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Thom Hartmann provides a great short history lesson of the US over the last 30 years, to show why politics are changing today and why the American public won’t be falling into another coma to let the “Banksters” and “Gangsters” run the show like they have been.

The Health Care “Reform” bill that is currently being debated in the Senate is nothing but a total sell-out to the insurance industry. Not even a public OPTION (when we really need a Medicare-for-All single payer system). No extension of Medicare. Only a mandate that if you don’t insurance you have to buy it!  There’s no way people are going to take this turd and call it gold, no matter how good Obama sounds when he pitches it. It’s crap and everyone knows it.

The House bill, while woefully inadequate to help the 50 million Americans without access to a doctor, is a lot better than the Senate version. As Howard Dean has said,”Honestly, the best thing to do right now is kill the Senate bill, go back to the House, start the reconciliation process, where you only need 51 votes and it would be a much simpler bill.”

Lieberman be damned. [alex]

Healthcare: First They Came for the Banksters

by Thom Hartmann

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Originally published by Common Dreams.

With apologies to Pastor Niemöller:

First they came for the banksters, and showered them with money and put them in the Administration in a way that was not change we could believe in.

Then they came for the military industrial complex, and sent more and more of our children to die in faraway lands that had never attacked us in a way that was not change we could believe in.

And now they’ve sold out our hope for a national health care system not run by millionaire gangsters in suits. And who is left to speak for us?

President Obama is playing the Bill Clinton game of throwing people a bone and telling them it’s steak. Perhaps he’s doing it because he thinks it’s his only choice; perhaps it’s because he’s surrounded himself with Bill Clinton advisors (and Hillary as Secretary of State); whatever the reason, while it worked for Clinton, it won’t work for Obama.

It worked for Reagan, and for the first Bush, and even worked somewhat for George W. Bush.

But it won’t work anymore. Here’s why.

From 1929 until the 1980s, most Americans were “high information voters.” They were paying attention to politics. The Republican Great Depression of 1929-1938, World War II, the Korean War, Kennedy’s election, and the War in Vietnam were all Big Events that caused Americans to pay attention. Americans of that era needed to know what was up in Washington, DC, because they felt the consequences directly.

This is why in November of 1954, Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower wrote a letter to his John Bircher brother Edgar, “Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H. L. Hunt (you possibly know his background), a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.”

The voters knew. Even as late as 1977, when George W. Bush ran for Congress from Texas on a nearly singular platform of privatizing Social Security, he lost badly. The voters knew.

Then came Reagan. Read the rest of this entry »

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Today, Democracy Now! reported that two major records have been broken in 2009 – Wall St. profits ($35.7 billion in the first half of the year), and the number of Americans going hungry (50 million). These two seemingly unrelated tragedies immediately suggest a common solution – carve up the bloated hulks of Wall St. swine and serve them up to the American people!

On Tuesday, the NY Comptroller’s Office released a report showing that “broker-dealer operations of New York Stock Exchange member firms earned a record $35.7 billion in the first half of 2009.” Through September, $22.5 billion in profits were reported from the four largest firms alone —Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase. These are the same banks who got bailed out by the Federal Government last year – which means that taxpayers like you and I paid for these creeps’ bonuses.

Not coincidentally, these obscene profits were recorded at the same moment that the Department of Agriculture released a report showing that “nearly 50 million people — including almost one child in four — struggled last year to get enough to eat” (as written in the Washington Post on Monday). While the economy has been in the tank and unemployment has surpassed 10% officially, food prices have been skyrocketing, and so millions more Americans are being forced to go without needed nutrition.

Why isn’t it a coincidence? Because the crooks who sent global markets into a freefall last September, causing millions to lose their homes and jobs, have been rewarded for their bad behavior with preferential treatment from Uncle Sam. These Wall St. piggies have been gorging themselves on trillions of U.S. Federally approved dough, while regular folks struggle to pay the rent or put food on the table – without so much as a measly health care reform bill to give hope to their deteriorating condition. Now 1 out of every 4 of our kids are going hungry while the government subsidizes the very stock market slimeballs responsible for creating the trouble to begin with.

“Where’s OUR bailout?” struggling folks are wondering, as they see food prices climb and jobs shipped overseas by the day. 50 million folks are wondering where their next meal is gonna come from… and it’s time to entertain innovative, cost-effective proposals, even if they may seem exotic.

Well it turns out there’s one way to solve this problem without tapping the Treasury for so much as a penny!

It would bring down the cost of high-protein, high-quality food, providing much-needed nutrition to the hungry.

It could create high-paid and unionized manufacturing jobs, right here in the U.S. of A!

It would be environmentally friendly, dolphin-safe, and carbon-neutral (although there may be some associated methane emissions after the plan is implemented).

Best of all, this solution would remove the parasitic, bonus-hungry, pyramid-scheming, derivative-trading, regulation-gutting, President-advising, economy-wrecking, bailout mongers from the picture, allowing the American people to determine our economic future democratically!

And it’s so straightforward even Timothy Geithner could understand it:

Eat the Rich!

[alex,  Nov. 19]

below is the transcript from Democracy Now!’s interview of Robert Scheer on these 2 unprecedented reports and what they mean for the economy: Read the rest of this entry »


Also published by The Rag Blog, OpEdNews, Signs of the TimesInteractivist Info Exchange, and Toward Freedom.

calibanwitch250Who Were the Witches? – Patriarchal Terror and the Creation of Capitalism
Alex Knight
November 5, 2009

This Halloween season, there is no book I could recommend more highly than Silvia Federici’s brilliant Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body, and Primitive Accumulation (Autonomedia 2004), which tells the dark saga of the Witch Hunt that consumed Europe for more than 200 years. In uncovering this forgotten history, Federici exposes the origins of capitalism in the heightened oppression of workers (represented by Shakespeare’s character Caliban), and most strikingly, in the brutal subjugation of women. She also brings to light the enormous and colorful European peasant movements that fought against the injustices of their time, connecting their defeat to the imposition of a new patriarchal order that divided male from female workers. Today, as more and more people question the usefulness of a capitalist system that has thrown the world into crisis, Caliban and the Witch stands out as essential reading for unmasking the shocking violence and inequality that capitalism has relied upon from its very creation.

Who Were the Witches?

Parents putting a pointed hat on their young son or daughter before Trick-or-Treating might never pause to wonder this question, seeing witches as just another cartoonish Halloween icon like Frankenstein’s monster or Dracula. But deep within our ritual lies a hidden history that can tell us important truths about our world, as the legacy of past events continues to affect us 500 years later. In this book, Silvia Federici takes us back in time to show how the mysterious figure of the witch is key to understanding the creation of capitalism, the profit-motivated economic system that now reigns over the entire planet.

During the 15th – 17th centuries the fear of witches was ever-present in Europe and Colonial America, so much so that if a woman was accused of witchcraft she could face the cruellest of torture until confession was given, or even be executed based on suspicion alone. There was often no evidence whatsoever. The author recounts, “for more than two centuries, in several European countries, hundreds of thousands of women were tried, tortured, burned alive or hanged, accused of having sold body and soul to the devil and, by magical means, murdered scores of children, sucked their blood, made potions with their flesh, caused the death of their neighbors, destroyed cattle and crops, raised storms, and performed many other abominations” (169).

In other words, just about anything bad that might or might not have happened was blamed on witches during that time. So where did this tidal wave of hysteria come from that took the lives so many poor women, most of whom had almost certainly never flown on broomsticks or stirred eye-of-newt into large black cauldrons?

Caliban underscores that the persecution of witches was not just some error of ignorant peasants, but in fact the deliberate policy of Church and State, the very ruling class of society. To put this in perspective, today witchcraft would be a far-fetched cause for alarm, but the fear of hidden terrorists who could strike at any moment because they “hate our freedom” is widespread. Not surprising, since politicians and the media have been drilling this frightening message into people’s heads for years, even though terrorism is a much less likely cause of death than, say, lack of health care.1 And just as the panic over terrorism has enabled today’s powers-that-be to attempt to remake the Middle East, this book makes the case that the powers-that-were of Medieval Europe exploited or invented the fear of witches to remake European society towards a social paradigm that met their interests.

Interestingly, a major component of both of these crusades was the use of so-called “shock and awe” tactics to astound the population with “spectacular displays of force,” which helped to soften up resistance to drastic or unpopular reforms.2 In the case of the Witch Hunt, shock therapy was applied through the witch burnings – spectacles of such stupefying violence that they paralyzed whole villages and regions into accepting fundamental restructuring of medieval society.3 Federici describes a typical witch burning as, “an important public event, which all the members of the community had to attend, including the children of the witches, especially their daughters who, in some cases, would be whipped in front of the stake on which they could see their mother burning alive” (186).

WitchBurning1

The witch burning was the medieval version of "Shock and Awe"

The book argues that these gruesome executions not only punished “witches” but graphically demonstrated the repercussions for any kind of disobedience to the clergy or nobility. In particular, the witch burnings were meant to terrify women into accepting “a new patriarchal order where women’s bodies, their labor, their sexual and reproductive powers were placed under the control of the state and transformed into economic resources” (170). Read the rest of this entry »



Re-published by ZNet and Toward Freedom and The Rag Blog. Available in print by the Defenestrator. Also translated to Dutch for GlobalInfo. cool!

Anti-Capitalism Goes Mainstream
Michael Moore’s New Film Names the System and Presents a Radical Democratic Critique

Alex Knight, October 16, 2009

Capitalism: A Love Story, which opened in 962 theaters earlier this month, is Michael Moore’s most ambitious work yet – taking aim at the root cause behind the injustices he’s exposed in his other films over the last 20 years. This time capitalism itself is the culprit to be maligned in Moore’s trademark docu-tragi-comic style. And by using the platform of a major motion picture to make a direct assault at the root of the problem, Moore has created space in the political mainstream for a radical conversation (radical meaning “going to the root”).

It’s a conversation that is desperately needed as the economic crisis continues to devastate low- and middle-income Americans in spite of President Obama’s and Congress’ efforts to stop the bleeding by throwing trillions of dollars at the banks. Yesterday, Democracy Now! reported that while the Dow Jones topped 10,000 for the first time in a year, foreclosures have reached a record level of 940,000 in the third quarter. But with this film airing in major chain cinemas across the nation, the normally taboo topics of how wealth is divided, who owns Congress, and how vital economic decisions are made are now open for discussion in a way they haven’t been in the U.S. for decades.

In Capitalism, Michael Moore features the reality of the economic crisis for America’s usually-invisible poor and working class. The movie begins with a family filming their eviction from their own home. In a terrifying scene, we watch from inside their living room window as 7 police cars roll up to throw the ill-fated family onto the street for failing to make their payments. Moore explained in an interview, “You see [a foreclosure] really for the first time from the point of view of the person being thrown out of the house.” This same bottom-up viewpoint carries the audience through the rest of the film, from the stories of kids in Pennsylvania sent to private detention centers for minor offenses by judges who received kickbacks from the prison company, to airline pilots whose wages are so low they have to go on food stamps.

By grounding the viewers in the human costs of out-of-control capitalism, Moore finds firm footing for launching his attacks on the Wall St. firms who he believes are responsible for this crisis. As the film points out, the richest 1% of Americans now control more wealth than the bottom 95%, a sorry state of affairs that has grown steadily worse since the 1980s. Ronald Reagan, Alan Greenspan, and his two buddies Larry Summers and Robert Rubin are implicated in Capitalism as responsible parties behind the gutting of regulations and the deliverance of the federal government into the hands of the bankers.

Michael Moore’s conversations with congressmen and women about the $700 billion bank bailout passed last October best illustrate this transfer of sovereignty. The congresspeople are remarkably candid in their dismay at what was essentially a blank check to Goldman Sachs, Bank of America and Citigroup. Representative Baron Hill from Indiana recounts that the bailout bill was pushed through Congress in a similar manner as the Iraq War authorization, under threat of catastrophe and terror. Marcy Kaptur, congresswoman from Ohio, however, does one better. “This was almost like an intelligence operation,” she laments. And when Moore asks her if the bailout represents a “financial coup d’etat” by the bankers, she responds, “I could agree with that. Because the people here [pointing to the Capitol] really aren’t in charge. Wall Street is in charge.”

We also see Kaptur’s courageous honesty on the floor of the House, urging Americans to resist foreclosure by remaining in their homes. Detroit sheriff Warren Evans stands out as another hero in the film when he announces he will cease foreclosure evictions in his jurisdiction because of the damage to the community caused by making more houses vacant and more families homeless. Moore also features grassroots organization Take Back the Land, which has dramatically responded to the crisis by moving evicted families back into their homes in the Miami area.

Regular folks fighting back against a system that is depriving them of income, housing, health care and other basic needs is inspiring stuff to watch, and it’s not something we’re used to seeing up on the big screen. Capitalism displays this grassroots defiance surprisingly well by humanizing those on the bottom of the pyramid. One man whose farm is foreclosed angrily warns, “There’s got to be some kind of rebellion between people who’ve got nothing and people who’ve got it all.” His words are buttressed by a behind-the-scenes look at Republic Windows & Doors, where laid-off workers occupied their Chicago factory and refused to leave until receiving their promised severance pay. For Moore this represents the kind of direct action that everyday people must now begin to take to protect themselves from having to pay for the misdeeds of the wealthiest one percent.

This call to action is well taken. However, one piece lacking in the film’s analysis of capitalism is how the system of economic power interlocks with other structures of oppression, for example U.S. imperialism, patriarchy and white supremacy. Capitalism affects different people in extremely different ways, and while some fear losing their jobs, others fear imprisonment, rape, or even being hit by a drone attack. But Michael Moore seems to avoid a conversation about racism, sexism and homophobia in order to appeal to a mythical homogeneous American working class. And besides a brief comparison to Rome, the movie also shies away from discussing the U.S. role in the world and how a militaristic foreign policy serves the interests of corporate and financial elites – even though opposition to the wars in Afghanistan/Pakistan and Iraq have never been greater.

Another weakness is how Moore handles Barack Obama with kid gloves. Even while his economic advisers are skewered in the film, President Obama’s role in the bank bailouts is downplayed, and he comes out looking like a champion of the people, or at least a potential champion. In this respect Michael Moore bestows honors like the Nobel Committee, not so much for what the president has done, but for the “hope” of what he might do.

So what does Michael Moore propose as an alternative to capitalism? Not socialism, but a kind of economic democracy – an opportunity for average folks to have a say in how their money is used, from the workplace on up to the government. Moore takes us inside co-ops in America where workers vote on decisions about finances democratically, and where salaries are equal and adequate for everyone in the company. In one factory, assembly line workers and the CEO each make about $60,000.

To reinforce his economic prescription, Moore even dug through archives to recover lost footage of FDR’s long-forgotten proposal for a “Second Bill of Rights,” which called for guaranteeing meaningful work and a living wage, decent housing, adequate medical care, and a good education for every American. It is striking how such common-sense ideas in our current political climate appear dangerously radical, even coming from the lips of a U.S. president. It seems the overriding purpose of Capitalism: A Love Story is to flip these expectations on their heads. For Michael Moore, guaranteeing basic economic security is as American as apple pie; what is radical is a system that would deny such prosperity to bolster the wealth of a tiny few.

If there is to be any solution to the economic crisis that doesn’t involve millions more people thrown out of their homes or dropped from their health care, it will have to involve a sharp break from a system that values private profits higher than meeting people’s basic needs. To this end, Michael Moore has done a great public service by making a film that is essentially an invitation for views outside the bounds of established mainstream discourse to propose what might be done about the economic quagmire we now find ourselves in. It is time for an American Left to come out of the wilderness and speak out with proposals for better ways of organizing our economy. I see no reason to be any less bold than President Roosevelt was 65 years ago.

Here is an excerpt from President Roosevelt’s 1944 “Second Bill of Rights” speech:

“We cannot be content, Read the rest of this entry »


After a wild but empowering week of demonstrations in Pittsburgh, here’s a short media recap of some of the highlights. [alex]

$12 Trillion has been given by the US government to large banks and corporations since last year

$12 Trillion has been given by the US government to large banks and corporations since last year

 
Great short news video on why the protesters were in Pittsburgh.

Exposes the police repression felt by the whole city last week, not just protesters.

The successes of mass protest.

IVAW held a press conference and action Friday morning about no longer sacrificing for war

IVAW held a press conference and action Friday morning about no longer sacrificing for war

 

Finally, see this audio report from Free Speech Radio News for more context.


Organizers from Philly will be traveling across PA ahead of the G20 summit in Pittsburgh next week to meet with grassroots movements and strengthen statewide social change networks.  This is being called the People’s Caravan. There are still spots available, so please RSVP if you’d like to join the caravan! – alex

A Call to Join the People’s Caravan

Pennsylvania, along with the rest of the world, is in crisis. Many people do not have access to decent housing, education, healthcare, jobs, healthy food, transportation and communication. While we are told that there are not resources to provide for our basic needs, bankers and the ultra-rich get trillions of dollars in bail-out funding, and our services are cut and costly wars are waged. From pools, libraries and health centers in urban areas closing, to factory lay-offs and families losing their farms, Pennsylvanians are feeling the impact of an economic and political system that has placed profit over people. We will not pay for their crisis!

In the coal mines, steel mills, textile mills, family farms and in the front seats of rigs, poor and working Pennsylvanians built this state. As one industry after another has collapsed in Pennsylvania, we’ve become poorer. Our economic crisis didn’t start in 2007. Now, all across the state, local governments and business people are spending our taxpayers’ money on developments that benefit developers and not the communities that paid for it. Meanwhile, our population has been in decline for generations because too many of our young people see no future in our state, and need to look for jobs elsewhere.

What is the G-20?

The G-20 summit is a gathering of financial ministers and heads of states of the 20 richest countries in the world. They are meeting in Pittsburgh, September 24-25 to advance their agenda: cutting essential social services; privatizing schools, healthcare, and social security, promoting “free-trade,” which cuts labor and environmental standards across the globe and places corporate profit above human needs. They are meeting to rebuild the world’s economies- in a way that keeps them on top.

Pittsburgh’s history of economic decline is why it was chosen to host the G-20. It will be promoted as an example of how to rebuild an economy. They’ve done this by bringing in companies that provide low wage jobs while reaping large profit and rebuilding the region with little thought to community benefit. This is unfortunately a familiar story to not just Pennsylvania, but much of the country.

The Caravan

We want to take this opportunity to focus on Pennsylvania, and strengthen our statewide networks. We want to meet up with people who are organizing locally for their dignity and a better Pennsylvania. Whether you are working for better wages, organizing for childcare, demanding healthcare, fighting pollution, struggling to keep your home and put food on the table or to keep your family’s farm; we all have an interest in making our voices heard and working together to advance an agenda for economic human rights.

We will be taking our own vehicles, carpooling and splitting the travel costs. The caravan will depart Philadelphia on Monday morning, September 21, stopping in Lancaster, traveling to York for the afternoon, and then spend the evening in Harrisburg. On Tuesday, September 22, we will rally at the state capitol, make a stop in Altoona, and arrive in Pittsburgh for the G-20 summit.

Join Us!

This is a perfect time to make connections between our struggles and communities so that we can break our isolation and work together. We want you to invite your neighbors, church, family, school, VFW chapter, and your community organizations to join us on this caravan. While we bring stories of our struggles in Philadelphia, we want to learn from people struggling throughout the rest of Pennsylvania.

Contact us if you are interested in organizing a local event along the route that can benefit your work, joining or supporting the caravan. We need RSVP’s, and we can tell you about costs, ride information and answer any other questions.

http://www.g20caravan.info
g20caravan@riseup.net
215-586-9198


The Security Guards at the Art Museum are demanding recognition for their union and an end to poverty wages.  Here is their new video presenting their campaign to the incoming CEO of the museum, Timothy Rub:

Welcoming Change at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

The guards are also holding a rally next Sunday to welcome Mr. Rub, check it out! Also see below for more information on the campaign from a recent article in Philadelphia Weekly. [alex]

Welcoming Party for Timothy Rub

2 pm, Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Philadelphia Museum of Art, front “Rocky” steps


Join the Philadelphia Security Officers Union and Philly Jobs with Justice as they hold a — “welcoming party” — for incoming museum CEO, Timothy Rub.


Security Guards at the museum earn less than $20,000 per year, below the federal poverty line.

The Philadelphia Security Officers Union supports the Employee Free Choice Act.

We have signed up a majority of the security officers at the Philadelphia Museum on union representation cards.

If the Employee Free Choice Act was law right now, we would already be a union.

March with the Philadelphia Security Officers Union in support of card check and the Employee Free Choice Act

2:00 pm—3:30 pm,
come early and take advantage of the free day at the museum

Featuring NYC’s Rude Mechanical Orchestra! It’s a party!

Info: phillyjwj.org

Financial Insecurity

Museum guards ask new director to hear them out.

By Daniel Denvir

Philadelphia Weekly, August 25, 2009.

On April 19, Jennifer Collazo woke up with a $2,882.47 hospital bill. The 33-year-old Army veteran is a Philadelphia Museum of Art security guard employed by the private contractor AlliedBarton. Collazo pays into the medical insurance offered by her employer, but when she came down with severe neck and back pain on the job, she discovered that her health benefits didn’t even cover things like the ambulance ride.

Paltry medical coverage combined with low wages has driven Collazo and other museum guards to organize the Philadelphia Security Officers Union (PSOU). While the museum and AlliedBarton have rebuffed them in the past, guards hope that the institution’s incoming director, Timothy Rub, will be open to dialogue when he takes charge early next month. Read the rest of this entry »

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