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Consumerism and Its Discontents

Consumerism and Its Discontents

Monday, 27 May 2013 10:56
By Charles Derber, Truthout | Op-Ed

A quiet revolutionary struggle is brewing in the minds of the US "millennial" generation, those 80 million Americans between ages 16 and 34. They are wrestling with the fundamental edict of capitalism: Buy and you shall be happy. The millennials have not rejected consumerism, but they have also not embraced it fully. They experience its very real downsides - that also afflict millions of older Americans and go to the heart of capitalist sustainability and morality.

Recent polls by marketing firms and the respected Pew Research Center show strong environmental concerns among millennials, but hint at a broader issue: whether consumerism itself makes for a good life and society. Americans, especially the young, love their computers and sleep with their iPhones next to their pillows, but still worry about the negative sides of consumerism.

Technology itself may be contributing to what commentators have called the "death of ownership" culture, since the issue is not owning a book or television set, but having access through the web. Technology is changing the very idea of ownership. But broader factors - including the very availability of so much "stuff" - are contributing to making consumerism less new, exciting and "cool." ...................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/16582-consumerism-and-its-discontents

Robert Scheer: Congress Still Puts Out for Wall Street

from truthdig:

Congress Still Puts Out for Wall Street

Posted on May 27, 2013
By Robert Scheer

What does it take to make a Wall Street banker squirm with shame? Not content with having swindled tens of millions of Americans out of their homes and life savings, the very bankers who caused the biggest economic catastrophe since the Great Depression are now subverting government regulations designed to prevent comparable disasters in the future.

Top of the list of those responsible are the hustlers at Citigroup, once the world’s largest financial conglomerate, and a leading practitioner of the sordid behavior that caused the housing meltdown. Indeed, Citigroup was allowed to form as a merger of the investment banking of Travelers and the federal insured commercial banking of Citicorp only because lobbyists for those institutions successfully engineered the reversal of the Depression-era Glass-Steagall law that had banned such combinations.

Then when the new monster banks moved to exploit the subprime housing market with all sorts of financial gimmicks, their lobbyists succeeded in freeing all such trading in so called derivatives from any significant regulation.

The banks were so successful in marketing those often toxic assets that the federal government had to step in when the bubble burst and save Citigroup from bankruptcy, with a direct infusion of $45 billion in taxpayer funds and a guarantee of more than $300 billion of Citigroup’s bad paper. .................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/congress_still_puts_out_for_wall_street_20130527/

Robert Reich: Beware Capitalist Tools

Beware Capitalist Tools
Monday, May 27, 2013

Forbes Magazine likes to call itself a “capitalist tool,” and routinely offers tool-like justifications for whatever it is that profit-seeking corporations want to do. Recently it has deployed its small army of corporate defenders and apologists in the multi-billion dollar fight to keep the effective tax rates of global corporations low.

One of its contributors, Tim Worstall, recently took me to task for suggesting that a way for citizens to gain some countervailing power over large global corporations is for governments to threaten denial of market access unless corporations act responsibly.

He argues that the benefits to consumers of global corporations are so large that denial of market access would hurt citizens more than it would help them. The “value to U.S. consumers of Apple is they can buy Apple products,” Worstall writes. “Why would you want to punish U.S. consumers, by banning them from buying Apple products, just because Apple obeys the current tax laws?”

Wortstall thereby begs the central question. If global corporations obeyed all national laws — the spirit of the laws as well as the letter of them – and didn’t use their inordinate power to dictate the laws in the first place by otherwise threatening to take their jobs and investments elsewhere, there’d be no issue. ....................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://robertreich.org/post/51486709867

David Simon, creator of The Wire, says new US drug laws help only 'white, middle-class kids'

David Simon, creator of The Wire, says new US drug laws help only 'white, middle-class kids'
The award-winning creator of The Wire, David Simon, has emerged as a critic of the 'racial bias' in the US debate on the war on drugs

Ed Vulliamy and Saptarshi Ray
The Observer, Saturday 25 May 2013 09.00 EDT

David Simon surged into the American mainstream with a bleak vision of the devastation wrought by drugs on his home town of Baltimore – The Wire, hailed by many as the greatest television drama of all time. But what keeps him there is his apocalyptic and unrelenting heresy over the failed "war on drugs", the multibillion-dollar worldwide crusade launched by President Richard Nixon in 1971.

When Simon brought that heresy to London last week – to take part in a debate hosted by the Observer – he was inevitably asked about what reformers celebrate as recent "successes" – votes in Colorado and Washington to legalise marijuana.

"I'm against it," Simon told his stunned audience at the Royal Institution on Thursday night. "The last thing I want to do is rationalise the easiest, the most benign end of this. The whole concept needs to be changed, the debate reframed.

"I want the thing to fall as one complete edifice. If they manage to let a few white middle-class people off the hook, that's very dangerous. If they can find a way for white kids in middle-class suburbia to get high without them going to jail," he continued, "and getting them to think that what they do is a million miles away from black kids taking crack, that is what politicians would do." ......................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/may/25/the-wire-creator-us-drug-laws

U.S. Groundwater Consumption Accelerating

(ENS) – Aquifers across the United States are being drawn down at an increasing pace, finds a new study released today by the U.S. Geological Survey.

The report, “Groundwater Depletion in the United States (1900-2008),” evaluates long-term cumulative depletion volumes in 40 separate aquifers in the United States, bringing together information from previous studies and from new analyses of these distinct underground water storage areas.

Since 1950, the use of U.S. groundwater resources for agricultural, industrial, and municipal purposes has expanded. When groundwater is withdrawn from subsurface storage faster than it is recharged by precipitation or other water sources, the result is groundwater depletion.“Although groundwater depletion is rarely assessed and poorly documented, it is becoming recognized as an increasingly serious global problem that threatens sustainability of water supplies,” writes report author USGS hydrologist Leonard Konikow. ............................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.alternet.org/water/us-groundwater-consumption-accelerating

Memorial Day mess: 3 feet of snow falls in upstate New York

WILMINGTON, N.Y. — A Memorial Day weekend storm has dropped three feet of snow on a New York ski mountain near the Vermont border.

Whiteface Mountain spokesman Jon Lundin says 36 inches of white powder has blanketed the nearly 5,000-foot tall mountain in the Adirondacks. That has forced the Olympic Regional Development Authority to close Whiteface Veteran's Memorial Highway on the backside of the mountain.

Lundin says the snow began lightly falling Saturday and steadily dropped Sunday, finishing in the evening. He didn't know if the 3-foot snowfall was a record for Whiteface.

Burlington, Vt., National Weather Service meteorologist Mike Muccilli says the mountain experienced steady snow and gusty winds throughout the weekend. ....................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.freep.com/article/20130527/NEWS07/305270055/snow-new-york-memorial-day

Launch of New York bikeshare program is marred by wage-theft allegations

(In These Times) Today, New York City launches the largest bicycle sharing program in the country, CitiBike. It will be run by the company, Alta Bicycle Share, Inc., that is responsible for Washington, D.C.'s flagship program, Capital Bikeshare. Based on a European model used in Paris and London, the program is touted as a greener, healthier form of public transportation.

But Capital's workers have a few problems with that image.

Samuel Swenson says he was excited when he was hired at Capital Bikeshare in the summer of 2011. He and his new colleagues were enthusiastic about bicycles and alternative transportation, he told In These Times. “We helped sell the program as much as we helped make it work.”

Things quickly started to go wrong. According to Swenson, he was hired with the expectation that he would become a full-time bicycle mechanic and that he would receive health benefits, but the benefits didn't materialize. The warehouse where he and the handful of other mechanics worked was housed next to a concrete mill in a Superfund site. The hard work and the silica dust from the concrete made him concerned about when his healthcare would kick in. When he never got a satisfactory answer from the company, he began researching Alta's contract with the city. ..................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://inthesetimes.com/article/15051/alta_bicycle_share_faces_wage_theft_claims/

Rick Perry Vetoes GOP-Backed Disclosure Bill

Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) vetoed a Republican bill Saturday that would have required nonprofits that engage in politics to disclose their donors.

The measure, SB 346, would have required 501(c)4 social welfare groups that spend more than $25,000 in a calendar year on political expenditures to disclose contributions above $1,000.

"My fear is that SB 346 would have a chilling effect on both of those rights in our democratic political process," Perry said in his veto message. "While regulation is necessary in the administration of Texas political finance laws, no regulation is tolerable that puts anyone's participation at risk or that can be used by any government, organization or individual to intimidate those who choose to participate in our process through financial means."

He then alluded to the current controversy over the IRS' targeting of tea party groups. "At a time when our federal government is assaulting the rights of Americans by using the tools of government to squelch dissent, it is unconscionable to expose more Texans to the risk of such harassment, regardless of political, organizational or party affiliation," he said. ...............(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/27/rick-perry-disclosure-bill_n_3342167.html?ncid=edlinkusaolp00000009

Rise of the Proto-Fascists

Published on May 26, 2013

Short remix of 'Obey' documentary with excerpts from book - Death of the Liberal Class - written by Pulitzer Prize-winner Chris Hedges.

Interesting to see how many of these predictions have become true and this in itself hints that these fascists groups have been manipulated by concentrated economic power to fight manufactured enemy. Both fascists and their enemy are ultimately victims of the political and economic elite - the Corporate Class.

"Until industrial feudalism is replaced by industrial democracy, politics will be the shadow cast on society by big business" - John Dewey

Get Apocalyptic: Why Radical is the New Normal

from YES! Magazine:

Get Apocalyptic: Why Radical is the New Normal
Feeling anxious about life in a broken economy on a strained planet? Turn despair into action.

by Robert Jensen
posted May 24, 2013

Feeling anxious about life in a broken-down society on a stressed-out planet? That’s hardly surprising: Life as we know it is almost over. While the dominant culture encourages dysfunctional denial—pop a pill, go shopping, find your bliss—there’s a more sensible approach: Accept the anxiety, embrace the deeper anguish—and then get apocalyptic.

We are staring down multiple cascading ecological crises, struggling with political and economic institutions that are unable even to acknowledge, let alone cope with, the threats to the human family and the larger living world. We are intensifying an assault on the ecosystems in which we live, undermining the ability of that living world to sustain a large-scale human presence into the future. When all the world darkens, looking on the bright side is not a virtue but a sign of irrationality.


But toughest to dislodge may be the central illusion of the industrial world’s extractive economy: that we can maintain indefinitely a large-scale human presence on the earth at something like current First-World levels of consumption. The task for those with critical sensibilities is not just to resist oppressive social norms and illegitimate authority, but to speak a simple truth that almost no one wants to acknowledge: The high-energy/high-technology life of affluent societies is a dead end. We can’t predict with precision how resource competition and ecological degradation will play out in the coming decades, but it is ecocidal to treat the planet as nothing more than a mine from which we extract and a landfill into which we dump.

We cannot know for sure what time the party will end, but the party’s over.

Does that seem histrionic? Excessively alarmist? Look at any crucial measure of the health of the ecosphere in which we live—groundwater depletion, topsoil loss, chemical contamination, increased toxicity in our own bodies, the number and size of “dead zones” in the oceans, accelerating extinction of species, and reduction of biodiversity—and ask a simple question: Where are we heading? .................(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/love-and-the-apocalypse/radical-is-the-new-normal

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