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Will Capitalism Destroy Civilization?

Will Capitalism Destroy Civilization?

Dollar burn through Earth

Thursday, 07 March 2013 09:12 By Noam Chomsky, Truthout | Op-Ed

There is capitalism and then there is really existing capitalism.

The term capitalism is commonly used to refer to the U.S. economic system, with substantial state intervention ranging from subsidies for creative innovation to the too-big-to-fail government insurance policy for banks.

The system is highly monopolized, further limiting reliance on the market, and increasingly so: In the past 20 years the share of profits of the 200 largest enterprises has risen sharply, reports scholar Robert W. McChesney in his new book Digital Disconnect.

Capitalism is a term now commonly used to describe systems in which there are no capitalists: for example, the worker-owned Mondragon conglomerate in the Basque region of Spain, or the worker-owned enterprises expanding in northern Ohio, often with conservative support both are discussed in important work by the scholar Gar Alperovitz.

Some might even use the term capitalism to refer to the industrial democracy advocated by John Dewey, Americas leading social philosopher, in the late 19th century and early 20th century.

Dewey called for workers to be masters of their own industrial fate and for all institutions to be brought under public control, including the means of production, exchange, publicity, transportation and communication. Short of this, Dewey argued, politics will remain the shadow cast on society by big business.

The truncated democracy that Dewey condemned has been left in tatters in recent years. Now control of government is narrowly concentrated at the peak of the income scale, while the large majority down below has been virtually disenfranchised. The current political-economic system is a form of plutocracy, diverging sharply from democracy, if by that concept we mean political arrangements in which policy is significantly influenced by the public will.

There have been serious debates over the years about whether capitalism is compatible with democracy. If we keep to really existing capitalist democracy RECD for short the question is effectively answered: They are radically incompatible.

It seems to me unlikely that civilization can survive RECD and the sharply attenuated democracy that goes along with it. But could functioning democracy make a difference?

Lets keep to the most critical immediate problem that civilization faces: environmental catastrophe. Policies and public attitudes diverge sharply, as is often the case under RECD. The nature of the gap is examined in several articles in the current issue of Daedalus, the journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Researcher Kelly Sims Gallagher finds that One hundred and nine countries have enacted some form of policy regarding renewable power, and 118 countries have set targets for renewable energy. In contrast, the United States has not adopted any consistent and stable set of policies at the national level to foster the use of renewable energy.

It is not public opinion that drives American policy off the international spectrum. Quite the opposite. Opinion is much closer to the global norm than the U.S. governments policies reflect, and much more supportive of actions needed to confront the likely environmental disaster predicted by an overwhelming scientific consensus and one thats not too far off; affecting the lives of our grandchildren, very likely.

As Jon A. Krosnick and Bo MacInnis report in Daedalus: Huge majorities have favored steps by the federal government to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions generated when utilities produce electricity. In 2006, 86 percent of respondents favored requiring utilities, or encouraging them with tax breaks, to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases they emit. Also in that year, 87 percent favored tax breaks for utilities that produce more electricity from water, wind or sunlight. These majorities were maintained between 2006 and 2010 and shrank somewhat after that.

The fact that the public is influenced by science is deeply troubling to those who dominate the economy and state policy.

One current illustration of their concern is the Environmental Literacy Improvement Act proposed to state legislatures by ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, a corporate-funded lobby that designs legislation to serve the needs of the corporate sector and extreme wealth.

The ALEC Act mandates balanced teaching of climate science in K-12 classrooms. Balanced teaching is a code phrase that refers to teaching climate-change denial, to balance mainstream climate science. It is analogous to the balanced teaching advocated by creationists to enable the teaching of creation science in public schools. Legislation based on ALEC models has already been introduced in several states.

Of course, all of this is dressed up in rhetoric about teaching critical thinking a fine idea, no doubt, but its easy to think up far better examples than an issue that threatens our survival and has been selected because of its importance in terms of corporate profits.

Media reports commonly present a controversy between two sides on climate change.

One side consists of the overwhelming majority of scientists, the worlds major national academies of science, the professional science journals and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

They agree that global warming is taking place, that there is a substantial human component, that the situation is serious and perhaps dire, and that very soon, maybe within decades, the world might reach a tipping point where the process will escalate sharply and will be irreversible, with severe social and economic effects. It is rare to find such consensus on complex scientific issues.

The other side consists of skeptics, including a few respected scientists who caution that much is unknown which means that things might not be as bad as thought, or they might be worse.

Omitted from the contrived debate is a much larger group of skeptics: highly regarded climate scientists who see the IPCCs regular reports as much too conservative. And these scientists have repeatedly been proven correct, unfortunately.

The propaganda campaign has apparently had some effect on U.S. public opinion, which is more skeptical than the global norm. But the effect is not significant enough to satisfy the masters. That is presumably why sectors of the corporate world are launching their attack on the educational system, in an effort to counter the publics dangerous tendency to pay attention to the conclusions of scientific research.

At the Republican National Committees Winter Meeting a few weeks ago, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal warned the leadership that We must stop being the stupid party. We must stop insulting the intelligence of voters.

Within the RECD system it is of extreme importance that we become the stupid nation, not misled by science and rationality, in the interests of the short-term gains of the masters of the economy and political system, and damn the consequences.

These commitments are deeply rooted in the fundamentalist market doctrines that are preached within RECD, though observed in a highly selective manner, so as to sustain a powerful state that serves wealth and power.

The official doctrines suffer from a number of familiar market inefficiencies, among them the failure to take into account the effects on others in market transactions. The consequences of these externalities can be substantial. The current financial crisis is an illustration. It is partly traceable to the major banks and investment firms ignoring systemic risk the possibility that the whole system would collapse when they undertook risky transactions.

Environmental catastrophe is far more serious: The externality that is being ignored is the fate of the species. And there is nowhere to run, cap in hand, for a bailout.

In future, historians (if there are any) will look back on this curious spectacle taking shape in the early 21st century. For the first time in human history, humans are facing the significant prospect of severe calamity as a result of their actions actions that are battering our prospects of decent survival.

Those historians will observe that the richest and most powerful country in history, which enjoys incomparable advantages, is leading the effort to intensify the likely disaster. Leading the effort to preserve conditions in which our immediate descendants might have a decent life are the so-called primitive societies: First Nations, tribal, indigenous, aboriginal.

The countries with large and influential indigenous populations are well in the lead in seeking to preserve the planet. The countries that have driven indigenous populations to extinction or extreme marginalization are racing toward destruction.

Thus Ecuador, with its large indigenous population, is seeking aid from the rich countries to allow it to keep its substantial oil reserves underground, where they should be.

Meanwhile the U.S. and Canada are seeking to burn fossil fuels, including the extremely dangerous Canadian tar sands, and to do so as quickly and fully as possible, while they hail the wonders of a century of (largely meaningless) energy independence without a side glance at what the world might look like after this extravagant commitment to self-destruction.

This observation generalizes: Throughout the world, indigenous societies are struggling to protect what they sometimes call the rights of nature, while the civilized and sophisticated scoff at this silliness.

This is all exactly the opposite of what rationality would predict unless it is the skewed form of reason that passes through the filter of RECD.

© 2012 Noam Chomsky

Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate

(Noam Chomsky’s new book is “Power Systems: Conversations on Global Democratic Uprisings and the New Challenges to U.S. Empire. Conversations with David Barsamian.” Chomsky is emeritus professor of linguistics and philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass.)
Please read the original article with comments at the link below, and support Truthout so they don’t disappear!

http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/14980-noam-chomsky-will-capitalism-destroy-civilization




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Why Do Senators Boxer and Wyden Want to Bomb Iran?

As a Democrat this does not just disturb me, it utterly disgusts me. I used to think Boxer was a principled, peace loving person so reading this is really horrifying. I guess we all want to be in a bit of denial about just how far the cancer of corruption really has spread in our government, but when the evidence is so blatant it is hard to stay there.

No foreign nation should ever dictate our foreign policy. No corporation, no group, no cabal should have control of the We the People, our government and our lives-because when you start a war THAT is what is at stake.

War is NOT the answer, no matter what the question is. 😦

Tikkun has a petition, or letter writing campaign to ask our elected representatives to refrain from joining in to this insanity. I will post it as soon as I can-but if you only see this article, just go to Tikkun and look for Iran(or google Tikkun Iran War and it will come up!)

Why Do Senators Boxer and Wyden Want to Bomb Iran?

Monday, 04 March 2013 09:52 By Robert Naiman, Truthout | Op-Ed

Remember when we pilloried John McCain for singing about bombing Iran?

Wouldn’t it be a scandal if it turned out that California Senator Barbara Boxer and Oregon Senator Ron Wyden were pushing the same agenda?

I have bad news, I’m afraid. They are.

Sen. Boxer and Sen. Wyden, both Democrats, are original cosponsors of a bill – the “Back Door to Iran War” bill – being promoted by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) – that would endorse an Israeli attack on Iran. The bill, sponsored by Senator Lindsey Graham (shocked!) says that if Israel attacks Iran, then the United States should support Israel militarily and diplomatically. In other words, if Israel attacks Iran, then the United States should join the attack. That would be the opposite of current Obama administration policy, which is to try to distance the United States from any Israeli attack. The effect of the policy being advocated by Boxer and Wyden would be to allow the Israeli prime minister – as things stand, Mitt Romney’s BFF Benjamin Netanyahu – to decide by himself when to involve the United States in a war with Iran.

As Iran policy expert and former White House official Gary Sick says:

“Initiating a war is the gravest step any nation can take. This legislation would effectively entrust that decision to a regional state. Such a decision is an American sovereign responsibility. It cannot be outsourced.”

As if that weren’t bad enough, the AIPAC/Graham bill would “reiterate” [sic] that United States policy is “to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon capability and to take such action as may be necessary to implement this policy.”

But that’s not the Obama administration’s policy, and thus the word “reiterate” is a lie. (this ecerpt is only an intro to the full article which can be read at the link below-

http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/14905-why-do-boxer-and-wyden-want-to-bomb-iran )


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The New Extremism and Politics of Distraction in the Age of Austerity

This is an excerpt from the middle of the article-because these are the paragraphs I most wished to highlight. This is worth reading and sharing-finding out how we are being tricked, what is REALLY going on is very helpful to changing it.

Read the whole article at Truthout (http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/13998-the-new-extremism-and-politics-of-distraction-in-the-age-of-austerity)

The expanded reach of politics in this discourse of distraction shrinks, and in doing so separates private troubles from public considerations, while undermining any broader understanding of the confluence of socio-economic-cultural interests and interrelated issues and problems that characterize a particular age. For instance, the debate on gun control says little about the deep-rooted culture of symbolic and structural violence that nourishes America’s infatuation with guns and its attraction to the spectacle of violence. Similarly, the mainstream debate over taxing the rich refuses to address this issue through a broader analysis of a society that is structurally wedded to producing massive inequities in income and wealth along with the considerable suffering and hardships produced by such social disparities.

In this denuded notion of politics, the connection between facts and wider theoretical frameworks and the connection between politics and power disappear just as the relationship between private troubles and larger social realities are covered over. Under such circumstances, politics is cleansed of its extremist elements and informed modes of dissent are not only marginalized but also actively suppressed, as was obvious in the FBI surveillance of Occupy Wall Street protesters and the police’s ruthless suppression of student dissenters on campuses across the country.

Blind Publics in an Authoritarian Age

What is missing in the current debates dominating Washington politics is the recognition that the real issues at stake are neither the debt ceiling nor the state of the economy, however important, but a powerful and poisonous form of authoritarianism that poses a threat to the very idea of democracy and the institutions, public values, formative cultures and public spheres that nourish it.5 The United States occupies a critical juncture in its history, one in which the forces of extremism are not just on the rise but are in the midst of revolutionizing modes of governance, ideology and policy. The politics of disconnect is just one of a series of strategies designed to conceal this deeper order of authoritarian politics. In a society that revels in bouts of historical and social amnesia, it is much easier for the language of politics and community to be stolen and deployed like a weapon so as to empty words such as democracy, freedom, justice and the social state of any viable meaning. Arundhati Roy captures the anti-democratic nature of this process in the following insightful comment. She writes:

This theft of language, this technique of usurping words and deploying them like weapons, of using them to mask intent and to mean exactly the opposite of what they have traditionally meant, has been one of the most brilliant strategic victories of the czars of the new dispensation. It has allowed them to marginalize their detractors, deprive them of a language to voice their critique and dismiss them as being “anti-progress,” “anti-development,” “anti-reform,” and of course “anti-national” – negativists of the worst sort. To reclaim these stolen words requires explanations that are too tedious for a world with a short attention span, and too expensive in an era when Free Speech has become unaffordable for the poor. This language heist may prove to be the keystone of our undoing. 6

This undoing of democracy to which Roy refers, and the dystopian society that is being created in its place, can be grasped in the current subordination of public values to commercial values and the collapse of democracy into the logic and values of what might called a predatory casino capitalism where life is cheap and everything is for sale. More specifically, from the ailing rib of democracy there is emerging not simply just an aggressive political assault on democratic modes of governance, but a form of linguistic and cultural authoritarianism that no longer needs to legitimate itself in an idea because it secures its foundational beliefs in a claim to normalcy;7 that is, Americans are now inundated with a pedagogy of cultural authoritarianism whose ideology, values, social practices and social formations cannot be questioned because they represent and legitimate the new neoliberal financial order. This is a mode of predatory casino capitalism that presents itself as a universal social formation without qualification, a social form that inhabits a circle of ideological and political certainty and cultural practice that equates being a citizen with being a consumer – in other words, predatory capitalism is transforming into a universal ethic that has exhausted all political differences, economic alternatives and counter readings of the world in the service of benefitting a financial and corporate elite and a savage form of economic Darwinism.

We get hints of the current mechanisms of diversion and its hidden order of politics in Robert Reich’s claim that the debate over the fiscal cliff should not only be about the broader issue of inequality but also must ask and address crucial political questions regarding the increasing concentration of power and “entrenched wealth at the top, and less for the middle-class and the poor.8 We also see it in Frank Rich’s insistence that the endless debate conducted largely in the mainstream media about Washington being dysfunctional misses the point. Rich argues that beyond media’s silly argument that both parties are to blame for the current deadlock, lies a Republican Party strategy to make the Federal government look as dysfunctional as possible so as to convince the wider American public that the government should be dismantled and its services turned over to for-profit private interests. In fact, a number of recent critics now believe that the extremist nature of the current Republican Party represents one of the most difficult obstacles to any viable form of governance. Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein, two prominent conservative commentators, recently have argued that moderates not only have been pushed out of the Republican Party but they are for all intents and purposes “virtually extinct.” They go even further in stating that:

In our past writings, we have criticized both parties when we believed it was warranted. Today, however, we have no choice but to acknowledge that the core of the problem lies with the Republican Party. The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition. When one party moves this far from the mainstream, it makes it nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country’s challenges. 9

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has gone further and has characterized the Republican Party and its “corporate-centric super-PACs as treasonous.” He states that Americans “are now in a free fall toward old-fashioned oligarchy; noxious, thieving and tyrannical” and that given the role of the most corporate-friendly Supreme Court since the Gilded Age with its passage of the Citizens United decision, “those who have the money now have the loudest voices in our democracy while poor Americans are mute.”10

More radical critics like Noam Chomsky, Chris Hedges, Sheldon Wolin, Stanley Aronowitz, Judith Butler, Robert Scheer, Jeffrey St. Clair, Matt Taibbi, Angela Davis and David Theo Goldberg, among others, have long recognized the transformation of the United States from a weak democracy to a spirited authoritarian state. All of these theorists have challenged the permanent war economy, the erosion of civil liberties, the power of the corporate state, the moral bankruptcy of the liberal intelligentsia, the corporate control of the media, the criminal wars of repression abroad, the rise of the torture state and the increasing militarization of everyday life.

However extremist the Republican Party has become with its ongoing war on women, immigrants, young people, the welfare state, voting rights and all manner of civil rights, this should not suggest that the Democratic Party occupies a valued liberal position. On the contrary, policy in the United States is now being shaped by a Democratic Party that has become increasingly more conservative in the last 30 years along with a Republican Party that now represents one of the most extremist political parties to ever seize power in Washington. And while the Republican Party has fallen into the hands of radical extremists, both parties “support shifting the costs of the crisis and the government bailouts of banks, large corporations and the stock market, onto the mass of the citizens.”11 Both parties support bailing out the rich and doing the bidding of corporate lobbyists. Moreover, both parties reject the idea of democracy as a collectively inhabited public space and ethos that unconditionally stands for individual, political and economic rights. President Obama and his Wall Street advisors may hold onto some weak notion of the social contract, but they are far from liberal when it comes to embracing the military physics of the corporate warfare state.

Read the whole article at Truthout (

http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/13998-the-new-extremism-and-politics-of-distraction-in-the-age-of-austerity)


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On the News With Thom Hartmann: Corporate America Is Doing Very, Very Well Under President Obama, and More

You can see the original and read the transcript at Truthout, (click the link below)
http://truth-out.org/news/item/14013-on-the-news-with-thom-hartmann-corporate-america-is-doing-very-very-well-under-president-obama-and-more


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King: I Have a Dream. Obama: I Have a Drone.

I am posting the intro here, and the full story is at Truthout(link below intro). I can’t say I am happy to post this-but I am only following my President’s advice to me and his other supporters when he won in 2008. He said that we had to hold his feet to the fire and make sure he does what he said, what we want.

I am sure he knew going in that the President has much less actual power or choice than most Americans believe he does and so he knew that only with loud public outcry could he even hope to begin the changes he, and we, believed in.

I do not know what to think of some of the choices he has made, or been forced to make. I would love to see an expose of how he was forced to allow the drone strikes-but until I see that all I can do is ask my President, the man I worked to elect-what are you thinking?

How can you tuck your children in at night, look at their faces and NOT see the faces of the children those drones have blown apart? If that is what you see-how can you allow it to continue? If you are being forced, Mr President, pressured against your own deepest morals then ask us to back you up and we will! But please find a way to make it stop.

By Norman Solomon, Norman Solomon’s Website

A simple twist of fate has set President Obamas second Inaugural Address for January 21, the same day as the Martin Luther King Jr. national holiday.

Obama made no mention of King during the Inauguration four years ago — but since then, in word and deed, the president has done much to distinguish himself from the man who said I have a dream.

After his speech at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in August 1963, King went on to take great risks as a passionate advocate for peace.

After his Inaugural speech in January 2009, Obama has pursued policies that epitomize Kings grim warning in 1967: When scientific power outruns moral power, we end up with guided missiles and misguided men.

But Obama has not ignored Kings anti-war legacy. On the contrary, the president has gone out of his way to distort and belittle it.

In his eleventh month as president — while escalating the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan, a process that tripled the American troop levels there — Obama traveled to Oslo to accept the Nobel Peace Prize. In his speech, he cast aspersions on the peace advocacy of another Nobel Peace laureate: Martin Luther King Jr.

The president struck a respectful tone as he whetted the rhetorical knife before twisting. I know there’s nothing weak — nothing passive — nothing naive — in the creed and lives of Gandhi and King, he said, just before swiftly implying that those two advocates of nonviolent direct action were, in fact, passive and naive. I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people, Obama added.

Moments later, he was straining to justify American warfare: past, present, future. To say that force may sometimes be necessary is not a call to cynicism

Please click the link below to read the full story at Truthout

http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/14012-king-i-have-a-dream-obama-i-have-a-drone