Archive for the ‘editorial’ Category

 

 

 

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Here’s a nice illusion of the main process of policy in the US today called “revolving door” in this case showing how food and agricultural policy is controlled by the giant monopoly Monsanto.

This has been operating for decades but is today the norm today with very few exceptions. A similar list can be drawn for education, environmental, health, communications, EVERYTHING.

Politics:

To my libertarian friends: Are you enjoying this “self-regulatory” system? After all isn’t this what Ayn rand advocated: government by and for the business elites?

To my liberal friends: Yes we must have effective regulation for a market-system to work. But tell me exactly HOW we would get that when the government (Dems or Reps) are completely in the pocket of multinational?

THERE IS NO GETTING AROUND DECENTRALIZING POWER AND RETURNING IT TO THE PEOPLE.

The radicals are (as usual) correct!

Here’s some unpopular truths and keep in mind that the article linked tells of 2 ladies who’ve won local Mayoral elections despite being hardline supporters of this armed illegal insurrection and whose husbands are under arrest for unlawful participation in them.  Everybody keeps spreading stories on how undemocratic the Venezuelan government is behaving… hmmm.  I wish we had such a well-functioning democracy in the US! 

Opposition leader and former lawmaker Maria Corina Machado, left and mayoral candidate Patricia Gutierrez greet supporters at a campaign rally in San Cristobal, Venezuela, May 22, 2014.

The democratically elected government of Venezuela has lost some of its massive support in recent years after accomplishing quasi-miraculous progress on many fronts and most notably reduction of poverty and advancing democracy in South America in the past decade.

Recently, economic difficulties have eroded this support to some extent some legitimate opposition leaders have made some respectable gains in national and local elections. In the past few months there has been an uprising against the elected government  that is portrayed by the majority of the media as a popular revolt being crushed by the government but this is the usual corporate-imperialist media BS.

See several previous posts with lots of details (just click the “Venezuela” tag on the left) but here’s the skinny: While there are many bone-fide middle class Venezuelans who are caught up in the middle of this, this is a CIA backed “soft-coup” run by billionaire oligarchs who want to take Venezuela back to the old days of mass poverty and oil riches for the 1% in Miami. The government has shown remarkable restraint in dealing with these groups of violent thugs and has kept the democratic institutions open. All the BS stories on Facebook and twitter about internet closures and lack of due-process are propaganda. In fact, as has been the case since 2002, the government is doing everything it can to restrain the masses of poor people it had liberated and protect the upper classes from their righteous rage.

Imagine a people subjugated brutally since the Spanish conquest finally having democracy and being told that they cannot re-take what’s rightfully theirs but must remain in their slums and patiently wait as economic opportunities are being slowly created for their children. The legal loyal opposition has been having increased influence and are now politically damaged by these generally upper-middle-class insurgents supported by foreign corporate interests. The only reason the insurgency has not been violently crushed is that the government is restraining the majority poor Chavista as best it can.

I know I’ll piss some people of with this and the Venezuelan government deserves to be criticised. But 99% of the coverage by mainstream media and social-network hype is BS and people are being caught up in it and unable to have an intelligent discussion. Happily there are a handful of people on both sides who are helping me understand what’s going on and I’m passing it along.

https://news.vice.com/article/wives-of-ousted-mayors-emerge-victorious-in-venezuela-elections

 

1966695_780730285289579_1013551254_nWhere does one even start to answer the question everybody is asking: What is going on in Venezuela and Ukraine?!? So in the spirit of punk (and French postmodernism), I’ll just stick a bunch of things together (bricolage). I provide a number of good sources at the bottom for you to get a fuller picture.

So is it a bunch of democracy-loving students engaged in non-violent resistance being violently oppressed by totalitarian governments? No it is not. But it is hard to see the big picture without getting into the long history of Venezuela and Ukraine and many other places. Hell, you need to look at the past 500+ years to really get the picture–oh yeah, that is why education is important but a good real-world education is almost impossible to get and requires many years.

I’ve been having lots of arguments with relatively rich and some very rich ex-students and their friends from Venezuela and have been trying very hard to be as civil as I can because I’m honestly trying to be open and understanding. Knowing that the Venezuela has eradicated hunger while here in the US 20% of kids are hungry today, it breaks my heart and makes me both sad and angry to hear a Venezuelan blogger complain about not being able to bake a cake due to milk shortages!? The economic problems in Venezuela are also not what they seem but on that later. I guess I’ll get some hate for this but the truth is ugly and complicated.

Disclaimer: let’s put Ukraine aside for a moment–I know less about it’s internal politics and will make a special post about it soon. Watch this for now.

In attempting to be “fair and balanced” (pun intended), I tried to watch the mainstream media and anti-government Venezuelan rhetoric too to see if perhaps I’m the one being misled… no, it was BS propaganda to anybody aware of the long and medium term facts of economics and politics–sorry.

I watched Jehane Noujaim’s documentary The Square (2013) about the revolutionary struggles in Egypt in order to catch the current romantic feel of heroic youth uprisings that seem to motivate all the Web 2.0 gushing about Venezuela and Ukraine. Well the Egyptians really did have a genuine uprising against a US supported dictator by poor and rich, secular, and religious youth and they lost their heroic battle, were successfully played by the military, and crushed with the continued support of the US. In the film, an exiled father of one of the revolutionary tells him: “The rich don’t need freedom. The rich are already free.” Now stop for a second and ask yourself: how does this fit into the “struggle for freedom” in the streets of Caracas these past days? It doesn’t!

Why? Because it is entirely orchestrated and run by rich Venezuelans. The majority poor aren’t involved in this at all. A significant minority in Venezuela are critical of their democratically elected government and have been exercising their right of expression and political participation but have not been able to gain power by legal means though Henrique Capriles came close in the previous presidential elections. His moderate minority is also overwhelmingly rich and upper middle-class urban people and he deserves credit for NOT supporting the radical right-wing takeover of the opposition by, most notably Leopoldo Lopez, a billionaire from an old power-family who has been taking violent actions against the Chavez government since the previous CIA backed coup against democracy in 2002. He is and continues to be a rich oligarch thug who deeply resents not being able to rule over his domain like his ancestors before him. Despite his wealth, US support, global financial support, and a sophisticated propaganda machine, he only won the hearts of rich people and it looks like all he accomplished is to break up the legitimate opposition. The violent clashes were rather small and mostly located in their rich neighborhoods and private schools and much of the violence came from Lopez’s followers themselves. Oh yeah, and more innocent civilians are murdered by the government of Colombia (a close ally of the US and Lopez and friends) every week than have died in Venezuela’s riots–double standards?

YES Venezuela has some serious economic problems. These are complex issues I’ll try to tackle in a future post but let’s say that at the very least, we should know that over the past decade, Venezuela has accomplished a tremendous feat of poverty-reduction never seen anywhere in recent times. The lives of a vast majority of the poor population have improved dramatically while everywhere else on Earth over the same time, the opposite has happened–even in China. Furthermore, they accomplished this despite aggressively hostile global economic players who have been funding coups and radical groups and even engaging in direct economic sabotage that are, at least in part, responsible for Venezuela’s economic woes. So whatever legitimate problems they have with street violence, food-prices, and inflation, the Bolivarian democratic regimes in South America have been the first good thing to happen to the vast majority of the people there since the European conquest 500+ years ago and would not have been possible without the leadership of the Venezuelan people and Chavismo–something for Venezuelans to be very proud about!

The Postmodern Twist:

People in supposedly free countries not knowing what is being done in their name is not new: Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media (1988), by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky should be required reading (here’s a very short intro about their Propaganda Model). BUT I think it has gotten more dominant especially in the current media coverage of Venezuela and Ukraine. Today, there even is a twist within a twist in that people are posting their outrage about how “the media” is not “covering” the situation. They then post blatant propaganda in support of a what is in actuality a well-engineered propaganda campaign by oligarchic elites to undermine democracy (wow! despite my training in postmodern philosophy, my head spins).

But it gets crazier! The power-elites (aka the 1%) and the military-financial-complex (more on this soon–check this out) are using the well-meaning non-violent work of liberals such as Gene Sharp to execute their coups. No need to send death squads (trained at School of the Americas in Georgia), or militarily support nasty dictators and juntas (like in Egypt among numerous examples). Today they can use well-meaning naive and propagandized students to spark the process of post-colonial oppression: it’s colonizing version 3.0!

Question: ok ok we get it, but what IS going on in the Venezuela?

Answer: An attempted “Soft Coup”:

I’ve adapted this from TeleSUR which is funded by the left governments of America including Venezuela and even Cuba! Not disinterested and independent but a good summary of work by the (IMHO well-meaning) philosopher and political scientist Gene Sharp. Also, consider my previous bla bla, history, provided links (see below), history (yes; again), and judge for yourself if this is not a damn good model for the current goings on:

How to overthrow a government through non-violent methods
(in this context, non-violent implies not organizing guerrillas or invading from abroad):

  1. “Softening”

    • creating climate of opinion focusing on deficiencies

    • disseminate discontent

    • promote shortages, criminality, internal fractures, sabotage

  2. “Delegitimization”

    • ethical and political fracture

    • media campaigns accusing government of being totalitarian (and/or communist) and contrasting opposition as fighting for freedom and human rights

  3. “Street heating”

    • promote conflict and street mobilization

    • promote struggle for globalized political and social demands

    • create state reaction and consequently public discontent in order to radicalize the confrontation

  4. Reaction:

    • Armed actions to justify repressive measures and create climate of ungovernability

    • Smear campaign among state forces to demoralize security forces

  5. “Institutional Fracture”

    • Increased street actions

    • Occupation of institutions

    • Force resignation of government (especially figure -head)

In case of failure to overthrow government, rinse and repeat:

  • escalate stage 3, 4, and 5

  • seek international intervention: sanctions and/or military

  • develop prolonged civil war

Tell me this doesn’t sound awfully familiar!?!

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Collection of links:

Taxing the 1%: Why the top tax rate could be over 80% | vox.

Taxing the 1%: Why the top tax rate could be over 80%

Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez, Stefanie Stantcheva, 8 December 2011

The top 1% of US earners now command a far higher share of the country’s income than they did 40 years ago. This column looks at 18 OECD countries and disputes the claim that low taxes on the rich raise productivity and economic growth. It says the optimal top tax rate could be over 80% and no one but the mega rich would lose out.

In the United States, the share of total pre-tax income accruing to the top 1% has more than doubled from less than 10% in the 1970s to over 20% today (CBO 2011 and Piketty and Saez 2003). A similar pattern is true of other English-speaking countries. Contrary to the widely held view, however, globalisation and new technologies are not to blame. Other OECD countries such as those in continental Europe or Japan have seen far less concentration of income among the mega rich (World Top Incomes Database 2011).

At the same time, top income tax rates on upper income earners have declined significantly since the 1970s in many OECD countries, again particularly in English-speaking ones. For example, top marginal income tax rates in the United States or the United Kingdom were above 70% in the 1970s before the Reagan and Thatcher revolutions drastically cut them by 40 percentage points within a decade.

At a time when most OECD countries face large deficits and debt burdens, a crucial public policy question is whether governments should tax high earners more. The potential tax revenue at stake is now very large. For example, doubling the average US individual income tax rate on the top 1% income earners from the current 22.5% level to 45% would increase tax revenue by 2.7% of GDP per year,1 as much as letting all of the Bush tax cuts expire. But, of course, this simple calculation is static and such a large increase in taxes may well affect the economic behaviour of the rich and the income they report pre-tax, the broader economy, and ultimately the tax revenue generated. In recent research (Piketty et al 2011), we analyse this issue both conceptually and empirically using international evidence on top incomes and top tax rates since the 1970s.

Figure 1 shows that there is indeed a strong correlation between the reductions in top tax rates and the increases in top 1% pre-tax income shares from 1975–79 to 2004–08 across 18 OECD countries for which top income share information is available. For example, the United States experienced a 35 percentage point reduction in its top income tax rate and a very large ten percentage point increase in its top 1% pre-tax income share. By contrast, France or Germany saw very little change in their top tax rates and their top 1% income shares during the same period. Hence, the evolution of top tax rates is a good predictor of changes in pre-tax income concentration. There are three scenarios to explain the strong response of top pre-tax incomes to top tax rates. They have very different policy implications and can be tested in the data.

First, higher top tax rates may discourage work effort and business creation among the most talented – the so-called supply-side effect. In this scenario, lower top tax rates would lead to more economic activity by the rich and hence more economic growth. If all the correlation of top income shares and top tax rates documented on Figure 1 were due to such supply-side effects, the revenue-maximising top tax rate would be 57%. This would still imply that the United States still has some leeway to increase taxes on the rich, but that the upper limit has already been reached in many European countries.

Second, higher top tax rates can increase tax avoidance. In that scenario, increasing top rates in a tax system riddled with loopholes and tax avoidance opportunities is not productive either. However, a better policy would be to first close loopholes so as to eliminate most tax avoidance opportunities and only then increase top tax rates. With sufficient political will and international cooperation to enforce taxes, it is possible to eliminate most tax avoidance opportunities, which are well known and documented. With a broad tax base offering no significant avoidance opportunities, only real supply-side responses would limit how high top tax rate can be set before becoming counter-productive.

Third, while standard economic models assume that pay reflects productivity, there are strong reasons to be sceptical, especially at the top of the income distribution where the actual economic contribution of managers working in complex organisations is particularly difficult to measure. In this scenario, top earners might be able to partly set their own pay by bargaining harder or influencing compensation committees. Naturally, the incentives for such ‘rent-seeking’ are much stronger when top tax rates are low. In this scenario, cuts in top tax rates can still increase top income shares – consistent with the observed trend in Figure 1 – but the increases in top 1% incomes now come at the expense of the remaining 99%. In other words, top rate cuts stimulate rent-seeking at the top but not overall economic growth – the key difference with the first, supply-side, scenario.

To tell these various scenarios apart, we need to analyse to what extent top tax rate cuts lead to higher economic growth. Figure 2 shows that there is no correlation between cuts in top tax rates and average annual real GDP-per-capita growth since the 1970s. For example, countries that made large cuts in top tax rates such as the United Kingdom or the United States have not grown significantly faster than countries that did not, such as Germany or Denmark. Hence, a substantial fraction of the response of pre-tax top incomes to top tax rates documented in Figure 1 may be due to increased rent-seeking at the top rather than increased productive effort.

Naturally, cross-country comparisons are bound to be fragile, and the exact results vary with the specification, years, and countries. But by and large, the bottom line is that rich countries have all grown at roughly the same rate over the past 30 years – in spite of huge variations in tax policies. Using our model and mid-range parameter values where the response of top earners to top tax rate cuts is due in part to increased rent-seeking behaviour and in part to increased productive work, we find that the top tax rate could potentially be set as high as 83% – as opposed to 57% in the pure supply-side model.

Up until the 1970s, policymakers and public opinion probably considered – rightly or wrongly – that at the very top of the income ladder, pay increases reflected mostly greed or other socially wasteful activities rather than productive work effort. This is why they were able to set marginal tax rates as high as 80% in the US and the UK. The Reagan/Thatcher revolution has succeeded in making such top tax rate levels unthinkable since then. But after decades of increasing income concentration that has brought about mediocre growth since the 1970s and a Great Recession triggered by financial sector excesses, a rethinking of the Reagan and Thatcher revolutions is perhaps underway. The United Kingdom has increased its top income tax rate from 40% to 50% in 2010 in part to curb top pay excesses. In the United States, the Occupy Wall Street movement and its famous “We are the 99%” slogan also reflects the view that the top 1% may have gained at the expense of the 99%.

In the end, the future of top tax rates depends on the public’s beliefs of whether top pay fairly reflects productivity or whether top pay, rather unfairly, arises from rent-seeking. With higher income concentration, top earners have more economic resources to influence social beliefs (through think tanks and media) and policies (through lobbying), thereby creating some reverse causality between income inequality, perceptions, and policies. We hope economists can shed light on these beliefs with compelling theoretical and empirical analysis.

Figure 1. Changes in top 1% pre-tax income shares and top marginal tax rates since the 1970s


Note: The Figure depicts the change in top 1% pre-tax income shares against the change in top marginal income tax rates from 1975-9 to 2004-8 for 18 OECD countries (top tax rates include both central and local individual income tax rates, exact years vary slightly by countries depending on data availability in the World Top Income Database). Source: Pikettyet al (2011), Figure 4A.

Figure 2. GDP-per-capita growth rates and top marginal tax rates since the 1970s

Note: The Figure depicts the average real GDP-per-capita annual growth rate from 1975-9 to 2004-8 against the change in top marginal tax rates from 1975-9 to 2004-(exact years are the same as Figure 1 and vary slightly by countries). The correlation is virtually zero and insignificant suggesting that cuts in top tax rates do not lead to higher economic growth.Source: Piketty et al (2011), Figure 4B.

References

Congressional Budget Office (2011), “Trends in the Distribution of Household Income Between 1979 and 2007”, US government Printing Press: Washington DC. Available online athttp://www.cbo.gov/ftpdocs/124xx/doc12485/10-25-HouseholdIncome.pdf

Piketty, Thomas and Emmanuel Saez (2003), “Income Inequality in the United States, 1913-1998”,Quarterly Journal of Economics, 118(1):1-39, series updated to 2008 in July 2010, online athttp://elsa.berkeley.edu/~saez/

Piketty, Thomas, Emmanuel Saez, and Stefanie Stantcheva (2011), “Optimal Taxation of Top Labor Incomes: A Tale of Three Elasticities“, CEPR Discussion Paper 8675, December.

The World Top Incomes Database (F Alvaredo, T Atkinson, T Piketty, and E Saez), online at http://g-mond.parisschoolofeconomics.eu/topincomes/


1 This calculation assumes that the top 1% income share is 20%. The top 1% income share peaked at 23.5% in 2007, and then fell to 21% in 2008 and 18% in 2009, at the trough of the recession. In 2010 and 2011, the top 1% income share is very likely to increase again to 20%. Total market income reported for tax purposes is about 60% of GDP (on average from 1999 to 2008). Hence, increasing the top 1% average tax rate by 22.5 points raises .6*.225*.2=2.7% of GDP, or $405 billion given the current 2011 GDP of $15 trillion.

 

 

Dalai Lama describes himself as “half-Marxist, half-Buddhist”

Of course the Dalai Lama’s a Marxist

The leader’s statement shocked some in the west, but reminds us of Buddhism’s commitment to social as well as individual good
theguardian.com, Monday 20 June 2011 11.30 EDT
The Dalai Lama

The Dalai Lama has a refreshing tendency to confound western caricatures. As a cuddly old monk, he could comfort fans by fuzzily connecting us to an imagined Shangri-La that contrasts favourably with our own material world. Only he won’t play the game, regularly making ethical, political, scientific and (ir)religious statements that rudely pop the projections laid on to him.

He was at it again the other day, telling Chinese students that he considers himself a Marxist. This wasn’t just playing to the crowd – although it was reported with surprise (at least in the US), the ideological alignment is longstanding. In 1993, he said: “The economic system of Marxism is founded on moral principles, while capitalism is concerned only with gain and profitability. Marxism is concerned with the distribution of wealth on an equal basis … as well as the fate of those who are underprivileged and in need, and [it] cares about the victims of minority-imposed exploitation. For those reasons, the system appeals to me, and it seems fair.”

There are a number of caveats (he’s not a Leninist, believes compassion rather than class struggle is key, and doesn’t consider communist regimes such as the USSR, China or Vietnam to have been true exponents), but the dissonance between image and reality remains – the Dalai Lama is not the comforting Oriental pet that consumer society might like.

Neither does his tradition match the capitalist fantasies attached to it. Perhaps because Buddhism came to the west on a wave of post-war hippy soul-searching, and was then co-opted as friendly religion of choice by new ageism and the self-help movement, its radical economic and social messages have been lost under an avalanche of laughing fat-man statues, healing crystals and copies of The Secret.

The very idea of self-help in Buddhism is an oxymoron – relief of suffering can only come from the realisation that pleasing ourselves doesn’t bring happiness – instead we must try to work skilfully and compassionately with others, as part of interwoven systems of connectivity that bind us together. A “western Buddhism” that prioritises solipsistic focus on the individual is so great a misconception as to be unworthy of the name – or at the least the Buddhism part – as anyone who pays it more than passing attention knows. It’s also largely a media invention – many western Buddhists are serious, deeply committed practitioners. That commitment means choosing to follow a path that leads against the stream of materialism and selfishness. Of course, we don’t always manage it, but that’s why it’s called a path of practice.

Buddhism goes way beyond the confines of the personal – realising the truth of interdependence implies taking up the challenge of engaging with others in the wider world. This isn’t missionary zeal – proselytising is hardly the Buddhist way – but it does mean social action that embodies dharmic principles, and western sanghas are increasingly prioritising community involvement. As they do so, Buddhism may start to look less like some nice bit of calm and relaxation and more like a radical, uncompromising critique of the status quo.

This critique has already begun to influence the UK mainstream. It’s 45 years since EF Schumacher published his Buddhist Economics essay in Small is Beautiful, which the Times Literary Supplement listed as one of the 100 most influential books since the second world war. Though the male-centric, mechanistic world it describes now seems dated, Schumacher’s outline of a world driven mad by consumption (and his Buddhist-inspired remedy of sufficiency and sustainability) has informed everything from the climate change debate to the happiness agenda – particularly through the influentialNew Economics Foundation (NEF) thinktank, which grew out of Schumacher’s vision.

The well-being indices enthusiastically taken up by David Cameron have grown in part from NEF’s links with the kingdom of Bhutan and its policy of favouring gross national happiness above gross domestic product. Is the prime minister aware of the Buddhist foundation to his plans for the nation’s mood?

Of course, we’re a long way from a government that looks even remotely dharmic. From a Buddhist perspective, only a revolution in our collective mind can counter the momentum that keeps us grasping for happiness in all the wrong places. And that would involve more than measuring whether someone with a job and a family in sunny Cornwall feels more upbeat than a lonely, unemployed Londoner on a rainy day. It would require systemic transformation on both an intimate and a huge scale, bringing the path of personal practice together with much broader societal shifts. Could this be what the Dalai Lama is thinking of when he describes himself as “half-Marxist, half-Buddhist”?

Pope Francis’ Five Most Radical Statements On Capitalism And Poverty.

By Eric Brown on November 26 2013

Capitalism comes under attack again in the latest publication from Pope Francis. On Tuesday the pontiff published his first long-form document written as pope, known as an apostolic exhortation. The 84-page “Evangelii Gaudium” (The Joy of the Gospel) speaks at length about the evils of unfettered capitalism and the church’s need to minister to the poor.

It’s not the first time the pope has attacked capitalism. Since his election to the papacy eight months ago, Pope Francis has made a name for himself as a radical by calling for reform of global financial systems that exclude the poor to the benefit of the rich.

Below, check out five of Pope Francis’ most revolutionary statements on capitalism and global income inequality, from “Evangelii Guadium” and other sources.

Capitalism Kills

In Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation, he takes some of his harshest shots yet at global capitalism, saying that economies that prey on the poor are tantamount to murder.

“Just as the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say “thou shalt not” to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion.”

Trickle-Down Economics

With “Evangelii Gaudium,” Francis also blasted trickle-down economic theories, saying that those in economic power will always work to benefit themselves and not the poor in such a scenario.

“Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting.”

The Catholic Church Is for the Poor

Pope Francis isn’t just content to attack financial problems outside of the church, either. In an interview with Italian journalist (and atheist) Eugenio Scalfari, Pope Francis questioned the Catholic Church itself, claiming that the church must be focused on the poor, not on itself or divisive issues like same-sex marriage and abortion.

“Heads of the Church have often been narcissists, flattered and thrilled by their courtiers. The court is the leprosy of the papacy. The Church is or should go back to being a community of God’s people, and priests, pastors and bishops who have the care of souls are at the service of the people of God.”

“I believe I have already said that our goal is not to proselytize but to listen to needs, desires and disappointments, despair, hope. We must restore hope to young people, help the old, be open to the future, spread love. Be poor among the poor. We need to include the excluded and preach peace.”

God Says to Focus on Poor

Speaking about his past and present as a Jesuit with American Magazine, Pope Francis claimed that his decisions to eschew material wealth and minister to the poor come directly from God.

“Discernment is always done in the presence of the Lord, looking at the signs, listening to the things that happen, the feeling of the people, especially the poor. My choices, including those related to the day-to-day aspects of life, like the use of a modest car, are related to a spiritual discernment that responds to a need that arises from looking at things, at people and from reading the signs of the times. Discernment in the Lord guides me in my way of governing.”

Capitalism Is Idolatry

In an open letter to British Prime Minister David Cameron on the eve of the G-8 Summit, Pope Francis called capitalism a new form of idolatry, saying the money should “serve” humanity, not lead it.

“The goal of economics and politics is to serve humanity, beginning with the poorest and most vulnerable wherever they may be, even in their mothers’ wombs. Every economic and political theory or action must set about providing each inhabitant of the planet with the minimum wherewithal to live in dignity and freedom, with the possibility of supporting a family, educating children, praising God and developing one’s own human potential.”

“We have created new idols. The worship of the golden calf of old has found a new and heartless image in the cult of money and the dictatorship of an economy which is faceless and lacking any truly humane goal.”

ADBUSTERS Tactical Briefing

Posted: 2013/10/01 by Punkonomics (@dearbalak) in editorial
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Global Spring

Angelos Tzortzinis/AFP/Getty Images

Hey all you still breathing out there,

On the second anniversary of OWS, here’s a manifesto to fill your lungs:

A Reboot of the Capitalist Imagination

Look outside your window today and admire how permanent everything is.

Cars faithfully zoom in and out of traffic without end. Financial skyscrapers frame the streets, investing your dollars and cashing your paychecks with ease. People pour out of apartments on their way to the office, to visit friends, to look for work. The social order, all the basic interactions of the day, are predictable, normal, most likely the same as yesterday. The sheer rigidity of the political system is not in question.

Now imagine that it all snaps. That everything you know is turned upside down. The coffee shop is closed. The bank door is shut. People stop following even the most basic prompts.

Looking out the window today, we have that same feeling we had on September 16th, 2011, the day before those first courageous occupiers packed up their tents and made their move on Wall Street. Only this time, as we gaze beyond the glass, there is an assuring upward tilt on our otherwise steady lips. We now have a confidence in this generation that we didn’t have before. There are still curveballs that can shock the financial and psychological order. There is a growing conviction that the things that can happen, will happen. The world is still up for grabs.

Revolution is a Rhizome

What we experienced in 2011 is still reverberating around the globe. Most recently, in Turkeyand Brazil, that feeling in the guts, that the future does not compute, is vibrant as ever. And because of that gnawing anxiety in the depths of an increasing mass of people, the new mode of activism, what Spanish journalist Bernardo Gutierrez calls a “new architecture of protest,” is spreading like a frenzy: what starts out as simple demands – don’t cut the trees, don’t raise the transit fair, don’t institute that corrupt judge – erupts into an all-encompassing desire to reboot the entire machine.

In the coming political horizon you can expect that wherever there is a crack, scandal, teacher strike or pipeline deception, you’ll find a hornet’s nest underneath. When you have a connected generation, all of their unique and individual demands are connected, too. Protest becomes a cornucopia, not a straight path. And the desire is not to destroy the system but to hack it, to re-code it, to commandeer it … to see revolution not as pyramid but as a rhizome … to see the system not as an unchanging text but as an ever changing language of computation, an algorithm.

More than ever we are seeing the actuality of the modern-day truism, “we are all one.” Now, as we have the technology to organize – who cares if the NSA is listening in, in fact we welcome them to listen in and to be inspired – this first-ever global generation will be able to articulate itself more clearly, more viscerally, more intensely and at a frequency like never before. #OccupyGezi becomes the call of Turkey. Brazilian flags are waved on the streets of Lima and Mexico. #idlenomore inspires indigenous sovereignty and environmental movements across the globe.

Take a look out the window today. It wasn’t always this way. It won’t be this way forever.

A Generation Under Pressure

This generation is under pressure. Leading American pundits like David Brooks and Andrew Sorkin laugh us off as ungrateful kids and milquetoast radicals, people who just aren’t willing to work like the previous generation. But these folks just don’t get it. The engine light of humanity has turned on. But no mechanic of the old paradigm can fix it. We’re experiencing a global system failure like never before. But no programmer of the old language can re-write it. The Earth is getting sick. The culture is in terminal decline. Mental illness is the number one cause of lost workplace hours in America. What other indicator does one need? Rejection is not ungratefulness, it’s a beautiful and sincere longing for a sane and sustainable tomorrow. But as the valves are twisted tighter … well … you can see the result everywhere.

Last July, as hundreds of thousands of protesters were marching in cities throughout Turkey and Brazil, Adbusters creative director Pedro Inoue skipped work to join the magic in the streets. He sent us this testimony from the center of São Paulo, a portrait that became the backbone of one of our most spirited and hopeful publications yet. We’ve long been accused of being too negative … yet here our readers saw a bright light:

It’s something you feel when the lover in your arms is laughing and you feel like your heart is going to break because there couldn’t possibly be any more room for good inside. The high begins to float you away. We were walking to the governor’s house, taking time along the way to talk, look at people waving flags from apartment windows, listen to chants coming and going like waves in this sea of people. I looked into this kid’s eyes. He kept talking but I only remember those eight words.

“Man, what a beautiful world we live in,” he said.

I was mesmerized by the shine in his eyes. Sparks. Flashes. Pulses. Bursts of light. When the global revolution finally arrives … it’s going to shine everywhere like that.

The conditions that spurred on the Greek anarchists, the Arab Spring, the Spanish indignados, #Occupywallstreet, the Chilean student revolt, Pussy riot, the Quebec uprising, #idlenomore, Yo Soy 132 in Mexico, and the insurrections in Istanbul, Lima, Bulgaria and São Paulo have only worsened. Inequality is reaching obscene proportions in America and many other nations. There is an ever-greater concentration of wealth, ever-bigger banks, a steady increase of high frequency trading (HFT), derivative confusion and outbursts of rogue financial algorithms that send markets dipping and waning beyond any human control. $1.3 trillion in speculative financial transactions keep swirling around the planet every day. The stage is now set for a much more catastrophic market crash than 2008. And inside each and every one of us, the desire for realis growing: Real economy. Real democracy. Real possibilities. Real humanity. Real leadership.Real horizons. Real interactions. Real things. Real life.

Three Metamemes for the Future

Here at Adbusters, we see three big tactical breakthrough ideas, three metamemes, that have the power to veer this global trainwreck of ours from its date with disaster. Make no mistake, the crash is a brutal world – a barbarian reality. It’s a happening that none of us should seek out joyfully. Yet we cannot just go with the flow, sing with the speed and trust the inertia of our current economic doomsday machine.

The first thing we can do is call for a radical re-think of our global economic system. Unbridled neocon capitalism has been riding the back of humankind without opposition for nearly two generations now. It has provided no answer yet and it has no answer for the most pressing threat of the future, namely climate change. Economics students and heterodox economists must rise up in universities everywhere and demand a shift in the theoretical foundations of economic science. We have to abandon almost everything we thought we knew about the gods of progress, happiness and growth. We have to re-imagine industry, nutrition, communication, transportation, housing and money and pioneer a new kind of economics, a bionomics, a psychonomics, an ecological economics that is up to the job of managing our planetary household.

The second thing we can do is usher in a new era of radical transparency … to add the right to live in a transparent world as a new human right in the constitution of nations and in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Current events in Syria are a perfect example of how secrecy by the major powers of the world leads to confusion and the possibility of catastrophic failure. Assad may get away with a type of murderous appetite not seen since WWII, for no reason other than the fact that America can no longer be trusted to tell the truth. Radical transparency is the only path towards a viable global democracy of the future.

The third thing we can do is take inspiration and learn lessons from a new tactical breakthrough in global activism – the revolution algorithm. The internet has reversed a centuries-old power dynamic. The street now has unprecedented power. Through hacking, rhizomatic organizing, viral memes, it can paralyze cities, bring whole countries to a standstill … protests and uprisings can spook stock markets into plunging 10% in a single day, as happened recently in Turkey, and, if we the people are angry and fired up enough, we can force even the most arrogant presidents and prime ministers to the democratic table.

In the 21st century, democracy could look like this: a dynamic, visceral, never-ending feedback loop between entrenched power structures and the street. In this new model, corporate power will be forever blunted by sustained and clearly articulated demands for new economic, political and environmental policies, for visceral debates and referendums on critical issues, for the revocation of the charters of corporations that break the public trust and for new laws and constitutional amendments on democratic fundamentals like secrecy, corporate personhood and the rules by which nations go to war. Every government department, every minister and the whole political establishment, right down to the think tanks, media pundits and CEOs, will be under the gun, on an almost daily basis, to bend to the ever changing pulse of the people.

As this second anniversary of Occupy passes, perhaps with raging flames, perhaps with only a few sparks, we can take solace in one thing: Our current global system – capitalism – is in terminal decline … and while its corpse is still twitching, our jobs, yours, mine, all of us, are to stay vigilant and to keep working on our own lives … We shy away from the megacorporations, we refuse to buy heavily advertised products, we meticulously seek out toxin-free information, we eat, travel, socialize and live as lightly as we can … we fight for our happiness … we build trust with each other and play the #killcap game at least once every day … and most important, we focus our eyes on the horizon and wait for our next moment to come.

—  Kalle Lasn and Darren Fleet


Adbusters 110: Autumn (Cover) The Epic Human Journey

Part 4: Autumn

Has the wild human spirit been tamed? Is oppositional culture still possible? Can we launch another revolution?

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