As we toured Europe and North America with the film, every Q&A ended up with the question, "that's all very well in Argentina, but could that ever happen here?"
Well, with the world economy now looking remarkably like Argentina's in 2001 (and for many of the same reasons) there is a new wave of direct action among workers in rich countries. Co-ops are once again emerging as a practical alternative to more lay-offs. Workers in the U.S. and Europe are beginning to ask the same questions as their Latin American counterparts: Why do we have to get fired? Why can't we fire the boss? Why is the bank allowed to drive our company under while getting billions of dollars of our money?
Tomorrow night (May 15) at Cooper Union in New York City, we're taking part in a panel that looks at this phenomenon, called Fire the Boss: The Worker Control Solution from Buenos Aires to Chicago.
We'll be joined by people from the movement in Argentina as well as workers from the famous Republic Windows and Doors struggle in Chicago.
It's a great way to hear directly from those who are trying to rebuild the economy from the ground up, and who need meaningful support from the public, as well as policy makers at all levels of government. For those who can't make it out to Cooper Union, here's a quick round up of recent developments in the world of worker control. Add a comment
With all the out of business signs popping up everywhere you look lately, who would have thought that the Office of Faith-based Initiatives is not only thriving, but has relocated to Health and Human Services.
Lost in the shuffle of manufactured controversy over the Sotomayor confirmation is another important nomination. Alexia Kelley, co-founder of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, and considered by some to be a "dissident Catholic," is President Obama's pick to head the "faith office" at HHS, which raises the question--why do we need a "faith office" at HHS in the first place?
There are some who suggest quid pro quo -- Ms. Kelley, a loyal Obama supporter, has been repaid in kind with this nomination, but is this not more a case of quo than quid — status quo, that is.
Clearly, the president is trying to appease the religious right and, at the same time, reify his pro-choice agenda, with this nomination. But, what happens to a ship, or airplane, when all of the weight is moved to the center — it sinks faster.
It would appear that Obama's gift of a stimulus package to faith-based groups, like the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, is baggage left over from the Bush years. Yet, once again, we must stand by and watch science, and medical mandates, placed in the hands of those whose primary identity is inseparable from their religious affiliation.
In fairness, Ms. Kelley has said her goal is not to eliminate abortion, per se, nor would she work with those who wish to overturn Roe v. Wade. That said, the group she co-founded solidly opposed choice, and her advocacy of what she calls "abortion reduction" makes one shudder at the thought of a possible quota of allowed procedures for federally funded clinics. After all, the former faith based group, along with their chieftain, George W. Bush, denied tax dollars to any federally funded clinic that did not promote abstinence-only.
Ms. Kelley is also said to oppose contraception, and may indeed be among those trying to convince themselves, and the rest of us, that life begins not only at conception, but at the moment of penetration. Add a comment
Buckle your seatbelt, you may be going nowhere — and it could be a very bumpy ride. Oil futures have just passed $71 for a barrel of "light, sweet crude oil" (sweet for energy stocks, anyway) on its way to... well, we don't know exactly where, but it won't feel good, not at the pump and not in the economy either. In the Midwest and scattered other locations, gas prices are already at the edge of $3.00 a gallon and the height of summer isn't even upon us.
Much of this sudden rise has been fueled by OPEC production cuts, investor dreams of a global economic recovery (and so a heightened desire for energy), and the enthusiasm of market speculators. Explain it as you will, the price of crude, which hit a low of about $32 a barrel in December, as the planet seemed to meltdown economically, has doubled in recent months.
Oil is like the undead. Just when you think it's gone down for the count, it rises from the grave ravenous. As Clifford Krauss of the New York Times reported recently, gas prices have risen 41 days in a row, and yet the price at the pump is still "lagging behind the increase in the price of oil." According to Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst at the Oil Price Information Service, consumers are now shelling out one billion dollars a day to keep their tanks full. (It was $1.5 billion last summer when the price of a barrel of oil hit an astronomical $147.)
Whether this is the energy version of irrational exuberance and a mini-bubble to be burst as further economic bad times hit or the reality of our near future, sooner or later, far worse is in store on the energy front, as Michael Klare, author of Rising Powers, Shrinking World: The New Geopolitics of Energy, makes clear. But don't listen to him. Instead, check out his latest energy scoop — the real news he found buried in the most recent report from the U.S. Department of Energy, whose seers have put irrational exuberance in mothballs and brought out the sackcloth and ashes. Tom
It's Official — The Era of Cheap Oil Is Over - Energy Department Changes Tune on Peak Oil
by Michael T. Klare
Every summer, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) of the U.S. Department of Energy issues its International Energy Outlook (IEO) — a jam-packed compendium of data and analysis on the evolving world energy equation. For those with the background to interpret its key statistical findings, the release of the IEO can provide a unique opportunity to gauge important shifts in global energy trends, much as reports of routine Communist Party functions in the party journal Pravda once provided America's Kremlin watchers with insights into changes in the Soviet Union's top leadership circle.
As it happens, the recent release of the 2009 IEO has provided energy watchers with a feast of significant revelations. By far the most significant disclosure: the IEO predicts a sharp drop in projected future world oil output (compared to previous expectations) and a corresponding increase in reliance on what are called "unconventional fuels" — oil sands, ultra-deep oil, shale oil, and biofuels.
So here's the headline for you: For the first time, the well-respected Energy Information Administration appears to be joining with those experts who have long argued that the era of cheap and plentiful oil is drawing to a close. Almost as notable, when it comes to news, the 2009 report highlights Asia's insatiable demand for energy and suggests that China is moving ever closer to the point at which it will overtake the United States as the world's number one energy consumer. Clearly, a new era of cutthroat energy competition is upon us. Add a comment
The French have taken to bossnapping — "sequestering" their bosses while keeping them comfortable and safe — to protest economic unfairness.
In answer to their own economic crisis, the French have taken up "bossnapping."
Here's how it works: An executive of a company, perhaps the CEO, stands before a group of his employees, puts his hands together, sighs, and then, with regret as smooth as brie, explains the fact that downsizing is needed to meet the exigencies of economic crisis (read: the preservation of profits in downturn).
The employees get pissed off — and bum-rush the boss. They trap him in his office, barricade the door, feed him espresso and baguette, and demand a fair deal.It's a sort of soft-touch storming of the Bastille.
My bank, a small regional institution that was not involved in sub-prime lending, and that was not a recipient of any TARP bailout money, cut off my home equity line of credit two weeks ago. They did it abruptly, with no notice—I only discovered it had happened when I tried to get a $500 advance from it to cover a payment I was making on my credit card. When I asked what was going on, the local branch manager informed me that “we are closing out a lot of credit lines while we reassess the value of houses in this region, which have been falling.”
Now, in my particular case this was ridiculous. First of all, in our county, just north of Philadelphia, property prices have been static, but not falling. Furthermore, I had taken out a standard $160,000 mortgage 12 years ago, with a substantial down payment, and it was now paid down to $60,000, and my balance on the home equity credit line was pretty small, so there was no way that we were in any way “under water”—in fact our equity in our home is much higher than it was 12 years ago and represents well over 50% of the value of the property.
The bank informed me that it was no problem. I could simply take out a new credit line, at no charge, and transfer the balance on the current line over to the new one. The only hitch: Instead of paying one percent over prime as I had been, I would be paying nearly 4 percent over prime on that balance, effectively doubling the cost of borrowing money.
This kind of thing is going on all across America, as banks that once spread around credit like a Philadelphia Democratic Party ward captain on Election Day, start tightening the screws on individuals and on small businesses.
While the Obama administration and the Treasury and the Fed are bulldozing funds into the coffers of the big banks, allegedly to get them to lend, the banks, from the largest to the smallest, are pulling back, afraid that borrowers will end up going bust on them--and with good reason, given the high and rising level of unemployment So much for economic stimulus efforts. Add a comment
At least three US federal laws should concern all Americans and suggest what may be coming - mandatory vaccinations for hyped, non-existant threats, like H1N1 (Swine Flu). Vaccines and drugs like Tamiflu endanger human health but are hugely profitable to drug company manufacturers.
The Project BioShield Act of 2004 (S. 15) became law on July 21, 2004 "to provide protections and countermeasures against chemical, radiological, or nuclear agents that may be used in a terrorist attack against the United States by giving the National Institutes of Health contracting flexibility, infrastructure improvements, and expediting the scientific peer review process, and streamlining the Food and Drug Administration approval process of countermeasures."
In other words, the FDA may now recklessly approve inadequately tested, potentially dangerous vaccines and other drugs if ever the Secretaries of Health and Human Services (HHS) or Defense (DOD) declare a national emergency, whether or not one exists and regardless of whether treatments available are safe and effective. Around $6 billion or more will be spent to develop, produce, and stockpile vaccines and other drugs to counteract claimed bioterror agents.
The Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act slipped under the radar when George Bush signed it into law as part of the 2006 Defense Appropriations Act (HR 2863). It lets the HHS Secretary declare any disease an epidemic or national emergency requiring mandatory vaccinations. Nothing in the Act lists criteria that warrant a threat. Also potential penalties aren't specified for those who balk, but very likely they'd include quarantine and possible fines.
The HHS web site also says the Secretary may "issue a declaration....that provides immunity from tort liability (except for willful misconduct) for claims of loss caused, arising out of, relating to, or resulting from administration or use of (vaccine or other pharmaceutical) countermeasures to diseases, threats and conditions determined by the Secretary to constitute a present, or credible risk of a future public health emergency...." Add a comment
Beyond The Soaring Rhetoric of Obama's Cairo Speech: A Toxic Innocence At Home
by Phil Rockstroh
Even as President Barrack Obama waxed eloquent in Cairo, Egypt, on the moral imperatives of the community of nations, public opinion polls released in the United States revealed that, by a substantial percentage, its citizens believe torture is an acceptable option for interrogation of suspects deemed terrorists by various US governmental agencies. In addition, other polls show a majority of the American public hold the opinion that the all American theme park of state torture, located at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, should remain open for business and continue to welcome guests from around the globe, taking them for the ride of their lives through the dark id of the American psyche.
These revelations should not come as a shock. Torture, official secrecy, and other sundry apparatus and accouterments of the national security state are about the only viable enterprises remaining in this declining nation. Moreover, one of the defining traits of the insecure (both among men and nations) is to stand, bristling in a paranoid posture, with feet planted in stubborn defiance of changing circumstances, snarling at invisible threats and imagined affronts, as life moves on with indifferent grace.
Recently, in the latest in a series of setbacks and self-inflicted wounds, the national identity of the United States sustained another humiliating blow when General Motors was driven into a ditch, declared totaled, and then stripped and sold for spare parts. This event throws a rod into the smoking engine block of the nation's dream machine: The automobiles manufactured in Detroit were once symbols of American power, freedom of mobility, even sexual allure. But the world has sped ahead, leaving the US wheezing dust in its wake: The era of high horsepower and American ascendancy, with its glinting chrome conceit and reinforced steel illusions of unassailable power, now sits upon concrete blocks rusting in the automobile graveyard of history.
Far be it for me to judge the decision by George Tiller's family today to "permanently close" his late abortion services clinic in Wichita, Kansas in light of the horrifying murder of their loved one.
In a statement released today the Tiller family says "We are proud of the service and courage shown by our husband and father and know that women's health care needs have been met because of his dedication and service." A consequence of closing the clinic, Dr. Tiller's colleague, LeRoy Cathart, who intended to stay on, and continuing providing care to women, will no longer have the opportunity to do so.
Far be it for me, or anyone, to sit in judgment of the actions of Dr. Tiller's family unless we have walked in their shoes, unless we have witnessed the barbaric gunning down of a loved one, and even then, it is their call, and their call alone.
But, given that there are only a handful of other late abortion practitioners, in the country, some of whom, like Dr. Tiller, daily risk infamy, injury, and worse to dedicate themselves to protecting the lives of women, one can't help but wonder what signal permanently closing Tiller's clinic sends to those who would like to put a permanent end to choice. In the words of a Boulder late abortion provider "this is what they want. They've been wanting this for 35 years." And, today, the Tiller family have given choice opponents what they've wanted. Add a comment
I got an important reminder today that at least where the country’s economic crisis is concerned, it’s really mostly just about stuff.
The reminder came in the form of a very large limb, about two feet in diameter, projecting out over my driveway from an ancient horse chestnut tree. The limb suddenly decided it had been hanging around long enough, and it just broke off, unannounced, and landed on top of my car.
I heard an enormous cracking sound out my window, looked out, and where there had been a car, there was an enormous pile of branches and leaves.
I went outside and surveyed at the situation, and it was clear that there was a good deal of damage. The left front fender had been badly dented and pulled away from the body, and the hood was buckled. Worse, a larger part of the limb had fallen across the roof midway back, making a small dent on the left side and a large one on the right side. Looking more closely, I could see that on the right side of the vehicle, the upper frame and the upright post between the doors had been bent. Neither door could open, and the two doors were overlapped near the top—another indication of a bent frame.
I spent two hours with a chainsaw clearing the huge limb off the car, and then drove it to a body shop, where the owner looked it over and assured me the car was totaled. A 1993 vehicle, it would cost far more to fix the frame and replace the roof than the value of the car. This was bad news, since I had put a brand new engine in the car only a year and a half ago, and had rebuilt the transmission a year ago. That’s an investment of about $8,000, and I’ll be lucky to get $3000 from my insurer if they total the car, even though it was in perfect condition inside and out.
A thing like this can be pretty depressing, but after a cold beer I got to thinking, “Heck, it’s just a car.” Nobody got hurt, after all, which was something. If the limb had fallen on our other car, a Honda Civic, it would have crushed the thing flat, and anyone sitting in it, too. If it had fallen on a person, forget it.
And so it is with our economic crisis. Homes are plummeting in value, jobs are being lost (magazines I have depended on for assignments have been folding or cutting back their freelance budgets). But most people have places to turn to—relatives, churches, friends, food stamps. Losing a house to foreclosure can seem like a tragedy, but it’s not terminal cancer. It’s stuff. Renting isn’t the end of the world.
What makes our national crisis seem so terrible is that so many people have been so focused on their wealth, their possessions and their standard of living, we’ve stopped thinking of ourselves as part of a community. We see a house in foreclosure in the neighborhood, and we don’t think, “How terrible. I wonder if those people need help.” We just drive on by and go home to watch TV. In fact, we worry so much about what this economic crisis is doing to us personally that we aren’t focusing collectively on the real issue, which is how the ruling elite are profiting from the mess, and stealing us blind, with the help of Congress and the White House. Add a comment
This evening at a Washington DC fundraiser, in a statement that can best be described as regressive American exceptionalism, former Republican Speaker Newt Gingrich said of himself:
"I am not a citizen of the world. I think the entire concept is intellectual nonsense and stunningly dangerous!"Witness the video below of Mr. Gingrich's pronouncement that defines in two simple sentences the elitism, racism and egotism that have destroyed his Republican Party:
The question is, how can this protectionist, elitist, and even racist declaration be in the best interests of America, which despite Mr. Gingrich's supremacist notion, is part of the global community?
What's most frightening is the air of superiority with which Gingrich made his statement. Staring straight into the camera before a room of Republicans, this leader of his party defamed any benefit he might derive as a citizen of the world. With George W's arrogance, Dick Cheney's sociopathy, and Donald Rumsfeld's bravado all rolled into one, Gingrich equates a citizen of the world to "intellectual nonsense." He typifies the very characteristics of the Bush years that thrust this nation into its abyss.
Clearly Gingrich's "I'm not a citizen of the world" is a slam on Obama after the President's recent Mid-East & Europe tour. But undermining Obama's global popularity won't alter the fact that Gingrich could never achieve such acceptance. In the ever blending global arena, Gingrich is consistently bland.
Mr. Gingrich, if you are not a citizen of this world, then stay the eff out of it. Go back to where you went ten years ago when you were forced from the House in disgrace. Add a comment
It helps to have spent a childhood reading sci-fi. It means nothing bizarre really surprises you. In June 2008, TomDispatch regular William Astore wrote a post about how the Air Force had jumped big time into cyberspace. That service had even bigger dreams for a "$30 billion cyberspace boondoggle" that would theoretically have provided it "with the ability to fry any computer on Earth." Based on the information Astore mustered, this site offered a prediction: "Expect cyberwar in the Pentagon before this is all over."
Make it so! One year later, all three military services (and, it seems, half the other agencies in Washington) are fully uploaded and stalking each other in a funding cyberwar. As a result, the virtual sun is shining for military-industrial corporations, as Frida Berrigan tells us in her latest post: actual money is starting to flow, and a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed new cybermilitary-industrial complex is in formation. Not surprisingly, it has all the trappings of the older version of the same, right down to the corporate names on the logos and the military-industrial fun in the sun that goes with it.
Take the Air Force's "Collaboration in Cyberspace" symposium due to open a week from now in Shreveport, Louisiana. Northrop Grumman has sponsored one of its coffee breaks; SAIC has taken care of the "attendee registration bags"; Lockheed Martin has ponied up for "the invitations that are in each attendee's conference bag inviting them to a special AFCS [Air Force Cyberspace] event"; and you (if you happen to be a reasonably humongous military-industrial style corporation) can still get your tagline and logo plastered on the symposium's "ever popular" Cyber Café (for a measly $5,000 fee!) -- and for nothing extra, your logo will be a screensaver on every computer in that café. You'd better do it while you can. After all, you've already just about missed your chance for a corporate sponsorship slot at the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association 4th Cyber Cup Invitational golf tournament that same week. Most of those have already been taken. But don't get teed off: there'll be plenty more! Tom
Cyberscares About Cyberwars Equal Cybermoney - Watching the Cybermilitary-Industrial Complex FormBy Frida Berrigan
As though we don't have enough to be afraid of already, what with armed lunatics mowing down military recruiters and doctors, the H1N1 flu virus, the collapse of bee populations, rising sea levels, failed and flailing states, North Korea being North Korea, al-Qaeda wannabes in New York State with terrorist aspirations, and who knows what else -- now cyberjihadis are evidently poised to steal our online identities, hack into our banks, take over our Flickr and Facebook accounts, and create havoc on the World Wide Web. Add a comment
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