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Gender: Male
Hometown: Detroit, Michigan
Home country: Citizen of the world whose address is in the U.S.
Current location: Detroit, Michigan
Member since: Fri Oct 29, 2004, 12:18 AM
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Journal Archives

Chris Hedges: Sheldon Wolin and Inverted Totalitarianism

from truthdig:

Sheldon Wolin and Inverted Totalitarianism

Posted on Nov 1, 2015
By Chris Hedges

Sheldon Wolin, our most important contemporary political theorist, died Oct. 21 at the age of 93. In his books “Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism” and “Politics and Vision,” a massive survey of Western political thought that his former student Cornel West calls “magisterial,” Wolin lays bare the realities of our bankrupt democracy, the causes behind the decline of American empire and the rise of a new and terrifying configuration of corporate power he calls “inverted totalitarianism.”

Wendy Brown, a political science professor at UC Berkeley and another former student of Wolin’s, said in an email to me: “Resisting the monopolies on left theory by Marxism and on democratic theory by liberalism, Wolin developed a distinctive—even distinctively American—analysis of the political present and of radical democratic possibilities. He was especially prescient in theorizing the heavy statism forging what we now call neoliberalism, and in revealing the novel fusions of economic with political power that he took to be poisoning democracy at its root.”

Wolin throughout his scholarship charted the devolution of American democracy and in his last book, “Democracy Incorporated,” details our peculiar form of corporate totalitarianism. “One cannot point to any national institution that can accurately be described as democratic,” he writes in that book, “surely not in the highly managed, money-saturated elections, the lobby-infested Congress, the imperial presidency, the class-biased judicial and penal system, or, least of all, the media.”

Inverted totalitarianism is different from classical forms of totalitarianism. It does not find its expression in a demagogue or charismatic leader but in the faceless anonymity of the corporate state. Our inverted totalitarianism pays outward fealty to the facade of electoral politics, the Constitution, civil liberties, freedom of the press, the independence of the judiciary, and the iconography, traditions and language of American patriotism, but it has effectively seized all of the mechanisms of power to render the citizen impotent. ...............(more)


The Starter Apartment Is Nearly Extinct in San Francisco and New York

(Bloomberg) So you’re looking for a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco, and you have about $2,000 a month to spend. You know the city’s median rent is more than $4,200 a month, but median means half the apartments cost less. Surely there are larger, more expensive apartments pulling up the midpoint.

Perhaps. But there’s a reason Google employees are sleeping in their trucks.

Ninety-one percent of one-bedroom apartments in San Francisco cost more than $2,000 a month. Perhaps more surprising is the number of apartments that occupy the high end of rental rates: In Manhattan, a fifth of one-bedrooms rent for more than $4,000.

Those figures come from a report on Wednesday from Trulia, which pulled data from rental listings on its website. While we already knew these were expensive places to live, this view of the vertiginous rents in San Francisco, New York, and a handful of other cities paints a somewhat more useful picture of housing affordability.

For instance, the median rent for a two-bedroom in Boston costs $145 a month more than a two-bedroom in Washington, D.C. Only 13 percent of Boston two-bedrooms cost less than $2,000 a month, compared with 23 percent in the nation’s capital. .............................(more)


How Creative Finance Launched Worker-Owned Co-ops In Post-Sandy New York

from YES! Magazine:

In November of 2012, a month after Hurricane Sandy hit Far Rockaway, a neighborhood in Queens, New York, 10,000 residents were still living without power. The neighborhood, located on a peninsula less than a mile wide, with Jamaica Bay on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other, was devastated by the storm and more than half of its local businesses remained closed long after Sandy struck.

“It looked like a nuclear bomb had hit. I’d never seen that kind of destruction before,” said Henry Lezama, a construction worker and Far Rockaway resident of 14 years. He took his family to a local church where others had gathered for aid and shelter. That’s where he met organizers from Occupy Sandy and The Working World, an organization that provides low-interest loans and technical support to cooperatives. “They were talking about ways to restore the community,” said Lezama. “They said they could help us start a co-op.”

Lezama was hesitant about the idea at first. He had already attempted to start his own construction business once, but found the paperwork and bureaucratic process difficult and expensive to navigate, leaving him unlicensed and with a limited pool of customers.

A co-op, however, held the promise of job stability and better wages; he would get a say in how many hours the co-op took on and his co-owners would be people from his own community. The Working World gave him and four others the start-up money. They used it to start a construction cooperative called Roca Mia.


A different form of finance

Martin refers to traditional lending as “extractive finance”: a system where lenders benefit from projects they are financing without any responsibility to the borrowers. It’s a way for banks to protect themselves from risk; but for new businesses on shaky legs, it means putting everything on the line.

That’s what Martin saw in the early 2000s, when Argentina’s economy had taken a nosedive. A recession had driven out investment and closed the doors of many small businesses and factories. At the worst point, unemployment rose to 20.8 percent. Left without jobs, workers across the country decided to take matters into their own hands and reopen businesses as cooperatives. ................(more)


How Will We Reach an Ecological Civilization and Who Will Build It?

How Will We Reach an Ecological Civilization and Who Will Build It?

Saturday, 31 October 2015 00:00
By Chris Williams, Truthout | Op-Ed

We are now officially living amid the sixth great extinction, according to scientists, but the global economy has still not shifted to prevent climate change's existential threat to human civilization and much of the biosphere.

Will transnational corporations and the political leaders that cater to them realize that it is in their own interest of self-preservation to address the problem of global climate change by halting the unrelenting use of fossil fuels? What would it take for the capitalist economy to prioritize ecological concerns? Perhaps, when 10 of the largest oil and gas companies sign a letter calling on world leaders to sign an effective deal at the international climate negotiations in Paris in December, progress is being made. In a statement that will likely surprise many, the CEOs of these 10 giant fossil fuel corporations state that, "we will continue in our efforts to help lower the current global emissions trajectory," as they apparently commit themselves to ensuring a "20C future."

Yet Exxon, the biggest oil company, has been busily undermining its own climate research for the last two decades, and sowing doubt in the reality of climate change at every opportunity. Similarly, fossil fuel corporations consistently underplay the growth of renewables and talk up demand. One of the signers of the statement, Shell, predicted in their most recent annual report to shareholders that by 2040 demand for oil and gas would be greater than today by 14 to 55 percent, thus justifying expansion of drilling in the Arctic. Can the very corporations that are rushing to every corner of the world to find and extract more fossil fuels be the answer to reducing fossil fuel production? In the words of Josu Jon Imaz, CEO of Repsol, "We could be part of the problem, but we are convinced we are part of the solution."

Concerns about climate change, loss of biodiversity, ocean acidification and pollution are not sufficient to catalyze changes in the global economic order. Changes to capitalism are the most likely to come about internally through shifts in profitability that force shifts in economic practices; through class warfare, which makes some forms of production or social relations unacceptable; through profitable technological innovation; or through the political influence of corporations that identify and act on the geopolitical and economic interests of the capitalist class as a whole.

Dynamics of Capitalism

Pressure is clearly building for change, with the growth of a more robust and radicalizing environmental movement in the global North, and most especially in the global South. The fact that some oil and gas companies are responding with a public relations offensive is a testament to that pressure. But the movement has, thus far, not been able to generate the kind of change required on anything like the scale needed. To do so would mean either the outright rejection of capitalism, or, at the very least, the fall of neoliberalism, and the reemergence of the state in domestic political and social life, outside the spheres of the security, surveillance and criminal legal sectors. ................(more)


V for Vendetta version of the UK no longer fictional?

British police are to be given the power to view the entire Internet history of everyone in the U.K. in a new surveillance bill to be published next week, reports say.

Under the proposed plan, telecoms and Internet service providers will be legally required to retain all Web browsing history for all customers for a period of 12 months, according to The Daily Telegraph.

The Guardian reports that “senior officers want to revive the measures similar to those contained in the ‘snooper’s charter,’ which would force telecommunications companies to retain for 12 months data that would disclose websites visited by customers.”

From the U.K.’s Daily Telegraph:

Home Secretary Theresa May will announce the plans when she introduces the Government’s new surveillance bill in the House of Commons on Wednesday.

The Telegraph understands the new powers for the police will form part of the new bill.

Police would be able to access specific web addresses visited by customers.

The new powers would allow the police to seize details of the website and searches being made by people they wanted to investigate.

They will still need to apply for judicial approval to be able to access the content of the websites.

Mrs May previously told the Commons enforcement agencies needed more powers to do their jobs effectively.


Why Are We Hearing So Much about Those Damn Danes?

Why Are We Hearing So Much about Those Damn Danes?
Bernie Sanders’ presidential bid is putting Denmark on the map.

By Josh Hoxie

If you ask Bernie Sanders about his version of socialism, you’ll probably hear a lot about the small Scandinavian country perhaps best known for inventing Legos.

Anderson Cooper experienced this firsthand when he asked about the Vermont senator’s embrace of democratic socialism during the first Democratic presidential debate. That prompted the full Sanders rap on the wonders of Denmark, including the Nordic country’s strong safety net and egalitarian ethic.

As a longtime fan of all things Danish, from their bike lanes to their Viking hats, I’m excited to see this northern nation enter the spotlight here at home.

While studying abroad in Denmark as a college student, I compared its universal health care system to our own — and found Denmark’s far superior.

This was in 2009, a time when this was anything but an academic exercise.

Back home, Congress and the Obama administration were brushing the so-called “public option,” which would have given all Americans a chance to steer clear of private insurers, off the table. Progressives were outraged when they realized that the Affordable Care Act wouldn’t bring on anything remotely like Denmark’s single-payer health care system. ..............(more)


Marco Rubio on government workers (cartoon)


Chilling Thing Hershey Just Said About American Consumers

Chilling Thing Hershey Just Said About American Consumers
by Wolf Richter • October 29, 2015

When sweets-maker Hershey reported third quarter earnings on Wednesday, it left a bitter aftertaste: for the fifth quarter in a row, it cut its forecast. As JPMorgan analyst Kenneth Goldman put it during the call: “It feels like every quarter, something unexpected starts to bite.”

Sales were down slightly, though year-to-date sales were still up 1.2%, a sign the trend is getting more “challenging.” Versions of that word cropped up eight times during the call.

“Headwinds” cropped up four times, “tough” or “tougher” three times. “Macroeconomic” was dragged out eight times, usually in conjunction with “environment” – as in “given the macroeconomic environment” – but also with “challenges” and “winds,” as in CEO John Bilbrey’s elegant, “It’s been unusual in 2015, been some macroeconomic winds.”

CFO Patricia Little was able to put them into one sentence (earnings call transcript via Seeking Alpha): “Lower consumer trips and the macroeconomic environment continue to be a challenge within the retail environment….”

Upon these kinds of encouraging words, shares plunged 6.5% for the day and are off 20% from their high in January. ....................(more)


Are Flint's lead problems just incompetence or something worse?

(Metro Times) You know things are bad when the best defense you can conjure is incompetence.

But that's exactly what Dan Wyant, director of Michigan's Department of Environmental Quality, resorted to last week when he admitted that the state mishandled the Flint water crisis.

"It has recently become clear that our drinking water program staff made a mistake while working with the city of Flint," Wyant announced in a written statement. "Simply stated, staff employed a federal protocol they believed was appropriate, and it was not."

It is bad enough that the obtuse and antiseptic nature of that admission stands in stark contrast to the human tragedy it is supposed to address: the contamination of a city's drinking water with lead, a potent neurotoxin that can cause permanent damage, especially in children. .....................(more)


Chicago: CTA Yellow Line Makes Long Ride Back, Ready to Restart Service

IL: CTA Yellow Line Makes Long Ride Back, Ready to Restart Service


Oct. 29--The roughly 10-minute dash on the CTA Yellow Line is almost back.

Yellow Line service is set to finally resume a couple of hours before sunrise on Friday after a 5 1/2-month shutdown triggered by a construction misstep, but riders will likely return to the express trains on their own timetable.

The CTA is trying to encourage a ridership resurgence on its shortest route that carries the fewest riders among all eight CTA rail lines by offering free rides on the Yellow Line through Nov. 6 for passengers boarding at the Dempster Street and Oakton Street stations in Skokie.

Riders entering at Howard Street will be charged the regular $2.25 fare, although people transferring from the Red and Purple lines at Howard will continue to pay nothing extra, officials said. Free parking will also be provided at the Dempster park-and-ride lot through the end of the year. ......................(more)


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