Jun 27 2016

The Tragedy of Nothing

There’s nothing viscerally tragic about living a middle class life in first world countries.

The tragedy is a slow unwinding of lost potential happiness where we are subjugated to menial jobs serving employers whom we can never escape – entrapped and coerced into an unwanted life. The American dream has always been a dream for the nothing, but the nothing is getting worse, and has been refashioned into a dream of finally not worrying about food, housing, and retirement security which is dangled cruelly in front of us in an unending cavalcade of predatory advertising.

Powerball lottos and other get rich gambling scams are the only dreams left, as evidenced by ever greater jackpots funded by the desperate and the nearly hopeless. Unfortunately, the horror of being struck by lightning, mangled during the daily commute, or shot by a terrorist outstrips the odds of winning the lottery. Never telling someone the odds may be a good working philosophy for a swashbuckling space smuggler, but for the American populace perhaps they should know their odds of seeing their life improve within the status quo engine are rapidly declining.  Such realities are conveniently shuffled aside, careful not to sever the last flimsy hope of reaching escape velocity out of the system.

Not to worry though – sophisticated technology, ample food, and relatively safe environments help assuage the tragedy of a life lost in mundanity. The death of Ivan Ilyich is the status quo premature death of spirit for all those subsisting in waiting lines of modern society. The unexamined lives are in fact tragic. For your consideration, observe the rotting souls still taking breath in small rusted out midwestern US towns drowning out their pain with opioids, another beer, and talking about next season on the idiot box while scheming ideas of suicide on the side. Do I leave a note or is that cliche?

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We plod along living out our predestined corporate managed lives in a haze of where did it all go time. We are the herds. We are the 99%. We are the spineless gutless masses who can’t break free enough of ownership neoliberal capitalist doctrine to permit ourselves to feel the full disgust and outrage we have for it all. So we blame ourselves for not meeting their criteria for success and pretend the collateral damage for our lives of nothing is justified and unavoidable, pretend this is a life worth defending and killing foreign brown strangers over. After all, you’re not a slave and doing something against your will if you’re “so excited for this amazing opportunity and glad to be on board!”

But it’s not our fault, is it? We are fed heaps of propaganda from cradle to grave, and from government and business alike while reinforcing nationalistic attitudes and workplace subservience via the already indoctrinated authority figures, e.g. our teachers, management, parents, and religious leaders. We are told we are whiny for wanting more out of life than a working fridge, indoor plumbing, and a gaming console. We are told to practice gratitude for a life of nothing, it could always be a pants shitting horrorshow, so be grateful for your nothing. We are lauded for our ability to be the vigilant workhorse on the animal farm, and counter, told to feel shame if we are anything less than a go getter, a self starter, a multitasking whirling dervish captain of industry as if that was our obligation to this society that was put upon us, and an assumed preferable existence to living our own chosen lives.

via http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/06/27/the-tragedy-of-nothing/

Jun 26 2016

IMF Warns that US Needs to ‘Urgently’ Tackle Poverty

Invest in the nation’s infrastructure, raise the minimum wage, expand the Earned Income Tax Credit, improve paid family leave, and raise the ceiling for social security contributions.

These suggestions, long-advocated for by progressive organizations, are now being encouraged by none other than the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which warned Wednesday of an “urgent need to tackle poverty” in the United States.

While praising the “overall good shape” of the nation’s economy, the IMF said in its assessment that “the U.S. faces potentially significant longer-term challenges to strong and sustained growth. Concerted policy actions are warranted, sooner rather than later.”

The nation’s economic well-being, it said, is threatened by factors including the shrinking middle class—now at “its smallest size in the last 30 years”—as well as “income and wealth distribution [that] are increasingly polarized” and rising poverty. “One in seven Americans is living in poverty,” including 40 percent of whom are working, the body added.

via http://www.commondreams.org/news/2016/06/22/imf-warns-us-needs-urgently-tackle-poverty

Jun 25 2016

Brexit is Only the Latest Proof of the Insularity and Failure of Western Establishment Institutions

In 2003, U.S. and British elites joined together to advocate one of the most heinous and immoral aggressive wars in decades: the destruction of Iraq; that it turned out to be centrally based on falsehoods that were ratified by the most trusted institutions, as well as a complete policy failure even on its own terms, gutted public trust.

In 2008, their economic worldview and unrestrained corruption precipitated a global economic crisis that literally caused, and is still causing, billions of people to suffer – in response, they quickly protected the plutocrats who caused the crisis while leaving the victimized masses to cope with the generational fallout. Even now, western elites continue to proselytize markets and impose free trade and globalization without the slightest concern for the vast inequality and destruction of economic security those policies generate.

In 2011, NATO bombed Libya by pretending it was motivated by humanitarianism, only to ignore that country once the fun military triumph was celebrated, thus leaving a vacuum of anarchy and milita rule for years that spread instability through the region and fueled the refugee crisis. The U.S. and its European allies continue to invade, occupy and bomb predominantly Muslim countries while propping up their most brutal tyrants, then feign befuddlement about why anyone would want to attack them back, justifying erosions of basic liberties and more bombing campaigns and ratcheting up fear levels each time someone does. The rise of ISIS and the foothold it seized in Iraq and Libya were the direct by-products of the west’s military actions (as even Tony Blair admitted regarding Iraq). Western societies continue to divert massive resources into military weaponry and prisons for their citizens, enriching the most powerful factions in the process, all while imposing harsh austerity on already suffering masses. In sum, western elites thrive while everyone else loses hope.

These are not random, isolated mistakes. They are the by-product of fundamental cultural pathologies within western elite circles – a deep rot. Why should institutions that have repeatedly authored such travesties, and spread such misery, continue to command respect and credibility? They shouldn’t, and they’re not. As Chris Hayes warned in his 2012 book Twilight of the Elites, “given both the scope and depth of this distrust [in elite institutions], it’s clear that we’re in the midst of something far grander and more perilous than just a crisis of government or a crisis of capitalism. We are in the midst of a broad and devastating crisis of authority.”

It’s natural – and inevitable – that malignant figures will try to exploit this vacuum of authority. All sorts of demagogues and extremists will try to re-direct mass anger for their own ends. Revolts against corrupt elite institutions can usher in reform and progress, but they can also create a space for the ugliest tribal impulses: xenophobia, authoritarianism, racism, fascism. One sees all of that, both good and bad, manifesting in the anti-establishment movements throughout the U.S., Europe, and the UK: including Brexit. All of this can be invigorating, or promising, or destabilizing, or dangerous: most likely a combination of all that.

The solution is not to subserviently cling to corrupt elite institutions out of fear of the alternatives. It is, instead, to help bury those institutions and their elite mavens and then fight for superior replacements. As Hayes put it in his book, the challenge is “directing the frustration, anger, and alienation we all feel into building a trans-ideological coalition that can actually dislodge the power of the post-meritocratic elite. One that marshals insurrectionist sentiment without succumbing to nihilism and manic, paranoid distrust.”

Corrupt elites always try to persuade people to continue to submit to their dominance in exchange for protection from forces that are even worse. That’s their game. But at some point, they themselves, and their prevailing order, become so destructive, so deceitful, so toxic, that their victims are willing to gamble that the alternatives will not be worse, or at least, they decide to embrace the satisfaction of spitting in the faces of those who have displayed nothing but contempt and condescension for them.

via Brexit is Only the Latest Proof of the Insularity and Failure of Western Establishment Institutions.

Jun 25 2016

Globalization’s New Ideological Conquest of Education

The dialectics of the global and local show that school, rather than being a space for emancipation, is a space for control and social reproduction.

Traditional schooling usually reproduces, for instance, classist and patriarchal relationships. This is result of the authoritarianism of administrators and political projects, but also of the authoritarianism of knowledge production, distribution, exchange and consumption.

via http://www.telesurtv.net/english/opinion/Globalizations-New-Ideological-Conquest-of-Education-20160622-0032.html

Jun 24 2016

¡Basta Ya, Brussels! British Voters Reject EU Corporate Slavestate

British voters delivered a savage deathblow to the EU corporate superstate on Thursday sending global markets tumbling and forcing Prime Minister David Cameron to announce his resignation. The narrow victory, which caught the prognosticators by surprise, is the strongest sign yet that working people across the continent are awakening to economic and political disaster that has been created in the name of European integration. Not only has the EU failed to live up to its promise of lifting all boats and widening prosperity, it has also transformed the region into a low-growth, high unemployment charnel house where bankers and their corporate allies siphon off the wealth of the weaker states to enrich high-flying speculators and voracious bondholders. And while the referendum’s outcome will surely be challenged in the months to come,  it represents a critical turning point in the public’s attitude towards a thoroughly reactionary and odious institution that is solely responsible for the abysmal state of the economy, the progressive erosion of living standards, and steady rise of right wing extremism. Here’s a short clip from Raul Ilargi Meijer explaining what Brexit really means:

“Nobody seems to understand it’s not about Cameron or Nigel Farage, or Michael Gove vs Boris Johnson, it’s about voting for or against the EU, for or against Juncker and Tusk and five other unelected presidents having a say in one’s life.

And that’s not all either. It’s about voting to leave, or remain in, a Union that is already dead and preserved only in a zombie state. Brexit is just one vote and many more will inevitably follow. Brexit is not the first, Grexit had that ‘honor’ last year. Later this month, elections in Italy and Spain have the potential to turn into preliminary Italix and Spexit votes. And then there will be more.

The reason why these things are taking place, and will be, going forward, is that the economies of all these countries are fast deteriorating. The sole reason why people have accepted the rule of Brussels coming from far away over their daily lives, is the promise that it would make those lives better and more comfortable. That promise has been shattered. The EU has made things worse for most Europeans, not improved them. And when seen in that light, why should people agree to continue to be told what to do by those who’ve made them poorer? There’s no democratic model in which that remotely makes sense. There are only undemocratic models left….

An economy in decline means the end of centralization and the end of existing political power structures. This is inevitable.” (“Murder, Lifeboats, an Iceberg and an Orchestra“, Automatic Earth)

The Brexit referendum represents a fundamental rejection of austerity for working people and subsidies (QE) for the markets. It is an indictment of the destructive policies that have thrust a broad swathe of southern Europe into a permanent depression while bankers in Paris and Berlin make out like bandits.  Even now the loathsome European Central Bank continues to run up massive debts (ECB-QE is $80 billion per month) just to line the pockets of corporate CEOs who offload their toxic bonds with the clear intention of using the money to buyback their own shares further enriching themselves and their swinish shareholders at the expense of ordinary investors. This Ponzi-rip off is what passes as economic policy in the EU. Brexit threatens put an end to this huckster’s swindle.

Hat’s off to the British voters who had the guts to reject the EU corporate slavestate and cast their ballot for freedom. You’re an inspiration to us all.

via http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/06/24/basta-ya-brussels-british-voters-reject-eu-corporate-slavestate/

Jun 23 2016

Rich Getting Richer at the Expense of the Poor, Oxfam Warns

Since 2009 more than 4.5 million new millionaires have been created, rising to a total of 15.4 million across the world last year, according to a new report released by Oxfam on Thursday. The significant increase in millionaires takes place while more than 702 million people live in extreme poverty, which experts argue is due to a “broken economic system.”

For every person with more than $30 million, there are over 4800 people living in extreme poverty. This gross inequality is a symptom of an unjust and unfair economic system that allows the rich to get richer at the expense of the poor,” Jenny Ricks of the Fight Inequality Alliance said in press release Thursday.

The recent findings come from an annual study carried out by the wealth management group Capgemini, which acknowledged that it had underestimated a growing trend of “pubic outcry against rising inequality and offshore wealth secrecy.”

In response to the growing levels of inequality, representatives from the Fight Inequality Alliance called on governments to take immediate measures to reverse cuts to public spending, privatization, tax breaks for the wealthy and other austerity measures.

“The global inequality crisis is undermining the struggle for a fairer and more sustainable world, trampling on the rights of women, workers, and the poorest families,” Ricks said in an Oxfam press release.

via http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Rich-Getting-Richer-at-the-Expense-of-the-Poor-Oxfam-Warns-20160623-0007.html

Jun 23 2016

Bad News for Hillary: Huge Percentage of Bernie Supporters Won’t Vote for Her

It is no surprise. Hillary Clinton is disgusting. A vote for her is not fundamentally different than a vote for Trump. They are both scum.

http://theantimedia.org/bad-news-for-hillary-huge-percentage-of-bernie-supporters-wont-vote-for-her/

 

Jun 22 2016

The number of mentally ill seeking help to die is rising.

SINCE 2002, when the Netherlands legalised assisted dying, its laws have been held up elsewhere as a model. But recent figures from the Dutch Euthanasia Review Committee have given some campaigners pause. It is not the total number of deaths under the law’s provisions that bother them—though it has increased by 76% since 2010, with more than 5,500 reported cases of euthanasia and assisted suicide in the country last year. Rather, it is 56 individual cases: those who sought, and received, doctor-assisted deaths because of psychiatric disorders. According to Paul Appelbaum of Columbia University’s department of psychiatry, the increase “raises concerns about eliminating people from the population as an alternative to providing them with the medical care and social support they need.”

In a paper published in February Dr Appelbaum analysed regional data published by the Dutch authorities from 2011 to 2014. It seems that one in five patients cited as having a psychiatric disorder and availing of a doctor’s help to die had never been hospitalised for that mental disorder. He fears “mission creep”: that legislation intended to allow the sickest patients to truncate their final suffering is being used as a permanent end to a problem that can wax and wane, and that the system is not doing enough to ensure that death is the settled will of a sound mind. And the same paper reveals that women with psychiatric disorders seem around twice as likely as men with the same disorders to approach doctors for assistance in dying—an unexplained difference that also worries some.

via http://www.economist.com/news/international/21700506-between-life-and-death-number-mentally-ill-seeking-help-die-rising-are?fsrc=rss|int

Jun 22 2016

The Growing Case for Massive Taxes on the Rich

http://www.commondreams.org/views/2016/06/20/growing-case-massive-taxes-rich

Jun 22 2016

Stressful City Life Causes Some Birds To Age Faster

The researchers studied a group of closely related great tits. Half of them grew up in the city of Malmö, Sweden, while the other half grew up in the country. After just two weeks, the difference in telomere lengths between between the two groups was already pronounced. Normally, genetics determines telomere length, but this study shows—for the first time ever—that growing up in a stressful environment can have an even greater impact.

“The impact that urbanization has on wildlife must be studied much more, or we won’t be able to understand the threats that birds are exposed to in urban environments, and won’t be able to do anything about them,” said Salmón. “Our results also raise questions concerning the aging of other animals affected by urbanisation, and humans for that matter.”

This study highlights the need for further research to assess the impacts of urban stress on other populations. It would be interesting to know if telomere lengths in humans are constrained by similar factors, for example.

However, bear in mind that only one species of bird was studied. Other birds, such as pigeons, robins, and blackbirds, seem to do well in city environments, as do animals like raccoons. The issue, it would seem, pertains to animals who are suffering from habitat loss, and who don’t fare well in cities.

via http://gizmodo.com/stressful-city-life-causes-some-birds-to-age-faster-1782358342

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