Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Of Environmental and Social Gulfs of Power: Privilege and Impoverishment

Washington's Blog today reports on Naked Capitalism on Scientists' Confirmation that Dispersants are Increasing Gulf Contamination. It is a good overview of the ongoing environmental and social disaster in the Gulf of Mexico

The Guardian reports that Oil Companies and Banks will profit from pseudo-environmental schemes that privatize land in developing countries for oil and banking exploitation, while rewarding them for their exploitation. Here is an excerpt for this article on the gulf of power and access supporting authentic environmental and social activists on the one side, and corporate power on the other:

"Greenpeace claimed last week that Indonesia planned to class large areas of its remaining natural forests as "degraded land" in order to cut them down and receive $1bn of climate aid for replanting them with palm trees and biofuel crops."

Last, but not least, Michael Snyder from the Economic Collapse Blog (whose post I found on blacklisted news) reports on the economic and social gulf separating the vast majority of the world's population, who are increasing impoverished and marginalized and, on the other hand, the transnational elite reaping benefits from pillaging the world's human and natural resources:
"Synder writes: "The following are 20 statistics that prove that the wealth of the world is increasingly being funneled into the hands of the global elite, leaving most of the rest of the world wretchedly poor and miserable….
[links are provided by Snyder to document all of these stats]
"#1 According to the UN Conference on Trade and Development, the number of “least developed countries” has doubled over the past 40 years.

#2 “Least developed countries” spent 9 billion dollars on food imports in 2002. By 2008, that number had risen to 23 billion dollars.

#3 Average income per person in the poorest countries on the continent of Africa has fallen by one-fourth over the past twenty years.

#4 Bill Gates has a net worth of somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 billion dollars. That means that there are approximately 140 different nations that have a yearly GDP which is smaller than the amount of money Bill Gates has.

#5 A study by the World Institute for Development Economics Research discovered that the bottom half of the world population owns approximately 1 percent of all global wealth.

#6 Approximately 1 billion people throughout the world go to bed hungry each night.

#7 The wealthiest 2 percent own more than half of all global household assets.

#8 It is estimated that over 80 percent of the world’s population lives in countries where the income gap between the rich and the poor is widening.

#9 Every 3.6 seconds someone starves to death and three-quarters of them are children under the age of 5.

#10 According to Gallup, 33 percent of the people on the globe say that they do not have enough money for food.

#11 As you read this, there are 2.6 billion people around the world that lack basic sanitation.

#12 According to the most recent “Global Wealth Report” by Credit Suisse, the wealthiest 0.5% control over 35% of the wealth of the world.

#13 More than 3 billion people, close to half the world’s population, live on less than 2 dollar a day.

#14 CNN founder Ted Turner is the largest private landowner in the United States. Today, Turner owns approximately two million acres. That is an amount greater than the land masses of the states of Delaware and Rhode Island combined. Turner also advocates restricting U.S. couples to 2 or fewer children to control population growth.

#15 There are 400 million children in the world today that have no access to safe water.

#16 Approximately 28 percent of all children in developing countries are considered to be underweight or have had their growth stunted as a result of malnutrition.

#17 It is estimated that the United States owns approximately 25 percent of the total wealth of the world.

#18 It is estimated that the entire continent of Africa owns approximately 1 percent of the total wealth of the world.

#19 In 2008, approximately 9 million children died before they reached their fifth birthdays. Approximately a third of all of these deaths was due either directly or indirectly to lack of food.

#20 The most famous banking family in the world, the Rothschilds, has accumulated mountains of wealth while much of the rest of the world has been trapped in poverty. The following is what Wikipedia has to say about Rothschild family wealth…. "

Monday, November 29, 2010

Dumping the Dollar

Paul Craig Roberts reports that China and Russia agreed to use their own currencies in bilateral trade activities. China already has this agreement with Brazil, and I think Indonesia as well. Other nations will no doubt follow these precedents and trade using their own currency. The dollar will lose its status as the world's currency reserve, which marks the decline of its imperial status.

Roberts writes:
"Meanwhile in America the sheeple remain content with, or blind to, their role as sheep to be slaughtered to feed the rich. The Obama administration has managed to come up with a Deficit Commission whose members want to pay for the multi-trillion dollar wars that are enriching the military/security complex and the multi-trillion-dollar bailouts of the financial system by reducing annual cost-of-living increases for Social Security, raising the retirement age to 69, ending the mortgage interest deduction, ending the tax deduction for employer-provided health insurance, imposing a 6.5% federal sales tax, while cutting the top tax rate for the rich...In addition, America's elderly are finding that fewer and fewer doctors will accept them as patients as a 23% cut looms in the already low Medicare payments to doctors"

Why is it That Our Government Can Bailout Banks, But NOT People


Huffington Post: "Food Banks Bracing For End Of Extended Unemployment Benefits"
From the Article:
"WASHINGTON -- Food banks across the country are watching for the end of federally-funded extended unemployment insurance.

"We are bracing for it," said Vicki Escarra, CEO of Feeding America, the nation's largest domestic hunger-relief charity, in an interview with HuffPost. Escarra said that Feeding America's 200 member food banks across the country feed nearly six million people every week.

"I can assure you, if these unemployment insurance benefits are not reinstated we'll see these numbers go way up," Escarra said.

Two federal programs -- Emergency Unemployment Compensation and Extended Benefits, which together provide up to 73 weeks of jobless aid on top of 26 weeks of state aid -- are set to begin to expire this week because Congress has not reauthorized them. According to the Labor Department, two million long-term unemployed will be dropped from the programs by the end of December if Congress does not act."

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Worrying Economic Statistics

Published at Market Oracle by Lew Rockwell

Rockwell itemizes his stats:

#1 In November 2006, the "official" U.S. unemployment rate was 4.5 percent. Today, the "official" U.S. unemployment rate has been at 9.5 percent or greater for more than a year.

#2 At Thanksgiving back in 2006, 26 million Americans were on food stamps. Today, there are over 42 million Americans on food stamps and that number is climbing rapidly.

#3 According to the U.S. Census Bureau, median household income in the United States fell from $51,726 in 2008 to $50,221 in 2009. Median household income declined the year before that too. Meanwhile, prices have continued to rise throughout that period.

#4 At the end of the third quarter in 2006, 47 banks were on the FDIC "problem list". At the end of the third quarter in 2010, 860 banks were on the FDIC "problem list".

#5 California home builders began construction on 1,811 homes during the month of August, which was down 77% from August 2006.

#6 In 2006, new home sales in the United States were near record highs. In 2010, new home sales in the United States are at record lows as the following graph from Calculated Risk demonstrates....

#7 A recent survey of last year's college graduates found that 80 percent moved right back home with their parents after graduation. That was up substantially from 63 percent in 2006.

#8 According to one analysis, the United States has lost a total of 10.5 million jobs since 2007.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Peak Oil Passed, Now What?


Chris Martenson discusses the new era of post-peak oil. No one knows what it is going to be like, but none of the immediate term prospects look good.

I just viewed Collapse and have to say that there was nothing in the video I disagreed with. I crossed the rubicon, as the saying goes, with the BP Gulf Oil Cataclysm. I no longer have any faith in our government's capacity or willingness to address looming crises.

The challenge is knowing what, if anything, one can do to prepare for the unravelling of our oil-dependent social order.

Living in Phoenix doesn't make this planning and preparing easy since there is no viable transport without cars and it is pretty difficult to get much to grow here beyond watermellon and citrus (at least, that has been my experience!).

I can only hope that change is gradual, rather than rapid and cataclysmic in effects....

Monday, November 22, 2010

Chalmers Johnson RIP

Here is a link for Johnson's last known interview:

Johnson's trilogy and latest book, Dismantling the Empire, revealed and problematized the domestic and international terror and horror of the American military empire.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Kids (Young Adults) are NOT Doing OK

Baseline Scenario has an article written by two young college graduates about how young people, even those with college degrees are struggling. Read the article linked above.

I'll include a few excerpts below but before I do I want to remind readers of a tidbit I found in the Wall Street Journal a month or so ago:

"Poverty Rate 42.8% for 25-to-34-Year"
Dougherty, C., & Murray, S. (2010, September 17). Lost Decade for Family Income. The Wall Street Journal, p. A1, A4.

We have allowed an entire generation to be dispossessed, marginalized, impoverished.

Here are a few excerpts from the Baseline scenario article written by Mark Paul and Anastasia Wilson:

"Currently, even after a slight boost in jobs growth, unemployment for 18-24 year olds stands at 24.7%. For 20-24 year olds, it hovers at 15.2%. These conservative estimates, using the Bureau of Labor Statistics U3 measure, do not reflect the number of marginally attached or discouraged young workers feeling the lag from a nearly moribund job market.

"The U3 measure also does not count underemployment, yet with only 50% of B.A. holders able to find jobs requiring such a degree, underemployment rates are a telling index of the squeezing of the 18-30 year old Millennial generation. While it appears everyone is hurting since the financial collapse, young adults bear a disproportionate burden, constituting just 13.5% of the workforce while accounting for 26.4% of those unemployed. Even with good credentials, it is difficult for young people to find work and keep themselves afloat.

"... Average student debt for the class of 2008 was $23,200, an increase over four years of about 25%, meaning that students are knee deep in negative equity between their educational investment and actual earnings...."

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The New Sharecropper Society

Matt Stoller "A Debtcropper Society" available at Naked Capitalism. Here is an excerpt:

Stoller: Today, we are in the midst of creating a second sharecropper society. I first heard the term “slaves to the bank” from a constituent fighting a fraudulent foreclosure. The details aren’t so important — this couple had been illegally placed in a predatory loan — but at one point, the wife explained that she and her husband were so scared they would have “given their first born to the bank to keep their home”. That was fear speaking, total unadulterated panic. And as we watch debt-holders use the ornaments of fear, such a loan sharking company that set up fake courts to convince debtors they were losing cases, we should recognize that what the creditor class wants is what they’ve always wanted: total dominance of our culture

Today, the debts do not involve liens against crops. People in modern America carry student loans, credit card debt, and mortgages. All of these are hard to pay back, often bringing with them impenetrable contracts and illegal fees. Credit card debt is difficult to discharge in bankruptcy and a default on a home loan can leave you homeless. A student loan debt is literally a claim against a life — you cannot discharge it in bankruptcy, and if you die, your parents are obligated to pay it. If the banks have their way, mortgages and deficiency judgments will follow you around forever, as they do in Spain.

Young people and what only cynics might call ‘homeowners’ have no choice but to jump on the treadmill of debt, as debtcroppers. The goal is not to have them pay off their debts, but to owe forever. Whatever a debtcropper owes, a wealthy creditor owns. And as a bonus, the heavier the debt burden of American citizenry, the less able we are able to organize and claim our democratic rights as citizens. Debtcroppers don’t start companies and innovate, they don’t take chances, and they don’t claim their political rights...."

read the full article at the link above...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Pillaging Again

David DeGraw writes about how quantitative easy by the Federal Reserve will exacerbate poverty in America by devaluing the dollar further:
"The Federal Reserve’s actions are already causing the price of food and gas to increase and will cause hyperinflation on most basic necessities. This is happening at a time when we have a record 52 million Americans living in poverty, 42.4 million on food stamps and 77 percent of the population now living paycheck to paycheck. By deliberately devaluing the dollar and causing the price of necessities to rise, the Federal Reserve is, as a matter of strategic policy, sacrificing a significant percentage of the US population for the benefit of a few bankers - bankers who have already been experiencing all-time record high bonuses over the past two years. This is why we now have the highest and most severe inequality of wealth in US history. Not even the robber barons looted the economy as effectively as these banksters have."

Majia here: There is widespread agreement among economists that quantitative easing is aimed at helping banks, not the majority of the population.

Moreover, quantitative easing is causing currency disruptions in emerging economies and is exacerbating trade war sentiments across the globe. The U.S. is not collaborating, is the global sentiment.

The lack of collaboration does not stem from a desire by US policy makers to protect the American population. Rather, the policy is aimed at protecting the too-big-to-fail monstrosities....

Hunger in America


Patrick Martin writes at Global Research:

"All told, one quarter of US households have at least one person receiving food stamps or other food aid. However, 43 percent of food-insecure households were not participating in any of these three programs.... a society which took seriously the value of human life and the future of its children, the spectacle of 50 million people at risk of hunger, including 17 million children, would be a social emergency. Given that the United States once boasted of its ability to feed the planet, the indifference to the growth of hunger at home is a national scandal. "

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Out of Town Until Wed Nov 18

No posts for several days....

My Conference Paper: The Tea Party and the Government of Affect

This paper will be presented Tue Nov 16 in San Francisco at the National Communication Association.

Majia Holmer Nadesan
Mobilizing Affect: The Tea Party and the Failure of the Left

“The top 20 percent of U.S. households in 2007
controlled 85 percent of the nation’s wealth” (Rosen, 2010)

“The Tea Party is a popular movement engaged in (mostly) nonviolent class warfare. It is the voice of the vulnerable Christian white lower- and middle-classes. Their world is in crisis, collapsing around them. Their once-enviable race-based social privileges no longer provide protection against the vicissitudes of corporate capitalism. In response, they have retreated into the secure fortress of rage and aligned with the ideological and moral absolutism promoted by factions of the super-rich, the very sector responsible for their immiseration.” (David Rosen Counterpunch http://www.counterpunch.org/rosen10292010.html)

The Tea Party’s mobilization fascinates and frightens those of us within the academic left. Its latent racism and vulgar flag adoration disgust us. Its simplified and nostalgic aim to re-instate an America that never truly existed elicit our scorn. Its capture by established Republican strategists and fund raisers reaffirms our belief in the movement’s naïveté. Yet, some of us in the academic left also experience consternation, even envy, because we are incapable of orchestrating, or even speaking to, a popular resistance movement.

I had intended to write about the Tea Party’s mobilization of affect. I planned to describe the affect of impoverishment of economy and opportunity caused by the neoliberal financialization of the U.S. economy. I planned to discuss how resistant rage is being channeled strategically against the social-welfare aspects of the state, as opposed to its militaristic and repressive apparatuses. However, the strategic manipulation and deception of the population by inciting race and class conflict, and by promoting an obsessive fascination with the deficits produced by fiat currencies are so obvious that they hardly need elaboration.

Moreover, others, far more eloquent than I, have described these developments. Will Bunch’s, The Backlash: Right-Wing Radicals, High-Def Hucksters, and Paranoid Politics in the Age of Obama attributes the rise of rightwing backlash to anger by right wing conservatives, right-wing media, and pro-business interests who sought to steer the movement in order to promote their economic agendas. The Communist League’s “The Tea Party Nativists and the Working Class” offers an even more compelling class-based analysis of the rise of the Tea Party movement:

Block quote"The alienation and disaffection felt by layers of the bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie toward the “fairness” of the corporatist arbiter-state had fueled the rise of rightwing libertarian and populist movements, including the anti-Federal Reserve movement around Texas Congressman Ron Paul and the various Tea Party Nativist groups. The rise and growth of these movements signals the beginning of the end of the interregnum between the Second American Republic and what is to come…. The central premise of the Tea Party Nativists is that the selection of Barack Obama as the chief arbiter of American corporatism has placed the country on the road to “socialism.” By “socialism,” it means “spreading the wealth” and some emergency nationalizations, not anything that we as communists would actually recognize as a supportable “socialism.”… . Among the ranks of the Tea Party Nativists, however, the charge of “socialism” is sincerely believed and sincerely accepted. It is not only associated with Obama and the Democratic Party, but also organizing in poor and working-class communities (e.g., the ACORN group), social service and welfare programs (including health care reform), immigration and the rise of a “majority-minority” America. The battle cry of “take back America!” has become a standard. The Coming Battle http://www.communist-league.org/index.php/news-analysis/77-the-coming-battle
End block quote

According to these analyses, the Tea Party group represents the resentiment, political disenfranchisement, and growing economic impoverishment of working and middle class Americans. Their affect, that is, their rage, is being harness and channeled in ways that further legitimize and solidify precisely those forces that are responsible for their marginalization. I don’t think I can add productively to what these and other excellent analyses of the movements have to offer.

What I can reflect upon, however, is Walter Benjamin’s observation, recently revisited by Slavoj Zizek, that “Behind every fascism, there is a failed revolution.” We, as leftist academics specifically, and as academics more generally, are complicit in this failed revolution and mark my words we will soon see the rise of fascism because the problems confronting humanity are so great, overshadowed in scope only by the egos and greed of our global “leaders.” Zizek argues that academics have failed because they have agreed to serve as “experts to those in power who define the problems.” He suggests that “We should redefine and the question the problems themselves.” What Zizek is getting at is the subordination of academic inquiry and knowledge to technical expertise, which is called upon, and even steered by, corporatist public and private officials. I agree with Zizek, but think there is more left to be said about the failure of the academic left.

Stuart Jeanne Bramhall uses Wilhelm Reich to explain the failure of the academic left to mobilize resistance. Reich’s emphasis on emotional governance suggests that authoritarian, repressive social institutions create apathetic populations, more responsive to libidinal appeals than to intellectual critiques of their political economy. Bramhall explains:

Block quote by Bramhall: In the US only half of eligible adults register and a little over fifty percent of registered voters actually vote. Reich argues that it's typical in highly authoritarian "democracies" for the passive, non-voting population to constitute the majority. He also stresses, with examples from Germany, Japan, Italy and other totalitarian states that it's is precisely this passive, non-voting majority that fascists and ultra-conservatives reach out to. He is very critical of the left for attempting to engage this demographic by addressing their appalling economic conditions a strategy he insists is doomed to failure. In his view, what the left needs to grasp and never does is that owing to the social conditions they grow up in, this politically inactive majority are too caught up in their own internal struggles to think in terms of their economic needs. To put it crudely, status-related needs, such as getting laid, and driving a fast car and watching the Superbowl on a flat screen TV will always be a much higher priority than wages or working conditions. http://www.opednews.com/articles/The-Mass-Psychology-of-Fas-by-Dr-Stuart-Jeanne-B-100806-347.html
End block quote

Bramhall, following Reich, argues that the vast majority of the population is psychologically captured by the psychological trauma of authoritarian social institutions that channel and repress desire. In this view, the failure of the academic left is their inability to recognize and extricate populations from their psychic imprisonment, or at least, the left fails to address them in ways that resonate within their imprisonment.

Any faculty member who has tried to elicit student interest in pursuits more esoteric than interpersonal relations, Facebook, and celebrity culture is inclined to nod their head in agreement to this account of the left’s failure. The vast majority of students, especially communication studies students, seems dis-interested in politics, particularly international politics. Students typically assume glazed expressions when persistent professors struggle to explain the basics of the financial crisis. They whisper to one another, “this isn’t in the textbook.” Utter apathy on the behalf of students is incredibly discouraging for leftist academics appalled by the utter pilfering of uber-capitalists gone mad. Bramhall’s reading of Reich at least explains the dynamic.

Or does it? I’m not disagreeing with Bramhall or Reich. I just think there is still more to the story of the failure of the academic left to speak to a population that is being raped and pillaged by uber-capitalists gone mad with greed. The excess I am referring to concerns the affective economy of liberal academics. I contend that liberal and left-leaning economists have been co-opted, captured, and mesmerized by their technocratic aspirations and privileged control over sacred academic languages.

Desiring the recognition of the Other, of the physical sciences, academics in the humanities and social sciences have deliberately blanched their publications of social concern. Even socially relevant constructs such as bullying are reduced to physiological indicators such as blood pressure and cortical levels, stripping research of the social conditions of possibility for interpersonal violence among youths in a highly stratified and competitive society. Further, desiring the status of high priests of sacred knowledge, academics have adopted highly abstract and difficult-to-penetrate vocabularies and writing styles that prevent all but the initiated from reading.

These problems are endemic throughout the social sciences and are not specific to communication studies. The problem is that leftist academics have succumbed, and indeed promote, these strategies of de-politicization in their research. I admit to being guilty of using obtuse language, but have moved in my teaching and scholarship towards more accessibility and have always found my data in the particularities of everyday life and the social realities projected in media and statistical profiles of the population. So, it is with some consternation that I have watched my promising undergraduates transformed by graduate education as they have been seduced by abstract theory away from studying the world around them. They proudly use abstract technical vocabularies articulated by Heidegger, Derrida or Agamben, but they have stopped studying the broader politics, economics, and cultural dynamics that prompted their interest in pursuing graduate education. They have become irrelevant apostles of a largely irrelevant academic discourse adopted for and by its limited group of practitioners. I mourn their loss.

Passion and anger have no place within this rarified academic discourse. Academics who dare to adopt privileged vocabularies for applied critiques, such as Henry Giroux, risk the disdain of their more correct colleagues for “simplifying” complex conceptual vocabularies. There are few rewards for academics who stray from the path, who reject the ideals of strict emotional self-government required for the production of abstract and technocratic accounts of interpersonal, group, or organizational dynamics.

No topic is more sanctioned in our discipline of communication studies than political economy, particularly in organizational communication studies. I am not referring to the abstract political economy found in those research studies that use words such as “micro-politics,” “discipline,” “surveillance,” and “ideology.” These words are considered fine in the academic journals so long as their explanatory range is limited to accounting for interpersonal dynamics, particularly within bounded social or relational spaces. The words I am referring to that are unspoken, self-censored, vulgar even, are words and phrases such as “class conflict,” “working class,” “exploitation,” and “corporatism.” Likewise, the actors that must remain unspoken are those freely criticized by the populist right including “wall street financiers,” “federal reserve bank,” and “monopoly capitalists.” The journalist left is willing to, and apt at, engaging with these terms, but other than a few “dinosaurs” such as Noam Chomsky, the academic left mostly refuse to become engaged in a class analysis of the political economy that is enabling the raping and pillaging of the majority of the world’s populations. Those Marxist and critical scholars who persisted in macro-class related analyses risked marginalization within their own disciplines unless capitalism was re-coded as “neoliberalism” or “The Washington Consensus.”

No arena has demonstrated this disdain for critical applied analysis of the collaboration of corporate and government power than the recent “spill” in the Gulf of Mexico. I followed this environmental catastrophe closely and was authentically astonished by the brute censorship, outright lies, and calculating treatment of life exhibited by BP, federal officials, and state authorities in their “government” of this event. When EPA whistle-blower Hugh Kaufman raised alarm about corexit at Democracy Now, I was shocked by mainstream media’s censorship of his efforts to bring sustained public attention to the matter. Also silenced was Dr. Robert Bea, from U.C. Berkeley’s BP crisis response group, who admitted in an interview posted with Washington’s Blog that there were originally two BP wells and both might be leaking. Finally, when autopsy reports conflicted in the cause of death for the suddenly departed, whistle-blowing Matt Simmons, I began to suspect that the most outrageous conspiracy theorists of the right might contain elements of truth.

My efforts to discuss what I knew to be true, and suspected might be, at a break during a faculty retreat in August were met with contempt. Faculty moved away from me as if I had involuntarily vomited, pretending to ignore my indiscretion. One colleague reported to another that he was “worried about” me.

Academics are not supposed to emote. They are not supposed to speculate on matters outside their theoretically circumscribed program of study. Most of all, they are implicitly forbidden from discussing anything that remotely suggests that a small group of elites might exercise power and control over larger populations. Academics who lower themselves by engaging in “conspiracy” talk risk losing their academic reputations and even their jobs.

Less stigmatized, but equally vulgar, is the topic of blue-collar labor. Typically, the only academics willing to engage with the lives and challenges of LABOR as labor are those few who somehow made it through the ceiling that typically keeps working class kids from becoming professors. Those that do make it through are often implicitly encouraged to hide their base origins by pursuing more esoteric or technical programs of study. Labor is contaminating. So is the Gulf.

The Gulf crisis continues on today unabated. The ban by mainstream U.S. media has led journalists such as Dahr Jamail to seek alternative venues such as Al Jazeera to publish accounts of contaminated seafood, severely polluted water, and mortally sickened Gulf populations because similar accounts in alternative press sites such as Global Research and Florida Oil Spill News are too easily disregarded and dismissed as conspiratorial (see http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/features/2010/11/201011465847225269.html). Academics, mostly marine biologists and toxicologists, who have bravely leaked their research to local media willing to report evidence of vast amounts of oil, both newly deposited and buried, risk losing future grant money and harming the academic reputation of their universities. Faculty from the University of Georgia and South Florida are to be applauded for their courage in the face of this potential backlash.

Perhaps this censorship is tolerated because the populations most directly impacted by the disaster are working class people whose livelihoods are tied to the oil and fishing industries. These people speak with strong southern accents, wear rough tee-shirts, and are “red.” Their rage against BP and the government has been spurred by an overwhelming assault against their livelihoods and their health. Although some left leaning journalists and environmental activists have engaged with them in their struggle to have the scope and ongoing dimensions of the disaster recognized, addressed, discussed, the academic left has been largely silent and stories about the ongoing catastrophe are slowly disappearing from progressive news sites such as Alternet, Truthout, and OpEdnews. I include a long excerpt from one of the few stories published recently on the ongoing disaster to demonstrate my point:

block quote: BP's stock has already bounced back. The media has mostly moved on. But the long-term health impacts on Gulf Coast residents from the catastrophic oil spill are only beginning…
Originally collected on four separate dates throughout August, all the blood samples -- from three females, age 44, 46 and 51, and five males, age 30, 46, 48, 51 and 59 -- contained dangerously high levels of volatile organic chemicals found in BP crude oil, including Ethylbenzene, m,p-Xylene and Hexane, Subra explained during a wide-ranging interview with Alternet.
She clarified that the subjects whose blood was analyzed had been exposed to the oil for at least three full months before samples were collected on August 2, 3, 12 and 18.
Testing for the same chemical markers, Subra hunted down BP's crude fingerprints out in the field all along the coast, in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida's panhandle.
"I've found there's still huge amounts of BP crude oil on the sediment soils, in the wetlands, on the vegetation, and in the tissue in the oysters, crabs and mussels."
The acute health impacts of these chemicals include severe headaches, nausea, respiratory problems, burning eyes and throat, earache and chest pains.
Subra, who is also a microbiologist and the recipient of a 1999 MacArthur Fellows "genius grant" for her environmental work, pointed out that coastal residents have already entered an early phase of long-term exposure, where they're experiencing chronic effects such as liver, kidney and central nervous system damage, decreased lung function and heart disease. (Jacobson, 2010,
http://www.alternet.org/environment/148737/bp_stock_rebounds_media_moves_on_but_gulf_residents_are_bracing_for_a_mammoth_health_crisis_from_the_spill) end block quote

Subra is a brave soul for her willingness to document and attest to the ongoing environmental and health impacts of this “spill” will probably mean she will never receive another prestigious academic award.

Who speaks to these people who are alienated and marginalized, yet also white? There are few unions to represent them. Many see themselves as independent contractors or entrepreneurs and reject the union mantle. Their congressional representatives are indebted to oil interests and apparently care little for the welfare of their constituents. The mainstream media won’t report their stories and the broader public has lost interest. “Thank God,” they say as they turn to the solace of Prison Planet, Blacklisted News, the Intel Hub and a host of other conspiracy inclined “right” web-sites.

I’ve studied these websites and I see that they resonate with populations because they address their concerns and they offer compelling narratives of the individuals and corporations that are perceived as harming the population’s economic and physical health. What is interesting is that most of the concerns raised on these types of sites are also the same ones raised by the journalistic left on sites such as Alternet and OpEdnews. The difference is that the journalistic left sees government regulation as the solution whereas the populist right so distrusts government that it wishes to dispense with it altogether, even its social-welfare institutions.

Why is that? Part of the answer lies in the clinical government of affect typically found on left-leaning sites, designed to promote the sense of detached objectivity. Another part of the answer may reside in liberal left’s psychic blinders. So many of American liberals are so complacent in their technocratic and often government-sponsored lifestyles that it doesn’t occur to them that government has done little to assist the struggling middle-class and impoverished working class populations over the last thirty years. Rather than recognizing a mammoth failure to engage with, or for, the vast unwashed majority, they [i.e., “we”] as Joe Bageant (2010) explains:

block quote Bageant: Immediately they conclude that it is the American people's fault through their backwardness, incomprehension and misdirected anger, and that maybe it serves them right for not rallying behind the flying progressive standard. . . Not that the progressive flag was actually flying; American liberals threw down their standard 40 years ago in the rush for comfortable technical, teaching and administrative jobs in government, universities and non-profits. "Ah yes," they wailed, the people have let us down. They are absolutely disgusting!" liberals agreed. And they still agree. Read the comments on Huffington Post or Daily Kos. (http://www.joebageant.com/joe/2010/08/understanding-america.html)
end block quote

Joe goes on to observe that too many of us within the petite bourgeoisie are actually bound to the elite powers that we occasionally purport to critique:

block quote Bageant: "The ruling elite stays in power through the patronage both parties offer their supporters. They hang onto or follow their party's leaders much the same as remoras cling to big sharks, and pilot fish accompany sharks, happy to get the leftovers. Both parties provide their activists and followers with livelihoods, through programs or legislation that just happen to make the rich richer..."
end block quote

I think Joe is correct and, sadly, the “ruling elite” have infinite capacity to co-opt through funding and seduction.

I did it! I said “ruling elite” and I believe it exists. I believe that the middle-class is collapsing and working class people have been impoverished by this group through their poverty industries, their sub-prime and alt-a mortgages, their outsourcing and globalization, their privatized health apparatuses, their promotion of monopoly capitalism, and their newly unfolding structural austerity. I’m really tired of governing my affect. I’m tired of writing in a coolly detached fashion where I use words like “neoliberal governmental logic” to replace words like neoliberal exploitation and extortion. I hope to learn how to channel my affect to speak to people who are not just like me. I am practicing through blogging. I have a lot to learn.


Bageant, Joe (2010, August 16). Understanding America's Class System. http://www.joebageant.com/joe/2010/08/understanding-america.html

Bramhall, S. J. (200 ).The Mass Psychology of Fascism: Not a New Problem. Oped news. http://www.opednews.com/articles/The-Mass-Psychology-of-Fas-by-Dr-Stuart-Jeanne-B-100806-347.html

The Communist League. (2010, February 23). The Coming Battle: The Tea Party Nativists and the working class. The Communist League http://www.communist-league.org/index.php/news-analysis/77-the-coming-battle

Jacobson, B. (2010, November). BP Stock Rebounds, Media Moves on, But Gulf Residents Are Bracing for a Mammoth Health Crisis from the Spill. Alternet. http://www.alternet.org/environment/148737/bp_stock_rebounds_media_moves_on_but_gulf_residents_are_bracing_for_a_mammoth_health_crisis_from_the_spill)
Jamail, D. (2010, November 5). Is the gulf of mexico safe ? http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/features/2010/11/201011465847225269.html

Kaufman, H. (2010). EPA Whistleblower Accuses Agency of Covering Up Effects of Dispersant in BP Oil Spill Cleanup. Democracy Now. http://www.democracynow.org/2010/7/20/epa_whistleblower_accuses_agency_of_covering

Rosen, D. (2010, October 29-31). Class war in America: The war that dares not speak its name. Counterpunch http://www.counterpunch.org/rosen10292010.html)

Washington’s Blog. (2010, August 19). Top Expert: Geology is "Fractured", Relief Wells May Fail ... BP is Using a "Cloak of Silence", Refusing to Share Even Basic Data with the Government. http://georgewashington2.blogspot.com/2010/08/top-oil-expert-geology-is-fractured-bp.html
Zizek, S. (2010, October 27). Why far right and xenophobic politicians are on the rise in Europe. Democracy Today.

Friday, November 12, 2010

WSJ: "Mortality Swaps" and Goldman as the Spectre of Death

Today the WSJ reports in an article by Katy Burne of stepped up interest in swaps based on life insurance. These are technical swaps but essential what is being swapped is the risk of a person insured by life insurance dying earlier than the actuarial insurance tables predict.

So what you might ask?

Well, read this excerpt from the article that can be found on page c7 of the print version of today's paper:

"Under the swap, Goldman Sachs International will receive payments from the SPV if the policyholders die sooner than actuarial assumptions suggest they should, from a pandemic for example."

Great! Who wants to bet that Goldman Sachs holds majority stock in a biotech company capable of producing a virus that could selectively wipe out policy holders being gamed by Goldman (only sort of joking on this....)

Or maybe Goldman is selectively buying up the swaps for residents of the Gulf region since so many of them are going to die early due to their massive and ongoing exposure to petrochemicals and corexit....

Washington's Blog explains why in an EXCELLENT POST excerpted below. Go to the link to read the full article:

Washington's Blog: BP Oil Slams Florida

Florida has been hit with huge amounts of oil from the BP oil spill:

Tears after heartbreaking discovery near FL border: “Massive amounts of submerged and sub-surface oil” pushed on to beaches — “Neverending” (VIDEO)

*CONFIRMED* Chemist: That’s BP oil on Southwest Florida beach — “Should put to rest any doubt” over origin of 173 ppm oil found in sand near Sarasota

Orange Beach: “Billions of tar balls” (VIDEO)

Oil under sand still just “as toxic as the fresh oil”: Sample “had to be diluted 20 TIMES to get a reading” — Florida agency says SAME sample NOT toxic

FL Fisherman: “Like having a chemical dump site and not telling anyone” — “Oh no, I’m cleaning flounders right now that I just caught within eyesight of there”

All 40 scientists agree at meeting: “Fish in the Gulf of Mexico will continue to get sick, die or fail to reproduce as a result” of oil — What about the people?

Multiple boats of fishermen sickened on November 1 — One still hospitalized after “bleeding in his esophagus”

Dallas surgeon “has treated many people from the Gulf that have been made sick by BP’s toxic chemicals”

“I don’t recommend eating Gulf seafood, not with the risk of liver and kidney damage” says toxicologist — “They’re sniffing for something they can’t detect” ...

Doctor: “Dead people don’t talk, dead people don’t sue, dead people don’t tell the truth, and dead people don’t bother BP”

“Human race survives methane plume, for now” — May take 400 years to be clear on how methane affected Gulf says professor

“Data that’s been gathered about the spill’s impact has yet to be made public” — USF Dean: Feds will not share test results with researchers who collected samples

Dispersant use contaminates volume of water with up to 1,000 more PAHs — What’s worse? These toxic parts of oil remain longest

Toxicologist: “We tested a good number of seafood samples and in 100 percent we found petroleum” — Gov’t tests “little more than a farce”

Headlines courtesy of Florida Oil Spill Law.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


U.S. the World's Biggest Arms Seller

Gulf seafood (especially shrimp) full of oil

"The Privatization of War: Mercenaries, Private Military and Security Companies (PMSC) Beyond the WikiLeaks Files" by Jose L. Gomez del Prado

"America's Economic and Social Crisis: Profits or Prosperity?" by Zoltan Zigedy

"Was the creation of the Financial Stability Board last year a bloodless coup by the world's central bankers? A repeal of the U.S. Declaration of Independence? That's certainly how some in America view the new body which is supposed to plug the holes in the world's financial regulations..."

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Fascism in America

Chris Hedges has an insightful analysis at Truthout of the rise of fascism in the U.S.:

Hedges writes: "American politics, as the midterm elections demonstrated, have descended into the irrational. On one side stands a corrupt liberal class, bereft of ideas and unable to respond coherently to the collapse of the global economy, the dismantling of our manufacturing sector and the deadly assault on the ecosystem. On the other side stands a mass of increasingly bitter people whose alienation, desperation and rage fuel emotionally driven and incoherent political agendas. It is a recipe for fascism.

"More than half of those identified in a poll by the Republican-leaning Rasmussen Reports as “mainstream Americans” now view the tea party favorably. The other half, still grounded in a reality-based world, is passive and apathetic. The liberal class wastes its energy imploring Barack Obama and the Democrats to promote sane measures including job creation programs, regulation as well as criminal proceedings against the financial industry, and an end to our permanent war economy. Those who view the tea party favorably want to tear the governmental edifice down, with the odd exception of the military and the security state, accelerating our plunge into a nation of masters and serfs. The corporate state, unchallenged, continues to turn everything, including human beings and the natural world, into commodities to exploit until exhaustion or collapse.

"All sides of the political equation are lackeys for Wall Street. They sanction, through continued deregulation, massive corporate profits and the obscene compensation and bonuses for corporate managers. Most of that money—hundreds of billions of dollars—is funneled upward from the U.S. Treasury...."

Read the whole essay at

Monday, November 8, 2010

Paul Craig Roberts: "Phantom Jobs"


Paul C. Roberts writes:
"If we cannot trust what the government tells us about weapons of mass destruction, terrorist events, and the reasons for its wars and bailouts, can we trust the government’s statement last Friday that the US economy gained 151,000 payroll jobs during October?

Apparently not. After examining the government’s report, statistician John Williams (shadowstats.com) reported that the jobs were “phantom jobs” created by “concurrent seasonal factor adjustments.” In other words, the 151,000 jobs cannot be found in the unadjusted underlying data. The jobs were the product of seasonal adjustments concocted by the BLS."

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Nationalize the Too-Big-To-Fails!

Ellen Wood argues that bank nationalization is looking better and better as the too-big-to fail banks appear ever-more insolvent due to the fraudulent securities based in home loans whose chains of title were violated by lack of proper signatures and authentication.

If the too-big-to-fail banks were nationalized and the assets sorted and sold, our economy might be able to halt this deflationary spiral because mortgage debts could be written down by the federal government and small businesses might be able to raise credit again (I know first hand how hard it has been for small businesses to get loans).

Instead of this rational strategy, we get QE2. Quantitative Easing 2 seems aimed exclusively at the banks. They will take their free money and buy treasuries, forcing the government to pay interest. They will inflate the stock market and/or engage in currency speculation abroad.

If the government aims to stimulate the economy, it should develop meaningful public works and infrastructure projects. Giving more money to the fundamentally corrupted too-big-to-fail banks is not going to help produce jobs or assist small businesses.

The government should also attempt to reign in monopoly capitalism, which hurts producers and consumers alike. See Cornered by Barry Lynn

Friday, November 5, 2010

ChemTrails in Phoenix

Driving home from my morning hike I saw something amazing. Planes criss-crossing the sky were leaving wide trails that spread out, but did not dissipate. I stopped my car and got out and looked at the sky. There were countless lines headed by airplanes. Two hours later the same lines are apparent in the sky, although they have widened and flattened.

I mentioned it to my husband. He is a former army officer and not one inclined toward conspiracy thinking. He said he had seen a plane with oddly shaped wings also leaving a pronounced trail in the sky when driving this morning

I googled the date, city, and chemtrails just to see what I would find and discovered that someone in my area had videod the planes making the trails in the sky

What is going on? Is this weather engineering? What are the dangers? Why is this subject discussed only on fringe websites?


Americans on Food Stamps Hits New Record in August (Zero Hedge)


Persons Not in Labor Force Reaches Record Level (Zero Hedge)


"Justice for Some" by Stiglitz (Not Justice for All!)


EPA's Hugh Kaufman: Government Covering UP Dispersant Dangers (Washington's Blog)


Final Thoughts: Muse's Resistance

"It's time to take the power back and give the fat cats a heart attack!"

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Class War and Structural Adjustment

Don't believe America is a very unequal class society? check out this link

Why don't Americans recognize that what is going on is class war? James Kwak gives his account:

Kwak: "Most people think that society is too unequal. Yet at the same time, we have an instinctive dislike for class warfare. If you’re engaged in class warfare against the rich, that must mean you’re poor, and people don’t want to think they’re poor. We like to think we’re not a class society; everyone likes to think they’re middle class; even large proportions of the rich identify themselves as middle class. And we have this belief in social mobility, though in fact we’re less mobile than most European societies. And as a result, we think you should become rich; you shouldn’t attack the rich..."

I think Kwak is correct but this blanket admiration of the wealthy hides the crimes against the rest of the population. Much wealth is generated by exploiting labor, by pillaging government (e.g. corrupted outsourcing) and the poor (e.g., sub-prime), by corrupted securities and bond transactions (e.g., high frequency trading), and by unfairly exploiting other nations' resources (e.g., land grabs in Africa). Not all wealth is generated in these ways but an awful lot of it is!

Unfortunately, our slate of candidates offers little opportunity for legitimate change to our corrupted system. David DeGraw explains what he sees coming and I have to agree with his analysis:

DeGraw: "Most Americans have only a vague understanding of the collapse that we have been set up for. If you think the past two years were bad, they were just a warm up to what is coming our way. After analyzing the policies in place and the current political environment, I can assure you that the next two years will be worse that the previous two. 52 million Americans have already been driven into poverty, 30 million are in need of work, millions of American families have been foreclosed upon and the inequality of wealth is the most severe it has ever been in the history of the United States. And this is just the beginning phase of the decline. Millions more will be added to these totals and the social safety-nets that have held our society together are breaking down. Cuts to vital social programs are going to be severe across the board.

"Our paid-off government is not going to fix our problems, they are making them worse. Don’t you think it’s time for you to start representing yourself? Don’t you think it’s time for you to start defending your family’s interests?"


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Links Today

Jesse's Cafe Americain warns of the collapse of the lower classes, Wall Street pillaging and the rise of fascism in a series of historically significant but ultra brief video clips

Washington's Blog warns us that war is sold like toothpaste. The difference is that so much more effort and money goes into selling war as compared to toothpaste.

I think both posts are prescient on the eve of a very socially conservative take-over attempt of congress. I'm not defending the democrats because I believe they have done a terrible job leading the country recently.

However, the specter of right-wing ideologues trying to run the country is even more frightening. They will mistakenly blame government regulation for the problem while rushing to increase our already inflated defense budget. They will cut social benefits for a population already reeling from the loss of income and savings. They will privatize what is left of our public infrastructures and services. They will cut corporate taxes and raise personal taxes. We all will suffer more by their misdirected actions.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Chris Hedges: The Phantom Left


I have to agree with Hedges. The journalistic left is stronger than the academic left, but both are weak in comparison to the right wing movements. I'm sure the reasons why this is the case are complex, but I think the collapse of labor and the upward aspirations and intellectual narcissism of the academic left have all played roles. Here is what Hedges says:

Hedges: "The American left is a phantom. It is conjured up by the right wing to tag Barack Obama as a socialist and used by the liberal class to justify its complacency and lethargy. It diverts attention from corporate power. It perpetuates the myth of a democratic system that is influenced by the votes of citizens, political platforms and the work of legislators. It keeps the world neatly divided into a left and a right. The phantom left functions as a convenient scapegoat. The right wing blames it for moral degeneration and fiscal chaos. The liberal class uses it to call for “moderation.” And while we waste our time talking nonsense, the engines of corporate power—masked, ruthless and unexamined—happily devour the state...."