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a self-explanatory call to action from Jobs with Justice that is right on. [alex]

Too Big To Fail is just plain TOO BIG.

Activists will be in the streets of Chicago tomorrow to protest the American Bankers Association meeting. These banks took bailouts that add up to $15,000 for every man, woman, and child in the U.S. They claimed they were “too big to fail.”

But instead of using the bailout to help the economy, they actually reduced lending that would keep people working, increased foreclosures, charged outrageous overdraft fees and – surprise, surprise – gave themselves record salaries, bonuses and perks.

The reality is that these corporate criminals are too big and powerful politically. Explaining why even minor reforms have been bottled up in Congress, Senator Durbin from Illinois admitted that the banks “frankly own the place.”

Take action now!

They spend hundreds of millions of dollars on politics and they’re using our bailout money to become bigger and more powerful (rather than helping people and the economy through a crisis).

These ‘too big to fail’ banks are a threat to democracy as much as they are a threat to the economy. Even Alan Greenspan, Paul Volcker, and Mervyn King agree: It’s time to break up the banks.

We have to break their grip on Congress, break up their political and economic power, break up the corporate crime spree and break through this economic crisis with a major jobs program, new regulations (like the Consumer Financial Protection Agency), new financial institutions that put workers and communities first and a new economy that works for everyone

 

Send a letter to the following decision maker(s):
Your Congressperson
Your Senators
Below is the sample letter:

Subject: Break up the Banks; Make the Economy Work

Dear [decision maker name automatically inserted here],

The Wall Street “Bailout Bandits” stuffed their pockets with false profits while wrecking our economy, Read the rest of this entry »


This article only scratches the surface of why capitalism as a system based in constant expansion is absolutely incompatible with a planet of real social and ecological limits, peak oil being one. My book will flesh these arguments out in greater detail, but for now check out what Professor Wolff has been cooking up. [alex]

Peak Oil and Peak Capitalism

by Professor Richard Wolff, March 27, 2009.

Originally posted on The Oil Drum, and on Rick Wolff’s homepage.

wolff_real_wages

Worker Productivity (blue) vs. Wages (pink), 1890-2009

The concept of peak oil may apply more generally than its friends and foes realize. As we descend into US capitalism’s second major crash in 75 years (with another dozen or so “business cycle downturns” in the interval between crashes), some signs suggest we are at peak capitalism too. Private capitalism (when productive assets are owned by private individuals and groups and when markets rather than state planning dominate the distribution of resources and products) has repeatedly demonstrated a tendency to flare out into overproduction and/or asset inflation bubbles that burst with horrific social consequences. Endless reforms, restructurings, and regulations were all justified in the name not only of extricating us from a crisis but also finally preventing future crises (as Obama repeated this week). They all failed to do that.

The tendency to crisis seems unstoppable, an inherent quality of capitalism. At best, flare outs were caught before they wreaked major havoc, although usually that only postponed and aggravated that havoc. One recent case in point: the stock market crash of early 2000 was limited in its damaging social consequences (recession, etc.) by an historically unprecedented reduction of interest rates and money supply expansion by Alan Greenspan’s Federal Reserve. The resulting real estate bubble temporarily offset the effects of the stock market’s bubble bursting, but when real estate crashed a few years later, what had been deferred hit catastrophically.

Repeated failure to stop its inherent crisis tendency is beginning to tell on the system. The question increasingly insinuates itself even into discourses with a long history of denying its pertinence: has capitalism, qua system, outlived its usefulness? 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 »


In a dispute which perfectly represents the struggle for “Green Jobs”, workers at the Vestas wind energy plant in the UK have occupied their factory to save 600 jobs and one of the largest wind turbine manufacturing sites in the country.  A coalition of labor and environmental groups have organized to support them with daily rallies, while the workers inside wait for the government to step in and start production again.   “Now I’m not sure about you but we think it’s about time that if the government can spend billions bailing out the banks – and even nationalise them – then surely they can do the same at Vestas.”

For background and updates, see the workers’ blog: http://savevestas.wordpress.com or this article: Vestas Protest, What’s it All About?

Send messages of support to savevestas@googlemail.com

The events at Vestas have been just one in a series of worker occupations around the world in the wake of the current economic crisis. Workers are not allowing their jobs to be closed down, when corporations and banks are receiving large financial bailouts. This article gives some of the highlights of the new wave of worker militancy. [alex]

Global Trend for Sit-ins and Occupations as Mass Redundancies Continue

Terry Macalister

Originally published by The Guardian, UK – July 24, 2009

Trade union leaders warned tonight that the direct action seen at the Vestas factory was likely to be repeated elsewhere as workers refused to “bend their knee and accept their fate” in the face of mass redundancies caused by recession.

The sit-in at the Isle of Wight wind turbine plant was the latest in Britain, they said, and was part of a wider trend of militant tactics being used as far afield as the US, South Korea and China.

In France, where such tactics have been more common, the manager of a British company was taken hostage by workers today in a dispute over redundancies. About 60 workers at Servisair Cargo at Roissy airport in Paris prevented the director, Abderrahmane El-Aouffir, from leaving the firm’s offices after he refused to meet their demands in the latest case of so-called “boss-napping” to hit France.

The four day Vestas sit-in, which is an embarrassment both to the world’s biggest turbine manufacturer and a government trying to launch a low-carbon jobs revolution, follows a similar occupation in April at three Visteon (car parts manufacturer) plants in the UK in addition to action at Waterford Crystal in Ireland and Prisme Packaging in Dundee.

Tony Woodley, the joint general secretary of the Unite union, whose members were involved at Visteon, said: “I think it is absolutely understandable and justified for workers to fight back where they feel there are no other alternatives and employers act badly.” Read the rest of this entry »

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