You are currently browsing the monthly archive for November 2008.

Baraka will be the first of several groundbreaking must-see films I plan to share on my website over the holidays. This is just Part 1 of the movie, make sure to click the Up-Arrow button to watch Parts 2-10!

“Up South: Civil Rights and Black Power in Philadelphia”

by Matthew J. Countryman

2007 University of Pennsylvania

This book was not quite what I expected, but I’m not sure what I was expecting.  The strength of Up South is that it gives a broad overview of the 1940s-60s civil rights/black power movement in Philadelphia, which was very helpful for me as someone who wanted to learn more about the history of the city I’m living in, especially about the work against racism in one of the most racially divided cities in America.

The book captures a really interesting narrative from postwar liberalism to early-60s protest, to late-60s radicalism, to 70s electoral politics. Along the way we meet some of the most important players, like Cecil B. Moore, Philadelphia Welfare Rights Organization, and Council of Organizations Philadelphia Police Accountability and Responsibility (COPPAR).  We learn a bit about their strategies, we learn about the white backlash and Frank Rizzo, and attempts by the system to co-opt and dilute the movement through politics and money.

However, the book also lacks in some substantial ways.  For one thing, the author is a professor in Michigan, who as far as I know is not from Philadelphia and is not black.  This doesn’t mean he has nothing valuable to contribute from his research, but it does mean the writing is overly academic and emotionally detached.

My other major complaint is that while the book doesn’t heat up until about pg. 120 with chapter 4, the conclusion is way too short and very unsatisfying.  It’s only 1 page, front and back, and only hints at the issues which are crying out to be examined.

For example, did the huge protests and deep radicalism of the late 60s really get co-opted into pointless electoral campaigns?  How is that possible, and why did it happen?

Why wasn’t there sustained grassroots pressure to hold the newly-elected black politicans accountable, or if there was, why did it fail?

How did the Rizzo Mayorship of the 70s affect the black freedom movement in Philly?  In what ways did Rizzo gain greater power in moving from his position as Police Commissioner, and in what ways was he held more accountable as Mayor?  More generally, how much did it matter who was in charge of the city government, as far as the movements were concerned?

These are just a few questions that I wish had been addressed in the book more substantially, but I think the fact that the book left me wanting to know more actually points to the success of the book in captivating my interest.

This wasn’t the holistic and movement-centered study that I was looking for, but it helped me clarify my questions on the subject so I recommend it for anyone living in Philadelphia and wanting to know more about the history of their city.

The US government is becoming more and more a tool for huge corporations and banks to eliminate their risk despite insanely short-sighted and self-serving policies. The American public will not accept our money being handed to those who don’t deserve it, and never intend to pay us back. That is fascism.

“We, the people” need a bailout too. Today I attended a rally in Philadelphia, to stop the mayor from making budget cuts to close down 11 libraries around the city. How are you supposed to provide educational opportunities for inner-city youth if you’re closing libraries? Closing doors, eliminating opportunities for advancement – this fuels the cycle of violence and crime.

We have to demand money for human needs, not corporate greed! It’s our government, it must work for us, not just the rich. [alex]

Originally published by Forbes.
Washington’s $5 Trillion Tab
Elizabeth Moyer, 11.12.08
Fighting the financial crisis has put the U.S. on the hook for some $5 trillion a report says. So far.
For all the fury over Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson’s $700 billion emergency economic relief fund, it seems downright puny when compared to the running total of the government’s response to the credit crisis.
According to CreditSights, a research firm in New York and London, the U.S. government has put itself on the hook for some $5 trillion, so far, in an attempt to arrest a collapse of the financial system.
The estimate includes many of the various solutions cooked up by Paulson and his counterparts Ben Bernanke at the Federal Reserve and Sheila Bair at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., as the credit crisis continues to plague banks and the broader markets. Read the rest of this entry »

Issue 6 of the Bulletin is up, roaring and ready to go!

SHARE it widely, with your chapter, campus and community.

The SDS News Bulletin Working Group worked hard to bring you our sixth issue. It wasn’t easy, but with your help we’ve filled it. Whether you want a report from the National Convention or an answer to the question, “where do we go from here?” this newest bulletin has got it all.

Here it is:

(You will need to have Adobe Acrobat Reader installed
on your computer to view the PDF file, which is FREE software you can download from this website:

Enjoy! and Distribute widely!

Send us your stuff to be published in Issue 7:

I recently posted Dmitry Orlov’s great essay ‘Closing the Collapse Gap‘, and here is his latest piece, which he delivered to the 5th Conference on Peak Oil and Community Solutions.  I am only reposting excerpts, because the original is very long and somewhat repetitive.  I also must warn that although I find Orlov’s insight useful, I have a much more positive view of the collapse of US Imperialism, mainly because I think he is overlooking the benefits of this process for the planet’s ecosystem as well as the possibility of freedom for the majority of the world’s people who are currently suffering under US dominance.  Iraqis certainly will have a different view of the collapse of the US Empire than those in the Pentagon.

How about for Americans? Is the collapse of the US better for people who live here?  Orlov’s conclusion actually indicates that it may be, especially in terms of rebuilding the social fabric that has been worn away by individualism and consumerism.  But he also overlooks the reality of social oppression in the US. Not everyone lives the same “middle class” lifestyle he seems to be taking for granted.  There are already millions of Americans on the brink of poverty, or deep in poverty, who don’t worry about losing their SUVs.

The best outcome is for not just a collapse, but a transformation, so that nobody has to go hungry or work their life away just so that the wealthy can take cruises or visit the spa.  The current Bailouts are the most striking example of the government having the exactly opposite priorities.  Instead of bailing out homeowners, or the poor who lack access to public transportation, they are dumping money into the hands of the real estate and automaking profiteers!  We must continue to oppose this nonsense, from Obama or anyone, and make sure that our money is used for the benefit of the majority, not the wealthy few.  In a world of shrinking wealth, there should be no rich, and there doesn’t have to be any poor either.  [alex]

The Five Stages of Collapse

by Dmitry Orlov
Originally published by Energy Bulletin, Nov. 11, 2008.

Hello, everyone! […] My specialty is in thinking about and, unfortunately, predicting collapse. My method is based on comparison: I watched the Soviet Union collapse, and, since I am also familiar with the details of the situation in the United States, I can make comparisons between these two failed superpowers.

I was born and grew up in Russia, and I traveled back to Russia repeatedly between the late 80s and mid-90s. This allowed me to gain a solid understanding of the dynamics of the collapse process as it unfolded there. By the mid-90s it was quite clear to me that the US was headed in the same general direction. But I couldn’t yet tell how long the process would take, so I sat back and watched.

I am an engineer, and so I naturally tended to look for physical explanations for this process, as opposed to economic, political, or cultural ones. It turns out that one could come up with a very good explanation for the Soviet collapse by following energy flows. What happened in the late 80s is that Russian oil production hit an all-time peak. This coincided with new oil provinces coming on stream in the West – the North Sea in the UK and Norway, and Prudhoe Bay in Alaska – and this suddenly made oil very cheap on the world markets. Soviet revenues plummeted, but their appetite for imported goods remained unchanged, and so they sank deeper and deeper into debt. What doomed them in the end was not even so much the level of debt, but their inability to take on further debt even faster. Once international lenders balked at making further loans, it was game over.

What is happening to the United States now is broadly similar, with certain polarities reversed. The US is an oil importer, burning up 25% of the world’s production, and importing over two-thirds of that. Back in mid-90s, when I first started trying to guess the timing of the US collapse, the arrival of the global peak in oil production was scheduled for around the turn of the century. It turned out that the estimate was off by almost a decade, but that is actually fairly accurate as far as such big predictions go. So here it is the high price of oil that is putting the brakes on further debt expansion. As higher oil prices trigger a recession, the economy starts shrinking, and a shrinking economy cannot sustain an ever-expanding level of debt. At some point the ability to finance oil imports will be lost, and that will be the tipping point, after which nothing will ever be the same.

This is not to say that I am a believer in some sort of energy determinism. If the US were to cut its energy consumption by an order of magnitude, it would still be consuming a staggeringly huge amount, but an energy crisis would be averted. But then this country, as we are used to thinking of it, would no longer exist. Oil is what powers this economy. In turn, it is this oil-based economy that makes it possible to maintain and expand an extravagant level of debt. So, a drastic cut in oil consumption would cause a financial collapse (as opposed to the other way around). A few more stages of collapse would follow, which we will discuss next.[…]

I don’t mean to imply that every part of the country will suddenly undergo a spontaneous existence failure, reverting to an uninhabited wilderness. I agree with John-Michael Greer that the myth of the Apocalypse is not the least bit helpful in coming to terms with the situation. The Soviet experience is very helpful here, because it shows us not only that life goes on, but exactly how it goes on. But I am quite certain that no amount of cultural transformation will help us save various key aspects of this culture: car society, suburban living, big box stores, corporate-run government, global empire, or runaway finance. Read the rest of this entry »

Now I hope people don’t see this article as ‘support for the Soviet Union’ or something ridiculous like that, but I think this is a very insightful and amusing article, based on a powerpoint presentation.  The question is, was the USSR more prepared for the economic collapse it suffered than the US is for the collapse it will soon suffer?  Orlov lived through the former and seems to think that it was.

Also note that I strongly disagree with his recommendation to abandon politics – he’s right that politicians are swine but i think he’s wrong in overlooking people’s ability to build a resistance movement that can make real changes to our society, despite politicians best efforts to derail it.  So with that, enjoy the article! [alex]

Closing the ‘Collapse Gap’: the USSR was better prepared for collapse than the US

by Dmitry Orlov
Originally published be Energy Bulletin, December 4, 2006.

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. I am not an expert or a scholar or an activist. I am more of an eye-witness. I watched the Soviet Union collapse, and I have tried to put my observations into a concise message. I will leave it up to you to decide just how urgent a message it is.

My talk tonight is about the lack of collapse-preparedness here in the United States. I will compare it with the situation in the Soviet Union, prior to its collapse. The rhetorical device I am going to use is the “Collapse Gap” – to go along with the Nuclear Gap, and the Space Gap, and various other superpower gaps that were fashionable during the Cold War.

Slide [2] The subject of economic collapse is generally a sad one. But I am an optimistic, cheerful sort of person, and I believe that, with a bit of preparation, such events can be taken in stride. As you can probably surmise, I am actually rather keen on observing economic collapses. Perhaps when I am really old, all collapses will start looking the same to me, but I am not at that point yet.

And this next one certainly has me intrigued. From what I’ve seen and read, it seems that there is a fair chance that the U.S. economy will collapse sometime within the foreseeable future. It also would seem that we won’t be particularly well-prepared for it. As things stand, the U.S. economy is poised to perform something like a disappearing act. And so I am eager to put my observations of the Soviet collapse to good use.

Slide [3] I anticipate that some people will react rather badly to having their country compared to the USSR. I would like to assure you that the Soviet people would have reacted similarly, had the United States collapsed first. Feelings aside, here are two 20th century superpowers, who wanted more or less the same things – things like technological progress, economic growth, full employment, and world domination – but they disagreed about the methods. And they obtained similar results – each had a good run, intimidated the whole planet, and kept the other scared. Each eventually went bankrupt. Read the rest of this entry »

On President-elect Barack Obama’s first trip to the White House yesterday to meet privately with his predecessor, lame duck George W. Bush, reportedly the first and most pressing message Obama delivered to the man in charge was “bail out General Motors.”

Cartoon by The Rag Blog's Charlie Loving

Cartoon by The Rag Blog

The American taxpayers are sick and tired of their money being doled out to corporate crooks like the carbon-polluting, oil-guzzling auto industry, or banks like AIG who apparently weren’t satisfied by the first two bailouts and now want another. (They apparently spent too much of their last check on trips to the spa.)

Is this really Obama’s highest priority? Giving public money to private companies that will use it to pollute the planet?

If YOU had the opportunity to sit down with President Bush for an hour and have him actually listen to you, what would YOU ask him to do?

Why not instead bail out homeowners by ending foreclosures to keep people in their houses?

Why not bail out the poor, sick, and elderly, by instituting single-payer universal health care like every other industrialized nation does?

Why not bail out Iraqis, military families and soldiers by pulling U.S. forces out of Iraq and ending a bloody occupation? (or Afghanistan, or the 100+ countries where the US military is stationed)

Why not bail out human rights by ending torture, closing Guantanamo and allowing all prisoners a trial by jury?

Why not bail out civil rights by ending anti-immigrant raids and the criminalizing of immigration?

Why not bail out students, who are suffering from the greatest debt crisis in history as education becomes increasingly unaffordable?

Why not bail out the planet, by investing heavily in renewable energies controlled by local communities, urban gardens, home weatherization and create 5 million new Green Jobs?

Barack, if you’re going to be a president worthy of the immense praise and expectation placed on you, you’re going to need to stop palling around with terroristic industry and corporate lobbyists, and listen to the people.


Sources: Obama pressed Bush for auto industry bailout

Originally published by CNN, November 11, 2008
Jessica Yellin, Candy Crowley, CNN’s Ed Henry

(CNN) – At their private Oval Office meeting on Monday, President-elect Barack Obama urged President Bush to support billions of dollars in aid for the struggling auto industry during the upcoming lame-duck session of Congress, according to three officials briefed on the meeting.

The officials said Bush privately expressed skepticism about taxpayer money for automakers on the heels of a string of government bailouts for other industries, and the president also urged Obama to help push through a free trade pact with Colombia Read the rest of this entry »

This is a new article written by my friend and mentor, Jerry Silberman. I helped him edit it, so if anyone wants to discuss these issues, i’m available! [alex]

The Last Recession? Or Our Best Opportunity for Hope?

by Jerry Silberman
Originally published by Energy Bulletin, November 7, 2008.

As the drama of the bursting bubble of Wall St. gives way to a slower, but steady and painful, economic decline, the first and most important question we should ask is “Should we try to blow another bubble, or should we reject bubble culture values for something entirely different?”

If we agree that we need a new culture, this leads to the question “Can we take advantage of the opportunity afforded by this collapse, by the exposure of a failed system, to establish new “rules for the house” (the root meaning of “economy” from the Greek)?”

If the house, metaphorically, is Planet Earth the way we have enjoyed it for millennia, then making the choice now to change to a sustainable economy is the best way to turn the apparent lemon of this economic contraction into the best lemonade in history. Read the rest of this entry »

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