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Saturday, June 30, 2012

In Memory of Presidents' Victims

In Memory of Presidents' Victims

By Quantum Tuba
Information Clearing House
Saturday, June 30, 2012

On facebook, there is a liberal page titled "We survived Bush.
You will survive Obama."

This appears to define the people who matter as relatively
privileged liberals and conservatives.

Privileged American liberals survived Bush. Privileged American
conservatives will survive Obama.

But what about those who don't survive the policies of presidents?

In American political discourse, we so often forget the victims of
state violence.

We so often forget those who are killed as a result of presidents
and their abusive policies.

This post is dedicated to those victims.

There were many who died as a result of George W. Bush's policies.
Iraq Body Count has documented between 107,055 and 116,979
civilian deaths from the Iraq War.

The Wikileaks Iraq War Logs reveal an estimated 15,000 additional
civilian deaths.

A 2006 study estimated that around 600,000 Iraqis had been killed
by the Iraq War.

Whatever the numbers, it is clear that a huge number of Iraqis
did not survive Bush.

Further, Margaret Griffis uses the US military's own data to
show that 4,486 American troops have died in the Iraq War.

Those soldiers did not survive Bush either.

While the Bush administration's greatest killing spree was in Iraq,
people from other countries also died as a result of his policies.

Before the Iraq War, the Bush administration began a war in
Afghanistan, a war that still rages today.

As a result, many Afghans did not survive Bush.

And the deaths that can be attributed to Bush policies did not
simply occur in war zones.

While the Bush administration's torture program at Guantanamo
was often discussed, it was rarely mentioned that at least 100
detainees died from US torture techniques.

These detainees did not survive Bush.

And just like many people throughout the world did not survive
Bush, many others have not survived or will not survive Barack
Obama.

It is known that President Obama has a secretive kill list. Those
on this list will not survive Obama.

The drone program directed by Obama shows virtually no concern
for civilian casualties.

Obama's drones bomb funerals and rescuers. Thus, many funeral
goers and rescuers will not survive Obama.

In Yemen, the administration used cluster bombs, which many
countries have agreed never to use, in a strike that killed 35
women and children.

Those women and children did not survive Obama.

The Obama administration has also redefined the word "militant",
such that any adult male killed by a US bomb is assumed to be a
"militant."

These supposed "militants" will not survive Obama.

Obama has presided over bombings in six countries: Yemen,
Somalia, Libya, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

The victims of those bombings will not survive Obama.

Furthermore, Obama has escalated the war in Afghanistan,
resulting in increased US casualties. Many Americans and
Afghans will not survive Obama.

Obama's policies, like Bush's, kill through more than simply war.

For example, while the 2010 Haitian earthquake led to a
moratorium on deportations to Haiti, the Obama administration
resumed deporting Haitians in August of 2011.

At this point, the earthquake-ravaged country faced a cholera
epidemic.

The situation was even worse in the crowded prisons and camps
where deportees were sent.

Vincent Warren of the Center for Constitutional Rights wrote at
the time that "as the U.S. government knows, deportations to
Haiti amount to a death sentence for deportees."

It appears some Haitians may not survive Obama.

Obama administration policies may soon also cost lives
by decreasing access to medicine in the developing world.

It was recently revealed that the Trans-Pacific Partnership,
an international trade agreement currently being negotiated
by the Obama administration, would substantially expand the
power of pharmaceutical patent monopolies.

This would create artificial scarcity, driving up medical costs,
particularly in the developing world.

Peter Maybarduk of Public Citizen wrote that with these
provisions "the Obama administration has again increased
demands on developing countries to trade away access to
medicines."

Judit Rius Sanjuan of Doctors Without Borders' Campaign for
Access to Essential Medicines explained that "Policies that
restrict competition thwart our ability to improve the lives
of millions with affordable, lifesaving treatments."

Fundamentally, the Trans-Pacific Partnership threatens to deny
people in the developing world access to lifesaving medication.

If it passes with the current intellectual property provisions, sick
people will probably die for a policy that inflates pharmaceutical
industry profits.

These patients will not survive Obama.

While this post has focused on the Obama and Bush administrations,
it should be understood that deadly policies are by no means unique
to these two presidents.

Under Andrew Jackson, thousands of Native Americans died on
the Trail of Tears.

Under Bill Clinton, UNICEF estimates that sanctions on Iraq killed
around 500,000 children.

LBJ, Kennedy, and Nixon waged an unjustifiable war in Vietnam.

Reagan financed the murderous Contras in Nicaragua.

Woodrow Wilson sent the country into the bloody conflict of
World War I, and jailed those who opposed that war.

Throughout US history, presidents and their policies have left
gruesome trails of bodies.

When will we demand an end to these deaths?


Dissenting Leftist


http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article31737.htm

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The New Aristocracy

The New Aristocracy

By Andre Damon
WSWS.org
June 28, 2012

As governments throughout the world close schools, lay off
workers and slash support to the poor, old and sick, the
financial oligarchy that rules the world increases its wealth
and power.

The incomes of the top-earning bank CEOs grew 12 percent
last year, according to an analysis of the 15 largest global
banks conducted by pay research group Equilar.

These executives received an average of $12.8 million apiece,
even though the stock values, earnings, and profits of most of
the banks shrank.

Jamie Dimon, the chairman and chief executive officer
of JPMorgan Chase, once again topped the list, taking
in $23.1 million, an 11 percent increase over 2010.

Under Dimon’s watch, JPMorgan recently disclosed billions
of dollars in speculative losses.

Governments across the globe have bailed out these banks
to the tune of trillions of dollars.

They have massively subsidized these giant, privately-owned
financial institutions, and they stand ready to rescue them
again if and when necessary.

The report on bankers’ pay was released only days after Hawaii’s
governor announced that Oracle CEO Larry Ellison had bought
Lanai, the sixth-largest Hawaiian island, for between $500 and
$600 million.

The island’s 3,000 residents will be as dependent on Ellison’s
good will as were the vassals of the Middle Ages to their lord.

Ellison, the third-richest individual in the United States, is
notorious both for his extravagance and his petty avarice.

In 2008, he won a $3 million tax refund from the city of
Woodside, California after a court ruled that his house, a
reproduction of a Japanese emperor’s estate that cost $200
million to build, was worth only $100 million on the current
market.

The court declared that nobody besides Ellison could afford to
live in the house, which gave it “limited market appeal,” and
on that basis lowered the Oracle executive’s property taxes.

The taxes that Ellison and his fellow California billionaires avoid
paying have contributed to the state’s $15 billion budget deficit,
which is now being tackled through cuts in vital social programs
that keep millions from destitution.

California Governor Jerry Brown, a Democrat, and the Democratic
controlled state legislature reached an agreement last week on a
minimum of $8 billion in spending cuts.

State welfare benefits are to be slashed in half and $1 billion is to
be cut from the state’s Medicaid program, $402 million from state
workers’ wages, and $240 million from child care.

Ellison, whose net worth is $36.5 billion, could write a check to
cover the amount of these cuts … four times over. Then there are
the other 99 billionaires in the state.

Another example of the use to which the super-rich are putting
their vast fortunes has been captured in a soon-to-be-released
documentary, The Queen of Versailles.

The film recounts the efforts of the billionaire founder of Westgate
Resorts (a time-share company) and his ex-model wife to build the
largest house in the United States.

At 90,000 square feet, the Orlando, Florida mansion includes ten
kitchens and a bowling alley.

The palatial Florida home is named Versailles in honor of the palace
of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. That the royal couple had their
heads cut off in the French revolution seems lost on the builders of
the new Versailles.

A charming detail revealed in the film about the lifestyle of the
new Versailles: the family dogs were never housebroken because
a small army of servants was always on hand to clean up after them.

Aristocracy, from the Greek root, means “rule by the best.”

However, the financial oligarchy, whose selfish interests determine
the policies of the planet’s governments, encompasses the most
ignorant and depraved sections of modern society.

“Scum separates by floating upward,” said Marx, writing
about the speculators and fraudsters of his time.

“The finance aristocracy,” he added, “in its mode of acquisition
as well as in its pleasures, is nothing but the rebirth of the
lumpenproletariat on the heights of bourgeois society.”

The decades preceding the Wall Street crash of 2008 saw a
dramatic enrichment of this social element and the refashioning
of politics to suit its needs.

The financial oligarchy exercises monopolistic influence over
political life, and the police state mechanisms built up since
2001 have been put in place largely to protect its wealth.

The Obama administration itself is one expression of this process.

In 2008, Barack Obama received more money from the finance
industry than any other candidate in US history.

After his election, he proceeded to pack his cabinet with former
Wall Street executives.

Once in office, Obama made trillions available to the banks and
shielded those responsible for the 2008 crash from criminal
investigation or prosecution.

The concentration of this great wealth in the hands of a financial
aristocracy comes at the direct expense of the rest of society.

One in two people in the United States is either poor or near-poor,
and median household wealth fell by 39 percent between 2007 and 2010.

Millions struggle to make ends meet, and the increase in the
ranks of those living in outright destitution is staggering.

The proportion of the population living in “extreme poverty” has
grown by 50 percent since 2000, from 4.5 percent to 6.7 percent.
To be designated extremely poor an individual has to make less
than $5,851 and a family of four less than $11,509.

As Mark Twain once wrote, “There never was a revolution unless
there were some oppressive and intolerable conditions against
which to revolute.”

Every year, trillions are squandered on the yachts, mansions
and country clubs of the rich and the micro-economy they
create around themselves.

Vast resources are devoted to financial speculation, funneled
into the Wall Street gambling casino.

Putting this wealth to rational use would go a considerable way
toward eradicating unemployment, poverty and preventable
disease.

Ending the anarchy and exploitation at the heart of the capitalist
system, which find a particularly noxious expression in the
concentration of obscene levels of wealth at the very top, would
enable mankind to mobilize and develop the productive forces,
including science and technology, to vastly raise the material
and cultural level of human society and eliminate inequality.

And yet the universal cry in official politics is that “there is no
money” to fund social programs or pay decent wages, and that
workers, including the poorest and most vulnerable, must “tighten
their belts.”

Such is the character of all historically bankrupt ruling classes.

The issue is not just their personal wealth, but, more
fundamentally, their stranglehold over the productive
forces of society.

The giant corporations and financial institutions must be taken
out of private hands and run democratically in order to rebuild
the society the super-rich have ravaged.

Outside of socialist revolution there is no way to curb the political
and economic power of the new aristocracy that plunders society
for its personal enrichment.


http://www.wsws.org/articles/2012/jun2012/pers-j28.shtml

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Useful Idiots

The Source of Barack Obama’s Power to Trick Us Comes from Our
Willingness to Be Tricked

By Matt Stoller
Naked Capitalism.com
Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Jokes reveal truths, which is why the best way to appreciate the
real Obama, not the fabled character of hope and change, is how
he tells jokes.

He’s good at, no, great at telling jokes. He kills at comedic
performances, and his sense of timing is magnificent.

Jokes, though, show how someone really sees the world, and the
joke I’m thinking of is one he made during a speech in March 2009,
when the revelations of AIG’s massive retention bonuses became
public.

It had been less than two months since Obama’s inauguration, but
the major policy framework of the administration – the bailouts –
had been laid down.

The AIG bonus scandal was outrageous to the public, a symbol of
tens of billions of taxpayer dollars being funneled to an arrogant
corporation that had helped destroy the economy.

Barack Obama had stepped up to the lectern to deliver a stern
rebuke to AIG executives who had taken bonuses with taxpayer
money.

Obama talked of the outrage of an irresponsible company, and
how his administration would do everything within its power to
get the money back.

But a few minutes in, he coughed, slightly, choking a bit, as
his mouth was a bit dry. But after he coughed, he stopped,
and reflected on the gesture with a joke.

”I’m choked, choked with anger”, he said. Obama chuckled.
Reporters laughed. And it was funny, really funny.

Because everyone in the room knew that Obama wasn’t actually
angry about the AIG bonuses, and never intended to do anything
about it.

No one there was angry about the bonuses, and everyone
knew nothing would happen to AIG executives.

The House would pass bills, which would die in the Senate.

The only people angry were Americans at large, who could
not believe that their government worked for Wall Street.

So the joke was funny, ironic, cool. But the moment wasn’t
right for it, because this was a serious time for outrage – so
Obama quickly reverted to form, and the teleprompter took
over.

Pundits didn’t reflect on this “joke”. No one really noted it.

It was very much like George Bush’s comment to reporters that
was only later highlighted by Michael Moore, when Bush was on
a golf course and perfunctorily said “we must find these terrorist
killers….” and then turned to swing a golf club. ”Now watch this
drive.”

Obama had risen to that level of duplicity, not a lie in the
conventional sense of saying something that wasn’t true,
but an entirely constructed false persona.

He had polished the tools of the Presidency – the utter banality
of PR, the constipated talking points, the routine abuse of power
and taken them to a new level with a self-aware sense of irony
about his own narcissistic dishonesty.

His challenge was so outrageous – I dare you to call me on what
a liar I am as I joke about how much I am lying to you right now
that he turned an obnoxious bluff into art.

Obama had shown this breathtaking tendency to con people as they
knew they were being conned before, the most public time during
the campaign being his cynical answer when he was asked about his
promise to renegotiate NAFTA.

He had said, when fighting for union votes with Clinton, “I will
make sure we renegotiate (NAFTA).” Even as he said this, it turns
out that campaign advisor Austan Goolsbee had gone to Canada to
assure them this was a lie (sure enough, Obama’s trade policies are
identical to Bush’s, or worse).

And once the election ended, and Obama was asked about his
broken promise by a reporter, he gave the following answer.

“This is fun for the press to try to stir up whatever quotes were
generated during the course of the campaign,” President Obama
said during his Transition in early December, when a reporter
asked him about criticisms he and now-Secretary of State Clinton
had made about each other’s foreign policy views.

“They’re your quotes, sir,” said the reporter, Peter Baker of
the New York Times.

“No, I understand. And you’re having fun,” Obama continued.
“And there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m not faulting it.”

This is cynicism as art. It’s literally a Presidential candidate running
on hope and change saying that campaign promises are a joke and a ruse.

His comments on AIG were similarly dishonest.

When Barack Obama spoke about the AIG money, he gave a well-
constructed speech in which he discussed how his administration
would do everything legally possible to block the payment of those
bonuses.

Of course, those bonuses had been paid out days before he made
the statement, so the idea that he’d “block” the bonuses was
already something of deception.

His promises to do everything legal to claw back the money were
also misleading – Obama didn’t get the money back, and never
intended to.

In fact, the administration had weeks earlier asked Chris Dodd
to insert a provision into law ensuring the AIG bonuses would
be paid – and then blamed Dodd for the fiasco.

Politicians play hardball all the time. They lie on a regular basis,
it’s one of the tricks of the trade.

But Obama’s politics, and his career, are built on an exquisitely
and brilliantly constructed narrative of integrity and progress.

He is the outsider become the insider, the multi-racial meritocrat
whose black and white heritage came together into the ultimate
conciliator and political leader.

His is the story of America, that of a brilliant Harvard Law school
educated striver with roots in community organizing, who became
a powerful orator, and then America’s first black President.

Progressive in spirit, cautious in temperament, he first and
foremost understands the challenges facing the nation, the
powerful injustice of slavery’s heritage, even though he
ultimately finds solace in his belief in America, in American
institutions, and in the ultimate goodness of the American
way of life.

But there is another narrative, a real narrative about Barack Obama
and his administration.

Obama is the ultimate cynic, a dishonest, highly reactionary social
and corporate ladder climbing con artist.

Obama is the guy who calls a female reporter “sweety”, who plays
poker with the guys, and who thinks that his senior advisor’s
decision to cash out after making a “modest” salary of $172,000 at
the White House is just natural.

He’s the guy who used the rationale that he’s a father of two girls
as to why he doesn’t want young women to have access to Plan B.

He was in favor of gay marriage in 1996, flip flopped for political
reasons, and then pretended to change his mind as a matter of
conscience.

He runs on populism with a worse record than George W. Bush
on income inequality.

His narcissism, and the post-modern ironic sense of self-awareness
of how his narrative is put together and tended, is his defining
character trait.

It’s not just that he’s a liar.

Lyndon Johnson was a liar, but LBJ lied us into a war in Vietnam
as well as a war on poverty.

FDR lied all the time, for good and ill.

Obama’s entire edifice is based on lying almost entirely to help
sustain his image, with almost no interest in sound policy-making.

Obama understands the threat of climate change, but like the
exceptional con artist he is, what happens to others he does
not know, or what happens in the future, is irrelevant to him.

He understands banking, and war, and women’s issues, and
corruption and Citizens United.

Like a great con artist, he has studied his mark, the American
voter, and specifically the Democratic voter, and he understands
which buttons to push.

Many criticize Obama, with the idea that he doesn’t understand,
and if only he understood, he would change his mind.

This is part of his false narrative of hope and change.

But Obama reads Paul Krugman – he studied the left intensely
and spent years as a community organizer.

He understands his opposition, those crying out for justice against
the powerful, and finds them laughable, finds in them weakness at
best, a punchline at worst.

He reads his left-wing opponents so he can absorb the talking
points, and rebut them.

Some think that Obama can be appealed to around the better
angels of nature, that he’s naturally with “the left” but must
be gently praised.

But again, this is more of the false hope and change narrative.

Obama understands Saul Alinsky. He gets left-wing ideas. But he
hates the left, with the passion of any bully towards his victims.

To him, they are chumps, weak, pathetic, losers. They are such
pathetic losers, in fact, that they will believe anything he tells
them.

And Obama has no better nature, he is what he’s done in office,
someone who murders children with drone strikes and then jokes
about it to his rich friends.

Yves wrote about this narrative a few weeks ago, when she pointed
out his career in the Illinois state Senate was based on working for
billionaire developers to destroy poor neighborhoods.

Few really gets who he is, at his core, and almost no one is willing
to publicly point it out.

There are some who went to law school with him, who saw his
enormous grasping social climbing tendencies, his eager corporate
good old boy persona, his narcissistic calculations.

But they are drowned out by the institutional left-wing voices,
the fanboy reporters, the sycophantic labor leaders, the slavishly
worshipful foundations, and the voters who cannot hear any
alternative to the hope and change they know and love.

The only mainstream narrative challenging hope and change is
the stupid right-wing storyline that he’s a Kenyan Muslim socialist.

That’s just racist idiocy.

But there are those on the right who understand Obama’s
narcissism, and they may just make that their electoral narrative.

Think about this problem in a slightly different way. It’s been
three years.

Why hasn’t been there a great iconic impersonator of Barack
Obama, like Tina Fey and Sarah Palin or Will Ferrell (or James
Adomian) and George W. Bush?

A comic impersonator reveals something about the core of an
individual.

The people imitating Obama seem to think that he’s far more left-
wing and principled beneath the surface, that if he let out who
he really was, how really angry he is at the Republicans, that’s the
parody they hit. It falls flat, because it’s not true to who he is.

The truth is that he’s a narcissistic sociopath dressed up as a cool
corporate brand.

The real Obama parody is an Obama who wears an Air Force One
fleece over an Obama t-shirt, who says to a reporter “Now hang on,
let me finish, speaking slowly and avoiding your question, which is,
by the way excellent.”

He’s President, and if you’re upset with him, don’t worry,
look at that beautiful photo of Obama smiling and pointing.

This alternative narrative is a hard truth to hear, because it
carries with it an implicit rejection of American exceptionalism.

Yes, American institutions are no better, and in many ways
are more malignant, than those of many other countries.

Yes, our political leaders, our press, our military leadership,
operate in service to sociopathic aims.

Yes, our freedoms are often an illusion, unless you fit a very
narrow criteria.

Yes, our banks are run to rob us, yes, our CIA spies on us,
and yes, our government is fundamentally anti-democratic.

Yes, our President is a con artist, and yes, nearly every reporter
who writes about him participates in this set of lies, because of
careerism, social financial reasons, or a simple lack of competence
or imagination.

But, the idea that the king is always good, which is where the
hope and change narrative draws its deep strength, is something
we do not have to accept.

We as people can break this spell, and speak to our own dignity,
as citizens.

We can learn our own power, if in no other manner than in saying
at the voting booth and in public, “I do not accept your lies, and
though you might take it by force, I will not grant you my consent
willingly.”

We can choose not to address our political officials by their titles.

We can work to organize ourselves, and our lives, with those of
us who understand that power is something that must be taken,
with money, organization, but most of all, with moral courage.

It is not something that politicians have except through our
consent, consent we have been giving for decades, to a rotten
political class.

This is what they truly fear.

This is why they spend tens of billions on propaganda, on
advertising, on symbols and personalities and celebrity.

This is why they hide the workings of our government and banks
and institutions of power in the language of boring bureaucrat-ese.

This is ultimately why they are weak.

Because in order for them to do their work quietly, we must go
about our day, and believe either the hope and change narrative,
or the Kenyan socialist narrative, scoffing at the opposing “team”
who thinks what we do not.

Instead, we can choose an alternative narrative, that power and
consent come from us, come from the choices that we make, as
people, and as citizens.

And we will no longer believe that Barack Obama, that cool,
brilliant, self-aware con artist is anything but what he has
revealed himself to be.

http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2012/06/back-obama-the-
cool-self-aware-irony-drenched-con-artist.html

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Capitalism and the Mad Uncle in the Attic

Capitalism and the Mad Uncle in the Attic

By John Atcheson
Common Dreams
June 24, 2012

Listen. Can you hear the Mad Uncle in the attic?

His muffled shriekings are getting louder as the myths, deceptions
and delusions we’ve been living on evaporate one by one in the
face of reality.

Can you feel that sickening thrill as we poise atop this Sisyphean
peak we call capitalism, right before the inevitable, nauseating
plunge back down into reality?

Can you smell the stench from the soon-to-fail Rio plus 20 meeting
as we con ourselves into believing we can snatch a bit more time at
the peak if only we could steal yet more of our children’s children’s
children’s birthright?

Ah, but we – plutocrats and people alike -- all beg, can’t we
keep this damned Uncle locked up for just a little more time.

Maybe until this election is over. Or until we’ve extracted a little
more money from a fossil-fueled economy based on greed and
exploitation. Or until … oh, I don’t know … until we’ve bled the
last iota of money from the 99%? Or at least until … I get mine?

Can’t we pretend for just one more generation that capitalism
pure, unconstrained capitalism, the kind Reagan promised us
would bring morning to America isn’t instead bringing mourning
to America, and to the world?

Can’t we just pretend, for one more generation, that the whole
infinite growth on a finite world thing isn’t just a giant, tragic
Ponzi Scheme designed to sell out the future?

Can’t we pass this problem onto them?

Can’t we use buzz words and sound bites to drown out
the lunatic? Words like socialist or redistribution or –
most dreaded of all – communism.

Can’t we keep pretending that capitalism is the necessary
handmaiden of Democracy, the only path to prosperity, our
only source of happiness?

No. We can’t. Because deep down inside, in places we don’t
like to visit, we know the Mad Uncle is right. What we’re
doing now isn’t making us all rich. It’s impoverishing us.

Ultimately, all wealth comes from natural capital.

Things like fertile soils; viable forests; intact gene pools;
abundant minerals; clean water and living oceans; sustainable
fish stocks; flourishing ecosystems; a stable, life-sustaining
climate.

We are liquidating these essential sources of wealth as if
they were so much junk offered for pennies on the dollar
at a desperate garage sale.

Our current version of capitalism is good at generating more
currency, not greater wealth. And we forget that currency is
merely a surrogate for things of real value, with no tangible
value in and of itself.

And even the currency isn’t being distributed equally. It’s
being siphoned off by the richest and most powerful in a
spiral of inequity.

It isn't making us happy, it's enslaving us to a life spent
pursuing more and more stuff we don’t need for reasons
we don’t understand.

Bigger; more; faster becomes biggest; most; fastest. But easy,
easier, easiest becomes fatter, sicker weaker.

It isn’t making us free, it’s creating a tyranny of the corporations
and plutocrats.

They weaken government in the name of freedom, only to turn
us into indentured servants to a system that's designed to take
from the poor and middle class and give to the uber rich, even
as it liquidates Earth’s treasures.

But the real tragedy isn’t our own alienation or our economic
and spiritual impoverishment.

It is the diminished legacy we leave the rest of humanity and
indeed, the rest of the biosphere.

It’s our willingness to consume the future in an orgy of gluttony,
drowning out the Mad Uncle’s protests with the noise of our own
slurping, chewing, smacking, munching, crunching as we inhale
our children’s birthright.

Hyperbole?

Not really. Every living system is in decline, and the rate is
accelerating.

In the case of climate change we are at the threshold of igniting
feedbacks that will usher in an inevitable and catastrophic set of
changes that will make life difficult in some areas and impossible
in others.

It’s time to admit that the Mad Uncle is right. Pure, unconstrained
capitalism is the problem, not the solution.

What, then, are we to do?

There are alternatives. We could tie currency to sustainable eco-
systems.

Instead of a gold standard we could have a green standard. Thus,
destruction of a nation’s stock of natural capital would devalue
its currency, and make it poorer.

We could adopt systems of production and ownership such
as Co-ops that emphasized cooperation, equitable sharing
of revenue and stewardship of our natural resources.

It’s not pie-in-the sky, to consider this. Cooperatives already
produce more than $1 trillion in assets, enough to make them
equivalent to the 10th largest economy in the world.

We could insist that trade agreements contain real, enforceable
requirements for equitable treatment of labor and serious
environmental protections, so that globalization ceased being a
race to the bottom for humans and the planet.

Yes, these ideas are unrealistic, naïve, politically impossible and
all the other labels that will surely be affixed to them and other
ideas like them.

But it is worth remembering, that the only thing more unrealistic
than junking our current bastardized system of economics is
supposing we can continue to liquidate the Earth without
consequence.

That’s what the Mad Uncle is telling us. We continue to ignore him
at our peril.


John Atcheson is author of the novel, A Being Darkly Wise, an eco-
thriller and Book One of a Trilogy centered on global warming. His
writing has appeared in The New York Times, the Washington Post,
the Baltimore Sun, the San Jose Mercury News and other major
newspapers.

http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/06/22

Friday, June 22, 2012

All for One

All for One

Much of the propaganda that inundates the world’s population is
designed to justify animosities and conflicts, whether religious,
racial or political.

But there is a larger truth that also must be understood – that we
are all in this together, as Winslow Myers notes.

By Winslow Myers
Consortium News
June 22, 2012

The single most powerful idea that needs to be seeded into world
culture as rapidly as possible is that we are one interdependent
whole on this planet.

Difficult as the implications may be for us to grasp, it will have only
a salutary effect upon world politics, economics, cultural diversity,
and religious practice.

Going further, it could be asserted that the internalization in the
human mind and heart of this idea is the way evolution itself will
manifest itself at this unfolding moment of history.

For relief from such headache-inducing abstractions, I often walk
a path that takes me along a tidal river to a midden, a cliff-high
mound of oyster shells left from the summer gatherings of
indigenous Americans over millennia.

The midden slopes to a beach where horseshoe crabs forage along
the sandy shallows—a species so resilient that it has sustained itself
unchanged for 445 million years.

The process that has allowed horseshoe crabs to flourish for so long
has operated instinctually, on “automatic,” in a roller coaster ride
up into breathtaking diversity and down into five vertiginous
moments of mass extinction, as life-forms jostled for their place in
the ecosystem.

Those forms that adapted survived. Those that did not disappeared,
leaving only their fossil remains.

Scientists tell us we are into a sixth dizzying plunge as thousands of
species go extinct around us. Natural selection continues to operate
at full throttle.

Meanwhile, an “unnatural” factor, human consciousness, entered
the scene.

In what has been only an instant of evolutionary time, it became
dominant—rather, it has assumed dominance over the system while
in reality remaining totally subject to the system’s every law and
principle.

The “other” in the twoness of self and other is not only the
perceived enemy or opposing viewpoint.

The other is also the natural world that until now we have
perceived as an infinite resource subject to our command and
exploitation, rather than as the ground of our own sustained
vitality. We can be no healthier than it.

If the Chinese continue to operate their coal-fired power plants,
the largest single source of carbon emissions in the world, the
military-economic competition between China and the United
States will become at best irrelevant and at worst a potential
disaster.

If the United States continues to use up a third of all global
resources, it will matter little whether Iran produces a nuclear
weapon or not.

These ecological realities behind our conflicts rarely surface
in political campaigns because we are entranced by obsolete
competitive metaphors: our politics are not the civil contribution
of workable ideas based in interdependency.

Instead they are a Super Bowl contest. Super Bowl twoness is
the obsolete thought-paradigm that informs everything we do.

We compete from birth to death. We compare ourselves endlessly
with others. We envy those who are wealthier or better looking or
apparently happier, and look down upon those less fortunate than
ourselves with a distancing pity or contempt.

In a thousand daily ways, we take sides.

Especially in the United States our politics, our legislatures and
courts, executive leaders, and mass-media discourse are dominated
by polarized allegiance to conservative or progressive opinion.

A Republican president and vice-president administer a torture
program of global reach, a program that would subject them to
potential criminal trial by Nuremburg standards, but they have
enough support among both Republicans and Democrats—given
our fear of the terrorist “other”—to receive a pass.

A Democratic president supervises a drone program that violates
the sovereignty of other nations and kills innocents at his personal
command, also a program that could arguably subject him to
potential criminal trial by Nuremburg standards. But he too enjoys
enough support to receive a pass.

We citizens whose collective will our leaders are sworn to
enact continue in our moral ambivalence—our troubled twoness.

Instead of the practical imperative of the Golden Rule, that bow
toward the truth of interdependence found in all the major world
religions, we live by the half-truth of “you’re either with us or
against us.”

At the fateful moment in October 1962 when superpower
competition, in the form of the Cuban Missile Crisis, brought the
planet as close as it has been to thermonuclear annihilation, who
was the enemy?

Who was the “other”? Was it not war itself? Was it not ignorance
itself? Why is this not equally true in every competitive
confrontation from the international to the intimately personal?

We humans emerged from a uni-verse. This is the single context out
of which came all our religions, all our cultural and ethnic diversity,
our constantly calibrated sense of twoness.

The great next step of the evolutionary process is from twoness
to oneness, not as a New Age bromide but as an evolutionary
necessity.

This step can only take place in the way individual humans feel
and think, as we, we upon whose decisions rests the fate of all
life-forms on the planet, mature into willingness to look into
how we can contribute to the health of the whole system.

Poet Robert Frost wrote:

Nature within her inmost self divides

To trouble men with having to take sides.

Frost’s couplet distills the depth to which competition is
structured into evolution. But we are awakening to the
fundamental unity behind our twoness.

As a Peace Corps volunteer once said, “The earth is a sphere,
and a sphere has only one side. We are all on the same side.”

Muslims, Christians, Alawites, Sunnis, Iranians, Jews, fans of
Limbaugh, fans of Maddow, horseshoe crabs—we’re all in this
together.


Winslow Myers, author of Living Beyond War: A Citizen’s Guide,
serves on the Board of Beyond War (www.beyondwar.org), a non-
profit educational foundation whose mission is to explore, model
and promote the means for humanity to live without war.

http://consortiumnews.com/2012/06/22/all-for-one/

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Creative Evolution

Creative Evolution

By Yosef Brody
Seymour Magazine
June 19, 2012

Imagine your ancestor sitting in a cave surrounded by rocks
and bones.

One day, doing nothing at all, something in her moves. She
touches two objects together a few times in a row, creating
a curious, syncopated noise.

It almost sounds like the rain earlier in the day when it started
slowing down, dripping into puddles. She wants to hear it again.

Another cave, a few thousand kilometers and years away.

Following his meal, a man sits, entranced, at the edge of a
fire pit. He watches the whirling smoke, the dancing flames.

Memories of a wild animal envelop his mind’s eye. Lost in
contemplation, he plays with a piece of charred wood and
begins to transfer the mental imagery to the wall.

What’s going on here?

The creative process, universal and ubiquitous, remains largely
mysterious. In the coming months, this space will be dedicated
to a wide-ranging exploration of this process in an effort to
foster reflection about, enhance, and cultivate artistic creativity.

To create is simply unavoidable. Each time we open our mouths
to speak, we create.

What often comes out is a phrase, imbued with meaning, that
has never before been spoken in the history of time. This process
happens almost automatically, without work.

How many new configurations of words do we put together in
this way every day? Every hour? How many hundreds of millions
of original sentences have just been uttered by people around
the world in the time it took you to read this paragraph?

While creativity is a defining part of what we do as a species, the
environment we are surrounded by — and the environment we
choose to surround ourselves with — also determines our creative
output.

The woman in the cave had the opportunity to make music because
she sat among rocks and bones, and she came to her idea because
she had paid attention to the rain drip-drop into puddles.

The man started drawing because the charcoal was next to him,
and because dancing gazelles were not far away.

While our nature has not changed much in the last 100,000 years,
our environment is undergoing increasingly rapid and dramatic
evolution.

As technological change accelerates[1] — as it feeds on itself —
the environments of the 21st century that modify our creativity
are being wholly revolutionized.

People living in rich societies today are processing more
information than ever before. We can now easily max out
our mental capacities whenever we like, like a constantly
overflowing glass.

Because this usually has the pleasant effect of a sensual or
intellectual massage, many of us revel and splash around in
the digital waterfall throughout most of the day.

Yet the modern media massage is not without costs.

Due to a phenomenon that scientists call neuroplasticity, our brains
are rewiring themselves to adapt to this new mental environment.

Research suggests that engaging with a constant stream of digital
information fragments and hyperlinks has significant effects on
attention, concentration, memory, and comprehension[2].

How is human creativity impacted by all this?

What is being gained and what is being lost as our creative
energies get sucked into hyperconnectedness, as our brains
adapt and restructure, as we let ourselves be continually
distracted by ever newer-better-faster morsels of information?

One potential concern for artists is the deprioritization of
valuable blank time — that fertile mindspace that permits
ideas and inspiration to grow and flourish.

Quiet reflection and contemplation bolster our creativity. What
can we expect if mental stillness becomes increasingly rare?

The amount of time we spend disengaged from the noise of the
network, the amount of time we spend doing nothing at all, just
being alone with ourselves, is fast dwindling.

Our digital devices are always available during empty moments,
helping us to feel — however briefly or obliquely — a little less
alone, a little less anxious, a little less angst.

Does that mean we are also listening less to the rain?


Dr. Yosef Brody holds a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Long
Island University-Brooklyn. A native New Yorker, he is now
based in Paris where he teaches and works in private practice.

http://magazine.seymourprojects.com/2012/06/rhyme-reason-
by-yosef-brody/

Saturday, June 16, 2012

March of the Lemmings

America's Voluntary Self-destruction

By Jack Random
Dissident Voice
June 16th, 2012

The Lemming Condition tells the story of a community of arctic
rodents who blindly follow tradition, culture and peer pressure
on a suicidal march over a cliff and into the sea.

Alan Arkin’s fable is of course fiction, based on a myth perpetuated
by a popular Disney documentary on animal behavior.

Creatures in nature generally intuit the path to survival and no
species eagerly commits mass suicide or self-destruction – no
species that is with the possible exception of the human species.

It occurred to me after the spectacle of the recent election
in Wisconsin, where common folks, working people with their
livelihoods at stake, signed the death warrant for Wisconsin
labor by rejecting a recall of their notorious anti-labor governor.

Despite all the money poured into the state from the nation’s
wealthiest individuals and corporate entities, no one in Wisconsin
could have been unaware of the issues at stake: the end of
collective bargaining and an open attack on the last bastion of
unionism in the public sector.

I listened to the rationalizations of progressive and pro-labor
spokespersons, that the vote did not affirm the rabid policies of
their governor but rather represented an objection to the process.

Based on exit polls, they argued that voters did not believe the
recall process should be used for anything less than corruption or
malfeasance of office.

Frankly, I know something about human nature.

Based on that knowledge, I have drawn the conclusion that
Wisconsin voters lied to the pollsters just as they were likely
lying to themselves.

With real-world consequences at stake, Wisconsin workers,
forming the vast majority of the electorate, stepped in line
and walked over a cliff into the sea.

They voluntarily yielded their government to corporate rule.
They voted to end organized labor in their state.

To their fellow workers in the public sector, the teachers, nurses,
firefighters and police, their message was clear: Go to hell!

Until the results in Wisconsin, I had great hope that the people
of America would finally awaken. The candidates taking office
in the last election did not run on anti-labor austerity platforms.

They promised jobs and decried shipping them overseas.

They said nothing about busting unions, firing public workers,
blocking abortion, women’s contraception and corporate tax breaks.

Their secret agenda was not revealed until they took office and
few were more obvious than Governor Scott Walker. He lied to
the electorate but the voters did not feel that was sufficient
grounds for recall.

Now I am anything but hopeful.

With eyes wide open we are forming a line, beckoning others
to follow, as we march over a cliff into the sea.

We sign petitions demanding austerity, knowing full well that
our friends and family members will suffer the consequences:
Homelessness, joblessness, paltry wages, hunger and denied
medical care.

Public schools and public health clinics will fall on even harder
times with overcrowded classrooms and inadequate supplies.

Students in the working class (the middle class will soon be
reserved for management) will no longer aspire to higher
education. The cost of college will be beyond their means.

Even college graduates and highly skilled workers will be unable
to match the low wages and benefits of foreign competitors.

They will eventually fold, joining a burgeoning number of working
poor, counting pennies and pleading for help. Unable to pay their
debts, homes will be lost and futures discarded.

Old people, facing severe cutbacks in social security and Medicare,
will attempt to re-enter the workforce, competing with their
children and grandchildren for low-wage jobs.

Police and fire departments will find it harder to respond to
anything but the most dire of emergencies.

Denied access to contraception and abortion, more and more
women will give birth to unwanted children, many of whom
will be condemned to unhappy lives in poverty and need.

Left to exercise unbridled greed, the stock market will run wild
until the next curtain falls and this time the crash will reverberate
in places no one but the elite can escape.

When we pick up the pieces, massive international corporations
will own everything but the bill.

Workers and government officials alike will exist at the whim of
their corporate masters.

On and on, it is a grim vision on the social-economic front but it
is nothing compared to what awaits us environmentally.

Clearly, a society that cannot afford the fundamentals of health
care, education and public safety, has no interest in protecting
the air, the water and the ground beneath our feet.

We seem to believe we can vote global climate change out of
existence.

Here’s the news: The planet doesn’t care what you think or what
party you belong to or whom you vote for on Election Day or whom
you listen to on the radio.

The planet is growing warmer whether you believe it or not. The
planet is growing warmer because we refuse to stop pumping toxic
fumes into the air.

Glaciers are in retreat worldwide, melting into the sea. Oceanic
temperatures are rising along with sea levels. Ocean currents are
altered, spawning radical storms and radically altered weather
patterns. Shorelines are retreating and island nations are under
siege, some fighting for their survival.

In keeping with global trade policies, we have transferred virtually
all industry to those nations that not only offer cheap labor under
inhumane conditions but also lack minimal restrictions on air and
water pollution.

Several years back China supplanted America as the leading
producer of greenhouse gasses. That economic giant gets an
estimated 70 percent of its energy from the world’s dirtiest
fuel: coal.

According to a 2007 World Health Organization report, of an
estimated two million deaths caused by polluted air each year,
656,000 were Chinese citizens. Another 95,000 die from polluted
drinking water.

In both cases, the numbers are surely rising but the Lemmings
march on and the western world’s appetite for technological
gadgets is never satiated.

Never fear: What goes on in China stays in China. Not so.

As we might have learned from the Fukushima disaster, air and
water are globally connected. The toxic waste from Japan’s near
nuclear meltdown (a crisis still unfolding) is just reaching American
shores. The radiated plumes reached us long ago with unknown
consequences.

One would think that all talk of reviving our nuclear industry would
be silenced. Think again. Just like the Deepwater Horizon disaster
in the Gulf of Mexico, all parties concerned consider it a public
relations problem that is soon overcome.

Give it a few months and keep the applications coming. Issue a
press release about how deeply concerned you are.

Deepwater drilling continues at an accelerated rate and we have
plans for more nuclear plants (this time they assure us they are
really, really safe), more coal mines, more fracturing for natural
gas buried deep in the earth and more tar sand oil imported from
Canada.

All carry a heavy price to our environment and the collective
health of the planet.

It seems the only restraint we have in energy is that concerning
safe and renewable sources: solar, wind and geothermal.

Conservation through mass transit and fuel efficiency is also on
indefinite hold.

We continue to pretend that it is not exactly the kind of investment
we need to put our people back to work and position ourselves to
lead the global economy.

We must continue to subsidize dirty fuel, peel back restrictions,
and cut back on everything else.

We cannot afford clean energy. We can only afford to press on with
our mindless march to oblivion.

Get in line, fellow lemmings; the cliff is due west and the view
before the fall is breathtaking!


Jack Random is the author of Ghost Dance Insurrection and The
Jazzman Chronicles, Volumes I and II. The Chronicles have been
published by Dissident Voice and others.

http://dissidentvoice.org/2012/06/march-of-the-lemmings/#more-
44858

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Rise of the New Economy Movement

The Rise of the New Economy Movement

There’s economic reform, and then there’s economic
transformation. How entrepreneurs, activists, and theorists
are laying the groundwork for a very different economy.

By Gar Alperovitz
Yes Magazine
June 14, 2012

Just beneath the surface of traditional media attention, something
vital has been gathering force and is about to explode into public
consciousness.

The “New Economy Movement” is a far-ranging coming together
of organizations, projects, activists, theorists and ordinary citizens
committed to rebuilding the American political-economic system
from the ground up.

The broad goal is democratized ownership of the economy for the
“99 percent” in an ecologically sustainable and participatory
community-building fashion.

The name of the game is practical work in the here and now—and a
hands-on process that is also informed by big picture theory and in-
depth knowledge.

Thousands of real world projects—from solar-powered businesses to
worker-owned cooperatives and state-owned banks—are underway
across the country.

Many are self-consciously understood as attempts to develop
working prototypes in state and local “laboratories of democracy”
that may be applied at regional and national scale when the right
political moment occurs.

The movement includes young and old, “Occupy” people, student
activists, and what one older participant describes as thousands of
“people in their 60s from the '60s” rolling up their sleeves to apply
some of the lessons of an earlier movement.

Explosion of Energy

A powerful trend of hands-on activity includes a range of economic
models that change both ownership and ecological outcomes.

Co-ops, for instance, are very much on target—especially
those which emphasize participation and green concerns.

The Evergreen Cooperatives in a desperately poor, predominantly
black neighborhood of Cleveland, Ohio are a leading example.

They include a worker-owned solar installation and weatherization
co-op; a state-of-the-art, industrial-scale commercial laundry in a
LEED-Gold certified building that uses—and therefore has to heat—
only around a third of the water of other laundries; and a soon-to-
open large scale hydroponic greenhouse capable of producing three
million head of lettuce and 300,000 pounds of herbs a year.

Hospitals and universities in the area have agreed to use the
co-ops’ services, and several cities—including Pittsburgh, Atlanta,
Washington, DC and Amarillo, Texas are now exploring similar
efforts.

Other models fit into what author Marjorie Kelly calls the
“generative economy”—efforts that inherently nurture the
community and respect the natural environment.

Organic Valley is a cooperative dairy producer in based in
Wisconsin with more than $700 million in revenue and nearly
1,700 farmer-owners.

Upstream 21 Corporation is a “socially responsible” holding
company that purchases and expands sustainable small businesses.

Greyston Bakery is a Yonkers, New York “B-Corporation” (a
new type of corporation designed to benefit the public) that
was initially founded to provide jobs for neighborhood residents.

Today, Greystone generates around $6.5 million in annual sales.

Recently, the United Steelworkers union broke modern labor
movement tradition and entered into a historic agreement with
the Mondragón Cooperative Corporation and the Ohio Employee
Ownership Center to help build worker-owned cooperatives in
the United States along the lines of a new “union-co-op” model.

The movement is also serious about building on earlier models.

More than 130 million Americans, in fact, already belong to one
or another form of cooperative—and especially the most widely
known form: the credit union.

Similarly, there are some 2,000 municipally owned utilities, a
number of which are ecological leaders. Twenty-five percent of
American electricity is provided by co-ops and public utilities.

Upwards of 10 million Americans now also work at some 11,000
employee-owned firms (ESOP companies).

More than 200 communities also operate or are establishing
community land trusts that take land and housing out of the
market and preserve it for the community. And hundreds of
“social enterprises” use profits for social or community serving
goals.

Beyond these efforts, roughly 4,500 Community Development
Corporations and 1.5 million non-profit organizations currently
operate in every state in the nation.

The movement is also represented by the “Move Your Money” and
“bank transfer day” campaigns, widespread efforts to shift millions
of dollars from corporate giants like Bank of America to one or
another form of democratic or community-benefiting institution.

Related to this are other “new banking” strategies. Since 2010,
17 states, for instance, have considered legislation to set up public
banks along the lines of the long-standing Bank of North Dakota.

Several cities—including Los Angeles and Kansas City— have passed
“responsible banking” ordinances that require banks to reveal their
impact on the community and/or require city officials to only do
business with banks that are responsive to community needs.

Other cities, like San Jose and Portland, are developing
efforts to move their money out of Wall Street banks and
into other commercial banks, community banks or credit unions.

Politicians and activists in San Francisco have taken this a step
further and proposed the creation of a publicly owned municipal
bank.

There are also a number of innovative non-public, non-co-op
banks—including the New Resource Bank in San Francisco, founded
in 2006 “with a vision of bringing new resources to sustainable
businesses and ultimately creating more sustainable communities.”

Similarly, One PacificCoast Bank, an Oakland-based certified
community development financial institution, grew out of
the desire to “create a sustainable, meaningful community
development bank and a supporting nonprofit organization.”

And One United Bank—the largest black-owned bank in the country
with offices in Los Angeles, Boston and Miami—has financed more
than $1 billion in loans, most in low-income neighborhoods.

Ex-JP Morgan managing director John Fullerton has added
legitimacy and force to the debate about new directions
in finance at the ecologically oriented Capital Institute.

And in several parts of the country, alternative currencies have long
been used to help local community building—notably “BerkShares”
in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, and “Ithaca Hours” in Ithaca,
New York.

Active protest efforts are also underway. The Occupy movement,
along with many others, has increasingly used direct action in
support of new banking directions—and in clear opposition to old.

On April 24, 2012 over 1,000 people protested bank practices at
the Wells Fargo shareholder meeting in San Francisco.

Similar actions, some involving physical “occupations” of bank
branches, have been occurring in many parts of the country since
the Occupy movement started in 2011. Large-scale demonstrations
occurred at the Bank of America’s annual shareholder meeting in
May 2012.

What to do about large-scale enterprise in a “new economy” is
also on the agenda.

A number of advocates, like Boston College professor Charles
Derber, contemplate putting worker, consumer, environmental, or
community representatives of “stakeholder” groups on corporate
boards.

Others point to the Alaska Permanent Fund which invests a
significant portion of the state’s mineral revenues and returns
dividends to citizens as a matter of right.

Still others, like David Schweickart and Richard Wolff, propose
system-wide change that emphasizes one or another form of
worker ownership and management.

(In the Schweickart version, smaller firms would be essentially
directly managed by workers; large-scale national firms would
be nationalized but also managed by workers.)

A broad and fast-growing group seeks to end “corporate
personhood,” and still others urge a reinvigoration of anti-trust
efforts to reduce corporate power. (Breaking up banks deemed
too big to fail is one element of this.)

In March 2012, the Left Forum held in New York also heard many
calls for a return to nationalization.

And even among “Small is Beautiful” followers of the late E. F.
Schumacher, a number recall this historic build-from-the-bottom-
up advocate’s argument that “[w]hen we come to large-scale
enterprises, the idea of private ownership becomes an absurdity.”

Schumacher continuously searched for national models that were
as supportive of community values as local forms.

Theory and Action

A range of new theorists have also increasingly given intellectual
muscle to the movement. Some, like Richard Heinberg, stress the
radical implications of ending economic growth.

Former presidential adviser James Gustav Speth calls for
restructuring the entire system as the only way to deal with
ecological problems in general and growth in particular.

David Korten has offered an agenda for a new economy which
stresses small Main Street business and building from the bottom
up. (Korten also co-chairs a "New Economy Working Group" with
John Cavanagh at the Institute of Policy Studies.)

Juliet Schor has proposed a vision of "Plentitude" oriented
in significant part around medium-scale high tech industry.

My own work on a Pluralist Commonwealth emphasizes a
community-building system characterized by a mix of
democratized forms of ownership ranging from small co-ops
all the way up to public/worker-owned firms where large
scale cannot be avoided.

Writers like Herman Daly and David Bollier have also helped
establish theoretical foundations for fundamental challenges
to endless economic growth, on the one hand, and the need
to transcend privatized economics in favor of a "commons"
understanding, on the other.

The awarding in 2009 of the Nobel Prize to Elinor Ostrom for work
on commons-based development underlined recognition at still
another level of some of the critical themes of the movement.

Around the country, thinkers are clamoring to meet and discuss
new ideas.

The New Economy Institute, led primarily by ecologists and
ecological economists, hoped to attract a few hundred participants
to a gathering to be held at Bard College in June 2012.

The event sold out almost two months in advance!

An apologetic email went out turning away hundreds who could
not be accommodated with the promise of much bigger venue
the next year.

And that's just one example. From April to May 2012, the Social
Venture Network held its annual gathering in Stevenson,
Washington.

The Public Banking Institute gathered in Philadelphia. The National
Center for Employee Ownership met in Minneapolis also to record-
breaking attendance.

And the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) held
a major conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Other events planned for 2012 include the Consumer Cooperative
Management Association's meeting in Philadelphia; the U.S.
Federation of Worker Cooperatives' gathering in Boston; a Farmer
Cooperatives conference organized by the University of Wisconsin
Center for Cooperatives; and meetings of the National Community
Land Trust Network and the Bioneers.

The American Sustainable Business Council, a network of 100,000
businesses and 300,000 individuals, has been holding ongoing events
and activities throughout 2012.

Daunting Challenges

The New Economy Movement is already energetically involved in an
extraordinary range of activities, but it faces large-scale, daunting
challenges.

The first of these derives from the task it has set for itself
nothing less than changing and democratizing the very essence
of the American economic system's institutional structure.

Even viewed as a long-range goal, the movement obviously
confronts the enormous entrenched power of an American
political economic system dominated by very large banking
and corporate interests and bolstered by a politics heavily
dependent on the financial muscle of elites at the top.

One recent calculation is that 400 individuals at the top
now own more wealth than the bottom 160 million.

A second fundamental challenge derives from the increasingly
widespread new economy judgment that economic growth must
ultimately be reduced, indeed, even possibly ended if the dangers
presented by climate change are to be avoided and if resource
and other environmental limits are to be responsibly dealt with.

Complicating all this is the fact that most labor unions the core
institution of the traditional progressive alliance are committed to
growth as absolutely essential as the economy is now organized to
maintaining jobs.

History dramatizes the implacable power of the existing
institutions until, somehow, that power gives way to the
force of social movements.

Most of those in the New Economy movement understand the
challenge as both immediate and long-term: how to put an end
to the most egregious social and economically destructive
practices in the near term; how to lay foundations for a possible
transformation in the longer term.

And driving the movement's steady build up, day by day, year by
year, is the growing economic and social pain millions of Americans
now experience in their own lives and a sense that something
fundamental is wrong.

The New Economy Movement speaks to this reality, and just
possibly, despite all the obstacles as with the civil rights,
feminist, environmental and so many other earlier historic
movements it, too, will overcome.

If so, the integrity of its goals and the practicality of its
developmental work may allow it to help establish foundations
for the next great progressive era of American history.

It is already adding positive vision and practical change to
everyday life.


Gar Alperovitz, Lionel R. Bauman Professor of Political Economy
at the University of Maryland, is a Founding Principal of The
Democracy Collaborative, as well as historian, political economist,
and writer.

http://www.yesmagazine.org/new-economy/the-rise-of-the-new-
economy-movement

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Is Occupy Wall Street Dead?

Is Occupy Wall Street Dead?

The movement has gone from hibernation to invisible, but can
rebirth still flourish summer and beyond?

By Common Dreams Staff
Common Dreams.org
June 12, 2012

"Most of the social scientists who are at all like me - unsentimental
leftists, think this movement is over," says Harvard University
professor Theda Skocp.

Speaking to Reuters about the grassroots 'Occupy' movement that
began in Manhattan last fall and sparked nationwide encampments
of public spaces and opened a long-ignored dialogue about income
inequality and unaddressed Wall Street malfeasance.

The guffaws of OWS activists and organizers can already be heard
as the news that a Harvard professor has called the movement null
and void.

But even Adbusters, the 'culture-jamming' magazine that help
spawn the original Wall Street occupation, says that things have
changed dramatically for the movement.

"Our movement is living through a painful rebirth..." began its
frontpage essay this week, and then quoted a Zuccoti park regular
who declared, "We are facing a nauseating poverty of ideas.”

Bill Dobbs, a member of Occupy New York's press team, challenged
Skocpol's view, explaining to Reuters that he compares the OWS
struggle to that of America's civil rights movement - long and
uphill, with broad goals to radically alter American society.

The first step, he said, has been to re-animate America's long-
dormant spirit of social activism.

Adbuster's prescription: flash encampments. But is that enough?

The questions, however unpleasant for some, remain: what now
for Occupy?

What now for those who still believe in the causes of the
movement, but are perplexed on how best to move it forward?

https://www.commondreams.org/headline/2012/06/07

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Broken Shards of My Heart

The United States in Decline

By David Michael Green
Information Clearing House
Sunday, June 10, 2012

I could tell you that my heart was broken by what happened in
Wisconsin this week, but in truth that’s not quite accurate.

I grew into political awareness and maturity in the middle of the
1970s.

For people my age, then, our entire adult lives have been one long
witness to the dismantling of that which we grew up taking for
granted as a foundation for any further progress that might come.

We lived in the relatively egalitarian country of the New Deal and
the Great Society, with its robust middle class and a measure of
earnest compassion for the poor.

Today, that seems like a foreign country, if not a remote planet.

Over the course of our adult lives:

We watched in shock and horror as the country turned to a
Hollywood washout, who was literally a national joke candidate
five years earlier, and made him president, following him down
every path of joyful self-destruction and absurd deceit.

Our jaws dropped in the 1990s at the visage of Newt Gingrich, the
most overtly petulant and destructive piece of self-loathing to ever
occupy a human body, as he was elevated to the highest position
in the United States Congress, and pioneered the basest politics
and the shattering of our government that remains our inheritance
today.

As if that weren’t shameful enough, at the same time Gingrich’s
buddy down at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue was
destroying the meaning of the Democratic Party, aping the
Republican sell-out to corporate thieves and the abandonment
of the public interest – especially the poor, the first to be thrown
under the bus.

And, despite the fact Bill Clinton deserves to rot in hell for the
damage he did in exchange for his personal joyride in the White
House, we were nevertheless forced to watch in horror the
relentless and destructive lunacy of the president’s impeachment
for the high crime of lying about a blow-job.

We had to endure the travesty of Bush versus Gore, one of the most
egregious tramplings of democratic practice imaginable, then watch
the sickening product of that judicial rape: the swaggering wars
based on lies, the torture, the doubling of the national debt, the
environmental depredations, the economic melt-down, and the
raison-d’etre for it all: the radical shifting of wealth from the 300
million of us to the one-tenth of one percent who own everything
in sight.

Perhaps most emotionally devastating of all – Et tu, Brute?

We’ve suffered the betrayal these last years of another Democratic
sell-out, a supposedly liberal-if-not-socialist president actually so
conservative and so sold-out that he couldn’t even bear to pursue
his own personal interest sufficiently to produce a successful
presidency, but has rather continued and amplified the worst
characteristics of the open sore that was the Bush presidency,
even in the midst of crisis opportunities not seen since the 1930s.

So, no, by this time, my heart was not really broken when my
former home-state, Wisconsin, voted emphatically to commit
suicide this week. But only because there’s so little of that heart
left to break.

Shards here and there were crushed and extinguished, to be sure,
but I am becoming rapidly beyond caring about the country I live
in, a place and a people so determined to get it wrong at every
juncture imaginable.

At some point, don’t you just have to stop trying and let the
substance-abuser finish the job on their own?

This country is dying, let’s be clear. It may live yet. It may
survive for decades in slow decline.

It may find a way in utter crisis to throw off, before it is too late,
the fat slimy boa which is squeezing every last cent of value out
of it.

Its political class may invent a devastating foreign crisis with
massively grim consequences in order to deflect public attention
from its manifest failings.

Maybe it will even be some combination of all of the above.

Who knows?

What we can be sure of, however, is that what was once a great
and promising idea as much as a nation is now decrepit to the core,
and rapidly rotting away, and that these wounds are entirely self-
inflicted.

That, for me, is the kicker.

The Soviets didn’t invade and take us over. We didn’t succumb
to some raging virus like the Black Plague. A meteor didn’t blast
a hole in the middle of North America.

We just killed the goose ourselves, through a toxic mix of greed,
laziness and stupidity.


David Michael Green is a professor of political science at Hofstra
University in New York.

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article31540.htm

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Price of Inequality

The Price of Inequality

By Joseph Stiglitz
Common Dreams
June 06, 2012

America likes to think of itself as a land of opportunity, and others
view it in much the same light.

But, while we can all think of examples of Americans who rose
to the top on their own, what really matters are the statistics:
to what extent do an individual’s life chances depend on the
income and education of his or her parents?

Nowadays, these numbers show that the American dream is a myth.

There is less equality of opportunity in the United States today than
there is in Europe – or, indeed, in any advanced industrial country
for which there are data.

This is one of the reasons that America has the highest level of
inequality of any of the advanced countries – and its gap with the
rest has been widening.

In the “recovery” of 2009-2010, the top 1% of US income earners
captured 93% of the income growth.

Other inequality indicators – like wealth, health, and life
expectancy – are as bad or even worse.

The clear trend is one of concentration of income and wealth at
the top, the hollowing out of the middle, and increasing poverty
at the bottom.

It would be one thing if the high incomes of those at the top were
the result of greater contributions to society, but the Great
Recession showed otherwise: even bankers who had led the global
economy, as well as their own firms, to the brink of ruin, received
outsize bonuses.

A closer look at those at the top reveals a disproportionate role
for rent-seeking: some have obtained their wealth by exercising
monopoly power; others are CEOs who have taken advantage of
deficiencies in corporate governance to extract for themselves an
excessive share of corporate earnings; and still others have used
political connections to benefit from government munificence –
either excessively high prices for what the government buys
(drugs), or excessively low prices for what the government sells
(mineral rights).

Likewise, part of the wealth of those in finance comes from
exploiting the poor, through predatory lending and abusive
credit-card practices.

Those at the top, in such cases, are enriched at the direct
expense of those at the bottom.

It might not be so bad if there were even a grain of truth to
trickle-down economics – the quaint notion that everyone benefits
from enriching those at the top.

But most Americans today are worse off – with lower real
(inflation-adjusted) incomes – than they were in 1997, a
decade and a half ago.

All of the benefits of growth have gone to the top.

Defenders of America’s inequality argue that the poor and those
in the middle shouldn’t complain.

While they may be getting a smaller share of the pie than they did
in the past, the pie is growing so much, thanks to the contributions
of the rich and superrich, that the size of their slice is actually
larger.

The evidence, again, flatly contradicts this.

Indeed, America grew far faster in the decades after World War II,
when it was growing together, than it has since 1980, when it began
growing apart.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise, once one understands the
sources of inequality. Rent-seeking distorts the economy.

Market forces, of course, play a role, too, but markets are
shaped by politics; and, in America, with its quasi-corrupt
system of campaign finance and its revolving doors between
government and industry, politics is shaped by money.

For example, a bankruptcy law that privileges derivatives over
all else, but does not allow the discharge of student debt, no
matter how inadequate the education provided, enriches bankers
and impoverishes many at the bottom.

In a country where money trumps democracy, such legislation
has become predictably frequent. But growing inequality is not
inevitable.

There are market economies that are doing better, both in terms of
both GDP growth and rising living standards for most citizens. Some
are even reducing inequalities.

America is paying a high price for continuing in the opposite
direction. Inequality leads to lower growth and less efficiency.

Lack of opportunity means that its most valuable asset – its people
– is not being fully used.

Many at the bottom, or even in the middle, are not living up to
their potential, because the rich, needing few public services
and worried that a strong government might redistribute income,
use their political influence to cut taxes and curtail government
spending.

This leads to underinvestment in infrastructure, education, and
technology, impeding the engines of growth.

The Great Recession has exacerbated inequality, with cutbacks
in basic social expenditures and with high unemployment putting
downward pressure on wages.

Moreover, the United Nations Commission of Experts on Reforms
of the International Monetary and Financial System, investigating
the causes of the Great Recession, and the International Monetary
Fund have both warned that inequality leads to economic instability.

But, most importantly, America’s inequality is undermining its
values and identity.

With inequality reaching such extremes, it is not surprising that its
effects are manifest in every public decision, from the conduct of
monetary policy to budgetary allocations.

America has become a country not “with justice for all,” but
rather with favoritism for the rich and justice for those who
can afford it – so evident in the foreclosure crisis, in which
the big banks believed that they were too big not only to fail,
but also to be held accountable.

America can no longer regard itself as the land of opportunity
that it once was.

But it does not have to be this way: it is not too late for the
American dream to be restored.


Joseph E. Stiglitz, is a Nobel laureate in economics, and he
has pioneered pathbreaking theories in the fields of economic
information, taxation, development, trade, and technical change.
He is currently a professor at Columbia University, and has taught
at Stanford, Yale, Princeton, and Oxford.

http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/06/06-6