changing one's mind is not and should not be seen as a sign of weakness, as it so often is for politicians, but of creative reflection. Of course, now that I am a committed pacifist, I hope the changes people make follow the same direction as Zinn and me rather than the other way round - from pacifist to militarist.

However, Zinn is also involved in arguments more complex than a simple pacifist one. He is critical of portrayals of any portion of humanity as "lesser" and rightly points out that only by dehumanising the enemy could strategies such as blanket bombing or the dropping of atomic bombs be perceived as possible by people who also saw themselves as moral. I remember an analysis of the media by the sociologist Christie Davies which explained how humanity could at any point be counted as identified humans, nameless members of a group or statistics, and that their moral status shifted within press coverage depending on the degree of humanity ascribed to them. "Eighteen die in bus crash" constructs the dead as a statistic. So it is with war, where "the enemy" is dehumanised or even demonised to the point where killing them is not perceived as murder, and where there are no longer "innocent" victims, just "dead enemies".

This is a conscious process of state and media which can be seen in the censorship of films documenting the effects of the atomic bombs in the years following the war. Zinn implicitly argues that if we place ourselves into that "enemy" situation and cannot justify the military action proposed, then we are morally at fault. This may end up as a kind of pacifism, but it is one which takes critics on in different ways and asks more pointedly for each proposed action to be examined in a globalising moral light.

In these particular cases - especially the destruction of Royan, which was actually inhabited by allies rather than enemies, Zinn argues that motives of military pride, experimentation of new technology (napalm was used for the first time at Royan) and the desire for revenge outweighed the facts that none of it was strategically necessary - the port was a sideshow which posed no threat to the rapid advance of the allies towards Berlin in June 1945.

That said, the very "evils" that the war was meant to defeat was implicit in the actions of the allies. All of the allied powers had records of colonisation and all had previously invaded other countries for their own good, as they then complained of Germany or Japan doing. All defended their empires against independence movements in the years following 1945. All ultimately carried out military action that killed thousands and thousands of civilians. Blanket bombing in Dresden was described by Churchill as a "heavy raid". At the time, racism in the US underpinned the social system as much as it fuelled the rhetoric to go to war against Japan and Germany. In this sense too, less happily, "they" were actually just like "us". Yet, the rhetoric of war relies on "them" being seen as lesser.

The Bomb is not an easy book to read in places, given the accounts of the suffering inflicted by the bombings. It is one that will infuriate many. Some will resist its historical analysis, some its collage of arguments in its favour, and some will say Zinn just didn't understand the true nature of the decisions that had to be (and still are) made. What he shows however, is the divide between those in the corridors of power, and those of us who do not really know what is going on and only have their polemic of the necessity of war to go on.

Unfortunately, Zinn's book remains timely and crucial. As a last testimony to a life of scholarship and activism, it serves us well to take his writing seriously.

© 2010 Guardian News and Media Limited

Ben Dandelion is honorary professor in Quaker Studies, university of Birmingham

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