Monday, September 29, 2008

The Fiscally Insane Bailout Bill Might Not Pass -- Here's 5 Reasons It Shouldn't

From Alternet
By David Sirota, Blog for Our Future
Posted on September 29, 2008, Printed on September 29, 2008
http://www.alternet.org/story/100700/

There was news Sunday afternoon of a congressional deal to bailout Wall Street fat cats with $700 billion of taxpayer cash (you can read the draft legislation here). Though the deal negotiated between congressional leaders and the White House is better than what Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson originally proposed early last week, it remains an insulting atrocity, having omitted even basic aid to homeowners, bankruptcy reforms and any modicum of future financial industry regulation. Now, the New York Times reports that the Democratic leadership may not have the votes to pass this bailout. So without further ado, here are the top 5 reasons (in no order) why every single member of Congress -- Democrat and Republican -- should vote this sucker down. Please feel free to copy and paste this post into an email to your congressperson. They are deciding right now -- let them hear your voice.

1.This Bailout's Inherent Fiscal Insanity Could Make Problem Worse

When an individual consumer uses a new credit card to pay off astounding debt from an old credit card, it's akin to check kiting, which is is illegal. Apparently, though, when the government does it, it's billed as Serious Public Policy. Because that's what this supposedly prudent bailout bill would do: Force taxpayers to borrow $700 billion from foreign banks to pay off the bad debt of Wall Street banks. During a crisis that is aimed at preventing interest rates from skyrocketing, nobody has been able to explain how adding almost a trillion dollars to the interest rate-exacerbating national debt would do anything other than undermine the plan's underlying objective. Worse, the U.S. Treasury Department itself admits that the $700 billion number is "not based on any particular data point" -- that is, they created it out of thin air because "We just wanted to choose a really large number." Slapping that amount of money onto the national credit card when our government can't even justify the amount is beyond absurd -- it is insane.

It didn't have to be this way, of course. As I noted in my newspaper column this week, Senator Bernie Sanders proposed a temporary tax on millionaires to finance part of this bailout. Similarly, Blue Dog Democrats proposed a future tax on financial firms if and when taxpayers lose cash on the deal. These proposals were discarded in favor of language asking the government to "submit a plan to Congress on how to recoup any losses," according to the Associated Press. Not only is that language toothless, but it opens up the possibility of a plan being submitted that says we should raise middle-class taxes or slash middle-class social programs to pay for Wall Street's misbehavior.

2. Experts on both the left and right say this bailout could make things worse

Primum non nocere is the latin phrase for "first do no harm" -- the priority principle for any EMT working on a sick patient. It should be the same priority for Congress at this moment -- and a growing group of esteemed experts on both the Right and Left are insisting that this bailout bill could make things worse. Here's a review:

* The Washington Post reported on Friday, almost 200 academic economists "have signed a petition organized by a University of Chicago professor objecting to the plan on the grounds that it could create perverse incentives, that it is too vague and that its long-run effects are unclear."
* NYU's Nouriel Roubini, the visionary who had been predicting this meltdown, says "The Treasury plan (even in its current version agreed with Congress) is very poorly conceived and does not contain many of the key elements of a sound and efficient and fair rescue plan."
* Harvard's Ken Rogoff, a Former Federal Rerserve and IMF official, insists that the prospect of this bailout is, unto itself, taking a manageable problem and making it into a more intense crisis. He says that credit is frozen primarily because banks want to avoid dealing with other banks that might drive a hard bargain, and instead would rather wait for free money from the government. Without the prospect of that free money, Rogoff suggests that credit would probably begin moving again, if slowly.
* Dean Baker of the Center on Economic and Policy Research says that spending so much cash so quickly on such a poorly conceived plan could have the effect of making it impossible to fund economic stimulus that is the real way out of this mess. "Suppose the Paulson plan goes through," he writes. "It is virtually certain that the economy will weaken further and the number of foreclosures and people without jobs will continue to rise. This is the fallout from a collapsing housing bubble…When families respond to their loss of home equity by cutting back their consumption it will deepen the recession. In this context it might prove very important to have the resources needed to provide a substantial stimulus. [and] there is no doubt that this bailout will make further stimulus much more difficult to sell politically."

Meanwhile, it's not even close to clear that this is a problem that requires such an enormous response. As mentioned above, the Treasury Department admits it has absolutely no factual basis for requesting $700 billion -- an amount equivalent to about 5 percent of our entire economy. Additionally, the Washington Post reports that "Banks throughout the United States carried on with the business of making loans yesterday even as federal officials warned again that their industry is on the verge of collapse, suggesting that the overheated language on Capitol Hill may not reflect the reality on many Main Streets." Indeed, "many smaller banks said they were actually benefiting from the problems on Wall Street" and "even some of the nation's largest banks, which have pushed hard for a federal bailout, deny that the current situation is forcing them to reduce lending."

The questions, then, are simple: In the face of this bipartisan opposition from objective experts, why should a lawmaker instead believe the same Bush officials who helped create this crisis with their deregulation, the same Bush officials who just months ago said everything was AOK? Shouldn't there be almost complete unanimity among both objective and partisan observers before spending 5 percent of our entire economy after just one harried week of White House demands? Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. It's time, as The Who said, that we "don't get fooled again."

3. There are clearly better and safer alternatives

The mantra throughout the week has been that America has "no choice" but to pass Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's $700 billion giveaway -- that, in effect, there are no alternatives. But that's an out-and-out lie -- one with a motive: Making it seem as if the only thing we can do is hand the keys to the federal treasury over to both parties' corporate campaign contributors.

The truth is, there are a number of alternatives. Here are just a few:

* In the Washington Post last week, Galbraith outlined a multi-pronged plan shoring up and expanding the FDIC, creating a Home Owners Loan Corporation, resurrecting Nixon's federal revenue sharing, and taxing stock transactions (a tax that would fall mostly on speculators) to finance the whole deal.
* The Service Employees International Union has drafted a plan based around a massive investment in public services and national health care, and regulatory reforms preventing foreclosures and forcing banks to renegotiate the predatory terms of their bad mortgages.
* For those in the mindless, zombie-ish "someone has to do something, so we have to do what the White House says!" camp, consider the possibility that you are under the spell of the same kind of White House fear that led us to invade Iraq because of Saddam's supposed WMD. Consider, perhaps, that there may not even be a compelling basis for doing anything just yet (or at least not anything nearly so huge), and that the whole reason there is this urgent push right now has nothing to do with the financial situation, and everything to do with creating the political dynamic to pass a wasteful giveaway -- one that couldn't be passed otherwise without a sense of emergency. And ask yourself why you would listen to this White House instead of listening to those experts who have been predicting this crisis and are now advising against this bailout -- experts like CEPR's Baker. In two separate posts (here and here), he says that letting the problem play out could be the best path, because Treasury and the Fed may already have the tools they need. Following this path, the worst thing that happens is "The Fed and Treasury will have to step in and take over the banks [which] is exactly what many economists argue should happen anyhow," Baker writes. "So the outcome of the worst case scenario is a really frightening day in which the whole world financial system is shaken to its core, followed by a government takeover of the banks. Eventually the government straightens out the books and sells them off again. But the real threat here is not to the economy, it is to the banks."
* Then there is the idea of simply taking the $700 billion and simply give it to struggling homeowners to help them pay off part of their mortgages. This hasn't even been discussed but the thought experiment it involves is important to understanding why there is, indeed, an alternative to the Paulson plan. If the root of this problem is people not being able to pay off their mortgages, and those defaults then devaluing banks' mortgage-backed assets, then simply helping people pay their mortgages would preserve the value of the mortgage-backed assets and recharge the market with liquidity. That would be a bottom-up solution helping the mass public, rather than a top-down move helping only financial industry executives.

On this latter proposal, some may argue that giving any relief to homeowners is "unfair" in that those homeowners created their problems, so why should taxpayers have to help them? But then, is helping homeowners any less fair than simply giving all the money away to Wall Street, no strings attached? I'd say no -- and helping homeowners also serves a second purpose: namely, keeping people in their homes, which not only helps them, but helps an entire neighborhood (as any homeowner knows, nearby properties can be devalued when foreclosures hit).

4. Any Incumbent Voting for This Puts Themselves At Risk of Being Thrown Out of Office

As a preface, let me state that I think we live in a country where politicians too often listen to their donors and to the Establishment rather than their constituents, not the other way around. America is a country where our leaders dishonestly invoke the concepts of "Statesmanship" and "Seriousness" and their supposed hatred of "pandering" to justify ignoring what the public wants (as if giving the public what it wants is somehow not the objective of a democratic republic). So, in short, I don't think there's anything wrong with this bill being "politicized" by coming down the pike right before an election -- in fact, I think it's a good thing because the election -- and the fear of being thrown out of office forces our politicians to at least consider what the public wants. I mean, really -- would we rather have this decision made after the election, when the public can be completely ignored?

Polls overwhelmingly show a public that sees voting for this bill as an act of economic treason whereby the bipartisan Washington elite robs taxpayer cash to give their campaign contributors a trillion-dollar gift. As just two of many examples, Bloomberg News' poll shows "decisive" opposition to the bailout proposal, and Rasmussen reports that their surveys show "the more voters learn about the proposed $700 billion federal bailout plan for the U.S. economy, the more they don't like it." Put another way, this bailout proposal has unified both the Right and Left sides of the populist uprising that I described in my new book and that is now even more angry than ever.

Any sitting officeholder that votes for this -- whether a Democrat or a Republican -- should expect to get crushed under a wave of populist-themed attacks from their opponents. We've already seen it start. In Oregon, Democratic challenger Jeff Merkley (D) is airing scathing television ads hammering Republican incumbent Gordon Smith for potentially supporting the deal. Similarly, this morning on Meet the Press, we saw Republican Senate challenger Bob Schaffer (CO) dishonestly papering over his own votes for deregulation and ripping into his opponent Rep. Mark Udall (D) for potentially supporting the deal. Incumbents, get ready for that kind of election-changing heat in your face if you vote "yes."

This, by the way, could play out in the presidential contest. Barack Obama has been taking the advice of the Wall Street insiders in his campaign in endorsing this bailout. McCain has endorsed the vague outline, but he may ultimately back off once he sees the details, allowing him to then run the last month of the campaign as the economic populist in the race. I'm not saying it would work, considering McCain's 26-year record of supporting the deregulatory agenda that created this crisis. But such a move could end up help him flank Obama on the defining economic issues of the race.

5. Corruption and Sleaze Are Swirling Around These Bailouts -- and America Knows It

The amount of brazen corruption and conflicts of interest swirling around this deal is odious, even by Washington's standards -- and polls suggest the public inherently understands that. Consider these choice nuggets:

* Warren Buffett is simultaneously advising Obama to support the deal, while he himself is investing in the company that stands to make the most off the deal.
* McCain's campaign is run by lobbyists from the companies that stand to make a killing off a no-strings government bailout.
* The New York Times reports that the person advising Paulson and Bernanke on the AIG bailout was the CEO of Goldman Sachs -- a company with a $20 billion stake in AIG.
* The Obama campaign's top spokesman pushing this deal is none other than Roger Altman, who Bloomberg News reports is simultaneously "advising a group of investors who are trying to prevent their shares from being diluted in the U.S. takeover of American International Group Inc." -- that is, who have a direct financial interest in the current iteration of the bailout.

Add to this the fact that the negotiations over this bill have been largely conducted in secret, and you have one of the most sleazy heists in American history.

**********

If this bill passes, it will be a profound referendum on the dominance of money over democracy in America. That -- and that alone -- would be the only thing an objective observer could take away from the whole thing.

Money will have compelled politicians to not only vote for substantively dangerous policy, but vote for that policy even at their own clear electoral peril. Such a vote will confirm that the only people these politicians believe they are responsible for representing are are the fat-cat recipients of the $700 billion -- the same fat cats who underwrite their political campaigns, the same fat-cats who engineered this crisis, and want to keep profiteering off it. Any lawmaker who takes that position is selling out the country, as is any issue-based political non-profit group -- liberal or conservative -- that uses its resources to defend a "yes" vote rather than demand a "no" vote. This is a bill that forces taxpayers to absorb all of the pain, and Wall Street executives to reap all of the gain. It doesn't even force the corporate executives (much less the government leaders) culpable in this free fall to step down -- it lets them stay fat and happy in their corner office suites in Manhattan.

Even if they believe that something must be done right now, lawmakers should still vote no on this specific bill, and force one of the very prudent alternatives to the forefront. They shouldn't just vote no on Paulson's proposal -- they should vote hell no. Our economy's future depends on it.

David Sirota is a best-selling author whose newest book, "The Uprising," was just released this month. He is a fellow at the Campaign for America's Future and a board member of the Progressive States Network -- both nonpartisan organizations. His blog is at www.credoaction.com/sirota.
© 2008 Blog for Our Future All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/100700/

Friday, September 26, 2008

How Positive Thinking Wrecked the Economy

By Barbara Ehrenreich, Barbaraehrenreich.com
Posted on September 26, 2008, Printed on September 26, 2008
http://www.alternet.org/story/100396/

(A shorter version of this appears as an op ed in the New York Times yesterday.)

Greed -- and its crafty sibling, speculation -- are the designated culprits for the ongoing financial crisis, but another, much admired, habit of mind should get its share of the blame: the delusional optimism of mainstream, all-American, positive thinking. As promoted by Oprah, scores of megachurch pastors, and an endless flow of self-help bestsellers, the idea is to firmly belief that you will get what you want, not only because it will make you feel better to do so, but because thinking things, "visualizing" them -- ardently and with concentration -- actually makes them happen. You will be able to pay that adjustable rate mortgage or, at the other end of the transaction, turn thousands of bad mortgages into giga-profits, the reasoning goes, if only you truly believe that you can.

Positive thinking is endemic to American culture -- from weight loss programs to cancer support groups -- and in the last two decades it put down deep roots in the corporate world as well. Everyone knows that you won't get a job paying more than $15 an hour unless you're a "positive person" -- doubt-free, uncritical, and smiling -- and no one becomes a CEO by issuing warnings of possible disaster.

According to a rare skeptic, a Washington-based crisis management consultant I interviewed on the eve of the credit meltdown in 2007, even the magical idea that you can have whatever you truly want has been "viral" in the business culture. All the tomes in airport bookstores' business sections scream out against "negativity" and advise the reader to be at all times upbeat, optimistic and brimming with confidence -- a message companies relentlessly reinforced by treating their white collar employees to manic motivational speakers and revival-like motivational events. The top guys, meanwhile, would go off to get pumped up in exotic locales with the likes of success guru Tony Robbins. Those who still failed to get with the program could be subjected to personal "coaching" or of course, shown to the door.

The same frothy wave of mandatory optimism swept through the once-sober finance industry. On their websites, scores of motivational speakers proudly list companies like Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch among their clients. Angelo Mozilo, the former CEO of Countrywide Mortgage whose subprime ventures precipitated the entire crisis, was known for his congenital optimism and described in the Guardian earlier this year as "absurdly upbeat" even as his industry unraveled. No one was psychologically prepared for hard times, when they hit, because, according to the tenets of positive thinking, even to think of trouble is to bring it on. In May, the New York Times reported that Merrill, caught up short, was suddenly trying to "temper the Pollyannas in its ranks," and force its analysts to occasionally say the word "sell."

For those at the very top of the corporate hierarchy, all this positive thinking must not have seemed delusional at all. They actually could have almost anything they wanted, just by expressing the desire. CEO compensation has ballooned in recent years, creating the new class of billionaires and centi-millionaires who inhabit Lear jets and four-figure a night hotel rooms, who can dispatch a private plane to pick up a favorite wine, or a pet, they happen to have left in the Hamptons. According to a new book from the UK, Unjust Rewards by Polly Toynbee and David Walker, these masters of the universe tend to be seriously uninformed about how the other 99 percent lives and, Toynbee told me, often uncomprehending of the financial operations -- the derivatives, CDS's, etc. -- that their wealth is derived from. If you live in a bubble of perfect wish-fulfillment, how could you imagine that, for example, some poor fellow in Cleveland might run up against unexpected medical bills or car problems that could waylay his mortgage payments?

Americans did not start out as deluded optimists. The original ethos, at least of white Protestant settlers and their descendents, was a grim Calvinism that offered wealth only through hard work and savings, and even then made no promises at all. You might work hard and still fail; you certainly wouldn't get anywhere by adjusting your attitude or dreamily "visualizing" success. Calvinists thought "negatively" as we would say today, carrying a weight of guilt and foreboding that sometimes broke their spirits. It was in response to this harsh ethos that positive thinking arose -- among mystics, lay healers, and transcendentalists -- in the 19th century, with its crowd-pleasing message that God, or the universe, is really on your side, that you can actually have whatever you want, if the wanting is focused enough.

When it comes to how we think, "negative" is not the only alternative to "positive." As the case histories of depressives show, consistent pessimism can be just as baseless and deluded as its opposite. The alternative to both is realism -- seeing the risks, having the courage to bear bad news, and being prepared for famine as well as plenty. Now, with our savings, our homes and our livelihoods on the line, we ought to give it a try.

Barbara Ehrenreich is the author of thirteen books, including the New York Times bestseller Nickel and Dimed. A frequent contributor to the New York Times, Harpers, and the Progressive, she is a contributing writer to Time magazine. She lives in Florida.
© 2008 Barbaraehrenreich.com All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/100396/

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Campbell Brown Rips McCain Camp's "Sexist" Treatment Of Palin

A prominent female news anchor chastised the McCain campaign Tuesday evening for engaging in sexism and insulting behavior in its attempt to shield Gov. Sarah Palin from members of the press.

In a fiery commentary, Campbell Brown laid into John McCain for casting a "chauvinistic chain" that ran over his running mate. Punctuated by a call to "Free Sarah Palin," the CNN anchor highlighted the attempt Tuesday by the McCain campaign to ban editorial reporters from covering Palin's visit with world leaders at the UN, as yet another gender-demeaning move in a campaign highlighted by sexist behavior.

"Tonight I call on the McCain campaign to stop treating Sarah Palin like she is a delicate flower that will wilt at any moment," said Brown. "This woman is from Alaska for crying out loud. She is strong. She is tough. She is confident. And you claim she is ready to be one heart beat away form the presidency. If that is the case, then end this chauvinistic treatment of her now. Allow her to show her stuff. Allow her to face down those pesky reporters... Let her have a real news conference with real questions. By treating Sarah Palin different from the other candidates in this race, you are not showing her the respect she deserves. Free Sarah Palin. Free her from the chauvinistic chain you are binding her with. Sexism in this campaign must come to an end. Sarah Palin has just as much a right to be a real candidate in this race as the men do. So let her act like one."

This is, it seems, one of the strongest backlashes to the war that McCain and his aides have waged with the press. Critical articles the campaign can handle - easily chalked up to a "liberal media bias". And the lack of an organ to get out its message is really not a problem when media outlets are still covering the candidate's every move (though today, a near boycott occurred during Palin's trip to the UN). But charges that the campaign is insulting women voters by shielding its vice presidential nominee from the press are powerful and persuasive, especially when they come from a well-known female news anchor. Palin, it should be noted, will be taking questions from CBS's Katie Couric on Wednesday.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Pink and Purple are the New Red and Black

The color red has been associated with the left and people rising up against the oppression of first the royals and then the oligarchs since the French Revolution of 1789.

The color black has been associated with anarchism since the 19th century. It has also been long associated with those outsiders who have worn the various labels representing bohemian culture. There is a book about the women of the Beat Generation, “Girls who Wore Black”

When I was in SDS during the 1960s we called ourselves reds, betraying our ignorance in the history of American radicalism as our thinking was often more anarchistic than Marxist. It was only later when we discovered Emma Goldman that we started to see the historical connections.

When Howard Zinn gave us “A People’s History of the United States: 1492 to Present” we started to learn the roots of our radicalism and how they had been erased from the history we were taught.

Since the late 1960s the red/black of opposition have been joined by two other colors: Pink and Purple.

When we speak of pink as a radical color we are reclaiming it from the feminine mystique and are making it the pink of Code Pink, the pink of the ribbon associated with Susan G. Komen, and now the pink worn by India’s “Pink Gang, the Gulabi.

Taking pink back from its association with simpering femininity and making a strong and powerful color associated with women’s role in the peace movement is an act of reframing, reimaging the meaning from passive to active.

Purple in all its various hues including lavender has a long association with LGBT people. From the Lavender Menace to the Purple Prose of Oscar Wilde the various shades of purple have long been associated with those who dissent from the patriarchally approved world of heteronormativity.

Indeed, when the straight male dominated anti-war movements of the 1960s had faded into history the feminist movements as well as the LGBT movements remained and helped keep the flame of dissent burning through the repression of the post-war Republican era of greed and repression.

When the repression was at its worst and gay men were dying by the thousands with a president who couldn’t bring himself to say the word AIDS, Queer Nation spoke out because “Silence = Death”.

1992, the year Bill Clinton was elected was the “Year of the Women” when women first gained a real voice in the House and the Senate with the election of numerous female candidates.

In the many years of struggle when other voices of dissent were silent, women and LGBT served witness to the injustices and spoke out in dissent and that is why pink and purple have earned their place along side of red and black in the colors of radical dissent.

Dear American:

[This is an e-mail that is making the rounds of progressive mailing lists]

Dear American:

I need to ask you to support an urgent secret business relationship
with a transfer of funds of great magnitude.

I am Ministry of the Treasury of the Republic of America. My country
has had crisis that has caused the need for large transfer of funds of
800 billion dollars US. If you would assist me in this transfer, it
would be most profitable to you.

I am working with Mr. Phil Gram, lobbyist for UBS, who will be my
replacement as Ministry of the Treasury in January. As a Senator, you
may know him as the leader of the American banking deregulation
movement in the 1990s. This transactin is 100% safe.

This is a matter of great urgency. We need a blank check. We need
the funds as quickly as possible. We cannot directly transfer these
funds in the names of our close friends because we are constantly
under surveillance. My family lawyer advised me that I should look
for a reliable and trustworthy person who will act as a next of kin
so the funds can be transferred.

Please reply with all of your bank account, IRA and college fund
account numbers and those of your children and grandchildren to
wallstreetbailout@treasury.gov so that we may transfer your
commission for this transaction. After I receive that
information, I will respond with detailed information about
safeguards that will be used to protect the funds.

Yours Faithfully,

Minister of Treasury Paulson

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Now Is the Time to Resist Wall Street's Shock Doctrine

Now Is the Time to Resist Wall Street's Shock Doctrine
Huffington Post September 23, 2008

by Naomi Klein

I wrote The Shock Doctrine in the hopes that it would make us all better prepared for the next big shock. Well, that shock has certainly arrived, along with gloves-off attempts to use it to push through radical pro-corporate policies (which of course will further enrich the very players who created the market crisis in the first place...).

The best summary of how the right plans to use the economic crisis to push through their policy wish list comes from Former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich. On Sunday, Gingrich laid out 18 policy prescriptions for Congress to take in order to "return to a Reagan-Thatcher policy of economic growth through fundamental reforms." In the midst of this economic crisis, he is actually demanding the repeal of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which would lead to further deregulation of the financial industry. Gingrich is also calling for reforming the education system to allow "competition" (a.k.a. vouchers), strengthening border enforcement, cutting corporate taxes and his signature move: allowing offshore drilling.

It would be a grave mistake to underestimate the right's ability to use this crisis -- created by deregulation and privatization -- to demand more of the same. Don't forget that Newt Gingrich's 527 organization, American Solutions for Winning the Future, is still riding the wave of success from its offshore drilling campaign, "Drill Here, Drill Now!" Just four months ago, offshore drilling was not even on the political radar and now the U.S. House of Representatives has passed supportive legislation. Gingrich is holding an event this Saturday, September 27 that will be broadcast on satellite television to shore up public support for these controversial policies.

What Gingrich's wish list tells us is that the dumping of private debt into the public coffers is only stage one of the current shock. The second comes when the debt crisis currently being created by this bailout becomes the excuse to privatize social security, lower corporate taxes and cut spending on the poor. A President McCain would embrace these policies willingly. A President Obama would come under huge pressure from the think tanks and the corporate media to abandon his campaign promises and embrace austerity and "free-market stimulus."

We have seen this many times before, in this country and around the world. But here's the thing: these opportunistic tactics can only work if we let them. They work when we respond to crisis by regressing, wanting to believe in "strong leaders" -- even if they are the same strong leaders who used the September 11 attacks to push through the Patriot Act and launch the illegal war in Iraq.

So let's be absolutely clear: there are no saviors who are going to look out for us in this crisis. Certainly not Henry Paulson, former CEO of Goldman Sachs, one of the companies that will benefit most from his proposed bailout (which is actually a stick up). The only hope of preventing another dose of shock politics is loud, organized grassroots pressure on all political parties: they have to know right now that after seven years of Bush, Americans are becoming shock resistant.
Copyright © 2008 HuffingtonPost.com, Inc.

CEO murdered by mob of sacked Indian workers

From Times Online
September 23, 2008

Rhys Blakely, Bombay
Corporate India is in shock after a mob of sacked workers bludgeoned to death the chief executive who had dismissed them from a factory in a suburb of Delhi.

Lalit Kishore Choudhary, 47, the head of the Indian operations of Graziano Transmissioni, an Italian-headquartered manufacturer of car parts, died of severe head wounds on Monday afternoon after being attacked by scores of laid-off employees, police said.

The incident, in Greater Noida, just outside the Indian capital, followed a long-running dispute between the factory's management and workers who had demanded better pay and permanent contracts.

It is understood that Mr Choudhary, who was married with one son, had called a meeting with more than 100 former employees - who had been dismissed following an earlier outbreak of violence at the plant - to discuss a possible reinstatement deal.

A police spokesman said: "Only a few people were called inside. About 150 people were waiting outside when they heard someone from inside shout for help. They rushed in and the two sides clashed. The company staff were heavily outnumbered."

Other executives said they were lucky to escape with their lives. "I just locked my room's door from inside and prayed they would not break in. See, my hands are trembling even three hours later," an Italian consultant, Forettii Gatii, told a local newspaper.

More than 60 people were arrested and more than 20 were in hospital yesterday.
A spokesman for the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry said: "Such a heinous act is bound to sully India's image among overseas investors."
The murder has stoked fears that outbreaks of mob rule risk jeopardising the subcontinent's economic rise.

In the most high-profile incident so far, thousands of violent protestors recently forced Tata, the Indian conglomerate that owns Land Rover and Jaguar, to halt work on the plant being built to produce the world's cheapest car - the £1,250 Nano. The move could result in nearly £200 million in investment written off.

Tata halted work three weeks ago, claiming it could not guarantee its workers safety at the factory in the state of West Bengal. In a rare show of support for a competitor, the billionaire industrialist Mukesh Ambani, one of India's most powerful businessmen, said that the Nano crisis showed how protestors were creating a "a fear-psychosis to slow-down certain projects of national importance."
Other companies, including Vedenta, the London-listed mining company, have encountered similar problems in India.

In a statement issued from Rivoli in Italy, Graziano said that some of Mr Choudhary's attackers had no connection to the company. It added that the chief executive was killed by "serious head injuries caused by the intruders."
"We absolutely condemn the attack," Marcello Lamberto, the head of Oerlikon Segment Drive Systems, which owns Graziano, said.

"This is by no means a regular labour conflict but is truly criminal action. The whole of Oerlikon Group is close to the family of Mr Chaudhary in this terrible moment."

Personal commentary to this news story:

"The revolution starts Now" (Steve Earle)

The CEOs are the real economic criminals. They exploit and enslave so that they can gain vast wealth and privilege. In the US the working people are being asked to bail out AIG, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Lehman, Bear Sterns and all the other corporate pigs who raped our nation. Their CEOs get to keep the vast unearned salaries and bonuses they received for creating this debacle as well as golden parachutes worth millions.

I do not advocate doing to them what the Indian workers did. Instead I advocate confiscating every penny of their assets and imprisoning them for economic crimes.

Nationalize their businesses and put them under government control.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Republicans Allege McCain Covered Up His Collaboration with the North Vietnamese While a POW

By Steven Rosenfeld, AlterNet. Posted September 21, 2008.

Allegations resurface that McCain made propaganda statements and tried to keep Viet Cong records about him classified.

A 1992 video featuring a Republican senator, Republican congressman and top Capitol Hill staffers who worked on Vietnam prisoner of war and missing in action issues say John McCain collaborated with North Vietnamese while a POW, and then covered up that involvement to the detriment of POW/MIA families seeking access to classified Pentagon records about their own family members.

Watch the Video



The video raises probing questions about the 2008 Republican presidential nominee's war record, especially after McCain made his captivity a major part of his qualifications for the presidency at the Republican National Convention. In 2004, the GOP focused on Democratic nominee John Kerry's war record to criticize his candidacy.

To date, the video has been posted on a handful of blogs but has been ignored by the mainstream media. While it features Republican stalwarts on POW/MIA issues, it also suggests that McCain's war records at the Pentagon and in North Vietnam would reveal potentially very controversial details about the GOP's presidential candidate.

The nearly eight-minute video is posted on YouTube under "Vietnam Veterans Against McCain." It begins with the title, "1992 Senate Select Committee on POW/MIAs," and features ex-Sen. Bob Smith (R-NH), Rep. Robert Dornan (R-CA), senate staffers Tracy Usry, James Lucier, and military family members Lynn O'Shea, of the National Alliance of Families and retired Army Cpl. Bob Dumas, whose brother was a POW lost in the Korean War, and Joseph Douglass, Jr., author of Betrayed, about America's missing POWs. The video has no author credits.

The footage begins with Douglass, Usry, O'Shea and Smith all saying that McCain worked to kill legislation that would have opened the Pentagon's classified archive of POW/MIA files. "Many, many documents were held back for no reason," former Sen. Smith said. Dorman said legislation that passed the House with no opposing votes was single-handedly blocked in the Senate by McCain. "On the Senate side, we had one person standing in the way," Dornan said, referring to McCain.

Dumas then gave the reason why - the Pentagon's records would reveal McCain had collaborated with the Vietnamese. "He didn't want nobody to check his background because a lot of POWs who were with him in the camp said he was a collaborator with the enemy," Dumas said. "He gave the enemy information they wanted."

Lucier, identified as a former U.S. Senate Chief of Staff, said "we do know that when he was over there, he cooperated with Communist news services in giving interviews that were not flattering to the United States." Usry, identified as U.S. Senate Minority Staff former chief investigator, said "information shows that he made over 32 tapes of propaganda for the Vietnamese government."

Dornan said there were transcripts of other POWs reacting to McCain's false statements, saying, "Oh my God, is that Admiral McCain's son Is that the admiral's son? Is that Johnny, telling us that our principle targets are schools, orphanages, hospitals, temples, churches? That was Jane Fonda's line." Dornan said those transcripts are in war museums in North Vietnam, where McCain, as a senator, pressured the country not to release them or face opposition concerning normalization of relations with the United States.

"McCain could not have wanted those to turn up in the middle of a presidential race," the ex-congressman said. "He knows that. I know that. And a few other people know that. That's why he was against Bob Dole's legislation."

Dornan then offered another interesting explanation why McCain refused an offer by the North Vietnamese to be released. Dornan said those released first were collaborators, which would have ended McCain's military career and hurt the Navy, where his father commanded the Pacific fleet.

"Nobody takes that one step beyond that," Dornan said, speaking of McCain's refusal to be released. "If Admiral John McCain's son had accepted this princely status and come home in 1967, while others sat there for five years, what would the Navy have done with the son of an admiral who opted to get special treatment and come home? No Navy career. No House seat. No Senate seat. It would have been the end of his career."

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders on Billions for Bailouts

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Reid Likens McCain To Hoover

Reid Likens McCain To Hoover
Sep 16, 2008(The Politico) Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid likened John McCain to former president Herbert Hoover on Tuesday, as the Democratic outrage continued over McCain’s statement that the fundamentals of the economy are strong.

“John McCain woke up yesterday, surveyed the state of the U.S. economy, summoned the ghost of his fellow Republican Herbert Hoover and declared — and I quote — ‘the fundamentals of our economy are strong,'” Reid said on the Senate floor.

“For whom are the fundamentals of the economy strong?”

Speaking at a rally on Monday, McCain repeated his assertion that the fundamentals of the economy are strong, despite the latest turmoil on Wall Street. McCain did acknowledge the trouble in the financial markets and vowed to reform Wall Street, but it wasn’t enough for Democrats, who have pounced on the statement.

Reid then went on to read a quote from Hoover, who has become a favorite punching bag of the Democrats of late, for his insistence that the economy was on solid ground throughout most of the Great Depression.

“On the morning of October 30, 1929, President Herbert Hoover woke the day after the biggest one-day stock market crash in American history, surveyed the state of the U.S. economy and declared — and I quote — ‘The fundamental business of the country … is on a sound and prosperous basis,’” Reid said.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Selling Ice Cream, With Sprinkles of Anarchism


The Anarchist Ice Cream Truck’s menu is divided into “Treats for the Streets” and “Food for Thought.” (Photo: Corey Kilgannon/The New York Times)

By Corey Kilgannon

There was something odd about the ice cream truck that pulled up to the curb on Park Avenue near 67th Street on Friday, with its proletarian color scheme and its overdressed driver with the subversive grin.

He was offering free ice cream in the middle of a rainstorm. The ice cream flavors were fudge, cherry, grape and tropical. But the right side of the menu offered flavors like Know Your Rights, Anarchy, Protest Tips, Black Panthers and Graffiti Liberation. There were also fact sheets on Halliburton and the Patriot Act.

Inside, the ice cream shared freezer space with emergency gas masks, and the condiment shelves held equipment for protesters at demonstrations to use when confronted by the police. The ice cream inventory is limited, because cabinets are used to store rolls of film for documenting police action, Ibuprofen for billy-club headaches and rain ponchos in case of fire hoses and water cannons. There were pepper spray treatment kits and the counter-weapon of choice: water balloons. There is an ample supply of work gloves.

“These are for throwing tear-gas canisters back at police so you don’t burn your hands,” explained the driver, Aaron Gach, 34, who wore a skinny bow tie and black-and-white wing tips, and a uniform with “Art” on the name tag and the words “Tactical Ice Cream Unit” on his white captain’s hat. He was not wearing his usual big fake mustache.

Mr. Gach calls the Anarchist Ice Cream Truck “the alter ego of a police mobile command unit.” Mr. Gach is a co-founder of the Center for Tactical Magic, an arts group based in Oakland, Calif., that advocates “positive social transformation” and “actively addressing power on individual, communal and transnational fronts.” The group says it uses tactics taken from “the ways of the artist, the magician, the ninja, and the private investigator.”

The truck distributes literature developed by neighborhood progressive groups and works to “confront the rhetoric of ‘Big Brother’” and “provoke thought about political engagement,” according to Mr. Gach. It is appearing this week around New York City and will be on display next week at the Park Avenue Armory on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, as part of a weeklong exhibition called Democracy in America: The National Campaign, featuring dozens of artists’ works. It is produced by the armory and the arts group Creative Time.

The truck is the perfect tool for monitoring police action at a demonstration, and protecting and replenishing protesters, Mr. Gach said. The ice cream attracts protesters and even some police. Often the police wave them through blockades, fooled by the truck.

There is a police scanner on the dashboard, and there is a GPS unit, and the cameras are digitally recorded and can broadcast the video to media outlets, in case of a newsworthy demonstration, or police action, Mr. Gach said.

Since it first took to the streets in 2005, the truck has been across the country (never before to New York), stopping a various events. Sometimes it is on the perimeter of demonstrations, and sometimes helping conduct them. Mr. Gach said he has never been arrested, but has had many standoffs with the police. Customs officials have searched the freezers at borders, and at one demonstration, undercover officers asked him if he was distributing weapons and explosives to demonstrators.

In Vancouver, he said, he was pulled over by Canadian Mounties who wanted to search the vehicle but finally relented after Mr. Gach insisted on his rights to privacy.

“They got no ice cream,” he said, smiling.

In Riverside, Calif., he said, the police threw a man to the ground, but stopped roughing him up after a member of the Tactical Ice Cream Unit ran out with a video camera and informed the officers that he and the truck were filming them.

Mr. Gach said, “At a demonstration in Chicago, the police told us, ‘You can’t sell ice cream here — it’s a protest.’”

Inside, the truck is done in sleek red upholstery, and there is a repeating loop of dance tunes and musical samples with ice cream themes. There is a poster on the truck condemning war. The freezer bears the socialist-looking insignia showing a fist thrust in front of a red star, holding an ice cream cone with a cherry and a lighted fuse. Tacked above it was a flier — “Free the San Francisco 8” and “Resist the police state” — and a lyric sheet for protesters. Mr. Gach sat in front of a bank of screens and a laptop showing a radar sweep of the area. The truck has 16 surveillance cameras and ultrasensitive microphones monitoring the exterior.

Somehow, all of these surveillance tools managed to miss the parking agent that slapped a ticket on the truck almost as soon as it arrived. Another blow in the fight against “The Man” — a $115 penalty for parking in a No Standing zone.

Elizabeth Winn, 31, a counselor at a neighborhood homeless shelter, walked up to the truck seeking ice cream, but became interested in the literature. Asked about her political activism, she said she was interested in sweat shop conditions and keeping “Wal-Mart out of New York.” She suggested to Mr. Gach that he would get more interest in places like Williamsburg, Brooklyn, than the Upper East Side.

Then Gregory Belton, 26, a construction worker from East New York, Brooklyn, ordered a tropical-flavored ice pop and three pieces of propaganda: Know Your Rights, the Patriot Act, and Black Panthers.

“I want to learn about this stuff because I hate being stopped by cops,” he said. “I got a ticket for being in the park late one night playing chess. I get stopped and searched by cops just walking down the street.”

Two electricians walked up and ordered ice cream. The men, Ralph Camoia, 35, and Matt Schulz, 32, were unaware of the truck’s political function, and ordered Protest Tips from the propaganda menu, thinking they were some exotic type of sprinkles. Mr. Shulz laughed and said, “Ah, give me the stuff on Halliburton.”

Mr. Gach said: “My first customer was a little old lady who got an ice cream, and I asked if she wanted a piece of propaganda. She said: ‘Only one? I’ll take Anarchy, Black Panthers and Earth First.’ I was like, ‘Right on.’”

http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/09/16/ice-cream-is-sold-with-sprinkles-of-anarchism/

Working Class

I've been watching the financial Armageddon that is happening sans Rapture to beam up all the malevolent True Believers, worshipers at the Free Market altar of non-regulation.

Now it appears that if any of these bastards had any of the integrity of the capitalist pigs of yore. Oh say, way back when under the reign of another Republicker disaster, Herbert Hoover. We would be experiencing that glorious moment when they would open the windows of their skyscrapers and instead of beaming upward they would seek the shortest route to the imaginary place fictitiously located in the center of the earth.

But instead we are ruled by Chimpy II, arguably the worst president ever and now the greed pigs have high self esteem and friends in high places.

Now I'm and old woman and wear my hair in a long gray braid tucked up under a hair net when I work the concrete floor in a big box store, passing out food samples to the over privileged masses yearning to eat for free. They max out my time at 30 hours a week so I am classified as part time and they don't have to give me any benefits like paid sick time or vacation or health insurance.

I'm putting in my time until I can get Social Security, a program established by one of our greatest presidents FDR as a way of preventing people from dying in abject poverty, broken or aged. And Medicare, established by another great Democratic president LBJ as a way of insuring aged and disabled people could receive medical care when they were excluded from coverage by the greed pigs who run the for profit health insurance rip offs.

Yeah in my heart I am an anarcho-syndicalist who believes in unions and worker control over the means of production. Pragmatically I know that one is unlikely to happen in my life time if ever because even idealistic revolutions tend to end up with new bosses replacing the old bosses. So I am a Yellow Dog Democrat. That is an old expression. It means I'd vote for a mean cur yellow broken down mongrel dog before I'd ever vote for a Republican. If that yellow dog were a good Democratic Party yellow dog.

Today at work one of my right wing Republican co-workers asked me why I was supporting Barack Obama. I said because he is the Democratic candidate. He then asked me why I was a Democrat.

I looked at him like he was insane for even asking and I said, "Because the Democratic Party represents the interests of the working class and the Republican Party represents the interests of the rich exploiting class."

He looked puzzled and asked if I considered myself to be working class. Now here's a Republican standing on the same concrete floor doing the same job I am with the same aching feet I have and he is asking me if I consider myself working class.

I some times think the only difference between working class and the hourly wage earner who thinks he or she is middle class is that the person who proudly wears the label of working class is the person who has had their consciousness raised. Knows who is who and what is what. The people who call themselves, working class know the real bosses aren't the hourly leads or supervisors making 5% more than they are. The real bosses are tooling around in expensive cars and private jets and giving big bucks to keep the Rethuglicans in power.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Naomi Klein Strikes Back at Critics of Her 'Shock Doctrine' Book

By Naomi Klein, NaomiKlein.com
Posted on September 11, 2008, Printed on September 12, 2008
http://www.alternet.org/story/98338/

One year ago, I set off on a book tour to promote The Shock Doctrine. The plan was for it to last three months, quite long by publishing standards. Twelve months later, it is still going. But this has been no ordinary book tour. Everywhere I have traveled- from Calgary, Alberta to Cochabamba, Bolivia -- I have heard more stories about how shock strategies have been used to impose unwanted pro-corporate policies. I have also been part of stimulating debates and discussions about how the current round of crises -- oil, food, financial markets, heavy weather -- can be transformed into opportunities for progressive change.

And there have been other kinds of responses too. The Shock Doctrine is a direct attack on the intellectuals and institutions that have disseminated corporatist ideology around the world. When I wrote the book, I fully expected to get hit back. Yet for eight months following publication, there was an eerie silence from the "free-market" ideologues. Sure, a few dismissive reviews appeared in the business press. But not a word from the Washington think tanks that I name in the book. Nothing from the University of Chicago economics department. Even The Economist magazine, which used to attack me gleefully and with great regularity, never mentioned the book in print. An American television producer, who was trying to find an opponent to debate me on-air, confided that she had never been turned down so consistently. "They seem to think if they ignore you, you'll go away."

Well, the silence from the right has certainly been broken. In recent months, several articles and reports have come out claiming to debunk my thesis. The most prominent are a "background paper" published by The Cato Institute, extended into a full length book in Swedish (!), and a lengthy essay in The New Republic by senior editor Jonathan Chait.

Several readers have written to asking me to respond to these attacks, if only to help them defend the book more effectively. I resisted at first (clinging to my summer vacation) but I appreciate the feedback and several points do need correcting. Since the reports by Cato and The New Republic -- though purporting to come from radically different points on the political spectrum -- share some marked similarities, I've decided to tackle them together. Here goes.

Sorry Boys, Milton Friedman Supported The War

Both Jonathan Chait and The Cato Institute claim that the late economist Milton Friedman was a staunch opponent of the invasion of Iraq. The Cato paper states of me that, "She claims that Friedman was a 'neoconservative' and thus in favor of an aggressive American foreign policy, and she argues that Iraq was invaded so that Chicago-style policies could be implemented there. but nowhere does she mention Friedman's actual views about the war. Friedman himself said: 'I was opposed to going into Iraq from the beginning. I think it was a mistake, for the simple reason that I do not believe the United States of America ought to be involved in aggression.' And this was not just one war that he happened to oppose. In 1995, he described his foreign policy position as 'anti-interventionist.'"

Similarly, Chait accuses me of not knowing the difference between libertarians and neo-cons and chides me for never mentioning -- "not once, not anywhere" -- that Friedman "argued against the Iraq war from the beginning." Apparently Friedman's anti-war stance should be "morbidly embarrassing" to me.

I am not the one who should be embarrassed. Despite his later protestations, Milton Friedman openly supported the war when it was being waged. In April 2003, Friedman told the German magazine Focus that "President Bush only wanted war because anything else would have threatened the freedom and the prosperity of the USA." Asked about increased tensions between the U.S. and Europe, Friedman replied: "the end justifies the means. As soon as we're rid of Saddam, the political differences will also disappear." [Read the whole interview in German and our translation.] Clearly this was not the voice of anti-intervention. Even in July 2006, when Friedman claimed to have opposed the war from the beginning, he remained hawkish. Now that the U.S. was in Iraq, Friedman told The Wall Street Journal, "it seems to me very important that we make a success of it."

All of this has nothing to do with my book, however. In The Shock Doctrine, I describe the invasion and occupation of Iraq as the culmination of Friedman's ideological crusade because he was America's leading intellectual favoring the privatization of the state -- not because he personally supported the war, which is irrelevant. For more than five years Iraq has been the vanguard of this radical privatization project. Private contractors now outnumber U.S. soldiers and corporations have taken on such core state functions as prisoner interrogation.

Furthermore, I never said Friedman was a "neo-conservative" and I discuss, at length, how difficult it is to find terms to describe the corporatist project that are acceptable to all readers. On page 17 (all page numbers refer to the Picador paperback) I write:

"In the attempt to relate the history of the ideological crusade that has culminated in the radical privatization of war and disaster, one problem recurs: the ideology is a shape-shifter, forever changing its name and switching identities. Friedman called himself a 'liberal,' but his U.S. followers, who associated liberals with high taxes and hippies, tended to identify as 'conservatives,' 'classical economists,' 'free marketers' and, later, as believers in 'Reaganomics' or 'laissez-faire.' In most of the world, their orthodoxy is known as 'neo-liberalism,' but it is often called 'free trade' or simply 'globalization.' Only since the mid-nineties has the intellectual movement, led by the right-wing think tanks with which Friedman had long associations -- Heritage Foundation, Cato Institute and the American Enterprise Institute -- called itself 'neo-conservative,' a world view that has harnessed the full force of the U.S. military machine in the service of a corporate agenda."


The significance of the "neo-con" label gaining currency in the mid-nineties is that it was then that the Republicans, under the leadership of Newt Gingrich and backed by the think tanks I mentioned, swept Congress promising a "Contract With America." At this point, the label "neo-conservatives" was not a reference primarily to hawkish foreign policy positions but to harsh economic ones. Back in the mid-nineties, many of the people most associated with the neo-con label today - David Frum and William Kristol and much of the Weekly Standard crowd - were squarely focused on demanding Friedmanite cut-backs and privatizations inside the United States. Frum, for example, first made his name in the U.S. with Dead Right, his 1994 book exhorting the conservative movement to return to its free market economic roots. After Bill Clinton embraced much of this economic agenda, several of the key neo-con warriors narrowed their focus to American dominance on the world stage, a fact that has allowed their keen interests in Friedmanite economic ideas to be largely overlooked.

Ignore the Reporting, Attack the Author

Both Chait's essay and the Cato paper are marked by a stubborn refusal to wrestle with the evidence quoted in my book. For instance, Chait dismisses out of hand my suggestion that there were economic interests behind the 1999 NATO intervention in Kosovo (though he grudgingly admits I never claim that economics was the sole motivator). I do write that there were other factors motivating the war besides Slobodan Milosevic's egregious human rights violations. I base this claim on the post-war analysis provided by Strobe Talbott, Deputy Secretary of State under U.S. President Bill Clinton and the lead U.S. negotiator during the Kosovo war. In a 2005 essay (quoted on page 415), Talbott wrote:

"As nations throughout the region sought to reform their economies, mitigate ethnic tensions, and broaden civil society, Belgrade seemed to delight in continually moving in the opposite direction. It is small wonder NATO and Yugoslavia ended up on a collision course. It was Yugoslavia's resistance to the broader trends of political and economic reform--not the plight of the Kosovar Albanians--that best explains NATO's war."


Instead of explaining how the words of a top-level U.S. official could so clearly coincide with my argument, Chait chooses to completely ignore the Talbott quote. Again and again, readers of The New Republic are left with the distinct impression that The Shock Doctrine is a work of opinion journalism, rather than a thesis based on research and reporting.

When Chait and The Cato Institute do acknowledge my reliance on facts, they accuse me of manipulating them to fit my thesis. Interestingly, the first time Chait quotes my work, he does just that. To explain to his readers what kind of an extremist he is dealing with, he quotes my first book, No Logo. In it, I allegedly described the world as a "fascist state where we all salute the logo and have little opportunity for criticism because our newspapers, television stations, Internet servers, streets and retail spaces are all controlled by multinational corporate interests." If he had let the quote continue for one more sentence, his readers would have known that I went on to dismiss this worldview as overly caricatured. The next sentences read: "there is good reason for alarm. But a word of caution: we may be able to see a not-so-brave new world on the horizon, but that doesn't mean we are already living in Huxley's nightmare… Instead of an airtight formula, [corporate censorship] is a steady trend but riddled with exceptions."

This is just the first of countless instances in which Chait twists my words to fit his thesis. When manipulation fails, he simply takes my points and passes them off as his own, without attribution. (I am well aware, for instance, that both Marxists and Keynesians have exploited crisis and disaster, which is why I explore left-wing disaster opportunism on pages 21-25, 65-70, 283, 316-317.)

Grasping at Straws

The Cato paper does, at times, acknowledge that there are facts in my book, but faults me for failing to provide sources for my statistics. This is a bold charge to make against a book with 74 pages of endnotes. The one example mentioned is the statistic "that between 25 and 60 percent of the population is discarded or becomes a permanent underclass in countries that liberalize their economies." I did not provide a source for this stat because it is an amalgamation of stats I had already cited and for which I had already provided multiple sources. This is standard practice: once a statistic has been sourced, it can repeated (for the sake of brevity) without repeating the source. So here are those stats on which the 25-60 per cent amalgamation is based, with their sources, straight out of The Shock Doctrine endnotes:

* Unemployment in Bolivia was between 25% and 30% in 1987 (page 186. Source: Mike Reid, "Sitting Out the Bolivian Miracle," Guardian (London), May 9, 1987.)

* 25% of Russians lived in desperate poverty in 1996 (page 300. Source: Russian Economic Trends 5, no. 1 (1996): 56-57 cited in Bertram Silverman and Murray Yanowitch, New Rich, New Poor, New Russia: Winners and Losers on the Russian Road to Capitalism (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 2000), 47.)

* Unemployment for black South Africans more than doubled from 23% in 1991 to 48% in 2002 (page 272. Sources: "South Africa: The Statistics," Le Monde Diplomatique, September 2006; Michael Wines and Sharon LaFraniere, "Decade of Democracy Fills Gaps in South Africa," New York Times, April 26, 2004.)

* Unemployment in Poland was at 25% in some areas in 1993 (page 241. Source: Mark Kramer, "Polish Workers and the Post-Communist Transition, 1989-93," Europe-Asia Studies, June 1995)

* 40% of young workers were unemployed in Poland in 2005 (page 241. Source: Andrew Curry, "The Case Against Poland's New President," New Republic, November 17, 2005)

* 59% of Poles had fallen below the poverty line in 2003 (pages 241-242. Source: Przemyslaw Wielgosz, "25 Years of Solidarity," August 2005.)


Elsewhere, the Cato paper claims that, "Klein never provides the reader with any data [about Chile] over a longer period. She never once admits that Chile is the social and economic success story of Latin America and has virtually abolished extreme poverty." In fact my economic analysis of Chile covers a 34-year span and I provide facts and data that directly challenge the claim that the country is a free market success story. Here is a relevant passage (pages 104-105):

"The only thing that protected Chile from complete economic collapse in the early eighties was that Pinochet had never privatized Codelco, the state copper mine company nationalized by Allende. That one company generated 85 percent of Chile's export revenues, which meant that when the financial bubble burst, the state still had a steady source of funds. By 1988, when the economy had stabilized and was growing rapidly, 45 percent of the population had fallen below the poverty line. The richest 10 percent of Chileans, however, had seen their incomes increase by 83 percent. Even in 2007, Chile remained one of the most unequal societies in the world--out of 123 countries in which the United Nations tracks inequality, Chile ranked 116th, making it the eighth most unequal country on the list."


A Massacre of Straw Men

Most of the attacks on The Shock Doctrine involve manufacturing claims, falsely attributing them to me, then handily tearing them down. For example, Jonathan Chait telescopes my point about Donald Rumsfeld's holdings in the Disaster Capitalism Complex like this: "Donald Rumsfeld maintained his stock in Gilead Sciences, which holds the patent for Tamiflu, even while serving as defense secretary. Get it? Rumsfeld would stand to profit from a flu pandemic. But surely you don't have to be an admirer of Rumsfeld to doubt that he would engineer an outbreak of a deadly virus in order to fatten his stock portfolio."

Actually, that is the plot of the movie V for Vendetta; it has absolutely nothing do with my book. What I do write about is how the Pentagon, under Rumsfeld's leadership, stockpiled Tamiflu and Rumsfeld stood to profit as the value of the stock increased by 807 per cent. On pages 394-395 I write:

"For the six years that he held office, Rumsfeld had to leave the room whenever talk turned to the possibility of avian flu treatment and the purchase of drugs for it. According to the letter outlining the arrangement that allowed him to hold on to his stocks, he had to stay out of decisions that 'may directly and predictably affect Gilead.' His colleagues, however, took good care of his interests. In July 2005, the Pentagon purchased $58 million worth of Tamiflu, and the Department of Health and Human Services announced that it would order up to $1 billion worth of the drug a few months later."


There are many more straw men propped up in The Cato Institute paper. Most involve vastly inflating the role I attribute to Milton Friedman. And no little wonder. Other than the University of Chicago economics department, Cato is the institution most intimately aligned and associated with Milton Friedman's radical theories. Among other tributes, every two years, Cato hands out the Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty, worth half a million dollars. (This year it went to a 23-year-old Venezuelan student activist to further his opposition to the government of Hugo Chavez). Since Friedman continues to serve as Cato's patron saint, it has much to lose from a diminishing of Friedman's reputation, as well as a direct interest in exonerating him of all crimes, real or imagined.

Here are a few more examples. The Cato paper claims that I put the entire blame for Pinochet's economic policies on the shoulders of Milton Friedman -- then "proves" that his direct involvement was minimal. Once again, I make no such claim. I do devote considerable space -- roughly 60 pages -- to describing the impact of a U.S. State Department program that brought more than one hundred Chilean students to the University of Chicago as part of a deliberate effort to export free-market economic ideas to Chile. This is the program that gave birth to the infamous "Chicago Boys" of Chile, several of whom were actively involved in planning the Chilean dictatorship's economic program before the 1973 coup even took place. Amazingly, the Cato paper makes absolutely no mention of this academic program in its effort to exonerate Friedman personally. The writer either missed 60 pages of my book, or deliberately chose to ignore them.

The greatest challenge in responding to the Cato paper is the scope of its dishonesty. Consider this one passage:

"Klein also blames Friedman and Chicago economics for the actions of the International Monetary Fund during the Asian financial crisis and the Sri Lankan government's confiscation of the land of fishing families to build luxury hotels after the tsunami. Yet the fact is that Friedman thought that the IMF shouldn't be involved in Asia, and he held that governments should be forbidden from expropriating property to give it to private developers. Of course, Klein could argue that Friedman was in some sense a source of inspiration for those policies, even though he was opposed to them. But she doesn't do that. She pretends that he agreed with them, and that that is what he and other Chicago economists wanted all along."


Absolutely everything in this passage is wrong. I never say Friedman favored the IMF bailout in Asia, quite the opposite. On pages 335-336, I report that, "Milton Friedman himself, now in his mid-eighties, made a rare appearance on CNN to tell the news anchor Lou Dobbs that he opposed any kind of bailout and that the market should be left to correct itself." In what way could this constitute "pretending" that Friedman supported the bailout?

I also freely acknowledge the fact that Friedman opposed the IMF on principle. However, as with Pinochet's government in the seventies, I also document that the IMF, at the time of the bailout, was packed with ideological Chicago Boys - a very different point than claiming the IMF was taking orders from Friedman. On page 202, I directly address this apparent contradiction:

"Philosophically, Milton Friedman did not believe in the IMF or the World Bank: they were classic examples of big government interfering with the delicate signals of the free market. So it was ironic that there was a virtual conveyor belt delivering Chicago Boys to the two institutions' hulking headquarters on Nineteenth Street in Washington, D.C., where they took up many of the top positions."


The Shock Doctrine has room for this kind of complexity because it is not -- despite what Cato claims -- a book about the actions of one man. It is about a multifaceted ideological trend that has successfully served the most powerful corporate interests in society for half a century.

Furthermore, I never wrote, as Cato claims in that same passage, that Friedman had anything to do with "the Sri Lankan government's confiscation of the land of fishing families to build luxury hotels after the tsunami." His name does not appear once in my 25-page chapter on the tsunami. Once again, to write that I "pretend" that Friedman is advocating these policies is pure fabrication. Furthermore, all of these inventions and misrepresentations appear in a single paragraph. The Cato background paper is 20 pages long and is comprised of dozens and dozens of equally dishonest paragraphs. Subjecting them all to this kind of rebuttal is simply too time consuming; my full rebuttal is the book itself.

Go to the Source

Thanks to a fantastic team of researchers, especially my incredible research assistant Debra Levy, The Shock Doctrine has withstood a year's worth of intense media scrutiny in dozens of countries. It is not unscathed, but it has emerged in better shape than I dared hope. When errors are discovered, we immediately correct them in future editions and post a correction and an explanation on the book's website. So far there has been only one significant error discovered, related to the profits earned from Dick Cheney's Halliburton stocks. It was immediately corrected. Readers of The Shock Doctrine know that this is but one of many examples that make the same point about conflicts of interest in the Bush Administration; indeed I devote an entire chapter to the topic. And this is the benefit of a methodology that is grounded not in anecdotes but in thousands of sourced facts and figures: the thesis does not rise or fall on any single example.

As to my critics' charge that I am selective in my use of quotations, that's a danger for any writer. It is also why Debra and I launched the "resources" section of the book's website. On this page, readers can access dozens of original reports, letters and studies that make up some of the key source material for the book. If you are concerned that I am exaggerating Friedman's support for the brutal regime of Augusto Pinochet, read a letter Friedman wrote to Pinochet. If you are suspicious that I am making disaster capitalism seem more conspiratorial than it is, read the minutes from a meeting that took place at the Heritage Foundation just two weeks after the levees broke in New Orleans. It lays out 32 "free market solutions" for Hurricane Katrina and high gas prices, many of which have been championed by the Bush Administration.

The thesis of The Shock Doctrine was not born of whimsy but of four years of research. Debra and I put these documents online because we want educators, students and general readers to move beyond an admittedly subjective version of history -- as all histories are -- and go straight to the source. We invite you to explore these documents, send us ones we missed, and come to your own conclusions.

Naomi Klein's latest book is The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.
© 2008 NaomiKlein.com All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/98338/

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Revlon for Piggy

Sarah Palin's 9 Most Disturbing Beliefs
By AlterNet Staff, AlterNet
Posted on September 8, 2008, Printed on September 10, 2008
http://www.alternet.org/story/97907/

Let's forget for a moment that Sarah Palin likes to kill moose, has lots of children and was once voted the second-prettiest lady in Alaska; that's all part of the gusher of sensationalist, but not particularly substantive, news that has dominated coverage of the Alaska governor's addition to the Republican ticket.

Before the next news cycle brings the shocking information that Palin was actually impregnated by Bigfoot, we need to shift the discussion to what really matters about her in the context of the White House: her dangerous views.

AlterNet has compiled a list of Palin's most shocking beliefs, ranging from her positions on the economy to her views on reproductive rights. This list has nothing to do with her personal life, her looks or her gender. It's the stuff that voters need to know: what Sarah Palin really believes.

1. Despite problems at home, Sarah Palin does not believe in giving teenagers information about sex.

The McCain campaign is spinning Bristol Palin's pregnancy as a neat, shiny example of the unbreakable bonds of family. But while Bristol's actions and choices should not be attacked, teen pregnancy is no cause for celebration, either. To state the very obvious, it is not a good thing when teenagers have unprotected sex. And U.S. teens appear to have unprotected sex a lot: The United States has some of the highest rates of teen pregnancy in the industrialized world, and 1 in 4 American teen girls has an STI.

Like John McCain, Palin's approach to the problems of teen pregnancy and STI transmission is abstinence-only education. In a 2006 questionnaire by the conservative group Eagle Forum, Palin stated: "Explicit sex-ed programs will not find my support." Presumably the programs that do find Palin's support are ones that focus on abstinence and only mention contraceptives to talk about their supposed shortcomings.

But someone already tried that. For eight years the Bush administration has thrown its heft behind Title V, a federal program that provides states with funding for abstinence-based sex education. In 2007 an expansive study proved abstinence-until-marriage education does not delay teen sexual activity.

If Palin is elected, she will continue to throw money at a policy that does little besides ensure that a larger number of sexually active teens lack information about how to avoid pregnancy and STIs.

2. Sarah Palin believes the U.S. Army is on a mission from God.

In June, Palin gave a speech at the Wasilla Assembly of God, her former church, in which she exhorted ministry students to pray for American soldiers in Iraq. "Our national leaders are sending them out on a task that is from God," she told them. "That's what we have to make sure that we're praying for, that there is a plan and that plan is God's plan."

Palin talked about her son, Track, an infantryman in the U.S. Army:

When he turned 18 right before he enlisted, he had to get his first tattoo. And I'm like -- I don't think that's real cool, son. Until he showed me what it was and I thought, oh he did something right, 'cause on his calf, he has a big ol' Jesus fish!

Holy war, holy warriors.

3. Sarah Palin believes in punishing rape victims.

Palin thinks that rape victims should be forced to bear the child of their rapist. She believes this so strongly that she would oppose abortion even if her own daughter were raped.

The Huffington Post reports: "Granting exceptions only if the mother's life was in danger, Palin said that when it came to her daughter, 'I would choose life.'

At the time, her daughter was 14 years old. Moreover, Alaska's rape rate was an abysmal 2.2 times above the national average, and 25 percent of all rapes resulted in unwanted pregnancies.

If Palin's own daughter was only 14 when she made that statement, does she think any girl of reproductive age is old enough to have a child? Girls are hitting puberty earlier and earlier. What if the rape victim were only 10? 9? 8?

Palin also opposes abortion in cases of incest and would grant an exception only if childbirth would result in the mother's death. She has not made any statements yet about whether she believes a 10-year-old who was raped by her father would be able to actually raise the child once it was born. Perhaps Palin doesn't care.

4. Who's really not in favor of clean water? Sarah Palin.

As The Hill reports, "Governor Palin has ... opposed a crucial clean water initiative."

Alaska's KTUU explains: "It is against the law for the governor to officially advocate for or against a ballot measure; however, Palin took what she calls 'personal privilege' to discuss one of this year's most contentious initiatives."

Palin said, "Let me take my governor's hat off just for a minute here and tell you, personally, Prop. 4 -- I vote no on that." And what is that? A state initiative that would have banned metal mines from discharging pollution into salmon streams.

She also approved legislation that let oil and gas companies nearly triple the amount of toxic waste they can dump into Cook Inlet, an important fishery. It looks like being an avid outdoorsperson doesn't mean Palin really has the health of watersheds, natural resources or our environment at heart.

5. Sarah Palin calls herself a reformer, but on earmarks and the "Bridge to Nowhere," she is a hypocrite.

Palin says she's a "conservative Republican" who is "a firm believer in free market capitalism." She's running as an anti-tax crusader, and she did make deep cuts to Alaska's budget.

So, one would assume she is no borrow-and-spend conservative like George W., right?

Well, there was the time when she served as the mayor of the tiny town of Wasilla, Alaska. According to the Associated Press, "Palin hired a lobbyist and traveled to Washington annually to support earmarks for the town totaling $27 million." You'd think that $27 mil in taxpayers' funds would be enough scratch for a town with a population of 8,000, but you'd be wrong. According to Politico, Palin then "racked up nearly $20 million in long-term debt as mayor of the tiny town of Wasilla -- that amounts to $3,000 per resident."

Then there's her current stint as Alaska governor, during which her appetite for federal pork spending has been on clear display. The Associated Press reported, "In her two years as governor, Alaska has requested nearly $750 million in special federal spending, by far the largest per-capita request in the nation." While Palin notes she rejected plans to build a $398 million bridge from Ketchikan to an island with 50 residents and an airport, that opposition came only after the plan was ridiculed nationally as a "Bridge to Nowhere."

6. Sarah Palin believes creationism should be taught in schools.

Until somebody digs up the remnants of a T. rex with an ill-fated caveman dangling from its jaws, the scientific community, along with most of the American public, will be at peace with the theory of evolution. But this isn't true of everyone. More than 80 years after the Scopes "Monkey" trial, there are people -- and politicians -- who do not believe in evolution and lobby for creationism to be taught in schools.

Palin is one of those politicians. When Palin ran for governor, part of her platform called for teaching schoolchildren creationism alongside evolution. Although she did not push hard for this position after she was elected governor, Palin has let her views on evolution be known on many occasions. According to the Anchorage Daily News, Palin stated, "Teach both. You know, don't be afraid of information. Healthy debate is so important, and it's so valuable in our schools. I am a proponent of teaching both."

Palin further argued, "It's OK to let kids know that there are theories out there. They gain information just by being in a discussion."

Not when those "theories" are being presented as valid alternatives to a set of principles that most scientists have ascribed to for more than a century.

7. Sarah Palin supports offshore drilling everywhere, even if it doesn't solve our energy problems.

If McCain was hoping to salvage any part of his credibility with environmentalists, he threw that chance out the window by adding Palin to his ticket. Palin is in favor of offshore drilling and drilling in the ecologically sensitive Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The Miami Herald reported:

The Alaska governor has said that she has tried to persuade McCain to agree with her on drilling in the wildlife refuge. She also has said that she was happy that he changed his position over the summer and now supports offshore oil drilling.

As if that weren't bad enough, in her speech this week at the Republican National Convention, she said, "Our opponents say, again and again, that drilling will not solve all of America's energy problems -- as if we all didn't know that already." Huh. I guess drilling even when it won't help is better than working on renewable energy sources, as Palin also vetoed money for a wind energy project.

8. Sarah Palin loves oil and nuclear power.

Aside from her "drill here, drill there, drill everywhere" approach to our energy crisis, the only other things we know about Palin's energy policy, especially given her Bush-like love of avoiding the press, comes from her acceptance speech:

Starting in January, in a McCain-Palin administration, we're going to lay more pipelines, build more nuclear plants, create jobs with clean coal and move forward on solar, wind, geothermal and other alternative sources.

Nuclear power plants. Interesting. As folks look for alternative fuel sources (and again, Palin loves oil first and foremost so her commitment to any alternative energy source is suspect at best), nuclear power is enjoying a return to vogue. But here's the problem: Even the U.S. government's own nuclear agency, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, thinks an atomic renaissance is a bad idea:

Delivered by one of America's most notoriously docile agencies, the NRC's warning essentially says: that all cost estimates for new nuclear reactors -- and all licensing and construction schedules -- are completely up for grabs and have no reliable basis in fact. Thus any comparisons between future atomic reactors and renewable technologies are moot at best.

Not to mention all the other problems with nuclear energy, such as how to dispose of nuclear waste and the possibility of a catastrophic meltdown, to name a couple. Palin has no background with nuclear energy and shows no evidence of having looked into the science behind it or the dangers that come with it.

Also, it's time for Palin to drop another Bush-like tendency: Governor, the word is pronounced "new-clear."

9. Sarah Palin doesn't think much of community activism; she'd much rather play insider political games.

In her Republican convention speech, Palin slammed Barack Obama's early political work, saying, "I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a community organizer, except you have actual responsibilities." Palin's put-down of grassroots workers, often unpaid or low-paid, demeaned an American tradition of neighbors helping neighbors, according to Deepak Bhargava, executive director of the Center for Community Change. But more revealing is Palin's apparent lack of experience in community change and local volunteer efforts, during her years in Alaska before becoming governor.

Scores of press accounts of her early years as mayor of Wasilla omit any mention of such work. Instead, they note as mayor, and in the intervening years before running for governor, Palin gravitated to those with power, money or influence. She worked to enlarge Wasilla's Wal-Mart and build a sports center (that went over budget in an eminent domain dispute), and she hired a Washington lobbyist, directed a political fundraising committee for the state's senior U.S. senator, Republican Ted Stevens, now under indictment for corruption, and steered $22 million in federal aid to her town. While some of her early community work was undoubtedly centered on her church, perhaps this comment by a blog reader best sums up Palin's political opportunism:

So community organizers (aren't) responsible? Or caring? Or doing anything important. What a terrible insult to the greatest community organizer of all time, Jesus Christ.

© 2008 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/97907/

Lipstick on a Pig

Sarah Palin should have known when she said, "What's the difference between a pit bull and a hockey mom? Lipstick." that she was inviting a common phrase in response.

That response has been shortcoming. Putting lipstick on a pig doesn't make it any less of a pig.

I was a Hillary Clinton supporter. I believed and supported every word of Robin Morgan's "Good Bye to all That #2".

I am insulted that the Republicans think I will support their racist, misogynistic, Taliban Christian, homophobic party just because they stuck Palin in as vice president. Lipstick on a pig seems appropriate.

They can appropriate and colonize the language of feminism but they are not feminist.

Tomorrow will be 9/11 and they will squawk "War on Terror, War on Terror, 9/11, 9/11" and I will think "My Pet Goat". And four more months.

I will also remember another Republi-Nazi president Tricky Dick Nixon and another 9/11. This one in 1973 when Augusto Pinochet launched a CIA backed coup against Salvador Allende's duly elected government in Chile.

28 years separate these two events. But like lipstick on a pig there is no disguising the results. People disappeared, arrested and taken away with out trials. Torture and murder in the name of national security.

You can put lipstick on a pig but it is still a pig.

Sarah Palin represents all the nasty, brutish fascism that has become the trade mark of ultra right wing Republi-Nazi conservatism.

Are they really that cynical? Do they really think I am that stupid? Perhaps if I believed in the invisible bully in the sky who wants me to give 10% of my hard earned money to some superstition peddler of misogynistic, homophobic hate I might be that stupid. But I'm not.

I support NOW, Code Pink, Labor Unions, Green Peace and a host of other progressive loving causes.

On a real up note. Sarah Palin gives me the opportunity to prove that my being feminist doesn't mean I will vote for someone just because she is the same sex I am.

Go OBAMA

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Brave Little Sheba Recuperates



We have Kittie children who are dependent upon us for love and support. Each of our fur person friends has her own special personality.

Sheba is our number one cat. She is stalwart and brave. We adopted her from Siamese Rescue in Coppell, Texas. We went there to look for a cat to adopt. Sheba was in the main room. She had a very out going personality that made her stand out to us. She is a Lynx Point sort of Siamese cat. Chunky and round with a crooked smile from a missing front fang.

When I walked by her she reached out her paws and grabbed my arm as if to say, "Hey look at me! You guys are lesbians, aren't you. I know. I'm a lesbian sort of cat. Nothing fancy about me. You can't go wrong by picking me."

She was right and we've had five wonderful years with her and hope for many more.

Today she had to go to the vet for dental work. We had to place her in isolation for the night and all the other fur children acted concerned because she wasn't there.

When we took her to the vet this morning she showed her courage. No fight, no chase she practically walked into the carrier by herself. She let us know she wasn't happy.

Well she is home with her bright pink bandage and now her gang of feline cohorts are happy to have their leader home.

As for her... She's just being Sheba and seems happy for the dental work we had done on her.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Myths About Labor Unions: Capitalist Salvos in the Class War

Reposted from Feministe Sept 4
With permission from La Lubu

http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2008/09/04/myths-about-labor-unions-capitalist-salvos-in-the-class-war/#comments
Posted by: La Lubu in General, Guest Blogging, Labor

Every now and then, someone will take me to task for being a proud member of a labor union. “Why do you belong to a union? They just take your money and run!” or “But unions are so anti-woman!” or “But you’re smart—why do you need to belong to a union?” Sometime it isn’t personal. Sometimes, it’s “concern” over the economy, as with, “But unions drive up costs!” or “They strike all the time!” or “That’s why we don’t have jobs in the United States anymore.” To me, one of the more telling points in all the various anti-labor screeds is the inevitable “they”—when the person is talking to me, a union member. Let’s tease out some typical myths about unions, and get down to the real nitty-gritty (and apologies to non-U.S. readers; this post is U.S.-centric as anti-union sentiment is high in the U.S.):

1. “Unions are why all the jobs left the United States.”
No, not by a long shot. Many jobs evaporated as automation was introduced on a larger scale. Other jobs were outsourced not because of union wages, but because of United States wages; the option to relocate to nonunion areas of the United States wasn’t taken. Corporate greed, a tax code that provides preferential treatment for foreign earnings, the lack of a national healthcare system, desire to avoid environmental laws, avoidance of health and safety laws, helpful dictatorships (subsidized by the U.S., and assisted by the U.S. military) to torture and assassinate labor organizers, and federal programs designed to encourage foreign investment in the form of offshoring had/have far more of an impact than union wages (especially considering the precipitous decline in union membership). White-collar jobs in IT and financial services are outsourced, and those aren’t usually union jobs. It should also bear mention that the United States isn’t the only country that is hemmoraging jobs—the corporate-led race to the bottom is global.

2.“Unions raise the cost of goods and services.”
Because price gouging, market manipulation, monopolies, mergers and acquisitions couldn’t have anything to do with it. Besides, the price of clothing, shoes, food, etc. have all plummeted with outsourcing, right? (Right? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?) And speaking of prices, what is the true cost of those “low, low prices”, hmm? Who is carrying the freight for corporations that don’t provide health insurance? What is the real cost of the impoverishment of communities? And…..why are those prices artificially low to begin with? Those “low prices” are paid for by the blood of women of color.

3.“Unions strike all the time.”
Not even close. The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates there were 21 work stoppages (BLS does not differentiate between strikes and lockouts) in the U.S. in 2007. Less than 1/10th of one percent of work time is lost to strikes with employers involving 1,000 or more workers; in 98% of all collective bargaining negotiations, agreements are reached without a strike. Despite the rarity of strikes, media coverage of them dominates labor news. The days of newspapers having a “labor beat” are long gone (coinciding with newspapers becoming a nonunion environment).

4.“Unions slow productivity; union workers are goldbrickers.”
Actually, unionized environments in various industries are more productive. Unionized construction workers are more productive.

5.“Unions protect deadbeats; incompetant union workers can’t be fired.”
No union contract forbids an employer from firing a worker who is drunk, high, lazy, incompetant, etc. The union insures that such firings are for ‘just cause’, and not because of discriminatory purposes (too old, too black, too lesbian, speaks Spanish to co-workers, etc.) or because the employer is having a bad day. Union members should be aware of their Weingarten rights.

6.“Unions aren’t necessary anymore; now there are laws to protect workers.”
Uhh, yeah. That’s working out real well for those folks commenting in the Eight Hour thread, isn’t it? Remember the Imperial fire? The one that resembled the Triangle Shirtwaist fire? Workplace fatalities aren’t a thing of the past. Death comes on the installment plan too, as for people who work with or around asbestos, in the chromium industry, in the PVC industry, the textile industry, with benzene (rubber or oil industry workers), or the manufacturing of artificial flavorings for food products (ever hear of Popcorn Lung?). Disability from workplace injury, dangerous working conditions due to understaffing, sexual harassment and assault, workplace discrimination, wrongful termination, violation of privacy, retaliation for whistleblowing, overtime work at straight-time (or no) pay, better pay, regular raises, pensions and other benefits, equal pay—these concerns haven’t gone away.

7.“Unions are racist and sexist.”
Is there racism in the labor movement? Is there sexism in the labor movement? Heterosexism? Damn right there is. Just like everywhere else. Yet while the labor movement gets to be the poster child for prejudicial societal attitudes, female workers and men of color get paid more in a unionized workplace.

8.“Unions are outside agitators, creating adversity with management.”
Because there certainly couldn’t have been any adversity before labor unions. Adversity couldn’t come from management, could it? I wish I had an explanation for the “outside agitators” tack, but I don’t. “They”. “They’re” steering you wrong. It’s a strange version of the “but you’re not like the rest of your people, you’re one of the good ones” game. I just repeat ad infinitum, “I am the union. The union isn’t ‘them’, over there, it’s me, right here.”

9.“Unions mean less flexibility in the workplace and more rules to follow.”
How is abiding by a union contract different from abiding by any other contract? Granted, the union will be there to advocate for the enforcement of any laws or policies that were previously ignored in a nonunion environment, but flexibility? Labor unions are in the forefront for advocating flexibility in the workplace.

10.“Union workers are overpaid.”
BWA HA HA HA! Compared to what? According to whom? Check out corporate pay and golden parachutes, and then tell me who’s overpaid.

11.“Unions are mobbed-up, in bed with the Mafia.”
There were 183 convictions for labor racketeering in the United States in 2007. Fifty-six unions are affliated with the AFL-CIO; most of them have hundreds of locals. My own union (the IBEW) has over 1000 locals in the U.S. It ought to be safe to say that a fraction of one percent of Locals have a problem with organized crime. Although there is a section of the Department of Justice dedicated to the investigation and prosecution of labor racketeers, there is no such counterpart devoted specifically to corporate crime (imagine that!) thus, no handy statistics on corporate crime, either. This helpful website is a good source for information on corporate crime.

12.“Union dues are shakedown money—a net loss from the paycheck.”
Not so. Union pay is higher. Union workers are more likely to have pension and healthcare benefits. This difference is more dramatic for workers in low-wage occupations. Frankly, I enjoy knowing that my pay is the same as any of my white, male union brethren. That sure wouldn’t happen in the nonunion world.

13.“Unions are beneath professional, white-collar workers; unions are only for those (insert sotto voce) uneducated (and back to normal volume) blue-collar workers who can’t do any better.”
Ah yes. Shouldn’t stain the white collar by rubbing elbows with the great unwashed. The problem is, it isn’t true. In the U.S., 51% of union members are white-collar. As lower pay, longer (sometimes uncompensated) hours, understaffing, greater workloads, less autonomy and less respect become the order of the day in the white-collar world, interest in union membership will rise (as is seen in the academic and medical fields).