9/30/10

I Don't Believe Myself

Source

To rouse you takes time. I realize that. I've got to hold you here long enough. We could be on the edge of. You don't want to leave when it's becoming. We'll coast until the capsized moment.

Meanwhile, the rate of erosion. Don't expect me to be precise. I know you don't get it. That's the point. I'm not an easy digest. I've got nothing more to say on purpose. I know it's hard to swallow. I don't believe myself.

The Self As a Brand

Source

The attitude of “work sucks, get over it” is an ideological position, not a statement of fact. It’s an example of the way capitalist ideology shapes what appears to be realistic and what registers as slacker daydreaming.

The ideology establishes the range of expectations for working life and normalizing the idea that work should be personally nonproductive. The effort in work is to forward somebody else’s ideas in return for cash, or it’s not “real” work.

Authenticity, as a result of that prevailing ideology about work, takes on a compensatory function in the sphere of consumption—once the private sphere, but no longer.

It becomes a code word for the process of self-making within the “empty work/frantic consumerism” dialectic.

We suspend our real self while we work, but are then empowered through cash to elaborate that self in leisure time.

That typically means buying products and experiences from the cultural-industrial complex and immersing oneself in consumerism’s code rather than diving into some interior possibilities latent or dormant in one’s own intrinsic make-up.

I sometimes subscribe to the idea that engaging in meaningful work within a clearly delimited community as an ongoing practice is the only way to tap into something that could be called the “real self” or “species being.”

But that only defers the question of what defines “meaningful” and “community” and so on.

Anyway, consumerism thrives on atomized individuals who neglect collective identity and chase an unbounded authenticity through serial purchases and collecting as opposed to letting go of the authenticity ideal in favor of something more like flow, self-confidence through collaborative doing.

I don’t know. I’m troubled by the thought that the insecurity about identity seems to be addressed in our society through building a durable personal brand.

We use the strategies adopted from ubiquitous marketing and self-broadcasting tools. Seeking authenticity now means, more than anything else, developing a strong personal brand.

But what is the product we are branding? Bare life? What market are we after a share of?

My problem with that isn’t that the personal brand is inauthentic. It just seems subject to kinds of evaluation and tracking and manipulation that corrodes human dignity.

It rests in the myth that there is something ineffable and inexpressible about all of us that only comes out when we are in the process of doing something for people.

America's Perpetual War Syndrome

Source

After the murderous rampage of U.S. soldiers from the 5th Stryker Combat Brigade who killed and dismembered Afghani civilians, evidently “for sport,” Army officials didn't disclose a motive for the outrage. Let me try.

These soldiers lost it because they were put into a war that should never have been fought. Why is the US in Afghanistan in the first place? To wipe out al Qaeda? A few dozen guerrillas requires invasion and occupation by 130,000 troops?

Surely, it's not necessary to destroy the entire Taliban movement – assuming that military force could accomplish such a thing – to capture Osama bin Laden (which, of course, has not happened anyway).

But to get the final answer, we have to step back yet again. We have to recognize that there is such a thing as moral progress.

Slavery was considered normal from the earliest records of history down to the nineteenth century of our era, when a small band of Quakers in London started a movement that broke the spell and suddenly brought to light the horror of enslaving another human being.

Slavery still happens, but that’s because of other factors; it was formally abolished in the nineteenth century because the time was right for people to wake up and stop looking on a whole race of human beings as objects, as possessions.

Today we have reached a similar crisis with the institution of war. Despite appearances, people are becoming more aware that we cannot solve problems by waging war on them.

If you are not aware that this is happening, you are not alone. Watch any news or “entertainment” program and you’ll see that competition, violence, and war are still considered “normal.” It’s rare to spot nonviolent alternative methods, since they are so rarely featured in mainstream media.

It's significant that a good number of the troubled veterans aren't suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), exactly, but a variant recently uncovered by psychologist Rachel McNair that she calls PITS: Perpetration Induced Traumatic Stress.

Simply put, when we do violence against others we are in some psychological way hurting ourselves – and that pain is becoming more evident as the patina of glory surrounding war wears off.

Coping with the brutality of war has led to drug and alcohol abuse in the ranks, along with the associated misdemeanor offenses. These have risen alarmingly in the nine-year course of the Afghan war.

Sexual assault tripled in the period 2001-2009, as has suicide. There were 148 Army suicides in the first six months of this year and the toll is expected to surpass last year’s grim total of 160.

One brigade commander correctly pointed out that the above problems are “just a symptom of the disease." But the name of the disease is not dysfunctional leaders or lax discipline or a particular conflict that should not have been fought. It’s war.

9/29/10

Economic Crises & the Rise of the Far Right

Source

Economic crises, you would think, would provide opportunities to transcend the capitalist system.

At these times the system’s problems are encountered the most acutely and therefore the motivation to overcome them ought to be greatest.

But crises paradoxically have often led to the rise of far right parties and anti-immigrant sentiment. The reason why is two-fold: The far right’s seemingly plausible explanation for the insecurity many people are forced to bear; and the left.

When the left provides a compelling alternative explanation and mobilises mass energy around it and thereby threatens to take power, charismatic far right leaders are provided with money to rally public support for a nationalist cause and vie with the left for power.

When the left fails to offer a compelling alternative explanation, the far right movement remains limited, poorly organised, and largely spontaneous; it’s not needed to protect the system from challenge, and so is left in its inchoate state.

The far right isn’t pressed into service and built up as a major force unless the left is strong.

The dominant left response to the recent rise of xenophobic sentiment has been moral indignation and anti-racism demonstrations, a strategy that possibly owes more to satisfying the psychological needs of the practitioners than concern over efficacy.

It fails to attack the root cause of the disease, trying to suppress the symptoms instead.

Campaigns of anti-racism offer their practitioners cathartic opportunities to express moral righteousness (which may be the underlying motivation for carrying them out), but their effectiveness is questionable unless accompanied by an assault on the root causes.

The recent wave of anti-immigrant sentiment didn’t arise in a vacuum. Its momentum comes from economic crisis.

If one wants to mobilise the energy that far-right explanations attract, a credible solution must be offered to the critical underlying problem: economic insecurity.

Against the far-right’s explanation that immigration is the cause of joblessness, the left could point out that insecurity is caused by the failure — indeed refusal — of capitalism to offer secure employment to all.

That the solution is to transcend the capitalist system. Where it has been transcended in the past, secure employment has been made available to all, along with guaranteed health care, security in old age, subsidised housing, free education, and a raft of other mass-oriented reforms.

Facebook's Zuckerberg's Charity Handout

Source

The donation of $100 million by Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg to the Newark school system is a small episode that reveals something fundamental about American society.

The move, lauded uncritically by the American media, embodies and further enshrines the principle that has come to prevail in the US in recent years.

If the population is to have access to education, culture and technology, indispensable for life in a modern society, it will be at the whim of the very rich.

Any conception of social rights residing inalienably in the people is rejected by the ruling elite and its political and media apologists.

This is, in effect, the return of the aristocratic principle. Under the old regime, the population was essentially at the mercy of the great ones in society, who bestowed—or did not bestow—favors and gifts as they saw fit.

The availability of decent public schools, public libraries, orchestras and other cultural and educational institutions is more and more reduced to the level of a privilege, which the financial elite can provide or not, as it chooses.

The wealthy few buy and sell, set up or close down, these socially vital services according to their financial health and individual mindset.

The population is encouraged by the media and the political system to look on these billionaire benefactors as heroes, as their superiors in every fashion, to whom deference should and must be shown.

The rich giving away a share of their ill-gotten gains has an infamous and odorous history. Various Robber Barons contributed considerable sums to good works, depending on their piety and concerns about the afterlife.

John D. Rockefeller, who had miners and their families shot down in Colorado, handed out dimes to the poor.

Frederick Engels long ago denounced the wealthy, “self-complacent” philanthropists who “give back to the plundered victims the hundredth part of what belongs to them!”

Charity is degrading to those who receive it and those who bestow it. It inevitably demands that the oppressed feel gratitude toward their oppressors, and generally encourages slavishness.

The philanthropists’ “remedies,” as Oscar Wilde pointed out, “do not cure the disease: they merely prolong it. Indeed, their remedies are part of the disease.”

Whatever Happened to Angry Leftists?

Source

Poll ratings show approval levels for the major political hucksters, meaning the President, Congress, each of the two major parties, at levels so low as to be tantamount to loathing.

But while the Tea Party has become a force to be reckoned with by tapping into this wellspring of discontent, those on the left who are unhappy with the lump of coal the Administration and the Democratic party have put in their stocking have no outlet.

Why has this happened?. In the stoneage of my youth, the left was a force to be reckoned with. Think of the street fighting of the 1960s. Riots, demonstrations, the SDS, the Weather Underground, to name a few.

In fact angry left were so feared it led to the concerted right-wing push that started in the 1970s in response to the hard left.

The young used to be a reliable source of idealism and willingness to break china. Today young people are worried about survival (aka getting a job) and up to their eyeballs in school debt, which they can’t discharge even in bankruptcy.

School loans in particular seem an almost Machiavellian device for forcing students into bourgeois conformity. And we have Obama’s strategy which penned in key groups on the progressive flank.

As for the privileged young. They're too busy updating their Facebook pages and twittering on about celebrities to care about political change.

It might even be plausible to attribute the complacency (or maybe sullen resignation) of what passes for the left to Prozac use or decadent individualism.

Why has no movement emerged on the left to channel the considerable disappointment and anger of progressives? Are they too soft-centered ? Have they succumbed to Capitalist conditioning, now believing in TINA [There Is No Alternative]?

9/28/10

Would We Survive If It Weren't For?

Source

We need a transitional phenomenon to get us from psychic to external reality. A means of transportation. Would it work if you pretended too? No doubt. I want to disturb you.

Is there a cause worth evacuating for? I see where the fault lies. You're not concentrated enough. Osmotically speaking, we're made for each other. Would we survive it it weren't for?

Capitalist Conditioning & Mass Entertainment

Source

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. But we have become enslaved and impoverished by the power of capitalism to numb us. 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.

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.

Republican Philosophy: Survival of the Richest

Source

Republicans want to shrink government, cut the federal deficit, reduce the national debt, and balance the budget. Central to this would be slashing social security. The basic idea is force people to live with the consequences of whatever happens to them.

Their philosophy seems to be one where only the fittest should survive, and any effort to save the less fit will undermine the moral fiber of society.

Of course Republicans don’t talk openly about destroying Social Security, because it’s so popular. The new Republican “pledge” promises only to put it on a “fiscally responsible footing.” Translated: we’ll privatize it.

Social insurance is fundamental to a civil society. It’s also good economics because it puts money in peoples’ pockets who then turn around and buy the things that others produce, thereby keeping those others in jobs.

We’ve fallen into the bad habit of calling these programs “entitlements,” which sounds morally suspect – as if a more responsible public wouldn’t depend on them.

If the this Recession has taught us anything, it should be that anyone can take a fall through no fault of their own.

Republicans want to cut the deficit and balance the budget at a time when a large portion of the workforce is idle.

This defies economic logic. When consumers aren’t spending, businesses aren’t investing and exports can’t possibly fill the gap, and when state governments are slashing their budgets, the federal government has to spend more.

Otherwise, the Great Recession will turn into a seemingly endless Great Depression.

It’s also cruel. Cutting the deficit and balancing the budget any time soon will subject tens of millions of American families to unnecessary hardship and throw even more into poverty.

Mass Unemployment Needs 'Socialist' Intervention to Jump-Start the Economy

Source

What can be done about mass unemployment? All the wise heads agree: there are no quick or easy answers.

There is work to be done, but workers aren’t ready to do it. They’re in the wrong places, or they have the wrong skills. Our problems are “structural,” and will take many years to solve.

But don’t bother asking for evidence that justifies this bleak view. There isn’t any. On the contrary, all the facts suggest that high unemployment in America is the result of inadequate demand — full stop.

Saying that there are no easy answers sounds wise, but it’s actually foolish: our unemployment crisis could be cured very quickly if we had the intellectual clarity and political will to act.

In other words, structural unemployment is a fake problem, which mainly serves as an excuse for not pursuing real solutions.

Why, then, has this claim become so popular?

Part of the answer is that this is what always happens during periods of high unemployment — in part because pundits and analysts believe that declaring the problem deeply rooted, with no easy answers, makes them sound serious.

I’ve been looking at what self-proclaimed experts were saying about unemployment during the Great Depression; it was almost identical to what Very Serious People are saying now.

Unemployment cannot be brought down rapidly, declared one 1935 analysis, because the work force is “unadaptable and untrained. It cannot respond to the opportunities which industry may offer.”

A few years later, a large defense buildup finally provided a fiscal stimulus adequate to the economy’s needs — and suddenly industry was eager to employ those “unadaptable and untrained” workers.

But now, as then, powerful forces are ideologically opposed to the whole idea of government action on a sufficient scale to jump-start the economy.

And that, fundamentally, is why claims that we face huge structural problems have been proliferating: they offer a reason to do nothing about the mass unemployment that is crippling our economy and our society.

So what you need to know is that there is no evidence whatsoever to back these claims. We aren’t suffering from a shortage of needed skills. We’re suffering from a lack of policy resolve.

Structural unemployment isn’t a real problem, it’s an excuse — a reason not to act on America’s problems at a time when action is desperately needed.

21st Century Enlightenment: The Death of Individualism

Source

The 18th-century enlightenment concept of the individual self is running out of steam and a new paradigm of human nature is emerging.

Our sense of being separate, autonomous beings each with our own distinct, self-authored identity is melting away.

That we should strive to become islands of free-floating individuals, each absolutely responsible for our own destiny and journey through life, now seems impossible and even undesirable.

We understand that we're the products of both nature and nurture. The enlightenment idea of a world of self-interested individuals, impermeable to hands and ideas that would nurture us seems dystopian now.

Freedom – the grand unifying cause of our modern democratic societies – hasn't been realized by having an ever-expanding array of personal lifestyle and product choices. And progress is not advanced by the constant expansion of those choices.

As we witness the destruction leveled against people and nature in the name of personal gain, our lives lived within our current consumer capitalist paradigm feel increasingly hollow. We see more mental health problems and suicides than ever before. And the Earth bears horrible wounds of our egocentric greed.

Community – not more individual freedom – is what we now crave. And what is emerging from this craving is a convincing new account of what it means to be human and live a good life: a new paradigm of human nature that reconnects us to each other and the natural world.

We are standing on the verge of a 21st-century enlightenment.

The rebirth of the political left will depend on how well we can incorporate the new, 21st-century enlightenment paradigm of human nature into our narratives, agendas and visions of the future.

UK: Labour Elects New Left-Leaning Leader

Source

Ed Miliband's election as Labour leader is important, less for his personal qualities than for the defeat suffered by the new Labour zealots behind his brother David.

Following Ken Livingstone's sweeping victory over Oona King in the campaign to be Labour's London mayoral candidate, it illustrates the potential for turning Labour away from neoliberalism and wars.

Nothing is set in stone. The new leader will come under a great deal of pressure and much will depend on which forces he listens to.

The Tories and right-wing media are already playing Ed Miliband up as Red Ed, which, as he himself recognises, is rubbish.

The aims of this spurious campaign are twofold - to persuade the electorate that Labour has lurched to the left and to frighten Miliband into denouncing his supporters in the unions and backing a bankers' agenda rather than looking to win back Labour's five million lost working-class voters.

New Labour true believers in Parliament will do all they can to nullify any real change offered by Miliband's electoral upset.

They had wanted his brother to romp home to minimise any political change in the party and even now their demand that David Miliband be given the shadow chancellorship rather than Ed Balls is an attempt to freeze Labour in its new Labour image.

Balls, who was backed by both Livingstone and the Communication Workers Union in the leadership election, put forward a number of policy positions in advance of those followed by Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling in government.

These included making the current temporary 50p tax rate permanent and lowering its threshold to £100,000, investing billions in building new social housing and reinstating the Building Schools for the Future programme.

Does this constitute a socialist programme or a detailed and coherent body of policies to transfer wealth and power from rich to poor?

Of course not, but it would indicate an important step away from new Labour neoliberal orthodoxy towards the possibility of embracing the outlook for greater social justice.

9/27/10

His Author's Voice

Source

Is there an opening for an oracle? How do we know you're one? I've been authorized to say this. I'm in fact a fiction. His author's voice.

I'm on the make-believe. You really think you are. Don't assume I've abandoned hope. I'm trying to get across to you.

The Tea Partiers Are Conditioned to Blame 'Big Government' Not Capitalism

Source

You only need to look at the recent goings-on in France to see a striking contrast between America and Europe.

With average unemployment stuck around 10 percent in the European Union, French workers recently gave an excellent example of traditional working-class fury, protesting the conservative government’s plan to increase the retirement age by two years, from 60 to 62.

Here in the United States, by contrast, where, for the first time in years, unemployment has gone up to French-like levels.

Yet the biggest and best-organized protest movement, the one that sends the rage meter to the top of the scale, is the Tea Party, some of whose most prominent spokesmen want to eliminate unemployment compensation.

To put this another way, French workers are fighting to keep what they call les acquis sociaux, the benefits they’ve fought for over the decades.

Here in the United States, despite all the economic pain, the only loud, well-organized, spirited protest movement wants to eliminate government-guaranteed benefits — some of its leading members, for example, arguing that things like unemployment benefits are unconstitutional.

This is strange. The ability of a figure like Joe Miller in Alaska to win the Senate nomination of a major political party demonstrates the utter capriciousness of politics.

Mr. Miller is the Tea Party candidate most associated with the notion that unemployment insurance, as well as Social Security and Medicare, should be scrapped.

With U.S. unemployment at 10 percent, poverty rising and more and more people worrying about the near future, why are so many Americans furious at the government and Obama, rather than at banks, those who profited from loose regulation and financiers who got us into this mess in the first place?

Why We Hate Billionaires & Their 'Charity'

Source

The charitable givings of the rich help soften their image and convince the public that the rise of a new ultra-wealthy super class may actually be a good thing, since we badly need them to fund our universities and other public institutions.

If the wealthy paid taxes at the rate they used to pay only a few decades ago -- in the prosperous early postwar years before the onset of the Reagan revolution -- public institutions and programs could be properly funded and wouldn't be so dependent on the largesse of the spectacularly rich.

There's obviously a huge difference between funding that comes through the private charity -- the favored method of the well-to-do -- and funding that comes through the tax system.

Private charity leaves the wealthy in control, allowing them to determine where the money will go, which causes will get funded and which won't.

The wealthy are notoriously uninterested in financing community centers and recreation facilities in poorer parts of town.

Instead they show a penchant for funding institutions and facilities where they'll win the attention and admiration of their peers -- with their names on glittering opera houses, concert halls, and buildings at elite universities and private hospitals.

And of course they're extremely generous with private think tanks, particularly ones that promote the interests of the financial elite and provide those interests with an air of academic legitimacy.

Indeed, philanthropy provides the rich with some significant benefits. The benefits to the public are less clear, once the lost tax revenues are factored in.

Rage of the Rich

Source

Anger is sweeping America. True, this white-hot rage is a minority phenomenon, not something that characterizes most of our fellow citizens.

But the angry minority is angry indeed, consisting of people who feel that things to which they are entitled are being taken away. And they’re out for revenge.

No, I’m not talking about the Tea Partiers. I’m talking about the rich.

The spectacle of high-income Americans, the world’s luckiest people, wallowing in self-pity and self-righteousness would be funny, except for one thing: they may well get their way.

Never mind the $700 billion price tag for extending the high-end tax breaks: virtually all Republicans and some Democrats are rushing to the aid of the oppressed affluent.

You see, the rich are different from you and I. They have more influence. It’s partly a matter of campaign contributions, but it’s also a matter of social pressure, since politicians spend a lot of time hanging out with the wealthy.

So when the rich face the prospect of paying an extra 3 or 4 percent of their income in taxes, politicians feel their pain — feel it much more acutely, it’s clear, than they feel the pain of families who are losing their jobs, their houses, and their hopes.

And when the tax fight is over, one way or another, you can be sure that the people currently defending the incomes of the elite will go back to demanding cuts in Social Security and aid to the unemployed.

America must make hard choices, they’ll say. We all have to be willing to make sacrifices.But when they say “we,” they mean “you.” Sacrifice is for the 'lower orders.'.

Corporate Power & Capitalist Corruption

Source

So, the SEC sure showed Goldman Sachs. They levied a $50 million fine against them for their corrupt business practice. That ought to teach them something!

Unfortunately, what it teaches them isn’t in anyone’s interest except the short term financial interest of their shareholders and executives.

GS posted profits* of over $13 billion dollars last year alone. Against that figure, a fine of $50M is hardly punitive damages. And it’s hardly a disincentive to going right back and doing the same thing again,

It's so depressing to see that most people just doesn’t get that capitalism, at its heart, is an exploitative economic system. We see its true face played out every day in cases like this. Yet I still hear the right using the word ‘socialism’ as an equivalent to ‘evil’.

There are plenty of examples of corrupt socialist systems. Addressing that corruption would be a function of the citizen’s ability to hold their government accountable for its responsibility to operate in the public interest.

At least under a socialist system, there’s no ‘profit motive’ involved and the stated goal is to serve the public.

Not so under capitalism. There the motivation is greed and the freely stated goal is to ‘maximize shareholder value’. Short term financial gain for the executives always wins over public good, and even over the good of the rank and file employees.

Such a system will inevitably lead to where we are today, with the biggest corporations buying sufficient members of our government to ensure that they can operate without any pesky rules, or to ensure that the rules aren’t really enforced enough to limit their shenanigans.

The short term thinking execs at GS just made a major win, and their stock price is now soaring. Hurray for them.

They wrote this paltry fine off as a ‘cost of doing business’, and are surely happy to pat it so they can also ‘get their lives back’.

A society gets what it deserves. We, the sheep, not only allow this but most of us seem to think that it’s the best system on earth.

Whatever Happened to Left-Leaning Americans?

Source

Where is the great American tradition of left-leaning progressivism and populism that once fought big money, capitalist greed and the politicians that aided them?

One answer is essentially that the intellectual left in the United States is rather small, and made up of elite people, including a lot of the best-educated and prosperous, who don’t really have to worry about things like the recession anyway.

A large majority of Americans, according to this view, believe that government is too big and expensive, and there just aren’t that many, outside of the comfortable, well-paid liberal elite, who believe otherwise.

But there would seem to be plenty of reason for leftist anger. Shouldn’t all those people in their 50s who fear they’ll never work again be seething over the non-suffering of the rich, and also over the Obama administration’s failure to do much to deliver them jobs?

Why aren’t these people making their voices heard in a sort of leftist counterpoint to the Tea Party? Is it because the left is deeply invested in Obama’s presidency? That they believe he’s too important, symbolically, to fail?

The argument here is not that the left has been extinguished or that it’s satisfied with the status quo, but that it doesn’t want to tarnish the image and standing of a president with Obama’s particular historical resonance.

All previous Democratic administrations — from F.D.R. through Truman, J.F.K., L.B.J., Carter and Clinton — have had to deal with some degree of left-wing populist anger.

It’s there with Obama, too, but in his case it hasn’t been expressed publicly.

There’s a gut feeling on the left that he hasn’t done enough, and that he focused on the wrong issues, but unless something cataclysmic occurs, and it becomes clear that he could actually lose the 2012 election, they’re likely to give him a pass.

Eventually, the left may come to feel that Obama owns the recession. Only then, will the worms turn

For now, it’s the far right, embodied in the Tea Party candidates who defeated more moderate Republicans in primary elections, who have hijacked the discussion. By comparison, the left seems to be hibernating.

9/26/10

A Worm in the Whole

Source

I must remember to be here. I'm brought down to save your species. This isn't the confirmation you expected. You're a worm in the whole. Where one represents many

I'm trying to get a rise out of you. What does the patter remind us of? Look, the point is, I doubt. You're content with being. Why should you change to me? On whose authority?

Facebook Is Exploiting You

Source

Marketers have long hoped to turn the Web into the perfect advertising medium. Pop-ups on AOL, banners on Yahoo! and search ads on Google were steps along that journey. But it's Facebook, whose life as a moneymaking business is only now beginning, that may be best positioned to deliver on the Web's promise.

The company has developed a potentially powerful kind of advertising that's more personal—more "social," in Facebook's parlance—than anything that's come before.

Ads on the site sit on the far right of the page and are such a visual afterthought that most users never click them.

These ads can evolve, though, from useless little billboards into content, migrating into casual conversations between friends, colleagues, and family members—exactly where advertisers have always sought to be.

All this is cause for concern to Facebook's critics. Their numbers among privacy advocates and politicians grow every time the social network pushes the boundaries of the service beyond what its users originally signed up for.

People join Facebook to share their lives with friends, yet the information they reveal is being used by strangers for completely unrelated commercial purposes.

Facebook's promise to advertisers isn't to get consumers to buy their products—or really even to get them to click through to their website.

Instead, it wants to subtly park the advertiser's brand in the user's consciousness and provoke a purchase down the line.

More immediately, it also aims to get you to "like" the brand yourself, which then serves as a sort of all-purpose opt-in, allowing the advertiser to insert future messages into your feed.

Advertisers love this setup for obvious reasons. It costs nothing for that company to speak continually to a user via his news feeds once that user has indicated he "likes" a certain brand.

It also allows corporations viewed skeptically by the press to have unmediated conversations with their customers and to get those customers to evangelize their friends.

Facebook is built on a viral marketing house of cards. It's all about getting, through largely stealth means, a consumer to endorse a product or a brand and to communicate that to their network of friends.

Increasingly, Facebook has become a platform for advertisers. It's not yet clear how the hundreds of millions of Facebookers will feel when they realize their unpaid 'labor' is being used to provide advertising revenue for the owners of Facebook.

Has Capitalism Reached a Dead End?

Source

The “experts” on Wall Street and in the big business media know that the various bailouts and the stimulus package are the only things that kept the capitalist system from totally collapsing. Now the stimulus package is scheduled to run out in the coming months.

So the Obama administration has come up with a measly $50 billion, so-called “jobs bill.” Whether or not it will be passed is a big question. But even if it is, it will not make a dent in rehiring the 30 million workers in need.

It takes the creation of 150,000 jobs a month just to keep up with population growth. Furthermore, poverty is spreading along with unemployment.

Thus the capitalists, by throwing workers out of work, lowering wages and speeding up production, are contracting the capitalist market.

Only an enormously expanding market, one that would create half a million or more jobs every month for years to come, could provide the working class with enough jobs on the basis of capitalist hiring.

The capitalist class and its system are doing nothing but aggravating unemployment and increasing foreclosures, poverty and homelessness in a thoroughly racist manner.

African-American, Latino/a and Asian unemployment levels are up to double that of white workers. But an increasing number of white workers are also being swept into the ranks of the unemployed.

In other words, the present crisis is more than just a cyclical crisis. It is more than just a structural crisis. There is nothing left to restructure. It is a crisis of the profit system itself.

The system has reached an impasse. It cannot provide jobs at living wages. Capitalism is no longer able to move society forward.

The system of class exploitation has run into the same kind of dead end that it arrived at in 1929 and the Great Depression.

The profit system is dragging society down and the working class with it, as well as threatening the ecology of the planet.

Tea Party Toddlers

Source

Tea Partiers represent the culture of selfishness on the right. The usual tone of a Tea Party gathering is one of a crowd acting like toddlers.

Have you noticed how many of the signs focus on “me”, “my” or ‘I want”? The level of self-absorption is astounding – and of course, public. These aren’t protests; these are public whining sessions.

It’s not so much that I disagree with the TEA Party philosophy, in fact I have friends and family members who are very committed to those causes, but I find their bland and vague slogans, their blatant hatred for anyone different from themselves and their deliberate distortions of history to be appalling.

Sometimes it occurs to me that the TEA Party Express is a spoof – a Stephen Colbert-style satire of popular uprisings.

When I raise this possibility with a TEA Party supporter, I get a steely-eyed look that tells me that I have stepped into blasphemous territory.

It is plain to everyone that this TEA Party has no room for irony, humor or any human generosity or welcoming. A sure sign of a dead and deathly philosophy.

“We the people” in their hands has become a clarion call for mob mentality. Thanks to theme, town meetings, a hallmark of participatory democracy, have devolved into raving, ranting and sometimes threatening posturing.

They may not believe in evolution – but they certainly believe that the loudest, if not the fittest, will prevail.

Even as they decry the “nanny state” they are cultivating a fear-filled ‘help me, mommy” state.

In the name of freedom and religion, they demand government intrusion and regulation into everyone else’s life, full constitutional rights for corporations and ever more limited rights for individuals.

They don’t like ambiguity. Or change. They don’t like the future and they have a fairy tale version of the past that they want us to “return” to.

Tea Party supporters strike lack the courage of their own convictions, victims of group-think and dupes of corporate cynics. Their historical ignorance and political naiveté’ is embarrassing.

'International Aid' & Imperialism

Source

The “poverty summit” at the United Nations served to expose capitalism’s responsibility for the poverty and hunger confronting billions of people across the planet.

Despite vows by the UN and the major powers over the past decade to ameliorate these conditions, the desperation and misery of the world’s most oppressed layers have only deepened as a result of imperialist predations and the shocks arising from the global financial crisis.

Obama proclaimed that his administration is “changing the way we do business” in relation to international aid.

“For too long we’ve measured our efforts by the amount of money we’ve spent,” he said. Such assistance, he stressed, bred “dependence,” insisting that this was “a cycle we need to break.”

Speaking as the leader of a country that is providing less than a quarter of the foreign aid that it pledged, Obama cynically urged the UN delegates to “move beyond the old narrow debate about how much money we're spending.”

The purportedly new approach proclaimed by the US president consists in directing aid to impoverished countries that submit unreservedly to the dominance of American finance capital.

He stressed that such nations would have to “create business environments that are attractive to investment” and “encourage entrepreneurs” in order to “unleash transformational change.”

In other words, Obama’s prescription for global poverty is more of the same toxin that caused it in the first place: unfettered capitalist exploitation.

Such policies are hardly surprising. Obama, Merkel and leaders of other major capitalist countries are imposing brutal austerity measures against working people at home.

The logical extension of these policies towards the most oppressed countries of the planet is the acceptance of mass starvation as an unavoidable cost of doing business.

Behind their arrogant demands that the impoverished countries “take responsibility” for their own fate and fight “corruption,” the major capitalist powers continue to loot the historically oppressed regions of the globe.

Exploit the Poor to Get Rich



Source

The resources are out there to put the economy into motion again and to deal with spreading unemployment and poverty. The problem is that the economic system is set up only to make a profit.

Everything goes through the banks. The government funnels them money, but the system gives them the right to hoard it. That’s capitalism.

Poor and working people in fact have plenty of “demand.” There is plenty of demand for affordable housing, well-funded schools, lower tuitions, public hospitals, daycare centers, public transportation investment and secure retirement plans.

The $1.8 trillion being hoarded by the corporations for non-productive use could go a long way towards addressing these needs. But because they would not generate private profits, they are deemed impossible and unwise investments.

This election season the two corporate parties are up to their typical games. They are arguing over whether the stimulus plan saved jobs or wasted tax dollars.

They are arguing about whether their new banking regulations will reform Wall Street (they won’t.) The Democrats are again pretending to be champions of the people, hypocritically reminding us of how the Republicans defend the rich.

They want workers to focus on their shallow debates so that we accept that mass unemployment is inevitable, cutbacks are necessary and there is nothing we can do to change it.

The Democrats want workers to be so afraid of the Tea Party that we will vote for their more moderate-sounding politicians. But the Tea Party - as outrageous as they are - just gives a name to the most conservative trend that has long existed in the Republican Party.

Their bigoted and reactionary program must be fought, but we should not forget which party has been firmly in power for the last two years.

The rulers of this country want workers to feel helpless and demoralized, dealing with our economic problems individually, accepting the right-wing drift in politics.

But this is not the only way. As a collective, the working class is a sleeping giant. We produce everything, and when we withhold our labor, everything grinds to a halt.

That is where our power is felt the most -- not primarily in the voting booths, but in the streets and workplace.

9/24/10

Too Comfortable to Change

Source

Is my uncertainty authentic? It must be clear I deal in. Like, me take a leap out of the ordinary.

I'm wasting my time. You can say that again. At the drop of a voice. Like trying to sell salvation to the unconvertible. You're too comfortable to change.

Fear Fuels the Republicans

Source

The Republicans are the party of choice for the fearful.

Socialism is not the only scarecrow Republicans currently have in their closet. They play on other fears like homophobia, Islamophobia, xenophobia and anti-immigrant hysteria. And, like Reagan's speech, these appeals have a heavy hint of racism.

Republicans know that hope can motivate voters only until the disappointment over a lack of instant gratification sets in.

Fear, on the other hand, is a political gift that keeps on giving and never goes out of style. When their grip on the tactic seems to be slipping, they invent and manipulate front groups like the Tea Party to keep the fear alive.

Republicans are masters of spreading fear and hysteria. Socialism, Marxism, Communism, Mexican and Muslim invasions. It sure is working. Their polls are up. Their propaganda machine, Fox News, has used everything but the boogeyman to fire up their racist base.

They have been singing that tune for years now. Now, it’s the fear that Muslims will take over our country, refuse to learn our language and leave us in the dust.

You know, kinda like what we did to the Native Indians when we were the illegal aliens. However, we classified that invasion as “Manifest Destiny.”

It astounds me that when a stranger crosses our border in search of food, a job or medical care illegally, they are treated as a foreign virus.

However, when an American corporation crosses our border in search of slave wages and tax breaks, they are revered, rewarded and endorsed by the Republican Party that claims to be protecting our country’s jobs and resources. What disgusting hypocrites.

A Second French Revolution

Source

A second round of strikes against Sarkozy's plan to raise the retirement age to 62 hit France yesterday.

The unions said the number of demonstrations was higher than the protests two weeks ago, which saw a total of 2.7 million supporters.

In all, 232 demonstrations were held nationwide. Thousands of protesters, many decked out in union T-shirts or brandishing signs, streamed into the Place de la Bastille - the iconic site of the French revolution in Paris.

Sarkozy has indicated he is willing to make marginal concessions but remains intransigent on increasing the retirement age from 60 to 62 and pushing back the age from 65 to 67 for full retirement benefits.

As baby boomers reach retirement age and life expectancy increases in France, the conservative government insists it must raise the retirement age so the pension system can break even by 2018.

But the opposition sees retirement at 60 as a sacred symbol of France's social welfare system and says the reform should make more exceptions for certain categories of workers.

"We must use all the means, all the means at our disposal to put pressure on the government," said the country's Socialist Party head Martine Aubry.

"We say the pension reform is unfair."

She admitted that France had to take into consideration the increase in life expectancy.

"But we also think that those who started working very young, or those who had a hard job must still be able to retire at 60," said Ms Aubry.

A poll in Liberation suggested that 63 per cent of respondents supported the strikers, while just 29 per cent of those polled supported the government.

Almost 60 per cent opposed the plan to raise retirement age, with only 37 per cent in favour.

America's Faith [Capitalism] Makes It Right-Wing

Source

For over three decades, the forces of official conservatism--from the Christian Coalition to the Republican Party--developed an anti-liberal politics that managed to gain a foothold with at least a pretty consistent one-third of the American population.

Conservative government policies like increased Pentagon spending or government aid to "faith-based" organizations nurture these constituencies.

The right-wing noise machine, including talk radio and Fox News, whose emergence flows from the Reagan administration's decision to end the "fairness doctine" in the media, serves up the conservative agenda with a daily dose of right-wing propaganda.

These factors, developed over close to half a century in all, helped create "Red State America." One election was never going to undo them.

Moreover, the successful enactment of the neoliberal program of tax cuts for the rich, cuts in social spending and attacks on trade unions has undermined the foundations of the liberal state - which weren't that strong to begin with in the U.S.

The weakening of trade unions has meant the disappearance of even a minimal presence of labor's voice in the political arena.

So while business-bankrolled conservatives can vent their "populist rage" 24-7 on Fox News and talk radio, voices of labor, organized or otherwise, are barely heard above the racket.

And this isn't even to mention the fact that labor's chosen political party, the Democrats, considers appeals to "class warfare" the equivalent of drinking poison.

For much of Obama's term, leading liberal organizations have played "good soldiers" in trying to carry out the White House's agenda. As a result, there has been no sustained national effort to give voice to millions of people facing economic devastation today.

So when the working clas, devastated by the economic crisis, look for explanations for the conditions they face, they are more likely to hear the right's echo chamber blaming immigrants, Muslims or "big government" than a consistent case for solidarity against the banksters and corporate crooks.

We live today in a climate where both economic polarization between rich and poor and political polarization--the growth of far right and the potential growth of a radical left--can manifest themselves.

Therefore, political issues can become sharply divided as politicians and activists seek more radical solutions to a status quo that is obviously not working.

We're Being 'Consumed' by Social Media

Source

Esther Dyson makes some scary points in this article touting a new service called Digital Mirror.

It analyzes your online activity and provides reports about your patterns of interaction. Like who you talk to, how you talk to them, who you avoid, who avoids you, etc.

I’m sure all the data-driven, self-obsessed freaks out there are thrilled, but what’s scary to me is the fact that this kind of analytical surveillance is already becoming customary in social networks. Dyson writes:
Facebook and other social tools operate under the covers: Facebook notices which friends you interact with and whose photos you comment on in order to select the items in your NewsFeed or the ads you see. But Facebook does not show that information to you. Digital Mirror does.

Within a few years, this kind of transparency will probably be commonplace, both from Facebook and from ad networks and behavioral targeters trying to derive information about your likely purchases. But right now, only Digital Mirror is one of the few to give you the ability to do the same for yourself.
How fucking awful is that? Rather than open our horizons, our own activity online serves to close them off, thanks to these “services” operating in the background.

We think we are indulging our curiosity but we are merely blueprinting our own personal prison, and helping sketch the floor plan for the cells of our friends. At least all the ads we’ll see while we are trapped there will be relevant.

Wall Street's Great Bank Robbery

Source

Back in September-October of 2008, the line was that the economy would collapse if Congress did not immediately rescue the banks. They were prepared to make up anything to save the banks in their hour of need.

Bernanke was probably caught in the biggest fabrication when he told Congress that the commercial paper market was shutting down.

If true, this would have been disastrous, since most major companies rely on selling commercial paper to meet their payroll and other routine expenses.

If this market shut down, it would mean that even healthy businesses could not pay their workers and suppliers, which quickly cause the whole economy to grind to a halt.

Bernanke did not bother to inform Congress and the public that he had the ability to single-handedly support the commercial paper market.

He waited until the weekend after Congress approved the TARP to announce that he would establish a special Fed lending facility to buy commercial paper.

In reality, the Fed almost certainly had the ability to keep the economy going by sustaining the system of payments even if the chain of bank collapses was allowed to run its course.

The specter of a "second great depression" is a fairy tale invented by the bank lobby to make the rest of feel good about having given them our money.

We are also supposed to feel good that the vast majority of the TARP money was repaid. This is another effort to prey on the public's ignorance. Had it not been for the bailout, most of the major center banks would have been wiped out.

This would have destroyed the fortunes of their shareholders, many of their creditors, and their top executives. This would have been a massive redistribution to the rest of society - their loss is our gain.

It is important to remember that the economy would be no less productive following the demise of these Wall Street giants.

The only economic fact that would have been different is that the Wall Street crew would have lost claims to hundreds of billions of dollars of the economy's output each year and trillions of dollars of wealth. That money would instead be available for the rest of society.

The fact that they have lost the claim to wealth from their stock and bond holdings makes all the rest of us richer once the economy is again operating near normal levels of output.

Instead, we have the same Wall Street crew calling the shots, doing business pretty much as they always did. The rest of us are sitting here dealing with wreckage of their recklessness: 9.6 percent unemployment and the loss of much of the middle class's savings in their homes and their retirement accounts.

And the lackeys of the Wall Street crew are telling us that we should be thankful that we didn't have a second Great Depression. Maybe we don't have the power to keep the bankers from picking our pockets, but we don't have to believe their lies.

9/22/10

A Rush to Mind the Gap

Source

By watching this space fills it. Blankness makes me anxious. I must be busy. I'm in a rush to mind the gap.

Why don't I wait for it'll happen? Less haste, more consideration. I don't know how long it's going to take. I'm sure you've formed by now the content.

The Tea Party: Capitalist Pawns

Source

What happened to the country that loved the underdog and stood up for the little guy? - Glenn Beck

The Tea Party mythology – that it is a grassroots, “insurgent” movement bent on overthrowing the “establishment” – has taken root in the corporate and even independent liberal media.

This is largely because of the Herculean efforts by conservative think tanks, media sources, and big corporate funding (as I discussed in the last essay in this series, Lisbeth Salander: The Dark Metal Sarah Palin).

The Tea Party PR fairy tale is so pervasive that it has become a commonplace, and thus, the normal, “factual” way in which the media covers the election.

One example was the McClatchy newspapers’ report “Tea Party, Palin put GOP establishment on ropes in Florida, Alaska.”

The headline – which introduces an “objective” news report – spreads this conservative manufactured myth, that the Tea Party is separate from the Washington establishment, that it is in fact “fighting” the beltway.

The headline was published across its network of 31 papers nationwide, even growing into the independent media, even in the so-called progressive media

In the last week, the media – both corporate and independent – has unreflectively spread the manufactured myth that Tea Party candidates are outside of the political establishment.

In simply reporting the Tea Party as a separate entity from the Republican Party, many media sources have helped perpetuate the false notion that its leaders represent a new political movement.

In even using the brand “Tea Party” we perpetuate the idea that it is not the same old Republican party.

On the contrary, while claiming to fight on behalf of the “little guy,” who is angrier than ever about the state of affairs today, the Tea Party leadership and billionaire activists see the opportunity to turn the rage at government into a love for big business - much to the intense criticism of some real grassroots Tea Partiers.

Those at the top of the Tea Party hierarchy are ideologically and financially connected to the Republican establishment. The latter is the homeland for unfettered capitalism. It fervently preaches the ideological basis for a system based on inequality.

As a result, the Tea Party movement, whether or not the on the ground activists are aware of this, appears to be acting as a set of sacrificial pawns on behalf of the corporate elite at the expense of its own middle class interest.

The Tea Party candidates, their leadership, and their corporate sponsors are not anti-establishment. Let’s no longer use this fabricated fable, especially those of us working in the independent media. We must no longer act as pack-mules for think-tank propaganda.

The Currency Crisis

Source

The eruption of currency exchange conflicts is bound up with mounting signs that the global economic crisis is systemic, rather than merely conjunctural, and growing fears that a genuine recovery is not in the offing.

The European sovereign debt crisis and the weakening of US economic growth have led governments around the world to seek to secure a greater share of export markets.

Under conditions of slowing growth and stagnant markets, this inevitably heightens trade conflicts between competing capitalist nations.

In particular, the US and the European Union, spearheaded by the export power Germany, have aggressively pursued a cheap currency policy in order to gain a trade advantage against their rivals.

Of the major economic powers, Japan has suffered the greatest damage from these policies, as investors and speculators have shifted from dollar- and euro-denominated investments to the yen, driving up the currency's exchange rate.

The global financial crisis and recent currency conflicts point to the intensification of the contradiction between the world economy and the nation-state system.

The global capitalist economy requires a stable reserve currency to be able to function. But the US dollar is increasingly incapable of playing that role. Nor is any other currency able to take its place.

The growing lack of confidence in all paper currencies is reflected in the rising price of gold, which regularly reaches new records.

But a return to the gold standard is not a viable solution either, as it would lead to a massive contraction of credit, plunging the world economy into a depression rivalling or exceeding that of the 1930s.

In the midst of the growing turmoil, the possibility has been canvassed of the major powers reaching some kind of accord, along the lines of the Plaza Agreement of 1985, which brought about an internationally-organised reduction in the value of the US dollar.

But one only has to consider the differences between the situation in 1985 and today to see why such a project will not be realised.

Twenty-five years ago, the US still exercised economic hegemony and the Atlantic economies formed the main centre of world growth. That is no longer the case: the US is in economic decline and the economic centre of gravity is moving rapidly to the East.

No doubt the currency crisis will take many twists and turns in the coming period. But the overall logic of the process is clear. The world economy will increasingly fracture into rival regional and currency blocs, once again raising the spectre of military conflict.

We Need an Ideological Framework to Fight Capitalism

Source

The triumphalist rhetoric in the aftermath of communism’s collapse created a climate allowing capitalism to become so ingrained in our lives that we hardly recognize it as an ideology anymore.

It’s become more a basic element of our life like water and food than an economic system that nations have accepted or rejected. To even mention the word “capitalism” almost marks you as suspect or an anachronism because so few people seriously critique it today.

Without some kind of ideological framework to fight capitalism, the left cedes the intellectual field to conservatives. Even many young progressive bloggers and writers openly disdain ideology, preferring to focus on policy and winning elections. This allows conservative extremists to set the rhetorical and political agenda.

Terms like “tax relief,” “border security,” “the war on terror,” “illegal immigrants,” and “government waste,” are part of a successful right-wing agenda to roll back the progressive gains of the last century.

The more we buy into their language and to the idea that capitalism is inherently good, but just needs some reform around the edges, the more capitalism becomes ingrained in our souls as an immovable force.

To retake the political momentum and to roll back the evils of untrammeled capitalism, we need more than to just reform tax policy to ensure some semblance of a welfare state.

We need an ideological framework that rejects fundamentalist free-market capitalism in favor of a more just world. We need a new generation of intellectuals to build on the great thinkers of the past and create a new, post-Soviet socialism to fight the ravages of free market capitalism.

I am not lamenting the fall of Soviet-style communism. I am quite aware of the failings of the Eastern Bloc.

But the failures of communist states in no way blunt the power of Marx’s class analysis. Marxism still provides much value in critiquing capitalism and in crafting responses to its degradation of people and nature.

Israeli-Palestinian 'Peace' Talks: Extreme Prejudice

Source

The U.S. media likes to frame American and Israeli leaders as hardheaded, but willing to make reasonable concessions – even major sacrifices – in order to achieve peace.

Palestinian leaders like the late Yasser Arafat were seen as treacherous, greedy, and unreasonable in his demands. The reality with regard to U.S, Israeli “benevolence” and Palestinian “depravity” is very different than the message Americans are receiving.

As long as the settlements in the West Bank continue to grow, no peace will ever be possible, and this appears to be the Israeli goal from the get-go.

These settlements blatantly violate the United Nations Charter, which outlaws the use of force to occupy land outside of self defense and U.N. Security Council approval.

Israel can claim neither self-defense or U.N. authorization for occupying foreign land, as it hasn’t suffered under a suicide bombing in over two years.

The U.N. Security Council has presented dozens of resolutions condemning Israeli actions in Gaza and the West Bank. Additionally, the rocket attacks that have been directed against Israel are from Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, and have no relationship with the occupation of the West Bank.

By elementary logic, then, the West Bank occupation (in which the secular Palestinian Authority is in control) has nothing to do with Israeli security – lest one defines “security” as encompassing the illegal occupation of another’s land.

Also, Mahmoud Abbas has explicitly recognized Israel’s territorial integrity. Similarly, Hamas has even announced in the past that it would be willing to recognize Israel, within the 1967 borders.

Israeli officials’ refusal to take Hamas up on its offer to recognize the 1967 borders is instructive. It shows that Israel prefers the punching bag of a demonized paper tiger to real peace.

The most likely way to end the rocket attacks is to engage in serious negotiations with Hamas. Israel’s unwillingness to do so demonstrates their true commitment to colonial expansion at the expense of a sustainable peace.

Hillary Clinton and Obama have repeatedly called for an extension of the settlement freeze, despite Israeli leaders having ignored these requests.

Such an initiative on the part of American officials represents little more than a band-aid on an open, infected wound that is the “peace process.”

No real peace will ever be achieved without Israel’s acknowledgement that the settlements are illegal, and without the unqualified removal of them from the West Bank.

Sadly, U.S. imperial dominance throughout the Middle East has long been seen as reliant (to a large extent at least) upon Israeli power and aggression.

The Palestinian people have long been forgotten by American imperial planners, who realistically view this population as nothing more than an inconvenient embarrassment despite the global backlash against U.S.-Israeli aggression in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.

Americans Are Conditioned to Fear Socialism

Source

Most Americans have an aversion to socialism because they are influenced by a lifetime's exposure to capitalist-sponsored propaganda.

It doesn't help that many socialist movements succeeded in economically less advanced areas of the globe. Capitalists and their spin doctors easily confuse people into associating underdevelopment with socialism.

For fifty years capitalist propaganda condemned Russia and communism. This was done useful to justify an overwhelming preponderance of wealth and power in the hands of capitalists.

Capitalists control economic resources in the American economy and use that control to command political power. They are able to manipulate the ostensibly democratic system to protect their interests.

The democratic system in America does provide the means to remove capitalists from power, but only if the vast majority who vote understand that they are manipulated to strengthen capitalist power.

Socialism's success hinges politically on utter bankruptcy in liberal political thought. Only if Americans understood at a fundamental level that American political history is the history of abuse of power by capitalists.

If they realized this they can support socialism for the necessarily extended period required to guarantee its success. Marginal support for a minimal socialist agenda will not meet this condition.

Capitalists have the political advantage of fully understanding their interests – to hold onto power at all costs. Through this clarity and control of the levers of power, they can perpetuate their tyranny of a minority.

Never for a minute do they suffer from moral doubt when it comes to keeping power.

They will use racism, sexism, religious intolerance, or any other malevolent means to confuse and divide the majority about their most fulfilling interest: taking power from this aggrandizing capitalist minority.

This tactic of divide and conquer is aimed at the middle classes [bourgeoisie].

Large numbers are co-opted into serving the interests of capitalists through trickle-down economics. Immigrants are targeted by capitalists because capitalists can rely on a common feeling of chauvinism.

The evil fruits of poverty are held up to condemn those who suffer most unjustly from capitalism's tyranny as a means to scare the rest of America.

The sick are kept quiet by blackmail over access to health care, and fear is generated among white Americans about blacks and other ethnic minorities.

By perpetuating division among the majority, capitalism keeps Americans from building a consensus that is truly in the majority's interest: ending capitalist tyranny.

9/21/10

Nothing to Say of Significance

Source

It's easy for you to be in touch with the common I'm off the beat on another track. I take a shot and move on. You're welcome to develop.

I can't see the point for changing positions. I suppose premature ejaculation's Better than none at all. The analysand feared he had nothing to say of significance.

Dealing with the Poor in America: Put Them in Prison

Source

Many of those who have lost their jobs and homes because of the economic recession are ending up in jail. There's a strong link between poverty and incarceration in the United states.

The relationship between poverty and the justice system suggests that more and more people from poor and low-income communities are being arrested and jailed, even though nationwide, crime rates have fallen.

There is less focus on safety nets for the poor and more on policing and arrests. As prison populations have grown, so too have racial disparities in the justice system.

This is especially evident in arrest and incarceration patterns for drug offences. Without adequate funding for social services, it is less likely that people will be able to succeed and avoid contact with the justice system.

Despite comparable usage of illicit drugs, in 2008, African Americans, who make up 12.2 percent of the general population, comprised 44 percent of those incarcerated for drug offences, according to the report.

Researchers say that disproportionate enforcement of drug laws in black communities destabilises families and communities and decreases the likelihood of positive outcomes for children and other family members left behind.

Due to the prolonged economic meltdown, many states are now making drastic cuts in funding for social services - such as health, education, and public housing - but not on policing and prison improvement and expansion.

There are nearly two million people behind bars in the U.S., most of them poor whites and people of colour, making America the number one country in the world in terms of the imprisonment rate.

Afghanistan Unravels

Source

Farah is an Afghan-American businesswoman in Kabul

Everything is unraveling. The Taliban are back and stronger than ever. The Taliban are now Pakistanis, Arabs and Chechens.

I came back from a recent vacation very charged and very motivated to get back to work. But the events of the past few weeks have put me in a dark place.

I have explained this to some of my friends that in the span of one week: we lost a team of foreign doctors with their team, heard about dozens of kidnappings, read about the stoning of a couple in Kunduz, seen more civilian deaths and there was a suicide bombing on my street.

I used to be able to deal with this over the years but these events had more impact on me not just because some of them hit close to home, but it is apparent that the downward spiral which is Afghanistan is getting darker and deeper.

It's more like a black hole where all the hard work of so many for the past eight years is going to be lost. Everyone who is in power has eaten hundreds of millions from the West to play puppet to the grand scheme.

No one is brave enough to step up for the people or those who do are killed or ridiculed into some political exile. A lawless Afghanistan: that is what is happening right now. The Wild Wild West revisited.

During the “Great Game” — the British-Russian rivalry during the late 1800s — Afghanistan tried to be neutral; the British, of course, declared war on Afghanistan.

Yes, I do think that imperialism has ruined this world. After studying the whole region all fingers point there. Pay off the leaders – use them to divide and conquer the people — create chaos.

Sound familiar? Shame on us: during the reign of Zahir Shah (the leader for decades until the 1970s), we were a unified Afghanistan.

No one asked, “What part of Afghanistan are you from? Oh you’re Mazari? Oh you’re Pashtun?” Everyone worked together as AFGHANS. Working together as a nation to build a better life for the future.

As the years went by, the Western powers have always tried to divide us and for us to do their job for them … KILL EACH OTHER. “Kill your Afghan brother. I will give you money or power.” I wish we loved each other more. I wish.

I think of the lineage of strong Afghans I come from — especially Afghan women: mother, grandmothers, great-grandmothers. Today they are not the same — they have been destroyed beyond belief.

Afghan women were the heads of the houses and the families. The men had integrity and honor — would fight for what was right.

The people of Old Afghanistan are a dying breed and I see the genocide of my people here everyday. This is what has happened to our women and children: raped, mutilated, sold, killed. Here’s the latest: Afghan women, kids turn to drugs.

There is only so much we can do. I say that Afghanistan is like a “treasure chest on fire.”

With all the minerals, artifacts and oil that has been discovered recently, of course, let's bring chaos so we can control all these resources.

We have a choice. I am so fortunate to carry an American passport. I can get on a plane and leave. Millions here cannot do that.

The Real Jobless Figures

Source

The official unemployment rate, which was 9.5 percent in July, has no credibility. It is classic “political spin” intended to fill workers’ heads with hope that a recovery is right around the corner.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics had proclaimed a 9.9 percent unemployment rate for April. This was reduced to 9.5 percent for July by artificially shrinking the number of the total workforce (employed and unemployed) by 1.15 million over these three months, from 154.71 million in April to 153.56 million in July.

Did the U.S. population actually decline precipitously in these three months? Of course not. The BLS hid the unemployed in a category entitled, “Not in the Labor Force.”

Between April and July, the BLS added 1.72 million individuals to this category, while decreasing the number of the officially unemployed by 661,000 in the same period.

Only about 230,000 (this number includes retirees, for instance) should have been added to the “Not in the Labor Force” category during those three months. But instead, some 661,000 workers were simply discarded and added, as if they were garbage.

Workers who have exhausted their unemployment benefits or have become discouraged, as well as youth who have yet to find a job, are all dumped into this catch-all category as a way of hiding the true extent of the jobs crisis from the workers.

By disappearing so many unemployed, the capitalist politicians could spin fairy tales of a soon-to-arrive economic recovery.

By this writer’s estimate, some 16.8 million unemployed workers have been shunted over to the “Not in the Labor Force” category since April 2000, the point which was the peak of the last economic cycle.

When added to the officially listed 14.6 million currently unemployed, the total becomes 31.4 million actually unemployed.

When you then add in the 8.5 million who are working part time but want full-time work, this incredible total becomes almost 40 million workers suffering hardship.

Capitalism: The Reigning Ideology

Source

Liberal intellectuals’ rejection of ideology comes in two basic forms. One is the almost apologetic tone taken by many left-of-center writers.

Still feeling guilty for their predecessors support of the Soviet Union in the 1930s and flirtation with revolutionary Marxism in the 1960s, they reject ideology in all its forms.

Seeing the soft socialism of western Europe as a model, they talk of specific policy reforms rather than articulating a vision for changing society.

Conservatives have also publicly rejected ideology. Most notoriously laid out in Francis Fukuyama’s 1989 essay, “The End of History?” conservative writers in the post-Soviet world claimed ideology had died and saw a capitalist utopia blooming.

These claims of these capitalist intellectuals completely belied the fact that they simply declared their own ideology of free-market capitalism normative and victorious.

They pushed these policies around the world through the disaster capitalism Naomi Klein has articulated; through free trade agreements, aggressive globalization and outsourcing, and through undermining social safety nets to promote maximum profit.

We do not live in a post-ideological world. Communism is dead. Fascism rears its ugly head from time to time but the days of Hitler and Mussolini are over.

But we still have one extraordinarily powerful ideology in the 21st century—fundamentalist capitalism. Ideology drives the followers of its high priests, such as Milton Friedman, as much as those of Karl Marx.

Why is there this deafening silence? Why doesn't the liberals and progressives start to analyze ideologically driven capitalism?

Liberalism's complex moral compass makes a lot of sense for the individual, but does it provide any basis for a critique of Friedman-esque capitalism?

Does it provide a single organizing principle to fight against the exploitation of the developing world, the export of millions of American jobs, environmental degradation, or destructive anti-tax mentalities that threaten to bankrupt the United States?

The triumphalist rhetoric in the aftermath of communism’s collapse created a climate allowing capitalism to become so ingrained in our lives that we hardly recognize it as an ideology anymore.

It’s become more a basic element of our life like water and food than an economic system that nations have accepted or rejected. To even mention the word “capitalism” almost marks you as suspect or an anachronism because so few people seriously critique it today.

Who Owns Obama?

Source

We elected a President who promised change you can believe in, including universal health care and real regulation of Wall Street. He was given a party majority in both houses of Congress. There seemed to be some hope of change. Obama was the man to get things done.

What we didn't realize was that he would get things done for the oligarchy. The White House cozied up to health insurance and drug corporations while it froze out advocates demanding to make the case for Medicare for All.

Wall Street got a bailout while employees and retirees saw their security accounts for old age take a hit of 25 to 30 percent.

The Federal Reserve poured all the monetary liquidity that financial vampires wanted, but the spirit of sacrifice was invoked to make a living wage for General Motors workers a thing of the past.

The problem is not the particular man who became President. We know now that his biggest funding came from hedge funds and other wheeler-dealers in paper by the billions.

He rose in four short years from an obscure state legislator to President of the United States.

This could only happen because he had powerful sponsors and because all sections of the oligarchy know that "mobilization" of common people must be managed like the launch of a consumer electronics device.

We can see what Obama really stands for: more of the same. More of the same policies that have produced enormous disparities in income and growing poverty.

There are more people without health insurance, the highest per-capita prison population in the world, a crumbling infrastructure, a failing education system, inner city decay, and an increasingly aggressive foreign policy.

The last presidential election was a brilliant PR exercise in deception. We elected the consummate Uncle Tom. A well-behaved house slave. Admired by the plantation owner for his ability to tame the uppity niggers out in the fields.

9/20/10

My Part in the Primitive

Source

I could tell you how I used to darken up for my part in the primitive. I had more rhythm then. Why, I remember when. wait just a moment postmodernist. It's just a phrase I'm going through.

I'm bound to be part of the syllabus by the time you get this. For now let me gloat in my difference. At least, admire the delusion.

Sex, Race & Tea-Party Reactionaries

Source

Race, and particularly interracial sex and procreation, is the unstated, hot-button issue that galvanizes the Tea Party movement.

Demographic profiles depict the movement as a predominately middle-aged and older white constituency, often from smaller towns and cities throughout heartland America.

Unstated, their lives have been uprooted by capitalist globalization and they are desperately clinging to post-WWII white skin privileges that assured them the benefits of a “middle-class” life.

A half-century later, capitalism has betrayed them. Sadly, they refuse to acknowledge it, instead blaming liberals, immigrants and a world beyond their control. The promotion of false consciousness is corporate media’s principal responsibility.

Over the last two years, white, rightwing Christian activists, along with their political shills and media pundits, have rallied to the Tea Party.

During this process, a mean-spirited constituency emerged that voices insulating and defamatory comments about the President as well as other black, Hispanic and (Middle-Eastern) Muslim Americans.


These statements range from snide depictions of the President and his wife to the belief among some 20 percent of the population that the President is a Muslim or not an American.

These comments are not only provocative, but serve a political purpose of galvanizing discontent among a growing segment of older, working- and middle-class white Americans. This movement represents a neo-fascist propensity toward political tyranny.

The great white fear of interracial “pollution” has found is most acute expression with Obama’s presidency. He is the offspring of not simply an interracial relationship, but an international coupling as well.

He is the child of 21st century globalization, the symbolic representation of a hope for a world without boarders, without race prejudice, without white privilege.

In the face of today’s widespread sexual and racial “pollution,” those aligned with the Tea Party are fearful, furious. They are desperately holding onto a fictitious past.

They worry that America is becoming a mongrel nation and that their privileged status is vanishing. However unstated, unconscious, there fears might be, Tea Party candidates O'Donnell and Paladino speak to a collective prejudice shared by many Americans.

It is fear anchored in 19th century notions of nationhood, racial purity and imperial conquest. It is a prejudice that violates the spirit of what is the great hope of America.

America Needs "Socialist Nationalization"

Source

While voices on the right decried Bush and Obama's massive bailout of Wall Street as "socialist," real socialists were actively campaigning against it, explaining that it amounted to a giant handout to those who had created the crisis.

Some banks and companies like GM may have been nationalized, but it was a form of "capitalist nationalization," carried out to rescue failing companies and socialize their losses with the aim of selling them back to the capitalists once they return to profitability.

In contrast "socialist nationalization" would have started with the premise that the owners of the big banks and corporations, which were facing bankruptcy and threatening to bring the entire economy down with them, had shown they were incapable of properly managing these crucial resources.

We called for failing companies to be taken into public ownership, under the democratic control of elected representatives of workers, consumers, and the public at large.

Compensation would be given to the former owners only on the basis of proven need. Millionaire speculators and capitalists would have to swallow their losses, rather then being bailed out, while ordinary people who owned some stock in these companies would be compensated.

Another essential response to the economic crisis would be massive public works programs to create jobs for the unemployed developing renewable energy, expanding public transit, rebuilding our infrastructure, schools, and health care system, etc.

We also fight for an end to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, raising the minimum wage to $12.50/hour, universal single-payer health care, and free high-quality education for all from pre-school through college.

With genuine socialist policies, the publicly owned GM could have been re-tooled (as was rapidly done throughout the U.S. economy during World War II) to build wind turbines, solar panels, and buses and trains that are urgently needed for the large scale development of renewable energy and mass transit.

This would create millions of jobs and make a real difference in combating global warming.

Instead, the Obama administration left GM organized around the needs of the auto market, which faces massive overcapacity.

So the solution, on a capitalist basis, is for massive downsizing of the industry, meaning plant closures and mass layoffs.

GM has laid-off thousands of workers and demanded the remaining workers agree to huge cuts in wages and benefits.

This is the irrationality of "market efficiency" - destroy productive resources and leave tens of millions out of work in order to re-establish the basis for profitability.

Socialism, based on rational economic planning, would do the opposite. It would bring the world's resources in alignment with the needs of society.

For example, putting the unemployed to work utilizing the technology and capital in the auto industry to address pressing social and environmental needs.

Oligarchy of the Rich

Source

The sky has been overcast for decades. Since 1973 the income, working conditions, and life prospects of common people in the United States have been ground down.

In 2008 the storm arrived. A huge recession poured down sheets of unemployment, took away health care from four million more people, and pushed the carrot of retirement comfort five or ten years into the future. There is a heavy anxiety that floods are gathering somewhere up the ravine.

American history has entered a new era. For almost 200 years after the American Revolution of 1776, capitalism operated to develop our productive powers.

Oligarchs of wealth took most of the gains from the beginning. That's the way capitalism works. Still, whenever common people put up a fight, they won something back for their labor.

The oligarchy of the rich is taking it all back:

* Social Security was won in 1935. Today, a Democratic President sets up a commission of Scrooges pressing hard to cut it to shreds and privatize it.

* The real hourly wage is no higher now than in 1973; it takes both partners working full time to maintain a family at the standard one working parent provided 40 years ago; and the inequality of income has widened to a historic extreme.

* Medicare for people over 65, won in 1965, should be extended to everyone, but the oligarchy passed a law dictating that we must buy private health insurance.

The political front men for the oligarchy of wealth have nothing to offer. The liberal contingent proposes ever-weaker versions of incremental reform, but nothing comes through, or it turns sour like Obamacare.

The reactionary demagogues simply demand unbridled power for corporations, insisting with vigor and sophistry that corporate economic dictatorship will bring the good life.

Politics follows the economic trajectory. It is now about what we lose, not what we gain. The economic system has no more room for substantial reforms. There has not been a wave of major change since the 1970s.

Establishment politics get worse every day. Every attempt to spark a prairie fire seems to be just a wasted match. At least we have time to answer the question, "What program do we need?" That is the question to ponder, not "What is acceptable to the oligarchs?"

Upheavals will come, astonishing us all. In order to avoid dead ends and maneuver on a complicated battlefield between the oligarchs and the common people, we need to determine our basic program.

They plunder, or we revolt. There's no other way.