Archive for the ‘Pyramidal System to Cyclical System’ Category

Bullying: Race, Religion, Rape and Police

April 13, 2015

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When I recapture the buoyant sculpturing of humanitarian dreams of grandeur — nothing as miniscule as Reagan’s borrowed City of Light Upon a Hill, but rather a majestic, magical refuge, an international resort of equality for all under the sun — without daughters consigned under sons — there’s America: the gem of the oceans, doctors and parents keeping the entire rainbow of children safe from the pot of gold greed of the money changers. But”
When I witness skewed visions of patriotism or trivializing that which our mothers, grandmothers and teachers filled our childhood;

When I hear California drought blamed on Environmentalists; or loving God and Country claims while hating Americans of different POV;

When governments, overflowing with tax collectors, fail peace but finance war, while cutting taxes on bankers weighing down our future with student loans — I hope forward — to when news media is immersed in investigative follow the money reporting, devoid of repetitive “We Don’t Know That Yet,” but we’ll be right back after this indoctrination from Corporatism owners of Media truth, to tell you again what we speculate about, what we just discovered, has been going on since 1865, when the second phase of Civil War began.

And yet, I see through a glass darkly the light of our possibility: when big brothers include equal sisters on city councils, a social media embracing both friend and foe as close as tears and laughter, fusing Left & Right to Center.

Yes, I see us in

wearing yellow for Seth
the face of both inventor and child recipient of 3-D prosthetic hands
a black looking President (when he’s not fast tracking TPP)
police officers caught on camera helping citizens in need
Alex’s Lemonade Stand
The life of basketball player Lauren Hill
See: because we are involved with mankind, any disguise, feigning freedom laws, diminishes us just as a Land of the Free, because of the Brave cliche is no more patriotic than, The Patriot Act.

Bravery is not found in billionaire bombs blowing up the Middle Class for perpetual bottom line battles.

 

Courage is in the pursuit of ever renewable renewables, like transferring our sweat shop dollars from ignorance to freeing higher education.

Heroism is found more in a single creative artist than a Cheney corporate cover up of human torture and environmental oil rig murders.

America is exceptional to the extent it produces We the People like Deborah Samson, Susan B. Anthony, Alice Paul, Rosa Parks, Gloria Steinem, Alzheimer’s Association Sue Friedman &Maria Shriver, Senator Elizabeth Warren, People Demanding Action Andrea Miller, Jefferson School African-American Heritage Center Andrea Douglas, ERA Eileen Davis, NOW Diana Egozcue, Lauren Hill and Maya Angelou.

Because of them, we have decreased American lynching, shackles, and state sponsored murder, but we have yet to overcome voter intimidation, private prisons, and the bullying of our children and rape of women, by those unable to self-control the adrenaline of a little power is a dangerous thing.

We are America The Greatest Generation fought and died for, when CEOs, CFOs and Directors on both Main and Wall Streets, stand united in support of Constitutional Gender Equality, affordable healthcare & education, a livable minimum wage, All Lives Matter Due Process — in addition to LGBTQ Separation of Church and State — for this is both definition and challenge of “”.government of the people, by the people and for the people”.”

 
Like the 1991 LAPD news at eleven of Rodney King beating, we have video of a suspect on the ground, hands behind his back, handcuffed after being tasered, being beaten by a number of California police.

What happens next is our answer to, Do you think the country is moving in the right direction?

http://www.ThereasonableVoice.com

Marcello Rollando is both seasoned political writer and critically acclaimed Performing Arts Director. Taking a sabbatical from his beloved NYC to work on a number of political campaigns as communications director and/or consultant in 2008, he (more…)

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Facilitating a Disruptive Emergence To Replace the Existing Elite System Running the Planet

March 7, 2015

 

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From flickr.com/photos/31246066@N04/7147194103/: Sometimes old structures are replaced organically by new growth
Sometimes old structures are replaced organically by new growth
(image by Ian Sane)

Gilbert Mercier writes, in his article, The Illusion of Democracy, about “our current supra-national world order,”

“… unelected global-governance institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, United Nations, World Trade Organization (WTO), and other powerful non-governmental organizations, think tanks, and consortia like the World Economic Forum. These institutions dictate global policies, draft secret treaties such as the trans-pacific partnership agreement (TPP) concerning billions of people, and largely constitute the global elite.

Mercier suggests that these bodies should be run by people who are actually democratically elected. But he also points out that in most of the world there are no real choices for people to vote, that two party systems really offer different flavors of neo-liberal candidates. He writes:

“Protest beyond the law is not a departure from democracy; it is absolutely essential to it” wrote Howard Zinn. People worldwide are fed up with their politicians, and they are protesting. Yet, as if most are suffering from a collective Stockholm syndrome, they are not sufficiently pro-active to rid themselves of their abusers by all means necessary. Voting was meant to be a sacrosanct civic duty in a democracy, but it has become the unconscious action of sleepwalkers.

Mercier concludes,

“The elite of corporate global governance have trampled the social contract. People who had gained their freedom during 200 years are everywhere back in chains. Although an increasing number of people realize that a drastic systemic change is imperative, few are willing to admit that nothing short of a global revolution can challenge the entrenched plutocratic world order.”

The commenters on the article discuss whether what is needed is a system design or a revolution. That got me thinking.
When it comes to the question of revolution or system re-design, I fall back to my default favorite quote:

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” R. Buckminster Fuller

i recently read Fritjof Capra’s book, The Systems View of Life, and interviewed him, which has “re-designed” a lot of my thinking on bottom-up and change. The system Gilbert Mercier describes– where non-democratic organizations serving the elites, like World Bank, IMF, and trade pacts are deeply influencing if not running what we live under the illusion of believing to be democratic nations– is an extreme aspect of the current world-wide system– an outlier that could be very fragile and disruptable, especially if exposed to emergence (a chaos and systems theory concept) of true bottom-up, grass-roots powered movements like new iterations of Occupy and whatMarina Sitrin has described in several books on Horizontalism and change.
We need to deal with the narcissistic sociopaths and psychopaths who have slithered into power positions in church, state and industry and take back the high ground of bottom-up values that embrace the consciousness that we are all connected to each other and to the ecosystem– that forgetting this, losing connection consciousness is a dangerous pathology which manifests in selfishness, Ayn Randism, Libertarianism and which masquerades as advocacy of freedom.
We cannot directly fight the power and wealth of the elite’s system. The only way we can get rid of it is to facilitate the emergence of a new way, as Buckminster Fuller described– a way that undermines and replaces the existing system. I don’t think that’s a system re-design or a revolution. It’s more of a disruptive emergence that comes out of the immense power and energy of a bottom-up grass-roots coming together. I was tempted to use the word up-rising, but as my old friend Swami Beyondananda has set, perhaps we need more of an upWISING. The elites are weak, fragile (as compared to antifragile) and vulnerable, compared to the full power of all of “us”– the rest of the souls on this planet. We need to explore new, creative ways of connecting that big “we” together to energize the emergence of a new social, ecosystem force that disrupts and replaces the existing power system. Joseph Nye, author of Soft Power and The Future of Power, chairman of the North American branch of the Trilateral Commission, told me in our interview, that the word is going through huge shifts in how power works. One way, he describes, is “Power Diffusion,” which is the shift of power away from all governments… to nongovernmental actors, and that is a lot harder to deal with, because that is quite new.”

Nye goes on to talk about soft power, which is based on attraction, rather than money or force, and discusses how you can’t use an army to fight cyber attacks or global warming. He offers a possible solution:

“…we are going to have to learn to use soft power to organize networks of cooperation with others to deal with these kinds of problems; and unfortunately, our vocabulary, the way we think about power, is very old-fashioned. It used to be said that power was determined by whose army wins, but in an information age, power also is determined by whose story wins.”

I founded, organized and ran conferences for 15 years– one was the first conference ever held on the art, science and application of story– which brought together all the worlds of story– screenwriting, fiction, news, politics, law, religion, storytelling, psychology, marketing. It started out as a collection of conversation about the blind spot my Storycon conference ended up exploring.

A few people have suggested the idea of putting together a conference to explore what can be done. If a confluence of supporting serendipities made a conference possible, I’d have to strongly consider accepting that bottom-up “call” to that adventure. It would have to come out of a bottom-up conversation of what it should focus on. Some topics to include might be embracing small, bottom-up change, connection consciousness, disruptive activism, soft-power, next generation Occupy, dealing with sociopaths, public banking and alternatives to capitalism, debillionairization, the future of democracy, justice, climate change.

I’m not sure where a meeting could be held, maybe where the space and support emerged– a college campus, a summer camp, or who knows, maybe that awakened billionaire might fund it in a big city. Or maybe 10,000 or 100,000 people would bottom-up fund it.

 

Rob Kall has spent his adult life as an awakenerand empowerer– first in the field of biofeedback,inventing products, developing software and a music recording label, MuPsych, within the company he founded in 1978– Futurehealth, and founding, organizing and running 3 conferences:Winter Brain, on Neurofeedback and consciousness, Optimal Functioning and Positive Psychology (a pioneer in the field of Positive Psychology, first presenting workshops on it in 1985) and StoryconSummit Meeting on the Art Science and Application of Story– each the first of their kind.  Then, when he found the process of raising people’s consciousness and empowering them to take more control of their lives  one person at a time was too slow, he founded Opednews.com— which has been the top search result on Google for the terms liberal news and progressive opinion for several years. Rob began his Bottom-up Radio show, broadcast on WNJC 1360 AM to Metro Philly, also available on iTunes, covering the transition of our culture, business and world from predominantly Top-down (hierarchical, centralized, authoritarian, patriarchal, big)  to bottom-up (egalitarian, local, interdependent, grassroots, archetypal feminine and small.) Recent long-term projects include a book, Bottom-up– The Connection Revolution, debillionairizing the planet and the Psychopathy Defense and Optimization Project.

Rob Kall Wikipedia Page

Over 200 podcasts are archived for downloading here, or can be accessed from iTunes. Rob is also (more…)

One in Three Germans Say Capitalism to Blame for Poverty, Hunger

February 26, 2015

Woman during anti-capitalism protests in Germany with euro on her face. (photo: photos50.blogspot.com)
Woman during anti-capitalism protests in Germany with euro on her face. (photo: photos50.blogspot.com)

By Reuters

26 February 15

 

early a third of Germans believe that capitalism is the cause of poverty and hunger and a majority think true democracy is not possible under that economic system, according to a survey published on Tuesday by the Emnid polling institute for Berlin’s Free University.

The poll of 1,400 people found that 59 percent of Germans in the formerly communist east consider communist and socialist ideals a good idea for society. In western Germany, 37 percent said they considered communist and socialist ideals to be good.

The radical Left party in Germany remains strong in the formerly communist East, a quarter century after the Berlin Wall fell, paving the way for German unification in 1990.

The survey found that more than 60 percent of Germans believe there is no genuine democracy in their country because industry has too much political influence and that the voice of the voters plays only a subordinate role.

Fascism and War: Elite Tools to Crush and Kill Dissent

February 14, 2015

 
hitlergeorge

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor in 1937 with Adolf Hitler.

Dr. Jacques Pauwels is not the kind of historian you often hear about in the mainstream media. He’s obviously not the kind of “expert” they refer to for historical facts. Actually, one crucial propaganda method consists in excluding current events from their historical context.

Listening to Pauwels makes one realize the scope of the lies we’ve been fed about the Second World War, fascism and democracy, and how myths related to previous wars need to be upheld in the mainstream discourse to satisfy never ending war propaganda needs.

In a speech held December 15 in Montreal, he explained that World Wars I and II were all about crushing mass revolutionary movements.

The myth of the Good War

Every time Westerners’ approval for war is required, the myth of the good war surfaces: the Second World War was a good war, a necessity to quench Hitler’s blood thirst. Pauwels tears this myth apart, uncovering the vicious nature of the western elite.

The reasons for the US involvement in World War II lie in the social-economic conditions of the time, not in an outpouring of compassion destined to save humanity from fascism. The US elite was actually in favor of fascism, a very convenient tool to crush the mass revolutionary movement embodied by the Russian Revolution and the USSR.

WWII was in fact a continuity of WWI. “We are always told that WWI started with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, but it’s not true”, Pauwels says. It is indeed a well established myth carried on by various sources, whether history is written by “thousands of eminent experts, scholars, and leaders” like in Encyclopedia Britannica, or by just about anybody, like in Wikipedia:

The outbreak of war

With Serbia already much aggrandized by the two Balkan Wars (1912–13, 1913), Serbian nationalists turned their attention back to the idea of “liberating” the South Slavs of Austria-Hungary. Colonel Dragutin Dimitrijević, head of Serbia’s military intelligence, was also, under the alias “Apis,” head of the secret society Union or Death, pledged to the pursuit of this pan-Serbian ambition. Believing that the Serbs’ cause would be served by the death of the Austrian archduke Francis Ferdinand, heir presumptive to the Austrian emperor Francis Joseph, and learning that the Archduke was about to visit Bosnia on a tour of military inspection, Apis plotted his assassination. (World War I, Encyclopedia Britannica)

The immediate trigger for war was the 28 June 1914 assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, by Yugoslav nationalist Gavrilo Princip in Sarajevo. This set off a diplomatic crisis when Austria-Hungary delivered an ultimatum to the Kingdom of Serbia,[10][11] and international alliances formed over the previous decades were invoked. Within weeks, the major powers were at war and the conflict soon spread around the world. (World War I, Wikipedia)

Both WWI and WWII had two dimensions: the vertical dimension, namely the rivalry between empires, and the horizontal one, class warfare, Pauwels explains.

These wars were actually the best way for the western elite to cope with the ever growing revolutionary and democratic movements fueled by dire economic conditions and which threatened the established order.

In Nietzsche’s view for example, Pauwels says “war was the solution against revolution, since in a war, there are no discussions, like there is in a democracy. In a war, the minority, the elite, decides and the majority, the proletarians, obey.”

For members of the elite like Malthus, “the system could not be the cause of poverty since they were profiting from it. The cause of poverty was the poor: there were too many of them. Therefore the solution to poverty and threatening revolutionary movements was simply to eliminate poor people and what better solution than war to kill poor people?”

After WWI though, “revolution was no longer a simple idea but rather something concrete: the Soviet Union.” That’s when fascism came to the rescue. “Fascism was the instrument used by the elite to further the objectives of 1914, namely put an end to revolutions and communism.”

Communism and socialism were gaining worldwide momentum after WWI. “The German industrial and financial elite wished to crush the revolutionary movement and destroy the Soviet Union. Adolf Hitler was their instrument.”

According to popular belief Western leaders were defending democracy, engaged in a war against Germany to save humanity from fascism and the US involvement in the war led to the downfall of Hitler’s war machine. Nothing is further from the truth. “Hitler was supported by other European countries and the US because they wanted him to destroy the USSR, the cradle of the revolution.” The exact opposite occurred: it was the USSR that defeated Nazi Germany, losing over 20 million souls in the battle.

The US even recruited the best Nazi scientists, technicians and engineers to work for them after the war. That piece of history called Operation Paperclip (picture below) has yet to find its way in Encyclopedia Britannica.

WWII was the victory of American Imperialism, a term which is rarely used today even if it best describes the reality the world has been living in ever since.

But even more surprising is the surviving myth that we are going to war to save the world from evil dictators or terrorists and that the western world fights for freedom and democracy. Thanks to the “stenographers of power”, the tactic is still reliable and used several decades later.

Visit Jacques Pauwels web site at http://www.jacquespauwels.net/about/. His articles and books are available in several languages. See also Jacques Pauwels’ articles on Global Research.

Articles by:Julie Lévesque

About the author:

Julie Lévesque is a journalist and researcher with the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG), Montreal. She was among the first independent journalists to visit Haiti in the wake of the January 2010 earthquake. In 2011, she was on board “The Spirit of Rachel Corrie”, the only humanitarian vessel which penetrated Gaza territorial waters before being shot at by the Israeli Navy.

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Review – The Rise of Islamic State – Patrick Cockburn

February 10, 2015
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The Rise of the Islamic State – ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution. Patrick Cockburn. Verso, London/New York, 2014/2015.
When observed from the mainstream media perspective, the rise of ISIS was an apparent ‘out of nowhere’ phenomenon. It only found prominence when they approached Irbil, the Kurdish ‘oil’ city where western companies manoevered for resource control. It was then that it became mainstream newsworthy, and then that the U.S. ordered its bombing campaign and the ouster of Maliki, who was blamed for the ills of Iraq and its ghost army.

In clear concise language and format, Patrick Cockburn presents a more realistic story of the rise of ISIS in his latest work, The Rise of the Islamic State. Rather than being a sudden event, it is seen to be a logical progression of events backgrounded by the U.S., Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan.

As the wars in the Middle East have progressed they have become more and more violent. It started with the mujahideen in Afghanistan, aided and abetted by the U.S., Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan’s ISI. After successfully getting rid of Soviet forces, those “freedom fighters” morphed into the Taliban, where the ideology of al-Qaeda grew its protected roots.

When Iraq was illegally attacked unilaterally by the U.S. in 2003, al-Qaeda found a new place to spread its influence where it had not been before. At first it found support with the disenfranchised Sunni tribes, later minimized by the “Awakening” – the U.S. big dollar effort to buy out the Sunni leaders.

After the war in Iraq, a highly unstable state was left behind, essentially divided into three parts: Kurds in the northeast, Sunnis in the west, and the Shia in the south. The continuing internecine fighting waged since the U.S. departure has mostly been under the radar of the western news networks. Add to that the new and increasingly fierce fighting by the civil war in Syria, pitting the Assad government, back stopped by Russia, against a web of opposition groups backed by the U.S. and its allies.

The combination of disaffected Sunnis – many former military personnel, many affected by the Sunni-Shia fighting – and well supplied and trained fundamentalist Islamic groups – again with U.S. and Saudi direction – in Syria coalesced into ISIS, a new bigger, badder, meaner, and much more efficient fighting organization.

Because of historical precedents, Cockburn indicates that it is unlikely the “Sunnis will rise up in opposition to ISIS and its caliphate. A new and terrifying state has been born that will not easily disappear.”

The U.S. is acknowledged as being highly to blame for this sequence of events, much more so than Iraq and Syria as stand alone countries, or Turkey as an anti-Kurd, quasi-ISIS supporter.

“There was always something fantastical about the U.S. and its Western allies teaming up with the theocratic Sunni absolute monarchies of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf to spread democracy and enhance human rights in Syria, Iraq, and Libya”. ISIS is the child of war”. It was the U.S., Europe, and their regional allies in Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, and [UAE] that created conditions for the rise of ISIS.”

In other words, if ISIS is the child of war, then the U.S. is one of its parents. The Sunni resurgence in Iraq was not an overnight sensation, but had a gestation period of several years.

“A blind spot for the U.S”.has been their failure to see that by supporting the armed uprising in Syria, they would inevitably destabilize Iraq and provoke a new round of sectarian civil war”. ISIS has been able to exploit the growing sense of alienation and persecution among the Sunni in Iraq.”

Cockburn brings events right up to October 2014, noting that the then imminent pushback of ISIS from Kobani had not prevented ISIS from progressing elsewhere in Anbar province. His presentation is reasonably short and provides a clear summary exposition of whom is involved within the ISIS nexus. It should serve as an honest primer on the overall situation with current events in the Middle East.

The only point I could argue on is the repetition that the war on terror has “failed so catastrophically,” “failed miserably”, and “has demonstrably failed.” I can see both sides to the position.

When looking at the narrow definition of the war on terror as an actual war on terror, yes it has failed by creating many more terrorists in response to its many violent actions that tend to target much more than just terrorists. But no, it has not failed if the goal is to maintain U.S. control over regions through failed states, corrupt states, or otherwise.

After reading PNAC’s “Project for a New American Century”, having digested Paul Wolfowitz’ “Defence Policy Plan” under G.W.H. Bush that called for full spectrum dominance and unilateral pre-emptive nuclear war, after reading sections of Zbigniew Brzezinski’s “Grand Chessboard”, and while watching Israel continue annexing more and more territory while staying out of the U.S. wars in the region, perhaps the war on terror could at best be considered a draw.

It is not accomplishing its publicly stated purpose, but it is maintaining U.S. dominance for its geopolitical agenda of controlling resources and politicians. And it is useful for maintaining the ‘fear factor’ for domestic political usage for most western governments.

Regardless, The Rise of Islamic State is a worthy read, clearly defining the major roles and events of this long developing story.

 

 

Jim Miles is a Canadian educator and a regular contributor/columnist of opinion pieces and book reviews to Palestine Chronicles. His interest in this topic stems originally from an environmental perspective, which encompasses the militarization and economic subjugation of the global community and its commodification by corporate governance and by the American government. Jim Miles’ work is distributed globally in print and on alternative news websites.    Published articles and book reviews may be viewed on the Palestine Chronicle website:                         http://www.palestinechronicle.com

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Confessions of a Congressman: 9 Secrets From the Inside

February 6, 2015

The United States Capitol. (photo: Val Black Russian Tourchin)
The United States Capitol. (photo: Val Black Russian Tourchin)

By Vox

06 February 15

 

am a member of Congress. I’m not going to tell you from where, or from which party. But I serve, and I am honored to serve. I serve with good people (and some less good ones), and we try to do our best.

It’s a frustrating, even disillusioning job. The public pretty much hates us. Congresspolls lower than Richard Nixon during Watergate, traffic jams, or the Canadian alt-rock band Nickelback. So the public knows something is wrong. But they often don’t know exactly what is wrong. And sometimes, the things they think will fix Congress — like making us come home every weekend — actually break it further.

So here are some things I wish the voters knew about the people elected to represent them.

  1. Congress is not out of touch with folks back home

    Congress is only a part-time job in Washington, DC. An hour after the last vote, almost everyone is on the airplane home. Congress votes fewer than 100 days a year, spending the rest of the time back home where we pander to their constituents’ short-term interests, not the long-term good of the nation. Anyone who is closer to your district than you are will replace you. Incumbents stick to their districts like Velcro.

  2. Congress listens best to money

    It is more lucrative to pander to big donors than to regular citizens. Campaigns are so expensive that the average member needs a million-dollar war chest every two years and spends 50 percent to 75 percent of their term in office raising money. Think about that. You’re paying us to do a job, and we’re spending that time you’re paying us asking rich people and corporations to give us money so we can run ads convincing you to keep paying us to do this job. Now that the Supreme Court has ruled that money is speech and corporations are people, the mega-rich have been handed free loudspeakers. Their voices, even out-of-state voices, are drowning out the desperate whispers of ordinary Americans.

  3. Almost everyone in Congress loves gerrymandering

    Without crooked districts, most members of Congress probably would not have been elected. According to the Cook Political Report, only about 90 of the 435 seats in Congress are “swing” seats that can be won by either political party. In other words, 345 seats are safe Republican or Democratic seats. Both parties like it that way. So that’s what elections are like today: rather than the voters choosing us, we choose the voters. The only threat a lot of us incumbents face is in the primaries, where someone even more extreme than we are can turn out the vote among an even smaller, more self-selected group of partisans.

  4. You have no secret ballot anymore

    The only way political parties can successfully gerrymander is by knowing how you vote. Both parties have destroyed your privacy at the polling booth. Thanks to election rolls, we don’t know exactly whom you voted for, but we get pretty damn close. We know exactly which primaries and general elections you have voted in, and since there are so few realistic candidates in most elections, down or up ballot, we might as well know exactly who you voted for. Marry that data with magazine subscriptions, the kind of car you drive, and all sorts of other easily available consumer information that we’ve figured out how to use to map your political preferences, and we can gerrymander and target subdivisions, houses — even double beds. Republicans want the male vote; Democrats the female vote.

  5. We don’t have a Congress but a parliament

    Over the last several decades, party loyalty has increased to near-unanimity. If a member of Congress doesn’t vote with his or her party 99 percent of the time, he’s considered unreliable and excluded from party decision-making. Gone are the days when you were expected to vote your conscience and your district, the true job of a congressperson. Parliaments only work because they have a prime minister who can get things done. We have a parliament without any ability to take executive action. We should not be surprised we are gridlocked.

  6. Congressional committees are a waste of time

    With parliamentary voting, control is centralized in each party’s leadership. Almost every major decision is made by the Speaker or Minority Leader, not by committees. They feel it is vital to party success to have a national “message” that is usually poll-driven, not substantive. So why develop any expertise as a committee member if your decisions will only be overridden by party leadership? Why try to get on a good committee if you have already ceded authority to your unelected, unaccountable party leaders? The result is members routinely don’t show up at committee hearings, or if they do show up, it’s only to ask a few questions and leave. A lot of members fight for committees that will help them raise money or get a sweet lobbying job later (more on that in a minute). The result is that the engine for informed lawmaking is broken.

  7. Congress is a stepping-stone to lobbying

    Congress is no longer a destination but a journey. Committee assignments are mainly valuable as part of the interview process for a far more lucrative job as a K Street lobbyist. You are considered naïve if you are not currying favor with wealthy corporations under your jurisdiction. It’s become routine to see members of Congress drop their seat in Congress like a hot rock when a particularly lush vacancy opens up. The revolving door is spinning every day. Special interests deplete Congress of its best talent.

  8. The best people don’t run for Congress

    Smart people figured this out years ago and decided to pursue careers other than running for Congress. The thought of living in a fishbowl with 30-second attack ads has made Congress repulsive to spouses and families. The idea of spending half your life begging rich people you don’t know for money turns off all reasonable, self-respecting people. That, plus lower pay than a first-year graduate of a top law school, means that Congress, like most federal agencies, is not attracting the best and the brightest in America.

  9. Congress is still necessary to save America, and cynics aren’t helping

    Discouragement is for wimps. We aren’t going to change the Constitution, so we need to make the system we have work. We are still, despite our shortcomings, the most successful experiment in self-government in history. Our greatest strength is our ability to bounce back from mistakes like we are making today. Get over your nostalgia: Congress has never been more than a sausage factory. The point here isn’t to make us something we’re not. The point is to get us to make sausage again. But for that to happen, the people have to rise up and demand better.

Davos and the crisis of internatiional capitalism

February 5, 2015
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From flickr.com/photos/70981241@N00/16154727648/: Helipad Stilli Davos - WEF 2015
Helipad Stilli Davos – WEF 2015
(image by Kecko)

It’s Wednesday, Jan. 21, first day of the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) at the posh mile-high ski resort in Davos, Switzerland. 1500 executives of the world’s largest corporations have descended from the sky on private jets to network with each other and 40 heads of state. They can also mix with specially invited celebrities, academics and NGO representatives.Klaus Schwab, the WEF’s Founder and Executive Chairman, wants the capitalist elite to assemble and talk about pressing global issues affecting the well-being of humanity world-wide. Speakers and seminars will address such issues as climate change, political instability and economic inequality, problems affecting multinational corporations operating around the globe.

To get solutions to such giant problems, Schwab believes, you need to engage the real powers of this world–multinational corporations rather than governments whose interests are limited by national borders. As he puts it , “The sovereign state has become obsolete… [we need] a ‘global issue alliance.'” Real power in the capitalist world order rests with multinational corporations, 37 of which have revenues that place them in the top 100 economies .

For the most part, the 63 nations in the top 100 list are oligarchies dominated by politically active billionaires whose fortunes are tied up with multinational corporations. The United States and China, the two biggest economies, demonstrate the political flexibility of capitalist oligarchy.

In an interview with Bloomberg News at Davos, prominent economist Nouriel Roubini had this to say about American ‘democracy': “In the US we have a system of legalized corruption if you think about it. K Street and the lobbying affect legislation with the money they give the politician. . . . So it’s not a true democracy, it’s a plutocracy.” He should have added that politicians are subservient because they depend on the super-rich to fund their election campaigns.

At the other end of the capitalist spectrum, China’s Communist Party dispenses with the trappings of Western democracy. As John Chan of the World Socialist Web Site reported : “The corporate empires now controlled by leading figures in the “communist party” are as big, if not bigger, than those appropriated by their Stalinist counterparts in Russia after the dissolution of the former Soviet Union in 1991.” As the Shanghai Daily boastedlast year, the number of billionaires in the world grew by 28% to 1867, and “The US and China headed the list, with 481 and 358 dollar billionaires respectively.”

The capitalist nobility at Davos will hear from Winnie Byanyima, Oxfam International Executive Director, that the global 1% are likely to control more than half of the world’s total wealth in 2016. Moreover, “The 80 wealthiest people in the world altogether own $1.9 trillion, [Oxfam’s] report found, nearly the same amount shared by the 3.5 billion people who occupy the bottom half of the world’s income scale” ( NYT 1/19/15 ). Will the very people whose political activity has brought about extreme inequality want to do something to reverse this dangerous trend?

At the Conference On Inclusive Capitalism in London last May, Christine Lagarde, director of the International Monetary Fund, put this question to the super-rich audience: “Is ‘inclusive capitalism’ an oxymoron?” Capitalism, she said, will not survive unless it brings “rewards for all within a market economy.”

The alternative, Lagarde suggested, is the fulfilment of Marx’s prediction that capitalism “carried the seeds of its own destruction, the accumulation of capital in the hands of a few, mostly focused on the accumulation of profits, leading to major conflicts, and cyclical crises.”

Lagarde’s tone was cautiously optimistic about restoring the legitimacy of capitalism. She answered her own question by saying that a more sustainable, democratic and inclusive capitalism “is not an oxymoron, [but] it is not intuitive either.” There is no guarantee that the rising tide of capital will lift anything except yachts.

South Africa is a vivid illustration of the overwhelming power of international capital. Nelson Mandela’s televised release from prison on Feb. 11, 1990 inspired the whole world. After 27 years of imprisonment by the Apartheid regime in South Africa, he walked between admiring throngs, with clenched fist upraised, seemingly unbowed and uncompromising.

However, after attending the 1992 WEF in Davos, he told his party, the African National Congress, that it must abandon its goal of nationalizing big industries in order to afford programs that would relieve the crushing poverty of black South Africans under Apartheid. He had learned at Davos that nationalization would drive away the capital needed to run the economy.

During his presidency (1994-99), Mandela’s business-friendly policies attracted vast amounts of outside capital, and the South African economy has been since then the fastest growing in Africa. But it is the very opposite of what Christine Lagarde meant by “inclusive.”

As Jim Irvin, leader of South Africa’s largest union, said in 2013: “There is still a war between capital and labour. Nothing has changed. During the struggle, workers fought for a living wage, but the apartheid wage gap is still there.”

Optimism, anyone?

 

I’m a retired philosophy professor at Centre College. I also am a regular columnist for our local paper, The Danville Advocate-Messenger, as well as the Lexington Herald-Leader. My last book was Posthumanity-Thinking Philosophically about the Future (more…)

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The Empire is Crumbling, That is Why it Needs War

January 23, 2015
2015 Will See Decisive Battles

by ANDRE VLTCHEK

Last night, in Beijing, I sat in a historic Szechuan restaurant with a friend who happens to be a Chinese diplomat. We exchanged some stories, ordered food, and then, suddenly, my throat felt dry and my eyes got misty.

I bowed and thanked her for the heartfelt offer China made to rescue Russia.

Just before leaving my hotel, I read the news on the RT:

“China’s foreign minister has pledged support to Russia as it faces an economic downturn due to sanctions and a drop in oil prices. Boosting trade in Yuan is a solution proposed by Beijing’s commerce minister.

‘Russia has the capability and the wisdom to overcome the existing hardship in the economic situation,’ Foreign Minister Wang Yi told journalists. China Daily reported Monday: ‘If the Russian side needs it, we will provide necessary assistance within our capacity.’”

By no means was I representing the Russian Federation here, in Beijing, nor was my friend representing China that night, at the dining table. It was an informal meeting attended by just a few friends, nothing more.

Not to mention that I am not really, ‘technically’ a Russian. Yes, I was born in Leningrad but almost my entire life I spent elsewhere… all over the world, to be precise. And in my veins, not that it really matters; it is also all confused… there circulates an explosive mixture of Russian, Chinese and European blood.

But lately, to be Russian, to me and to many others, is much more than just about blood. ‘I am a rebel; therefore I am Russian’, to paraphrase Albert Camus. Or: ‘I am Russian because I refuse to abandon the struggle.’

‘Ya Russkii!’ or ‘Cubano soy!’ It simply feels good, and makes one proud, and stronger.

***

The world is in turmoil. Like in the early 1940’s, something tremendous is gaining shape, something irreversible.

Almost all of us who have been analyzing the Empire fighting against the propaganda and nihilism it spreads, and its venomous tentacles extending to every corner of the globe, know that ‘appeasing’ Western imperialism is clearly impossible, as it is impractical, and even immoral.

Just as George W. Bush (clearly borrowing from fundamentalist Christian rhetoric), liked to say: “You are either with us or against us”. Countries are now evidently put on the spot: ‘they either accept the Western neo-colonialist doctrine’, or they get destroyed, one after another, as were Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria.

No logic can help, no negotiations, no international mediation from the United Nations. The willingness to compromise is mocked. Appeals for simple human compassion do not move the rulers of the Empire even an inch.

It is clear that the Empire is preparing for the final assault. It will not back down. It will attack, destroy and annihilate. No idea when, but it will. And it will happen sooner rather than later, and with tremendous force.

Some would ask, why now? Why is there suddenly such a rush to fight the final battle for the total control over the planet?

The answer is very clear: for the first time disgust with the Empire is widespread, and worldwide. Many people are getting cured from blindness.

The mask of benevolence and rationality has been torn off by powerful media outlets based in the countries of Latin America, in Russia, China, Iran, but also in North America where the independent media is playing an increasingly important role. It is not even a matter of some elaborate ‘objectivity’, anymore. To get things right, it is enough to call fascism by its real name, as it is sufficient to identify mass murder perpetrated by the Empire on all continents!

The mask has fallen and what is now exposed is horrifying: the face of a monster, with blood and pus, a greedy grin and merciless fangs. It is a monster that is still in love with itself, unable to see its dreadfulness. It remains proud of its fundamental religious dogma, which it often doesn’t even see as ‘religious’. It dwells on self-righteousness, and at the same time, on its twisted market-fundamentalist faith that everything and everybody are for sale. It is a monster full of complexes – both those of superiority and inferiority.

It is not a happy monster and the people it produces are mostly miserable, lonely and scared. But it cannot change, it cannot back-up, it cannot let go. It would rather destroy its children and the world, than to admit that it went totally wrong, for years, decades and centuries.

Now many people have had enough, and some have even forgotten how to be scared! And the monster knows it, and it is actually scared itself, of those who are not scared of it.

The voices of the voiceless are now resonating louder and louder – we make sure that they are!

Except in the countries where the intellectuals and ‘elites’ have totally sold out, like in Indonesia or Malaysia, the horrendous deeds of the colonialism and neo-colonialism of Europe and North America, are finally being discussed, analyzed, and understood.

And the monster, the Empire, knows that it is the beginning of the end.

It cannot live as an equal. Therefore, it will fight its final battle. It will try to win. Or, it will try to destroy the world. Because life is not worth living for it, if it is not in full control; if its God is not in control, if it is not perceived as the enforcer of the divine manifesto.

***

When I visit a barbershop in Beirut or Amman, and am asked ‘where are you from?’ (It used to be a painfully confusing and complex question to answer, just a few years ago), I now simply reply: “Russia,” and people come and hug me and say, “Thank you.”

It is not because Russia is perfect. It is not perfect – as no country on Earth could or should be. But it is because it is standing once more against the Empire, and the Empire has brought so many horrors, so much humiliation, to so many people; to billions of people around the world… and to them, to so many of them, anyone who is standing against the Empire, is a hero. This I heard recently, first hand, from people in Eritrea, China, Russia, Palestine, Ecuador, Cuba, Venezuela, and South Africa, to name just a few places.

And that is why the Empire is now ‘in such a hurry’, unwilling to wait any longer, trying to provoke Russia, to bring it, metaphorically speaking, into yet another open epic battle, like the one that was fought in ancient times, on the thick ice, by Alexander Nevski.

The Empire is in too much of a rush, it is too scared to think, to understand, to remember, what every invader had to learned the hard way: Russia can be attacked and Russian people can be murdered by millions. There can be devastation and fire; there can be ruins, tears and graves, graves, graves… Mothers burying their sons, and sons returning back home, to only encounter ashes. But Russia cannot be defeated. When the survival of the world is at stake, Russia stands up, enormous, powerful and frightening. And it fights as no other nation can; it fights for humanity, not only for itself. And it wins.

When such a moment comes, there is only one possible way how to defeat Russia: it is to destroy the entire world.

Are you ready for that, Mr. Obama? Are you ready for it, corporate America and Europe? Are you ready for it, Pentecostal Christians, Televangelists and other morally defunct beings?

Think twice. One more step, and you will find yourself facing two enormous nations, and dozens of smaller ones, ready to fight for the survival of a mankind.

Your only strength is in your weapons of mass destruction, and therefore in spreading fear. And most of your arguments have no foundations in truth, only in deception and lies.

This year, I witnessed your deeds in Iraq, in Eritrea, China, Ukraine, all over Africa and the Middle East.

This year, somehow, it appears that you went too far, that the proverbial drop has had fallen on Earth.

Stop! And stop torturing this Earth. Do not provoke, do not trigger yet another world war!

Stop, or there will be a fight. And you will lose, or we will all lose, but you will lose no matter what, because this time, Russia and China, Venezuela and Cuba, and others and many others, will not back down, anymore, while others will join.

***

Despite all of its terror, propaganda and brainwashing called ‘education’, the Empire is well aware that it is losing its grip on global power. And it is horrified, because it does not know how else to live, except with a whip in its hand. Planet Earth realizes that the ruler is sinister, ruthless and degenerate – some people realize it clearly using logic, others just sense it, intuitively. If there was really a global democracy, the people of our planet would throw the existing power structure straight to the dogs. But there isn’t, there still isn’t! Just look at the toothless, constantly humiliated United Nations. Almost everywhere, voting has become nothing more than an act of sticking a piece of paper into a box, and not much more.

***

The year 2015 is approaching. During that year, it will become clear who is fighting for the survival of our human race, and who is on the side of oppression, of imperialism, and of the Empire.

Next year, more and more countries will get destabilized or attacked. Perhaps millions of people will get killed, as they get killed every year, but most likely, this time, many more will. The ‘opposition movements’ manufactured by the West, as well as various Christian groups and other right-wing religious factions, will continue standing firmly on the side of imperialist oppression and market fundamentalism. Conservative petite bourgeoisie in the West and in almost all ‘client states’ will be battling to uphold their privileges. Fascist family structures will continue intimidating children and young people, preventing them from thinking, from rebelling and from living.

The Empire has many allies, all over the world, but most of them are of an extremely sinister nature. But their closest allies are always ignorance, servility and fear.

While our revolutions, the true ones, as well as the resistance and battles for a better world, are always based on knowledge, and in summary are nothing else other than an act of love.

***

The fight ahead of us will be extremely tough; it will be an epic struggle, involving great nation states, as well as groups and movements.

As the grungy Russian bear is being battered and provoked into a military conflict, great Chinese dragons are determined to form a protective circle, and this time, are declaring indirectly but clearly that they will come to the rescue of weaker nations attacked by the West. As even The New York Times reported:

“Mr. Xi did not mention the United States by name but took an unmistakable jab at Washington, saying, ‘The growing trend toward a multi-polar world will not change’, a reference to the Chinese view that America’s post-Cold War role as the sole superpower is drawing to a close.”

The goal is to never allow Western imperialism and colonialism to take control over the planet again, as it mercilessly did at the end of the 19th century and at the beginning of the 20th, at the cost of tens of millions of human lives.

After the centuries of plunder, rape and occupations, the West has no mandate to govern the world.

After constantly justifying and glorifying its terrible deeds, brainwashing our planet into believing that it actually brings progress and rationality to the savages (the rest of the planet), it cannot be trusted with ‘informing’ and ‘educating’ the people.

That is why we now have independent media, as well as powerful state-controlled media outlets based in the countries that are not willing to succumb to European and North American propaganda and indoctrination.

This media and education institutions should and will redraw the entire historical and contemporary narrative.

Some examples?

Instead of glorifying the wisdom of Founding Fathers of the United States, we should recall that North America was created on the unimaginable suffering of the indigenous people, on Christian bigotry and forced conversions, on genocide, and on theft of the land. And that it was not done by some new and extraterrestrial breed or race called ‘Americans’, but by the same European puritans and religious hordes that had already murdered for centuries, all over Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

‘New America’, both North and South, was predictably created on fear, violence and on theft.

We should recall the slaves who were brought in shackles from Africa. Most of them died when traversing the Ocean, women raped and humiliated, children raped and marked forever, men with their dignity taken away from them.

Women and young girls were then chained in the fields, becoming sexual toys for those ‘puritan’ white farmers. Men and children, at least those who survived, were made to work days and nights, until falling dead from exhaustion.

All this done under the shadow of the cross, progress, and ‘democracy’!

This is how America was built. This is the true story, the true narrative, of those ‘great beginnings of the land of free’!

And those theatres of Europe, cathedrals and churches, palaces and parks – all created from loot and genocides, colonialism and the Crusades, ‘military adventures’.

This is how the regime, how the Western establishment always functioned. Rape is love. Indoctrination is education and information. Fear is belief. Slavery is freedom!

Do we want this kind of world for several more decades, even centuries?

I am not asking Parisians, Londoners or New Yorkers. I am not asking corrupt businessmen in Jakarta or deranged preachers in Kinshasa, top military brass in Kigali or the murderous feudal lords in Guatemala.

No humanist, no compassionate human being wants this sort of shit!

And for the first time, people are not afraid to say it, or at least to hear it, or read it!

I am not afraid to write this. Are you scared to read it? I don’t think so.

***

The ‘peace’, we were told about again and again, is something that has to be achieved and upheld by all means.

But what kind of peace are we aiming at, and peace for whom?

The Empire want a ‘peace’ arrangement, in which countries like Cuba and Russia, Venezuela and China, just back down, give up, and surrender. That is not peace!

We are asked, ordered, to live peacefully in a world ruled by European and North American masters, as some slaves crawling in filth.

Are we expected to succumb to the one and only religious dogma on which this entire racist, imperialist and capitalist system is built?

What a prospect, what a peace!

To them, to the imperialist West, peace means only one thing: unopposed rule over the planet.

If one fights for his people, he is a terrorist, a bandit. Then, it is a war!

The Nazis called resistance fighters in Ukraine or France, ‘terrorists’.

The Israeli military calls Palestinian resistance by the same name.

The West calls any legitimate rebellion, ‘terrorist’. Even MRTA in Peru was a ‘terrorist group’; MIR resistance against Pinochet was ‘terrorist’. The mainly social movement in Lebanon – Hezbollah – is defined as ‘terrorist’, and so is the entire proud Eritrean state.

Shia Muslims are ‘terrorists’, because the West is supporting Sunni monsters in the Gulf.

Che Guevara was a terrorist, and so were Fidel and sub-commandant Marcos. So was Lumumba.

To the West, to its lackey regimes and NGO’s, true peace will come only if all natural resources were offered to the multi-national companies. All left-wing, Communist and socialist movements would be butchered, if Russia were to return to that humiliated and shapeless shit it was converted into, for a short time, under the sneaky and brutal alcoholic Boris Yeltsin, if China turned back to the Deng Xiaoping days of only providing cheap products, labor and almost no global fight against imperialism! If Venezuela was to supply crude and fuck its own people, as it used to, before the heroic revolution of Hugo Chavez, if Cuba sold its women and booze and cigars for a pittance, before its most dignified revolution took place!

‘Peace’ would be, if billions of miserably poor people were quietly and un-confrontationally dying in their slums, while the capitalists, preachers and landowners several neighborhoods further were enjoying their private clinics and private schools!

But such peace will never again be accepted!

To fight for a better world, and for the oppressed, is like writing a poem.

War is when you plunder and rape, when you murder in order to oppress, and to control others!

Peace can only be based on justice, on social justice especially; otherwise it is not peace.

***

Russia and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics fought for its survival on many occasions. Germans attacked it, then after the Revolution in 1917, the West Europeans and North Americans attacked, and then the Germans again. Tens of millions vanished defending the Motherland. Not one apology ever came from Washington or London!

China was forced open, humiliated, ransacked, including its capital city Beijing. Those who did it, the Brits and French, are now lecturing China about ‘human rights’ and ‘freedom’. It is truly grotesque!

Look at the other nations that are now standing up against Western imperialism!

Iran, colonized, destroyed when it took a socialist path, and then infected by a Suharto-style maniac, the Shah, later attacked by Iraq, after the West had armed Baghdad.

Latin America – was ruined by colonial and neo-colonial expeditions, for centuries, reduced to nothing by the ‘Monroe Doctrine’, with death squads trained in the US; trained how to kidnap and torture, and how to rape children in front of their parents.

Should we go on? Korea: tens of thousands of civilians were burned alive by US troops in tunnels. It was one of the most brutal wars in the history of mankind, aptly described by the most brilliant investigative journalist of the 20th century – Wilfred Burchett.

Indochina – 7 million were killed, bombed to death, or burned alive. Will we ever know how many? Vietnam is now an ally!

South Africa, Zimbabwe, Eritrea…

Yes, this is our alliance. Some 2 billion people who are living in the countries that were terrorized, brutalized, reduced to ashes, but that stood again and decided to fight, rather to live like slaves.

These are all imperfect countries, but countries peaceful to the core, countries that exist mainly in order to improve the lives of their men, women and children… and those all over the world.

And look at the other nations that are resisting Western attacks – Cuba, North Korea, Eritrea – ostracized, surviving countless terrorist attacks, subversions, propaganda, and destabilizing campaigns. And then, when they mobilize, ready to protect themselves, they are designated, and defined as ‘hermit states’ or ‘beastly dictatorships’!

Who forced them into a corner?

It is all twisted. Never again! Enough!

***

Do you hear that silence, after the US decided to ‘normalize’ its relationship with Cuba? We all know why there is such a terrible silence, don’t we? Because we realize that, based on the centuries of US involvement in Latin America, this will be part of a new destructive tactic, a new attack: that Cuba may now actually be facing the greatest danger in decades! We don’t know exactly what will happen, but we are somehow certain, that something very terrible will.

Is the West going to manufacture a ‘Cigar Opposition Movement’ in Cuba? Or is it going to be yet another color?

2015 will see many battles.

But the most important first step has just been made.

China made a great symbolic gesture: calmly, respectfully, but decisively. The message is clear: “You shall not be allowed to destroy others!” Not anymore.

The Empire is decomposing; it is sick, unsustainable.

But it is also toxic, and its illness is contagious. Its propaganda is mighty and its dogmas are violent.

Let us make sure that it goes away, crumbles, step by step, without destroying the world, without dragging it into WWIII.

Let us unite, individuals and nations, movements and parties. At least until the most dangerous period passes.

Andre Vltchek is a novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. The result is his latest book: Fighting Against Western Imperialism‘Pluto’ published his discussion with Noam Chomsky: On Western Terrorism. His critically acclaimed political novel Point of No Return is re-edited and available. Oceania is his book on Western imperialism in the South Pacific. His provocative book about post-Suharto Indonesia and the market-fundamentalist model is called “Indonesia – The Archipelago of Fear”. His feature documentary, “Rwanda Gambit” is about Rwandan history and the plunder of DR Congo. After living for many years in Latin America and Oceania, Vltchek presently resides and works in East Asia and Africa. He can be reached through his website or his Twitter.

French Government’s Response to Paris Shooting Echoes U.S. Response to 9/11

January 22, 2015

French president Hollande on the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle. (photo: Anne Christine Poujoulat/AP)
French president Hollande on the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle. (photo: Anne Christine Poujoulat/AP)

By Ken Klippenstein and Paul Gottinger, ReaderSupported News

21 January 15

 

he French government’s response to the Charlie Hebdo massacre was uncannily similar to the U.S. government’s response to 9/11. This is unfortunate, given the fact that the U.S. response to 9/11 dramatically increased the prevalence of terrorism, which U.S. intelligence agencies anticipated. For instance, prior to the Iraq War, Bush’s own CIA director, George Tenet, warned that invading Iraq would cause it to be “much less constrained in adopting terrorist actions” against the U.S.

Tenet was correct: experts find that “the Iraq War has generated a stunning sevenfold increase in the yearly rate of fatal jihadist attacks.”

After the Paris shooting, the French parliament quickly voted to extend airstrikes on ISIS – with 488 voting in the affirmative and just one member voting against it. The sole lawmaker to vote against the measure cautioned that airstrikes could invite more extremist violence, essentially the same as George Tenet’s contention. This warning is well founded, since U.S. airstrikes have led to “soaring” recruitment for ISIS, as the Israeli press reported in September.

The French lawmaker’s lone stance was reminiscent of U.S. senator Russ Feingold’s solitary vote against the Patriot Act, accompanied by his prescient warning about how the act would allow the government to “compel the disclosure of the personal records of anyone.” Following the Paris murders, there has been discussion in France about creating its ownversion of the Patriot Act, which could weaken already poor protections against domestic spying.

Further parallels exist. Perhaps taking a cue from George W. Bush’s theatrics, the French president made a speech aboard the Charles De Gaulle aircraft carrier to hundreds of French service members. In the speech, he announced that the carrier was headed to the Persian Gulf to assist in the coalition air strikes against ISIS in Iraq.

Arguing for France’s expanded participation in airstrikes against ISIS, the leader of the Socialist Party in France’s National Assembly said, “defeating the jihadist armies in their own soil cuts off the supply of terrorism on our home soil.” These words call to mind Bush’sattempt to justify his invasion of Iraq: “It’s better to fight them there than here.”

In practice, however, “fighting them there” has brought terror here, to the West. For example, Sharif Kouashi, one of the Paris shooters, seems to have been radicalized, at least in part, by the U.S. war in Iraq. It was reportedly images of the Iraq war, and especially the torture at Abu Ghraib, that motivated Mr. Kouashi to join an organization in France calling on young Muslims to fight the U.S. in Iraq.

Perhaps the most eerie moment of déjà vu was when the French National Assembly spontaneously broke out into the French National Anthem. This echoes the U.S. Congress singing God Bless America after 9/11, a spectacle that epitomized the nationalistic fervor that would give rise to the ruinous invasion of Iraq. The invasion would result in the advent of al-Qaeda in Iraq, an offshoot of which is ISIS – the very group to which one of the shooters reportedly pledged allegiance.

Paul Gottinger is a freelance journalist based in Madison, WI. He can be reached on Twitter @paulgottinger or email: paul.gottinger@gmail.com

Ken Klippenstein is a staff journalist at Reader Supported News. He can be reached on Twitter @kenklippenstein or email: ken@readersupportednews.org


Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.

 

Republicans and Wall Street Say, ‘To Hell With Protecting the Public!’

January 22, 2015

Posted: 01/20/2015 11:22 am EST Updated: 01/20/2015 5:59 pm EST

Since December, Congress has twice passed measures to weaken regulations in the Dodd-Frank financial law that are intended to reduce the risk of another financial meltdown.

In the last election cycle, Wall Street banks and financial interests spent over $1.2 billion on lobbying and campaign contributions, according toAmericans for Financial Reform. Their spending strategy appears to be working. Just this week, the House passed further legislation that would delay by two years some key provisions of Dodd-Frank.

“[Banks] want to be able to do things their way, and that’s very dangerous,” MIT economist Simon Johnson tells me.

“‘Here we go again’ — I think that’s exactly the motto, or the bumper sticker, for this Congress. It’s crazy, it’s unconscionable, but that is the reality.”

Lawmakers are pinning these provisions to Dodd-Frank onto bigger must-pass bills like spending measures that the president doesn’t dare veto.

Bill Moyers: The safeguards that Congress is tearing down, even as we speak, were put in place after the financial disaster of 2008 to prevent another one like it from happening. Why do you think the Republicans are trying to sabotage them?

Simon Johnson: It’s mostly the lobby, specifically a few very large banks that don’t like those restrictions on their activities. They want to be able to take more risk. They’re not worried of course about how that could negatively impact the rest of us, and they’ve persuaded the Republicans to help them in that quest.

Moyers: Are they putting depositors and taxpayers at risk?

Johnson: Yes, absolutely. That’s the core of the reforms: Try and make sure — and it’s hard — that part of the financial system is safe; that depositors are safe; that the taxpayers, as the ultimate backstop for deposits, are safe; and of course, try and make sure that you don’t have a huge crisis that affects the broader economy with millions of people being thrown out of work. That’s the goal. And JPMorgan, Chase, Citigroup, Bank of America and Wells Fargo don’t like that. They want to be able to do things their way, and that’s very dangerous.

Moyers: Aren’t these the same banks that nearly broke the economy in 2008 and helped to destroy millions of jobs and households?

Johnson: They were at the center of what happened. Citigroup, for example, went spectacularly wrong. Parts of Bank of America were in big trouble. In 2008 and 2009, JPMorgan Chase was relatively okay, but they’ve gotten themselves into lots of trouble subsequently, with big trading losses, the so-called London Whale problem, and by fixing interest rates, and accusations of fixing exchange rates and other kinds of market manipulation. So all of these very big financial institutions are potential trouble.

Moyers: But we put these rules in place to reduce the risk of their reckless gambling with our money, and here we go again, it seems.

Johnson: “Here we go again” — I think that’s exactly the motto, or the bumper sticker, for this Congress. It’s crazy, it’s unconscionable, but that is the reality.

Moyers: What do you make of the fact that the tea party opposed those bank bailouts back in 2008 when George W. Bush was pushing for them, and the tea party helped Republicans win control of Congress last fall, and here the tea party is silent as their party turns into Wall Street’s puppet?

Johnson: I’ve always been puzzled and frustrated by this. When I talk to people on the right, more libertarian people, people who don’t like government, intellectuals, they get this. They would be able to participate in this conversation with you and me, and we’d be getting on just fine. The problem is when you get to the political right, they don’t want to get involved. They don’t want to touch this. They don’t even want to talk about it. It has exactly the irony that you just put your finger on, which is that people on the right who rose up against government bailouts –and with some justification — are now supporting the repeal of some of the safeguards that were put in place to prevent any such bailouts in the future. It doesn’t make sense, but that’s the political reality.

Moyers: In my research, I couldn’t find any evidence that Republican candidates, or Democrats for that matter, asked voters last November if they wanted to let the wolves of Wall Street loose again. Do you remember any indication that there was a mandate in the election to turn the country over to the big banks again?

Johnson: I’m assuming that certainly no one made that proposal. What’s interesting is how few candidates, including on the left, mention the threat of Wall Street or mention these dangers. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who wasn’t up for election in November but did a lot of campaigning for other people, is one of the very few leading national-level politicians who talks about this. She says, “It’s the Wall Street problems that gave us the massive crisis, the deep recession, the budget problems and the austerity. So first and foremost, make sure that Wall Street can’t do it again.” But it’s really interesting how few politicians are willing to explain that the deregulation of Wall Street led to the 2008 financial crisis, which caused the budget to worsen and austerity to take center stage.

Moyers: Why?

Johnson: I don’t know. I think it’s the lobby and the political contributions. A lot of money flows from the big banks into the House Financial Services Committee, for example, and more broadly. But when I talk to community bankers — and I want to emphasize this — they are absolutely on the same side.

Moyers: And by community bankers, you mean?

Johnson: The Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA).

Moyers: But these are not the big banks, right?

Johnson: No, they’re small town banks. They lend to the real economy. The ICBA represents 6,500 community banks. They don’t do derivatives trading and other kinds of crazy stuff. But they got hammered in the financial crisis and they’ve struggled in the recession and in the low-interest rate environment. They really fear and are very articulate against the “too big to fail” crowd.

Moyers: The first target right now in Congress is the Volcker rule, and the Republicans, and some Democrats who are joining in, or at least are compliant, they say they’re only making technical corrections to the Volcker rule. Do you believe them?

Johnson: Absolutely not. That’s just a smokescreen. We should remind everyone that the first thing they wanted they already got, the repeal of Section 716, which pushed derivatives away from the insured bank part of their financial empires. They got that in December.

Moyers: They tacked it onto the omnibus spending bill, and Obama and Jamie Dimon lobbied for Congress to vote for it.

Johnson: Yes, but only one of those gentlemen, President Obama, had to sign the legislation that made it go through. Previously, the White House had pushed back and said, “No, we’re not doing Dodd-Frank repeal through this sneaky spending bill business.” But in December, they dropped that. So now the lobbyists are exploring all possible ways they can take this forward, including “technical fixes” to Dodd-Frank that are not technical fixes. They are undermining the substance, reducing the effectiveness and putting more pressure on the regulators not to do their jobs. It’s back to business as usual, pre-2008.

Moyers: As you indicate, their strategy is to pin these provisions on bigger bills that the president doesn’t dare veto. So they get an unpopular result in an undemocratic way. What does that tell you?

Johnson: I think it tells you that democracy is basically broken. But on a slightly more optimistic note, I would say that when and if the White House fights, it can win. For example, the White House has steadfastly refused to allow amendments to the Affordable Care Act to be snuck through on spending bills, and they will hold the line on that, and the Republicans know that the White House will fight them publicly every inch of the way. Ultimately they’ll win that debate because they’ll say, “Look, you want to shut down the government to make these crazy changes to a program that’s working, the Affordable Care Act?” Republicans are not going to win that. But Dodd-Frank is different because on Dodd-Frank, the administration signaled in December that the store is open and they’re willing to give things away, or sell them relatively cheaply. They’ve created a very target-rich environment for the Republicans and for the lobby.

Moyers: I know you’re not an insider in the White House, but you’re read widely in Washington. What’s your understanding of why the president in effect said the shop is open?

Johnson: I think that he’s been poorly advised on this for a long time. I think that the people around him have a very generous view of these big Wall Street players and think somehow that the country — and the economy — needs the “too big to fail” crowd, with their fundamentally anti-social behavior. I think they’re wrong. There’s a Wall Street view of the world — and I’m paraphrasing Elizabeth Warren here — which has taken over and dominated the Treasury for a long time. That remains a problem and that remains a real weakness of this administration.

Moyers: What’s the Main Street view of the world that collides with this?

Johnson: The Main Street view is exactly the community banking view of the world, which is we have families and businesses. They need credit, they need financing, and we serve as an intermediate between savings and responsible borrowers. It has some risks, but they’re manageable, and we’ve had a system for a long time that generated growth and created opportunities for most Americans without blowing up in our faces. But we gave that up in the 1990s and we’re still living with the consequences. Why anyone would want to go back to the crazy casino dominating the real economy is beyond me and it’s beyond my community banker friends.

Moyers: We should remind our younger readers that in the 1990s, Democrats were wholly complicit in what you just described as changing the rules, regulations and the laws to benefit Wall Street. So you’ve got both parties against Main Street in effect, don’t you?

Johnson: Since the 1990s there’s been a bipartisan consensus. The Clinton Treasury, Alan Greenspan, a Republican at the Federal Reserve, and both Republicans and Democrats in the Congress agreed that deregulation of finance was fine and allowing big finance to become even bigger was a good idea. So the question now is: Who has backed away from that and who is willing to acknowledge that was a mistake? The answer is some Democrats — not enough — and very, very few Republicans. But still, some Republicans do and I think they should get credit for that.

Moyers: I’ve read that depositors and taxpayers could be liable for trillions of dollars in oil derivative losses as a result of falling oil prices and the repeal of 716 of the Dodd-Frank provision that passed in December. Could we be liable?

Johnson: I don’t want to sound like a doom-monger, but I think the basic answer is we have no clue. These very large banks — they’re big trading houses really, taking speculative positions on a daily and hourly basis and betting the whole shop sometimes — we don’t know what their exposure is to movements in oil prices. They’re very opaque; they do not have good disclosure. I think even the regulators don’t fully understand the exposure of these banks to complex derivatives. That’s something we saw with what happened with housing prices and the derivatives based on that in 2008. I suspect something like that could happen with oil and with other commodity prices. There is a big exposure and any financial disaster can have a massive effect on the real economy. That’s where you get the trillion-dollar losses in GDP and incomes and millions of jobs lost. I’m worried about that. I’m worried about lots of things around finance…

Moyers: What else worries you?

Johnson: Europe. I don’t think it’s good to sound panic-stricken at every turn of events, but we have not done a good job of insulating ourselves from the risks that are going to be generated by the European banking system as we move forward, and we have to see the world much more in those defensive terms than we did in previous decades.

Moyers: Who’s standing up for the public?

Johnson: A few people, and I think they’re the heroes. Sen. Elizabeth Warren from Massachusetts is the most prominent, but there’s also Sharrod Brown from Ohio, Jeff Merkley from Oregon and David Vitter, a Republican from Louisiana. The Independent Community Bankers of America, they deserve a lot more by way of kudos from the public. Perhaps they’re not as high-profile as some lobby groups but they’re absolutely speaking truth to authority on these issues. There’s a list and it’s a list of sensible people. It’s a longer list than it was in the 1990s when very few people stood against the consensus for deregulation. But it’s a group that’s not yet powerful enough and we’ll see — I think the big issue, really, is the presidential election — which way do the Democrats decide to go on this issue and which way do the Republicans go, although I think that’s a bit more predictable. And then who wins in the big competition for narratives and ideas in 2016.

Moyers: But if that’s the case, it leaves the public vulnerable because Bill Clinton was president in the 1990s when Glass-Steagall was repealed, and George W. Bush was president in aughts of this century when the economy collapsed. Democrats passed Dodd-Frank, but it’s now being weakened. The election doesn’t seem to decide how Wall Street is treated in Washington. Wall Street always seems to have the upper hand.

Johnson: That is true and has been true in the past. President Obama campaigned on the promise of changing things and not so much has changed on this dimension. I think, though, that it depends on who’s running, what that person believes and what they are really going to do when they get in. So whether Elizabeth Warren runs is one question. If Hillary Clinton is the lead candidate and wins the nomination, who are her advisers? Who does she listen to? Does she go back with Robert Rubin, who was treasury secretary in the 1990s, who is still, as far as we know, largely persuaded that big is beautiful in finance? Or does she go with some different advisers and perhaps a perspective that’s closer to that of Elizabeth Warren? I think the Democratic primary is, right now, the real primary.

Moyers: How so?

Johnson: I think this is when the battle for ideas is being fought. I think the arguments about the substance on the Democratic side are absolutely now, and by the time you reach the formal nominating process, it’s going to be a bit late. So ask me again in three months or in six months, and I think we’ll have a clearer answer for whether 2016 could be decisive or whether it will be, as you just suggested, potentially business as usual irrespective of who wins.

Moyers: Does Elizabeth Warren have an obligation to run in order to get her argument into the warp and woof of the Democratic race, just as the tea party folks ran and got their arguments embraced by the Republican Party? Doesn’t she have an obligation to get into the debate, into the campaign and try to champion, give people an option to the establishment candidates?

Johnson: I think she is in that conversation. She does have an ability to mobilize people and an ability to bring pressure and I think, although it’s not for me to say whether or not she has an obligation. But I think she believes and is passionate about wanting to really move the needle and change the world on these important dimensions. It’s up to her to decide how best to do that, and I for one am not going to second guess her on that. I’m going to be supportive every inch of the way, because honestly, we have nobody else. We have a few other people who are great, but Elizabeth Warren is by far our best hope for meaningful change on any of these dimensions.

Moyers: In the meantime, what can people who are concerned — Main Street people, people who do see what you see, what we see — what can people do to be more effective against the big bankers who are controlling our Congress today?

Johnson: Express your views. Write your congressman, email them and make phone calls. There’s a Progressive Change Coalition project called The Big Ideas Project. You can find ways through that organization to tell them and others what your views are in terms of the priorities for the country. You’ve got to speak out and you’ve got to find ways to be polite, be articulate, be forceful and be persuasive.

This post was previously published on BillMoyers.com.


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