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Yesterday, President Obama announced his new $3.8 Trillion budget proposal, including about a trillion dollars for war and military, including increasing expenditure on Nuclear Weapons by $7 billion!  Nuclear weapons? Really? That’s the change we can believe in?

[update 2/5: I should also mention the completely misguided funding of nuclear power plants as well, see Obama’s Nuclear Giveaway]

This news came alongside an announced “spending freeze”, which would exclude military/war and only affect social programs, like jobs, housing, education and health care. These are precisely the programs which need to be dramatically increased in this economic crisis, not frozen. This proposed freeze would last 3 years, meaning for the rest of Obama’s term in office we could see no new spending on any of the social programs that are desperately needed. The poor, the middle and working classes, and everyone who has hope for a more compassionate United States is essentially being locked out in the cold.

Candidate Obama himself campaigned against exactly such an “across the board spending freeze,” as we may recall if we can muster our memories back through one year of hazy distractions (luckily Youtube never forgets):

If they’re so interested in reducing spending, why not cut totally useless and destructive programs – like NUCLEAR WEAPONS?

Why is Obama backsliding on all of his campaign promises? It just so happens that even though there’s no sane use of additional nuclear weapons (the US stockpile is already over 10,000 warheads, and the Cold War is over), nuclear weapons corporations like Lockheed Martin spend millions of dollars to lobby politicians for this funding anyway. And sadly, they’re getting it because Obama is afraid of the Republicans.

Once again we are seeing the continued march towards war, death and neo-fascism. The needs of the population – from decent jobs and housing, affordable education and health care, to a healthy environment – are being denied in order to protect corporate and financial interests.

Here’s Democracy Now! with the nuclear weapons story, and an article from Norman Solomon on the spending freeze below:

Despite Non-Proliferation Pledge, Obama Budget Request Seeks Additional $7B for Nuclear Arsenal

As part of a record $3.8 trillion budget proposal, the Obama administration is asking Congress to increase spending on the US nuclear arsenal by more than $7 billion over the next five years. Obama is seeking the extra money despite a pledge to cut the US arsenal and seek a nuclear weapons-free world. The proposal includes large funding increases for a new plutonium production facility in Los Alamos, New Mexico. We speak with Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch of New Mexico. Watch video.

Don’t Call It a ‘Defense’ Budget

by Norman Solomon

This isn’t “defense.”

The new budget from the White House will push U.S. military spending well above $2 billion a day.

Foreclosing the future of our country should not be confused with defending it.

“Unless miraculous growth, or miraculous political compromises, creates some unforeseen change over the next decade, there is virtually no room for new domestic initiatives for Mr. Obama or his successors,” the New York Times reports this morning (February 2).

It isn’t defense to preclude new domestic initiatives for a country that desperately needs them: for healthcare, jobs, green technologies, carbon reduction, housing, education, nutrition, mass transit . . . Read the rest of this entry »


This a review of the newish movie ‘Collapse’, review written by a woman of color named Erinn, which I saw on the Bring the Ruckus website. ‘Collapse’ apparently features Michael Ruppert talking about his apocalyptic visions for the world, filmed from his hideout bunker underground somewhere.  Ruppert maintains a horrific blog and used to edit From the Wilderness, a conspiracy-oriented website that intermixes information about peak oil with 9/11 Truth stuff and other scary things.

I was glad to read Erinn’s review, even though I’m not planning to see this film, because it highlights both the racist/classist elements, as well as the lack of grounding in analysis about social change, that continues to hinder the peak oil “movement.”

What Ruppert, and other scaremongers like William Catton of Overshoot and Jay Hanson of dieoff.com have failed to comprehend is that peak oil and other ecological limits do not in themselves guarantee social disaster just because capitalism is collapsing.  There are non-capitalist, non-fossil fuel-driven ways of organizing society, some of which would be much better, and some much worse.

Peak oil does present us with a stark dilemma, but like any dilemma we have two paths we can go down – of course there’s the path of continued plunder and violence, militarism and neo-fascism – but there’s also that of freedom, democracy, and sustainability.  By hiding this second path from their readers and viewers, Ruppert and other ‘doomers’ inadvertently present compelling arguments for the first.

There’s still plenty of resources to meet everyone’s basic needs of food, shelter, water, etc. But because those in power have control over production, resources are being diverted to socially and ecologically inappropriate ends, like the military, banks, private jets, prisons, tar sands, etc.  Never ever forget that there is always a fundamental political choice of how to allocate resources. Until the peak oil ‘movement’ catches on to this reality, it will continue to be dominated by scared, privileged white folks worried about a future catastrophe yet who don’t see the catastrophes that are already affecting most of the peoples of the world.

“We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Happy MLK Day!

[alex knight]

COLLAPSE: A Review

by Erinn

So, I went to see a movie called “Collapse.” I read about this movie a little bit before seeing it (full disclosure: I get caught it weird Internet spaces and was reading an article about Mein Kampf. This movie was mentioned in the article for some reason). The premise of the movie is pretty simple: Michael Ruppert believes that he know how and why the US and global economies are currently collapsing (Get it? That’s the movie title…and the country…). The ticket was like $4, which in LA is pretty much like highway robbery.

Originally I went to see this film because it looked interesting and because of the whole $4 thing. About 30 minutes into the movie, I realized that there was a larger discussion to be had here that went beyond reviewing a film. There are aspects of this film that I found interesting and problematic from a practical political perspective, but I think that there is even a more interesting discussion here on the limitations of some supposedly “leftist” and “revolutionary” political ideologies and the complicated nature of the political moment that is in our near future.

So, just to summarize: The film really focuses on Ruppert and the Peak Oil Movement (which to be fair I know little about.) For those of you that are in the same boat as I am, the Peak Oil Movement refers to the idea/scientific principle that there is a limited amount of fossil fuels in the world. Ruppert looks at the fact that Saudi Arabia, which has the largest, recorded landed oil reserves, now drills for oil offshore. As offshore oil drilling is a much more costly endeavor than drilling for oil on land, this could be an indication that the oil in Saudi Arabia, and thus countries with even less oil, is on the global decline as a “dependable” resource. Ruppert identifies the fact that the economic system that the US and the rest of the world operates with requires “infinite resources” while depending on the “finite resource” of oil as the central paradox of our existence today. The movie goes on to note the limitations of other fuel possibilities (with the exception of solar and wind power, Mike identifies other fuel resources as economically and environmentally unfeasible) and declares that “revolution” (which isn’t ever defined in the film) will come from the anger people feel because of the fuel and food shortages that will plague the world in the upcoming decades.

Ruppert constructs a parable to help the audience understand his perspective. He describes the Titanic and himself as a boat-builder on the ship. He’s just been informed that the ship is going to sink and that there are not enough boats on the ship to save everyone on board the ship. (While telling this parable Ruppert seems to be ignoring the racial and gendered histories of this moment…aka white dudes locking poor and “colored” folks in the engine room of the ship.)

Ruppert says that as a boat-builder, he can select from a group of three sets of people to help: Read the rest of this entry »


One year into Barack Obama’s presidency, and the U.S. wars and killing of civilians have continued unabated, in direct contradiction to his campaign pledges to put a stop to these. Today, two great videos explore this contradiction, including a Democracy Now! interview with veteran activist Allan Nairn, who explains in the simplest terms how the US continues to kill innocent people under Obama.

But first, “Jake Gyllenhaal Challenges the Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize” by Diran Lyons, a political remix video of scenes from Jarhead and Donnie Darko mixed with Obama’s own words displaying the hypocrisy of power – as the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq continue to devastate. Check it out! [alex]

And here is the transcript of the Democracy Now! interview with Allan Nairn, entitled “Obama Has Kept the Machine Set on Kill.”

AMY GOODMAN: Well, it’s almost been a year since President Obama’s inauguration and his promise to close the prison at Guantanamo.

For a critical look back over the Obama administration’s foreign policy and national security decisions in the last twelve months, we’re joined here in New York by award-winning investigative journalist and activist Allan Nairn.

In 1991, we were both in East Timor and witnessed and survived the Santa Cruz massacre, in which Indonesian forces killed more than 270 Timorese. The soldiers fractured Allan’s skull.

Over the past three decades, he has exposed how the US government has backed paramilitary death squads in El Salvador, in Guatemala, in Haiti. He also uncovered US support for the Indonesian military’s assassinations and torture of civilians.

He’s joining us now for the rest of the hour.

Welcome to Democracy Now!, Allan Nairn.

ALLAN NAIRN: Thanks.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, why don’t you start off with a broad overview, as we move into this first anniversary of President Obama’s inauguration, of his term in office?

ALLAN NAIRN: Well, I think Obama should be remembered as a great man because of the blow he struck against white racism, the cultural blow. And he accomplished that on Election Day. That was huge. This is one of the most destructive forces in world history, and by simply—by virtue of becoming president, Obama did it major damage.

But once he became president, by virtue of his actions, just like every US president before him, just like those who ran other great powers, Obama became a murderer and a terrorist, because the US has a machine that spans the globe, that has the capacity to kill, and Obama has kept it set on kill. He could have flipped the switch and turned it off. The President has—turned it off. The President has that power, but he chose not to do so.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean? Explain more fully.

ALLAN NAIRN: Well, the machine. The US spends about half of all—almost half of all the military spending in the entire world, equal to virtually all the other countries combined. More than half of the weapons sold in the world are sold by the United States. The US has more than 700 military bases scattered across dozens of countries. The US is the world’s leading trainer of paramilitaries. The US has a series of courses, from interrogators to generals, that have graduated military people guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity in dozens upon dozens of countries. The US has a series of covert paramilitary forces of its own that get almost no attention. For example, right now in Iran, there are covert US paramilitaries attacking Iran from within, authorized by secret executive order. This was briefly reported, but it dropped from notice. In addition to that, there are the open attacks, the open bombings and invasions. Just in the recent period, the US has done this to Iran—to, I’m sorry, to Iraq, to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Kenya. Currently in the Philippines, there are US troops in action in the south. And you could go on. This is the machine.

And then, in addition, there’s the support for a series of what the RAND Corporation itself—you know, RAND is an extension of the Pentagon—called US support for repressive non-democratic governments and for governments that commit aggression. There are about forty of them that the US backs. And I could run through the list. And the point is, Obama has not cut a single—cut off a single one of these repressive regimes. He has not cut off a single one of the terror forces. He has increased the size of the US Army, increased the size of US Special Forces. He has increased the level of overseas arms sales. In fact, the Pentagon, his Pentagon, was recently bragging about it. The same thing happened under the Clinton administration with then-Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown. He has tuned it up. But you could just run down the list of countries where civilians are being killed and tortured with US weapons, with US money, with US intelligence, with US political green lights.

ANJALI KAMAT: So, Allan, what would you say is the difference between the preceding eight years under the Bush administration and this past year, as we move forward under Obama? Read the rest of this entry »


This is an incredibly simple, but useful way to gauge how systematically our pop culture is dominated by men. Women are often only represented as either objects or auxiliaries whose lives revolve around men. Take a look at this short video from Anita Sarkeesian. [alex]

Reposted from Feminist Frequency, Dec. 7, 2009

The Bechdel Test is a simple way to gauge the active presence of female characters in Hollywood films and just how well rounded and complete those roles are. It was created by Allison Bechdel in her comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For in 1985. It is astonishing the number of popular movies that can’t pass this simple test. It demonstrates how little women’s complex and interesting lives are underrepresented or non existent in the film industry. We have jobs, creative projects, friendships and struggles among many other things that are actually interesting in our lives… so Hollywood, start writing about it!

Check out other great blogs and commentary about the Bechdel Test:

  1. The Bechdel Test Movie List: here you can find a long, long list of movies and where they rate on the Bechdel Test.
  2. Why Film Schools Teach Screenwriters Not to Pass the Bechdel Test’s by Jennifer Kesler. This is a must read – exposing the systemic problems of the film industry starting with film school.
  3. See the original comic strip “The Rule” here.
  4. You can visit Allison Bechdel’s site here and I highly recommend her graphic novel Fun Home
  5. Over at the Blog “The Angry Black Woman” she adapted the Bechdel Test to apply to race. Take a look: The Bechdel Test and Race in Popular Fiction

This is a great, short video that shows why “Cap and Trade” schemes to reduce carbon emissions, like what world leaders are discussing at the Copenhagen Summit, are fundamentally flawed. Turns out that selling our atmosphere to corporations might actually be a bad way to stop climate change. It’s just another attempt to bail out capitalism, this time by making a commodity out of our hopes for a sustainable future.

Annie Leonard, creator of the original “Story of Stuff,” has hit another one out of the park by breaking down complex political issues into simple, accessible and visually appealing viral videos. Check it out (And share with family and friends)! [alex]

And here is the original, highly-acclaimed “Story of Stuff”

see more at storyofstuff.com



Re-published by ZNet and Toward Freedom and The Rag Blog. Available in print by the Defenestrator. Also translated to Dutch for GlobalInfo. cool!

Anti-Capitalism Goes Mainstream
Michael Moore’s New Film Names the System and Presents a Radical Democratic Critique

Alex Knight, October 16, 2009

Capitalism: A Love Story, which opened in 962 theaters earlier this month, is Michael Moore’s most ambitious work yet – taking aim at the root cause behind the injustices he’s exposed in his other films over the last 20 years. This time capitalism itself is the culprit to be maligned in Moore’s trademark docu-tragi-comic style. And by using the platform of a major motion picture to make a direct assault at the root of the problem, Moore has created space in the political mainstream for a radical conversation (radical meaning “going to the root”).

It’s a conversation that is desperately needed as the economic crisis continues to devastate low- and middle-income Americans in spite of President Obama’s and Congress’ efforts to stop the bleeding by throwing trillions of dollars at the banks. Yesterday, Democracy Now! reported that while the Dow Jones topped 10,000 for the first time in a year, foreclosures have reached a record level of 940,000 in the third quarter. But with this film airing in major chain cinemas across the nation, the normally taboo topics of how wealth is divided, who owns Congress, and how vital economic decisions are made are now open for discussion in a way they haven’t been in the U.S. for decades.

In Capitalism, Michael Moore features the reality of the economic crisis for America’s usually-invisible poor and working class. The movie begins with a family filming their eviction from their own home. In a terrifying scene, we watch from inside their living room window as 7 police cars roll up to throw the ill-fated family onto the street for failing to make their payments. Moore explained in an interview, “You see [a foreclosure] really for the first time from the point of view of the person being thrown out of the house.” This same bottom-up viewpoint carries the audience through the rest of the film, from the stories of kids in Pennsylvania sent to private detention centers for minor offenses by judges who received kickbacks from the prison company, to airline pilots whose wages are so low they have to go on food stamps.

By grounding the viewers in the human costs of out-of-control capitalism, Moore finds firm footing for launching his attacks on the Wall St. firms who he believes are responsible for this crisis. As the film points out, the richest 1% of Americans now control more wealth than the bottom 95%, a sorry state of affairs that has grown steadily worse since the 1980s. Ronald Reagan, Alan Greenspan, and his two buddies Larry Summers and Robert Rubin are implicated in Capitalism as responsible parties behind the gutting of regulations and the deliverance of the federal government into the hands of the bankers.

Michael Moore’s conversations with congressmen and women about the $700 billion bank bailout passed last October best illustrate this transfer of sovereignty. The congresspeople are remarkably candid in their dismay at what was essentially a blank check to Goldman Sachs, Bank of America and Citigroup. Representative Baron Hill from Indiana recounts that the bailout bill was pushed through Congress in a similar manner as the Iraq War authorization, under threat of catastrophe and terror. Marcy Kaptur, congresswoman from Ohio, however, does one better. “This was almost like an intelligence operation,” she laments. And when Moore asks her if the bailout represents a “financial coup d’etat” by the bankers, she responds, “I could agree with that. Because the people here [pointing to the Capitol] really aren’t in charge. Wall Street is in charge.”

We also see Kaptur’s courageous honesty on the floor of the House, urging Americans to resist foreclosure by remaining in their homes. Detroit sheriff Warren Evans stands out as another hero in the film when he announces he will cease foreclosure evictions in his jurisdiction because of the damage to the community caused by making more houses vacant and more families homeless. Moore also features grassroots organization Take Back the Land, which has dramatically responded to the crisis by moving evicted families back into their homes in the Miami area.

Regular folks fighting back against a system that is depriving them of income, housing, health care and other basic needs is inspiring stuff to watch, and it’s not something we’re used to seeing up on the big screen. Capitalism displays this grassroots defiance surprisingly well by humanizing those on the bottom of the pyramid. One man whose farm is foreclosed angrily warns, “There’s got to be some kind of rebellion between people who’ve got nothing and people who’ve got it all.” His words are buttressed by a behind-the-scenes look at Republic Windows & Doors, where laid-off workers occupied their Chicago factory and refused to leave until receiving their promised severance pay. For Moore this represents the kind of direct action that everyday people must now begin to take to protect themselves from having to pay for the misdeeds of the wealthiest one percent.

This call to action is well taken. However, one piece lacking in the film’s analysis of capitalism is how the system of economic power interlocks with other structures of oppression, for example U.S. imperialism, patriarchy and white supremacy. Capitalism affects different people in extremely different ways, and while some fear losing their jobs, others fear imprisonment, rape, or even being hit by a drone attack. But Michael Moore seems to avoid a conversation about racism, sexism and homophobia in order to appeal to a mythical homogeneous American working class. And besides a brief comparison to Rome, the movie also shies away from discussing the U.S. role in the world and how a militaristic foreign policy serves the interests of corporate and financial elites – even though opposition to the wars in Afghanistan/Pakistan and Iraq have never been greater.

Another weakness is how Moore handles Barack Obama with kid gloves. Even while his economic advisers are skewered in the film, President Obama’s role in the bank bailouts is downplayed, and he comes out looking like a champion of the people, or at least a potential champion. In this respect Michael Moore bestows honors like the Nobel Committee, not so much for what the president has done, but for the “hope” of what he might do.

So what does Michael Moore propose as an alternative to capitalism? Not socialism, but a kind of economic democracy – an opportunity for average folks to have a say in how their money is used, from the workplace on up to the government. Moore takes us inside co-ops in America where workers vote on decisions about finances democratically, and where salaries are equal and adequate for everyone in the company. In one factory, assembly line workers and the CEO each make about $60,000.

To reinforce his economic prescription, Moore even dug through archives to recover lost footage of FDR’s long-forgotten proposal for a “Second Bill of Rights,” which called for guaranteeing meaningful work and a living wage, decent housing, adequate medical care, and a good education for every American. It is striking how such common-sense ideas in our current political climate appear dangerously radical, even coming from the lips of a U.S. president. It seems the overriding purpose of Capitalism: A Love Story is to flip these expectations on their heads. For Michael Moore, guaranteeing basic economic security is as American as apple pie; what is radical is a system that would deny such prosperity to bolster the wealth of a tiny few.

If there is to be any solution to the economic crisis that doesn’t involve millions more people thrown out of their homes or dropped from their health care, it will have to involve a sharp break from a system that values private profits higher than meeting people’s basic needs. To this end, Michael Moore has done a great public service by making a film that is essentially an invitation for views outside the bounds of established mainstream discourse to propose what might be done about the economic quagmire we now find ourselves in. It is time for an American Left to come out of the wilderness and speak out with proposals for better ways of organizing our economy. I see no reason to be any less bold than President Roosevelt was 65 years ago.

Here is an excerpt from President Roosevelt’s 1944 “Second Bill of Rights” speech:

“We cannot be content, Read the rest of this entry »


After a wild but empowering week of demonstrations in Pittsburgh, here’s a short media recap of some of the highlights. [alex]

$12 Trillion has been given by the US government to large banks and corporations since last year

$12 Trillion has been given by the US government to large banks and corporations since last year

 
Great short news video on why the protesters were in Pittsburgh.

Exposes the police repression felt by the whole city last week, not just protesters.

The successes of mass protest.

IVAW held a press conference and action Friday morning about no longer sacrificing for war

IVAW held a press conference and action Friday morning about no longer sacrificing for war

 

Finally, see this audio report from Free Speech Radio News for more context.

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