From economist Michael Hudson:
Book V of Aristotle’s Politics describes the eternal transition of oligarchies making themselves into hereditary aristocracies – which end up being overthrown by tyrants or develop internal rivalries as some families decide to “take the multitude into their camp” and usher in democracy, within which an oligarchy emerges once again, followed by aristocracy, democracy, and so on throughout history.
Debt has been the main dynamic driving these shifts – always with new twists and turns. It polarizes wealth to create a creditor class, whose oligarchic rule is ended as new leaders (“tyrants” to Aristotle) win popular support by cancelling the debts and redistributing property or taking its usufruct for the state.
Since the Renaissance, however, bankers have shifted their political support to democracies. This did not reflect egalitarian or liberal political convictions as such, but rather a desire for better security for their loans. As James Steuart explained in 1767, royal borrowings remained private affairs rather than truly public debts. For a sovereign’s debts to become binding upon the entire nation, elected representatives had to enact the taxes to pay their interest charges.
By giving taxpayers this voice in government, the Dutch and British democracies provided creditors with much safer claims for payment than did kings and princes whose debts died with them. But the recent debt protests from Iceland to Greece and Spain suggest that creditors are shifting their support away from democracies. They are demanding fiscal austerity and even privatization sell-offs.
This is turning international finance into a new mode of warfare. Its objective is the same as military conquest in times past: to appropriate land and mineral resources, communal infrastructure and extract tribute. In response, democracies are demanding referendums over whether to pay creditors by selling off the public domain and raising taxes to impose unemployment, falling wages and economic depression. The alternative is to write down debts or even annul them, and to re-assert regulatory control over the financial sector.
Read the rest.
Posted in Banksters, Class, Debt, Economy, Finance, History, Human behavior, Politics, Poverty, Resources, Warfare, Wealth
From Al Jazeera:
Ireland mulls selling forests to pay debt
Controversial new scheme is part of efforts to meet IMF demands to reduce debt
From the Washington Post:
China’s disposable chopstick addiction is destroying its forests
Via Orwellwasright, a dramatic Al Jazeera visualization of the real budget battle’s driving engine, that military/industrial/academic complex Ike warned us about 52 years ago.
We suspect the real number’s larger. Nor were real impacts on, for example, academia made clear. Berkeley, with it’s bandolier of National Laboratories spawned by the search for The Bomb and expanded into engines of imperialism, as in the genetically engineered cops designed to conquer land rights and demolish peasant sovereignty on behalf of private profit and the interests of the U.S. military and their CIA drone-firing gunslingers now busily setting up shop in Africa, along with AFRICOM, the new military command launched by an Air Force general who lead the air war of Afghanistan.
And it was that same general who devixsed the strategy for converting the air force in agrofueled fleet.
Africa was also the first destination of crews from Berkeley’s BP-funded, national lab participating $500 million Energy Biosciences Institute, who launched searches for suitable crops to be turned into fuels using genetically engineered microbial refineries. If all those oil countries rebelled, at least there’d be fuel plantations, operating under the watchful missile-armed eyes droning overhead.
And that’s just one on many avenues in which the single largest burner of money shapes the landscape of possibilities. . .
Posted in Africa, Agriculture, Class, Corpocracy, Deep Politics, Economy, Finance, Geopolitics, Global Corporate U., Governance, GWOT, Mideast, Military, Politics, Resources, Science, Video, Warfare, Wealth
Just to remind Cal students who live the the Gaia Building, Berkeleyan, and other apartment buildings owned by Chicago real estate mogul Sam Zell’s Equity Residential, their landlord was the man who bankrupted the Los Angeles Times.
That paper’s up for sale again [as noted yesterday, even the Koch brothers may offer some cash], and a timely piece in LA Weekly on the latest buy offers provides a nifty little vignette about Berkeley’s number on private sector landlord.
Hillel Aron writes about what happened when. . .
the spoils went to Sam Zell, the real estate mogul who looked like a character from Tolkien’s Middle-Earth dressed for a night at a disco.
Zell’s nickname was “Grave Dancer,” and his crassness disgusted many journalists — he once suggested that Tribune papers allow X-rated ads because “everyone loves a good blow job.”
“He was the most vulgar, repellent rich person I’ve ever met,” says Tim Rutten, a journalist at the Times for 40 years, who was laid off in 2011.
Any journalism students who reside in one of Zell’s apartments must feel a bit of shame every time the rent check is signed.
But Haas students can rejoice that they’re living a place that made a very tidy fortune for David Teece, one of their plutocratic profs, who put up cash and clout to get them built, then made a pile selling to Zell at the peak of the market.
First, the good news from Deutsche Welle:
Carmaker Porsche looks back on record year
And then the bad news, from Deutsche Presse-Agentur:
Greece to sack 5,000 state workers to appease lenders – reports
Finally, from Keep Talking Greece:
Juncker warns of “Social Rebellion in Europe” if Growth, Jobs not Addressed
Koch Brothers to Buy the L.A. Times?
UPDATE: And, just for a reminder, here’s a little Abby Martin’s Breaking the Set profile on the would-be media moguls:
Attorney General Eric Holder, responding to Sen. Charles Grassley:
I am concerned that the size of some of these institutions becomes so large that it does become difficult for us to prosecute them when we are hit with indications that if you do prosecute, if you do bring a criminal charge, it will have a negative impact on the national economy, perhaps even the world economy. And I think that is a function of the fact that some of these institutions have become too large.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, putting it all in proper perspective:
You know, if you’re caught with an ounce of cocaine, the chances are good you’re going to go to jail. If it happens repeatedly, you may go to jail for the rest of your life. But evidently, if you launder nearly a billion dollars for drug cartels and violate our international sanctions, your company pays a fine and you go home and sleep in your own bed at night, every single individual associated with this. I think that’s fundamentally wrong.
From UC Berkeley’s Daily Californian:
Berkeley Student Cooperative pushes for cuts to employee benefits
Rising Student-Loan Delinquencies Hurt Young Homebuyers
And to close on a positive note, from Science 2.o:
Pessimists Live Longer And Healthier
From a stunning and very perceptive 1999 report by Robert Fishman for Fannie Mae Housing Facts & Findings on the trends shaping of American cities, past and future.
The number one trend he saw for the first half of the 21st Century is proving right on the money:
The past 30 years have seen increasing concentrations of income and wealth at the top of the income scale, relative stagnation in the middle, and worsening poverty at the bottom. Our respondents expect this trend to continue in the next 50 years, with possible dire consequences for American cities and regions. For growing disparities in income and wealth lead inevitably to an increasingly divided metropolis. If, as our respondents believe, these growing disparities of wealth will become the most important single influence on the American metropolis in the next 50 years, some of the negative consequences are detailed in the rest of the top 10 list: a perpetual “underclass” in central cities and inner-ring suburbs and the deterioration of the “first-ring” post-1945 suburb, as the struggling portions of the middle and working classes find themselves trapped in deteriorating older suburbs. On the wealthier side of the great metropolitan divide, we are likely to see the winners in our “winner-take-all society” isolate themselves in gated communities or other exclusive preserves at the edge of the region.
Other likely trends include a home-building industry increasingly focused on high-end “trophy houses” or “tract mansions;” a similar concentration in retailing on upscale malls; office parks located near the enclaves where the top executives live-locations that often leave the bulk of the employees with long, difficult commutes; and increasing disparities between the quality of the school systems and other services in elite suburbs versus less-favored suburbs and inner cities. We are also likely to see new building focused not just on the outer edge of a region but in certain “quadrants” favored by the affluent: for example, in Washington, DC, the Northwest; in Minneapolis-St. Paul, the Southwest; in Atlanta and Chicago, the North. For the affluent who choose to live in gentrified neighborhoods in central cities, the rule of isolation will also obtain, as the wealthy use the techniques of privatization, ranging from private schools to special tax-and-service districts, to insulate themselves from the urban crisis around them.
Posted in Class, Community, Corpocracy, Culture, Development, Economy, Education, Ethnicity, Finance, Governance, History, Intolerance, Labor, Politics, Poverty, Resources, Schools, Wealth
A report from The Real News Network featuring John Weeks, professor emeritus at the University of London School of Oriental and African Studies, and Jennifer Taub, associate professor of law at Vermont Law School.
A full transcript is posted here.
Posted in Class, Culture, Economy, Finance, Governance, History, Labor, Politics, Poverty, Public service, Video, Wealth
Both at home [from the New York Times]:
Recovery in U.S. Is Lifting Profits, but Not Adding Jobs
And abroad [also from the New York Times]:
Greece, Creditors to Discuss Public Sector Layoffs
Posted in Banksters, Class, Corpocracy, Debt, Deep Politics, Economy, Europe, Finance, Labor, Politics, Resources, Wealth
From vlogger politizane, a stunning visualization of wealth inequality based on research by researchers Michael I. Norton [Harvard] and Dan Ariely [Duke] reported in “Building a Better America—One Wealth Quintile at a Time,” published in Perspectives on Psychological Science [PDF].
For more on wealth inequality, see here.
From Bloomberg Businessweek:
EuroVegas, Baby: Billionaire Sheldon Adelson’s Rescue Plan for Spain
From the New York Times:
In Filing, Casino Operator Admits Likely Violation of an Antibribery Law
From Patrick Bigger and Victor E. Kappeler, writing in anthropologies:
The decline of the traditional campus in favor of online education has the added bonus of post-Fordist dispersion of dangerous populations and elimination of sites of struggle and resistance. It’s also cheaper. Furthermore, the reassignment of educational costs to students and families through rising tuition mirrors the neoliberal tactic of shifting the cost of workforce training from the private sector to the public, as in decades prior. This has the added bonus of propping up the financial industry that holds more than $150 billion in private student loan debt. This debt is different from almost any other form of debt, in that it cannot be discharged in bankruptcy proceedings. It does not require much imagination to speculate as to what private financiers might do with $150 in debt assets, or its potential effects on the broader economy.
Finally, we note that in addition to having hugely negative ramifications for students and society at large, faculty will not emerge unscathed. The shift towards adjuncts and other forms of contingent faculty labor is well documented, as is the move to abolish the tenure system. However, these are only precursors of academic labor restructuring which the ‘training-ization’ of education promises. On offer is a three-tiered labor system consisting of a ruling class of content creators who designate what constitutes appropriate learning content and outcomes and who make course modules that can be licensed to individual institutions. The institutions (or individual academic units) would designate a content coordinator to select the modules best suited to their training programs. Finally, the vast majority of faculty would be relegated to the inauspicious position of “content deliverer,” clarifying the message of the content creator, contextualizing the material in the overall training program, and assigning grades to students who are overpaying for such certificates with extortionist private loans.
The shift toward training through the growth of online education is detrimental for students, educators, and society alike. But if this is the case, then why pursue this disruptive path? As in most things political-economic, this is a question best answered by asking ‘who benefits?’ In this case, the answer is fairly transparent: financiers backing for-profit education, private student-loan originators, and venture capitalists supporting online education software developers. As usual, the economic rationality is cloaked in the normatively positive language of ‘democracy’, ‘access’, and ‘efficiency’. In other words, the shift toward training is an explicit class project engineered to more effectively transfer wealth toward to those who already control a lot of it. Consequently, our response must recognize this transition as such and respond in kind.
Posted in Academia, Banksters, Class, Community, Corpocracy, Culture, Deep Politics, Education, Finance, Global Corporate U., Politics, Wealth
From BEHIND THE BRANDS: Food justice and the “Big 10” food and beverage companies, a new Oxfam report [PDF} on the power and politics of food. For more information, see this Oxfam website. Click on the image to enlarge.
Posted in Africa, Agriculture, Asia, Corpocracy, Deep Politics, Economy, Environment, Latin America, Nature, Resources, Wealth
From The Real News Network, a Paul Jay interview with Sasha Breger Bush, lecturer at the University of Denver’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies. She describes her specialty as “International political economy, development studies, global financial markets, food and farming, and political theory.
A transcript of the discussion is posted here.
Posted in Agriculture, Banksters, Class, Debt, Development, Economy, Finance, Governance, Politics, Poverty, Resources, Video, Wealth
Seizing oil, suppressing those who violently resist, and towing the Israeli line on nukes — that’s not just the American foreign policy line. It’s also the sentiment of most Americans, with that oft-cited “building democracy abroad” bit getting the short shrift.
The latest sad numbers from Gallup:
Posted in Culture, Environment, Geopolitics, GWOT, Human behavior, Mideast, Military, Politics, Resources, Warfare, Wealth
A 1979 documentary directed by Stewart Bird and Deborah Shaffer features a remarkable series of interviews with veterans of the IWW, the Industrial Workers of the World — a remarkable and brutally suppressed effort to create a new form of union.
What’s especially delightful is the youthful, enduring spirit that shines through the aging faces and resonates through their voices as they recall their participation in a movement that had given them a vision of a brighter, more harmonious future:.
And note also that the movement was destroyed in an early 20th Century version of the war on terror in which the activists were portrayed as slaves of an alien ideology deserving of the application of extrajudicial military force and none of the constitutional rights that would apply did crisis not prevail.
The full DVD is available here.
And the IWW’s still here.
Posted in Class, Crime, Culture, Deep Politics, Elders, GWOT, History, Intolerance, Labor, Military, Politics, Secrecy, Spooks, Video, Warfare, Wealth
From the San Francisco Chronicle:
Calif. man killed NJ man for laughing at sandwich
From El País:
Spanish bank sold hybrid financial instrument to octogenarian with Alzheimer’s
UPDATE: From The Local, Swedish edition:
Man jailed after throwing baby at police