Category Archives: Class

Profiteering banksters and European separatism

From the Real News Network, a Mike McGuire interview Benedictine nun and theologist Sister Teresa Forcades, a physician with a doctorate in public health who is a prominent activist in the movement to detach Catalonia from Spain.

The focus is on the role banksters and the austerian neoliberal Eurocrats who have enabled their rampage of looting in Southern Europe.

From The Real News Network:

Spanish Independence Movements and the Recolonization of Southern Europe

From the transcript:

MCGUIRE: And it’s not just in Catalonia. It’s all over Spain. The context where this exchange of money is happening is also one of devastatingly high unemployment, especially among youth, correct?

FORCADES: Right. I can give you the numbers. It’s–like, general unemployment rate is greater than 25 percent–that’s one-fourth, one of every four people. But among young people it’s 50 percent, so one out of every two. And this is also in the context, as I said, of a situation that makes this social precariousness, right, go worse because of the political decisions that are being made. Yes, that’s right.

And also I wanted to add something, which is, when we speak of this crisis, right, we have to remember that in Spain the total debt at the beginning of the crisis, 2007, was–public debt was only 19 percent. That’s less than the U.S. debt, much less than that, and, actually, one of the lowest in the whole Europe. So this idea that Spain had not done the things right and that’s why the state itself had such a big debt, that’s not true. It had a 19 percent debt. The 81 percent was private debt, and that is, of course, not only banks–also private families, small businesses.. But that’s a very minor part of the private debt. So the greatest, more than 90 percent of the private debt, which is 81 percent of the total debt, that was big institutions, big corporations, and particularly banking institutions.

So the decision was made: like in the States, also here the banks were rescued, at a greater cost, or really great cost. So in Spain, the same thing, right? We cannot let these big institutions fall, because everybody would fall after them. So now we’re going to do this operation of giving money to them. We don’t have the money; we have to lend the money from the European bank. And then [in comes (?)] this mechanism that I explained. So that is what has happened, and many people, as I said, think this should be reversed.

And so we, in our movement, but also many other movements, are calling for something similar to what has happened in Ecuador with President Correa, which is they also were under the debt that actually precluded the evolution or the growth of the country, because such a great percentage of their total gain were needed to pay the interests of the debt, right? That’s a perverse mechanism. Actually, I think in truth we can call that a slavery mechanism. And that is what we now have agreed to, right, as a country.

Chart of the day II: Can you spot the pattern?

We suspect so.

From Bard College economist Pavlina R. Tcherneva, who posts on Twitter that “The WAY we grow in the US brings more . Distribution of income during expansions (trough-to-peak)”:


HB/T to Sociological Images.

Chris Hedges: Only civil disobedience offers hope

Massive civil disobedience and acts of personal sacrifice are essential if we are to prevent a global collapse of the environment and, with it, the human institutions upon which those who come after us will depend for their very survival.

That’s the bottom line for veteran journalist and civilly disobedient activist Chris Hedges, who left the New York Times after he was reprimanded for protesting the invasion of Iraq.

In a wide-ranging conversation with Abby Martin on Breaking the Set Hedges offers some very trenchant criticism of the efficacy of protests like this weekend’s massive and civilly obedient march in New York, contrasting it with a smaller and much more vocal and civilly disobedient protest on Wall Street in which he participated.

And his insights into the current warfare underway in the Mideast are especially relevant.

There’s much food for thought, and we agree with most of what he has to say.

From Breaking the Set:

Chris Hedges on Willful Blindness, Climate Corporatism & the Underground Revolt

Program notes:

Abby Martin speaks with journalist and author, Chris Hedges, going over where the recent mass climate change demonstrations in New York fall short, as well as why he believes revolt is the only solution to restoring a functioning American democracy.

In politics, the color that matters is green

Yep, the dirty little secret of American politics is money, because you can’t get elected without it in these days of massive media buys bankrolled by the radically Citizens United-empowered corporate person.

That’s the focus of a remarkable story from The Real News Network, revealed in this Sharmini Peries interview of Glen Ford of the Black Agenda Report.

From The Real News Network:

Most Members of the Black Caucus Have Supported Police Militarization

From the transcript:

SHARMINI PERIES: Glen, in a report recently on the Black Agenda Report, you wrote that 80 percent of the members of the Congressional Black Caucus refused to defund Pentagon’s militarization of local police departments, also known as the Grayson amendment. That is shocking news, given the police brutality of the black community in this country. And I’m wondering if you have more to say on that.

GLEN FORD, EXEC. EDITOR, BLACK AGENDA REPORT: Well, actually, it was 27 who voted against Alan Grayson’s measure that would have forced the Pentagon to stop sending all these weapons and military gear to local police department. Twenty-seven voted against the amendment. Five abstained, which is just as good as voting against it. And that makes 32 out of only 40 caucus full-voting members. That’s four out of five of the Black Caucus voted to continue the Pentagon’s massive infusions of guns and tanks and other military gear into local police departments.

But that’s only one of the complaints that’s being voiced by a group, a coalition in Washington that’s planning to hold a “Shame on the Congressional Black Caucus” rally on September 24. September 24 is the first day of the Congressional Black Caucus’s annual legislative conference and gala. That’s the time of the year that every year the caucus draws thousands of people, all dressed to the nines, for a bunch of workshops and stuff, but mainly for their gala dinner and lots of music and entertainment and festivities, and basically about three or four days of the caucus patting itself on the back for all the good deeds it’s done, or maybe just for being here.

This year, finally, a group of activists in D.C. are putting their two cents in and saying, no, we don’t appreciate a bit what you’ve been doing. And so they’re focusing on the caucus’s vote back in July, just three days after the Israelis begin bombing Gaza, a vote to join with the rest of the House unanimously in giving a blank check to Israel. The organizers of that protest are also outraged at the fact that most members of the Congressional Black Caucus seemed ready to go along with corporate America and turn the internet over to the corporations, to destroy internet neutrality. The fact of the matter is that since 2005, the Congressional Black Caucus has been more aligned with the telecoms, the big corporations that want to control the internet and all of our communications, they’ve been more aligned with these corporations than the Democratic Caucus as a whole. And this is ongoing. This has been for the last nine years.

And since the organizers planned to do this “Shame on the Congressional Black Caucus” rally, of course, Ferguson happened. And so they’re going to call attention to the fact that four out of five of the Congressional Black Caucus members voted to continue the militarization of the police. And now almost all of them–all of them, in fact, are pretending like, well, they were against militarization all along. They weren’t. Four out of five were for it.

Chart of the day III: Ideal CEo/worker pay rates

From the Harvard Business Review Blog, ideal worker/CEO pay ratios in different countries, and how the results would be reflected in paychecks based on current actual salaries for both categories:

BLOG Ideal pay

EnviroWatch: Climate, fires, water, nukes

We begin with climate coverage, starting with a headline from the Christian Science Monitor:

Why the UN Climate Summit will have a hard time doing anything

President Obama will address the UN Climate Summit, and more than 120 world leaders are expected to attend. But big emitters China and India will not be represented by their top leaders.

In New York on Sunday, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators demanded global action on climate change.

And on Monday, a new report found that global emissions of greenhouse gases jumped to new heights in 2013, with India alone increasing greenhouse emissions by 5 percent. Even the United States, which like many developed countries had seen its emissions fall in recent years, recorded an increase last year, according to the report from the Global Carbon Project.

Yet despite the mounting public pressure for action and new evidence of a continuing rise in heat-trapping gases, a United Nations summit Tuesday on climate change is given little chance of delivering much beyond dire rhetoric on the consequences of inaction.

From The Real News Network, a report on Sunday’s demonstrations:

Leading Activists Demand Climate Action at People’s Climate March

From the transcript:

MARY ROBINSON, FMR. PRESIDENT OF IRELAND, UN SPECIAL ENVOY FOR CLIMATE CHANGE: I think we have learned a lot since Copenhagen. First of all, this summit is taking place 15 months before the decision in Paris. Secondly, we know that there’s a lot happening all over the world on the climate issue. And there’s a New Climate Economy report that says that for every government now, it makes business sense for the government to reduce emissions, be more efficient, and move towards a carbon-neutral world. And that’s more jobs, better health, more equality, better for people. And that’s a big message.

So, at the same time, we need People’s Marches. We need everybody to demand of their leaders the kind of decision-making that is business as usual with a bit of greener touch. That’s not enough. We need to change course. We are on course for a four degree world, which would be catastrophic. We need to be on course to below two degrees. And that needs all the pressure that is here all over the world today, and we need to keep it up.

ANNIE LEONARD, GREENPEACE USA: Well, today’s march is not about a vague statement. It’s about a very clear demand, which is that we want climate solutions. And the reason that we don’t have one particular slogan we’re all agreeing to is that everyone’s coming to this march from very diverse places. But to me that represents a source of strength and diversity and inclusion that this March has that we haven’t seen before in the climate movement. So I’m excited that this is a real turning point and we’re going to start seeing some action following soon.

MARK RUFFALO, FILMMAKER: Implementing renewable energy is the greatest thing that people can do to give themselves power. Whoever controls your energy controls your destiny. And today we have renewable energy systems that are adoptable by any one person that over time will pay for themselves and will make their energy cheaper. It’s free. And that’s ready to go today. And so either our leaders are going to get it and then adopt it or people are going to adopted on their own.

DAME JANE MORRIS GOODALL, PRIMATOLOGIST, ETHOLOGIST, ANTHROPOLOGIST: It’s going to take more people to join the coalitions that are already being made by some of the big corporations, like Unilever, particularly pledging not to use oil palm from unsustainable use, because it’s the oil palm industry that’s destroying forests all over Asia. And it’s up to us the people to show our will. And that’s why a march like this is important.

WINNIE BYANYIMA, EXEC. DIR., OXFAM INTERNATIONAL: Climate change isn’t just an environmental issue. It’s a justice issue. We’re seeing the impact hitting the poorest people hardest, trapping people in poverty. It’s a food issue. It’s hitting the food system and denying people of food. It’s an issue of public health. It’s an issue of the survival of people.

The Guardian covers confrontation on Wall Street today:

Police face off with Flood Wall Street protesters in climate change march

  • At least one person is arrested as New York demonstration builds in city’s financial district, site of adversarial Occupy protests

Hundreds of people gathered in New York City’s financial district on Monday, many with the intent of getting arrested as an act of civil disobedience to bring attention to the perils of climate change.

Flood Wall Street demonstrators, primarily dressed in blue to represent climate change-induced flooding, marched to New York City’s financial center to “highlight the role of Wall Street in fueling the climate crisis,” according to organizers.

At least one person had been arrested on Monday afternoon, though the New York police department said it did not yet have official reports on the arrest numbers.

A video of the action from Mashable:

Cops, Activists Clash at #FloodWallStreet

Program notes:

One day after a huge climate march in New York City, activists gathered on Wall Street Monday to protest what they say is corporate and economic institutions’ role in the climate crisis. The protesters, many dressed in blue, scheduled a rally in Battery Park before marching to the financial district in Lower Manhattan, according to organizers of the protest, #FloodWallStreet.

From the Guardian, a California fire update:

Rain helps firefighters from across US contain California King fire

  • Wildfire about 60 miles east of Sacramento forced thousands to evacuate, destroyed 128 acres and worsened air quality for miles

Crews battling a huge northern California wildfire threatening thousands of homes braced for hotter temperatures and erratic winds Monday after cooler, wet weather helped them make progress over the weekend.

The fire east of Sacramento had burned through 137 square miles as of Monday morning, an increase of about nine square miles from the day before. The expected weather shift could increase fire activity, fire spokesman Ryan Lubben said.

More than 5,000 firefighters – from as far as Florida and Alaska – managed to increase containment of the fire from 10 to 17% Sunday, said Captain Tom Piranio, a state fire spokesman. It was 18% contained Monday morning.

The Yomiuri Shimbun notes a number:

California logs 26% rise in wildfires

As of Sept. 6, there had been about 26 percent more wildfires in the state compared to the average for the same periods over the last five years, according to the state’s Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Statewide, there have been 6,660 wildfires this year as of Sept. 15, burning an area equal to about 80 percent of Tokyo, already more than the average for the last five years.

The state fire department said the wildfire season in the western United States has become about 70 days longer over the last 40 years.

“Usually it [the peak fire season in California] would be in June to the end of November. But unfortunately this year we started having fires in January,” said Scott McLean, a spokesman for the department.

While USA Today offers cause for chills:

New lab incidents fuel fear, safety concerns in Congress

Scientists wearing space-suitlike protective gear searched for hours in May for a mouse — infected with a virus similar to Ebola — that had escaped inside Rocky Mountain Laboratories in Montana, one of the federal government’s highest-security research facilities, according to newly obtained incident reports that provide a window into the secretive world of bioterror lab accidents.

During the same month at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, a lab worker suffered a cut while trying to round up escaped ferrets that had been infected with a deadly strain of avian influenza, records show. Four days later at Colorado State University’s bioterrorism lab, a worker failed to ensure dangerous bacteria had been killed before shipping specimens — some of them still able to grow — to another lab where a worker unwittingly handled them without key protective gear.

Nobody was sickened in the incidents and the mouse was caught the next day. Yet in the wake of serious lab mishaps with anthrax and bird flu at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that prompted an uproar and a Congressional hearing this summer, these additional incidents are further fueling bipartisan concern about lab safety.

CBC News covers medicated water:

Drinking water contaminated by excreted drugs a growing concern

  • Researchers finding excreted drugs in drinking water

A Canadian study quietly released last month reported record-breaking levels of three pharmaceuticals in river water in southwestern Ontario.

Although the chemicals — the diabetic drug metformin, the acid reflux drug ranitidine, and the diuretic hydrochlorothiazide — are measured in nanograms per litre, and are extremely low, the levels detected have never been found before in North America.

When Health Canada sampled tap water across Canada, researchers found what they expected to find, traces of drugs in drinking water that comes from rivers and lakes, although that report has not yet been published.

And the Japan Times takes us to today’s Fukushimapocalypse Now!:

Fukushima cleanup going painfully slow

  • Opposition to waste storage complicates project

Three and a half years after Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power station spewed massive amounts of radioactive materials into the air and water, decontamination work in Fukushima Prefecture has yet to draw to an end.

The government initially hoped to complete the decontamination by the end of last March, but the process continues to lag far behind, prompting the government to push back the goal by three years to 2017.

Due to the slow progress, huge bags filled with contaminated soil can still be seen piled up at hundreds of temporary storage sites across the prefecture, and many residents are in limbo, unable to make up their minds about whether to return home in the near future or to relocate for good.

Jiji Press prepares to fire up the nuclear boilers:

Japan Sets Forth N-Reactor Restart Plan at IAEA Meeting

Japan set forth its plan for the restart of two reactors at the Sendai power station in the country’s southwest at a five-day annual meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency that began on Monday.

Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority has confirmed that enough safety measures have been taken for the No. 1 and No. 2 reactors at the power station of Kyushu Electric Power Co., Science and Technology Policy Minister Shunichi Yamaguchi said.

In a speech, Yamaguchi also noted that the Japanese government in April adopted a basic energy policy in which nuclear energy is regarded as an important power source.

JapanToday covers the propaganda front:

Industry minister tries to convince public on need for nuclear energy

Japan’s new industry minister Yuko Obuchi said Sunday the resource-poor nation should be realistic about its energy needs as the government tries to convince a skeptical public on the necessity of nuclear power.

More than three years after the disaster at Fukushima, where a tsunami sent reactors into meltdown, the Japanese public remains unconvinced of the safety of the technology.

The difficult task of winning them round has fallen to Obuchi, appointed the country’s first female minister of economy, trade and industry by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

NHK WORLD offers belated posterior-protecting:

Japan to step up Fukushima contractors oversight

Japan’s labor minister says he’s ready to strengthen government monitoring of companies that are dispatching workers to decommission the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

Yasuhisa Shiozaki visited a labor standards inspection office in Iwaki City on Monday. The office oversees areas surrounding the Fukushima plant.

His visit follows nearly 130 complaints from April to August alone of unpaid wages and inadequate safety measures for workers employed to decommission the Fukushima plant.

For our final item, a new nuke in Old Blighty from the Guardian:

Hinkley nuclear reactor project gains EU approval, leak reveals

  • Green groups condemn commissioner Almunia’s U-turn as he deems Hinkley Point C subsidies to be within state aid rules

British plans for a nuclear renaissance centred on a nuclear reactor in Somerset achieved a breakthrough when a nine-month European Union state aid investigation ended with a call for Brussels to approve the project.

The EU’s competition commissioner, Joaquín Almunia, had expressed scepticism that the Hinkley Point C scheme could satisfy the EU’s stringent state aid criteria after the UK government agreed to underwrite the project with a loan guarantee and a commitment on the price of the electricity generated by the power station.

But the commissioner appears to have been persuaded that the proposed £17.6bn of subsidies are legal under bloc rules, despite the lack of a competitive tendering process. Hinkley Point will be operated by EDF, the French state-owned company, while two Chinese state-owned nuclear companies have agreed to help fund the plant.

Quote of the day: On the eurocratic elites

From  Antonis Karakousis, writing in the Athenian paper To Vima:

Europe is being governed by an army of political officers and well-educated bureaucrats, with a similar political direction and almost common culture.

They are paid well, live the life of Riley in Brussels, Strasbourg, Frankfurt and elsewhere, they have deified neoliberalism and tend to resemble bank and multinational business group executives who felt like little kings before the bubble burst, believing that the groups they served belonged to them rather than shareholders.

Dominated by the riches, self-indulgent life and unique power, the European elite feels that Europe belongs to them, forgetting that it belongs to its people and that this cycle only exists to serve them. The distortion is obvious, apparent to the naked eye.

This is apparent from the uniform fatwas that they occasionally issue, which do not take into consideration the peculiarities or special circumstances of each country. In many cases, hidden behind the thick and complicated lines, are malicious and lawless pursuits, which subvert the European ideal.

Read the rest.