By André Campos for Mongabay – Products derived from timber extracted by workers living in conditions analogous to slave labor in Brazil are connected to a complex business network linked to the U.S. market – possibly reaching the shelves of large retailers and being used in renovation of landmarks – according to a new investigation conducted by Brazilian news outlet Repórter Brasil. After purchasing from suppliers held liable for that crime by the Brazilian government, local traders exported timber to companies like USFloors, which supplies the retail chain Lowe’s, as well as Timber Holdings, which supplied timber for construction projects at Central Park and Brooklyn Bridge in New York.
By Staff of Tele Sur – Chile’s Mapuche, who make up roughly 10 percent of its population, are more likely to be killed by police than non-Mapuche people. Dozens of Chile’s Indigenous Mapuche protested police terror in Temuco on Friday, calling on law enforcement to stop violence against their youth. The protest was organized by the parents of Brandon Hernandez, a 17-year-old Mapuche student who was shot by police last December during an anti-government demonstration. Chilean police sergeant Cristian Rivera shot Brandon in the back with a shotgun, leaving the teenager in critical condition.
By David Roberts for Grist. Environmentalists these days love speaking in the language of economics — it makes them sound Serious — but I worry that wrapping this notion in a bloodless technical term tends to have a narcotizing effect. It brings to mind incrementalism: boost a few taxes here, tighten a regulation there, and the industrial juggernaut can keep right on chugging. However, if we take the idea seriously, not just as an accounting phenomenon but as a deep description of current human practices, its implications are positively revolutionary. To see what I mean, check out a recent report [PDF] done by environmental consultancy Trucost on behalf of The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB) program sponsored by United Nations Environmental Program. TEEB asked Trucost to tally up the total “unpriced natural capital” consumed by the world’s top industrial sectors.
By Chris Hedges for Truth Dig – The ruling corporate elites no longer seek to build. They seek to destroy. They are agents of death. They crave the unimpeded power to cannibalize the country and pollute and degrade the ecosystem to feed an insatiable lust for wealth, power and hedonism. Wars and military “virtues” are celebrated. Intelligence, empathy and the common good are banished. Culture is degraded to patriotic kitsch. Education is designed only to instill technical proficiency to serve the poisonous engine of corporate capitalism. Historical amnesia shuts us off from the past, the present and the future. Those branded as unproductive or redundant are discarded and left to struggle in poverty or locked away in cages.
By David Bollier. What is “value” and how shall we protect it? It’s a simple question for which we don’t have a satisfactory answer. For conventional economists and politicians, the answer is simple: value is essentially the same as price. Value results when private property and “free markets” condense countless individual preferences and purchases into a single, neutral representation of value: price. That is seen as the equivalent of “wealth.” This theory of value has always been flawed, both theoretically and empirically, because it obviously ignores many types of “value” that cannot be given a price. No matter, it “works,” and so this theory of value generally prevails in political and policy debates. Economic growth (measured as Gross Domestic Product) and value are seen as the same.
By Paul Mason for The Guardian – The red flags and marching songs of Syriza during the Greek crisis, plus the expectation that the banks would be nationalised, revived briefly a 20th-century dream: the forced destruction of the market from above. For much of the 20th century this was how the left conceived the first stage of an economy beyond capitalism. The force would be applied by the working class, either at the ballot box or on the barricades. The lever would be the state. The opportunity would come through frequent episodes of economic collapse. Instead over the past 25 years it has been the left’s project that has collapsed. The market destroyed the plan; individualism replaced collectivism and solidarity; the hugely expanded workforce of the world looks like a “proletariat”, but no longer thinks or behaves as it once did. If you lived through all this, and disliked capitalism, it was traumatic.
By Gary Engler for Counter Punch – Capitalism is a system in which the principle of one dollar, one vote, dominates that of one person, one vote. Those who own the most shares (bought with their dollars) control giant corporations, many of which are more powerful than all but a few governments. Rich people also use their money to dominate the elections that are supposed to give us all one, equal vote. Under capitalism those with the most money are entitled to the most goods and services as well as the most say in directing our governments and our economy. Capitalism proclaims the virtue of naked self-interest, but self-interest without regard for morality, ecology or common sense leads to environmental degradation, destruction of indigenous communities, colonialism, war and other forms of mass destruction. Self-interest leads capitalists to seek profit absolutely everywhere, regardless of the damage done to other people and the health of the planet’s ecosystem. Self-interest leads capitalists to destroy any rival economic system or way of thinking (such as indigenous communal land use and respect for nature)…
By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese for Moving Beyond Capitalism. We’ve reached a tipping point in awareness of the effects of the current global economy that has erupted in a worldwide revolt as we can see in the Occupy, Arab Spring, Idle No More and Indignado movements. People are searching for alternative ways of structuring the economy and society that are empowering and more just and sustainable. Part of this work includes understanding and building the “commons,” which is the opposite of the predatory market economy. As we will describe below, concentrated wealth is derived by taking from the commons for personal gain in an undemocratic way. We can reverse the current trend toward privatization and wealth inequality by claiming the commons and using it for mutual prosperity. The commons cannot exist without a participatory governance structure. Therefore, building the commons is a fundamental step toward real democracy.
By Staff of Popular Resistance – There’s a reason we ended up with ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State and we ALMOST ended up with a Labor Secretary in Andy Puzder who prefers robots to humans. The answer is simple: We, the taxpayer, have always subsidized the costs of corporations to slowly kill us while making the pockets of corporate CEOs fatter. A closer look at fast food production in this country shows exactly that. Animal agriculture industries, such as factory farming, that contribute to us eating those artery clogging cheeseburgers come at the added expense of increased water and air pollution. We are paying the price for this environmental destruction literally and figuratively.
By Charles Hugh Smith for Information Clearing House – February 15, 2017 “Information Clearing House” – Our extraordinary misallocation of national treasure and political power has set a banquet of consequences that few are willing to face, much less address head-on. If we had to sum up this vast misallocation, we might start by characterizing it as the result of a multitude of elites playing Empire with money borrowed from future generations. We can start the list of extraordinary misallocations of national treasure with the Neocon’s endless wars of choice. Ten years ago, estimates of the total cost of the Iraq misadventure were $3 trillion: Cost of Iraq War: $3 Trillion; Cost of Solar Plants to Power all 105 million U.S Households: $500 Billion (April 10, 2008) (Yes, I know solar energy is not “the solution” due to intermittency, lack of storage, fossil fuels are needed to build and maintain the solar infrastructure, etc.–but the point is: would we be better off if we’d invested 20% of the money squandered on the Iraq misadventure on alternative energy, even with all its limitations?)
By Lee Camp for Redacted Tonight. During a CNN Town Hall, Democratic House Rep Nancy Pelosi was caught off guard when a young man told her that more than half of Millennials aren’t exactly fans of capitalism. He had the stats to back it up: A Spring 2016 Harvard Institute of Politics poll of 3,000 Millennials found that 51 percent of them held this view. It’s no surprise this many Millennials shun capitalism given their massive student loan debts and difficulty in finding high paying jobs and affordable housing, among other struggles. But when he asked her if Dems could go farther left of right-wing views on capitalism, Pelosi’s reply only proves that her party needs to acknowledge how capitalism is destroying the world and its future if they want any hope of appealing to what could become one of the largest voting blocs in America. Lee Camp digs into Pelosi’s faux pas and more on the latest episode of Redacted Tonight.
By Pete Dolack for Left Voice – Now that the new Trump administration has officially pulled the United States out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and has announced an intention to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, it might appear as if the global neoliberal order has suffered a pair of blows. We nonetheless can be forgiven for harboring strong doubts that much, if anything, in the realm of global trade will change. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has faced strong popular opposition for years, thanks to the work of activists on both sides of the Pacific, North and South, who labored to drag this secret corporate power grab into the light of day.
By John Broich for The Conversation – A week after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, George Orwell’s “1984” is the best-selling book on Amazon.com. The hearts of a thousand English teachers must be warmed as people flock to a novel published in 1949 for ways to think about their present moment. Orwell set his story in Oceania, one of three blocs or mega-states fighting over the globe in 1984. There has been a nuclear exchange, and the blocs seem to have agreed to perpetual conventional war, probably because constant warfare serves their shared interests in domestic control.
By Naomi Klein for The Intercept – WE ALREADY KNOW that the Trump administration plans to deregulate markets, wage all-out war on “radical Islamic terrorism,” trash climate science and unleash a fossil-fuel frenzy. It’s a vision that can be counted on to generate a tsunami of crises and shocks: economic shocks, as market bubbles burst; security shocks, as blowback from foreign belligerence comes home; weather shocks, as our climate is further destabilized; and industrial shocks, as oil pipelines spill and rigs collapse, which they tend to do, especially when enjoying light-touch regulation. All this is dangerous enough. What’s even worse is the way the Trump administration can be counted on to exploit these shocks politically and economically.