Category Archives: Finance

Chris Hedges hosts a new show on Telesur

Telesur English is getting very interesting. In addition to weekly episodes of shows by esnl favorites Abby Martin and Laura Flanders, the Venezuelan broadcaster has added the inimitable Chris Hedges, former Mideast bureau chief for the New York Times.

In this latest episode of Days of Revolt, Hedges discusses the insidious nature of the Trans-Pacific Partnership [TPP] with attorney Kevin Zeese, co-director of and It’s Our Economy, an organization that advocates for democratizing the economy. Zeese is a political activist and former press spokesperson for Ralph Nader, and in an unsuccessful 2006 Senate run, he was the only candidate ever nominated simultaneously by the Green, Libertarian, and Populist parties.

From Telesur English:

The Most Brazen Corporate Power Grab in American History

An excerpt from the transcript, discussing the TPP’s provision for overturning the power of the American judiciary in the interests of the corporation:

HEDGES: And they’re not allowed to make any amendments, no changes, nothing.

ZEESE: No amendments. Up or down vote. That’s it. And in the Senate, there’s no filibuster, so it’s only 50 percent. You can’t force them to 60 votes. It’s only 51 they need. And so it’s a very restricted Congress.

And all these agreements, by the way, as Ralph mentions in that quote, greatly restrict each branch of government, and Congress [crosstalk]

HEDGES: Well, let’s talk a little bit about how they do that, this kind of–part of this kind of creeping coup d’état, corporate coup d’état that’s taking place.

ZEESE: And I just want to say one more thing about this coup d’état. This is just one aspect of it. We’re seeing the corporate power grow in the United States with Citizens United and the buying of elections and all that corruption. But we’re also–out of places like the World Economic Forum, they’ve come out with a working group called the–that’s redesigning, the Global Redesign Initiative that’s redesigning the way governance works to minimize the nationstate and maximize transnational–. They want the UN to become a hybrid government and corporate body. So that’s what the World Economic Forum is working on as this is all going on, too. So this is a big, big fight about where we go. This is the epic struggle of our times, corporate power versus people power.

Now, the way that they–what Ralph was talking about in that quote was one aspect of this, which is the trade tribunal system, which already exists, but this is expanded. For the first time, for example, financial services can use the trade tribunals to overrule legislation to regulate the big banks.

HEDGES: Now, these trade tribunals, they’re three-person tribunals. They’re made up of corporate lawyers. One of the things I think I was speaking with you that you told me is that if you’re a citizen or advocacy group, you’re excluded from even going to these.

ZEESE: Yeah. You know, in our federal court system, which is the third branch of government that–Ralph’s favorite branch, I think. He just opened the museum in his —

HEDGES: Right, a tort museum.

ZEESE: — in his hometown, a tort museum, which is a great museum. People should go to Winsted to see it, by the way.

But, anyway, in our federal court system, an individual can sue a corporation. They can find a lawyer who takes it on retainer, only get paid if they win. You get a jury of your peers to decide it. That’s a real court system. It has lots of weaknesses that need to be improved on. They’ve been cutting back on it is much as they could with so-called tort reform–as Ralph calls tort deform. And so it’s getting weaker. But it’s still an important branch of government.

This overrules that. Our courts cannot review what a trade tribunal does. The trade tribunal judges are three corporate lawyers who can also represent corporations in other cases. So there’s a real conflict of interest here, because if you’re a lawyer who’s filing suits on behalf of corporations at these trade tribunals, you want to broaden the power of the trade tribunal and the corporation. So as a judge, you can decide things that, say, corporations have this power, corporations have that power, no, that the security issue doesn’t matter, the corporation still wins. They can create legal fictions.

Students protesters march across the country

The Million Student March erupted Thursday across the country, even here in Berkeley [which was never the Berzerkeley so beloved of Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, and their ilk.

We have two video reports. both with a Berkeley twist.

From up, via The Real News Network, an interview with a Berkeley student instrumental in the protests:

#MillionStudentMarch: Thousands Walkout Across The Country

From the transcript:

JAISAL NOOR, TRNN: The Million Student March. Thousands walked out of classes at over 100 campuses across the country on Thursday. Among their demands included addressing racial injustice, free tuition at college campuses and universities, cancellation of the country’s $1.2 trillion student debt, and a $15 wage for all university workers.

LAUREN BUTLER: Wall Street has infiltrated our education system. Education has been commodified, you know, and put on Wall Street to be gambled with.

NOOR: Tying racial justice and economic injustice is UC Berkeley student Lauren Butler. She helped organize the walkout on her campus.

BUTLER: People are disadvantaged in education because of their race. And the same system that oppresses us all as students, the same corporate system that benefits off of the creation of debt, you know, essentially the creation of poverty, right, these are the same people that like to exploit people of color, black people especially.

NOOR: Butler also cites the activism at the University of Missouri earlier this week that led to the toppling of two key university officials demonstrates the potential of students to achieve their demands when they are organized.

BUTLER: We’re really seeing a shift in the power dynamics, right. So what Missouri really taught us is that we have to speak their language to get a reaction out of them, right, and we did that. And the reactions of the students, you know, the reactions of the individual students, these disgusting hate crimes and acts of terror against the black students, it really is just reflective of this larger white supremacist power structure.

And from RT’s Ruptly TV, here’s some raw footage of the demonstrations here in Berkeley Thursday:

USA: Million Student March shuts down UC Berkley campus

Program notes:

Hundreds of students marched through the University of California’s Berkeley campus to demand free education, Thursday. The students who were joined by campaign group ‘Nurses for Bernie Sanders.’ Organisers are demanding tuition-free colleges, a cancellation of all student debt as well as a minimum $15 (€13.9) an hour wage for campus workers. The rally was one of many held on campuses across America under the name ‘Million Student March.’

Headline of the day II: Et tu, Obama?

From The Intercept, and the banksters are dry-washing their hands in joyous abnticipation:

Nominee to Oversee Wall Street Works at Think Tank Dedicated to Blocking Regulation

Richard D. Wolff: An antidote to capitalism

Economist Richard D. Wolff [previously] emerged as a leading voice from the left during the Occupy Wall Street movement, a cause that fused his passion for workplace democracy with the years of classroom podium experience he’d gained during his years teaching at the State University of New York and currently at the New School in Manhattan.

An eloquent, passionate, and concise speaker, In this address Wolff address an audience at the University of Washington in Seattle, giving a superb account of the nature of modern capitalism, the boom/bust cycles inherent in its very nature, and its long history of suppressing rational alternative modes of organizing society.

From TalkingStickTV:

Richard Wolff – Economic Justice, Sustainability and Transition Beyond Capitalism

Program notes:

Talk by Richard D. Wolff on “Economic Justice, Sustainability and Transition Beyond Capitalism” recorded October 27, 2015 at the Communications Building, University of Washington, Seattle.

Salt of the Earth: A cinematic blacklist riposte

Bryan Cranston has been getting rave reviews for his performance in Trumbo, starring as Dalton Trumbo, a brilliant Hollywood talent blacklisted from the American cinema  during the 19o50s for refusing to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee, the long-disbanded platform for demagogues looking to build political careers by capitalizing on the anti-communist hysteria of the early Cold War years.

Trumbo was a brilliant screenwriter and an acerbic novelist [Johnny Got his Gun, a 1938 anti-war novel, had a powerful impact on an 18-year-old esnl and played a critical role in our opposition to the then-developing Vietnam War.

But Trumbo was a Communist, a member of the Communist Party of the U.S.A.

Like other blacklisted writers, Trumbo continued writing and producers kept buying his scripts, which uncredited, credited under a pseudonym, or credited with the name of an actual human serving as front.

Dalton Trumbo was a member of the Hollywood Ten, the writers and directors cited for contempt of Congress following their refusal to answer the infamous question “Are you now or have you ever been” a member of the Communist Party.

A fair number of famous writers found refuge writing for a British television rebroadcast on CBS in the U.S. A young esnl never missed an episode of The Adventures of Robin Hood.

[As David Bushman, television curator for the Paley Center for Media, noted, “Robin is the perfect metaphor for the blacklisted left-wing artist—refusing to surrender his principles, he chooses to live outside the law rather than endorse a pernicious regime, and devotes his life to championing the oppressed.”]

All of which brings us to another member of that select list, Herbert J. Biberman, and another way of fighting the blacklist under his own name. The result was a 1954 film he wrote and directed, Salt of the Earth, about a strike by New Mexico miners, a strike transformed when the strikers’ wives took their places on the picket line. The film is based on a 1951 strikes by New Mexico minors.

The film deals with themes that would continue to resonate in decades ahead, including ethnic conflict [mine owners paid Hispanic workers less than their anglo counterparts and provided them with inferior housing], female equality, and the right of workers to organize and strike for a larger share of the profits from their own labor.

The film was produced by another blacklist victim, Paul Jarrico, and featured only five professional actors, with the rest recruited from the community where the film was made. One actor, Will Geer, would later become a beloved member of the cast of a popular television series, The Waltons, while another cast member, David Wolfe, would never act again for the large or small screens. A third actor, Rosaura Revueltas, came up from Mexico to take the lead role as narrator and driver of the action. She was arrested and deported near the end of the filming, forcing some of the final shots to be made in Mexico. And for her labor, she was herself added to the blacklist. The American Film Institute describes events that transpired days after her arrest:

On 2 Mar 1953, the film’s cast and crew were met by a citizen’s committee in Central, NM, and ordered to leave town. The following day, in Silver City, NM, the company was warned to “get out of town…or go out in black boxes.” Jencks was beaten and shots were fired at his car while it was parked outside his home. When the company did not capitulate to the demands, there was a “citizens’ parade” led by a sound car blaring, “We don’t want Communism; respect the law; no violence, but let’s show them we don’t like it.” The UMMSW, which had been expelled from the Congress of Industrial Organizations for alleged pro-Communist leanings, responded that “we have the right to make and complete our movie.” Then on 8 Mar 1953, the union hall in Bayard, NM was set on fire, and the union hall in nearby Carlsbad was burned to the ground, according to Biberman’s book. Biberman also notes that cast member Floyd Bostick’s home was destroyed by fire.

The troubles didn’t end once the film was in the can. Only a dozen theaters in the U.S. braved threats and violence to screen the film, and its was rarely seen thereafter, resurfacing on colleges campuses during the 1960s.

While some aspects of the film are dated and most of the cast had no acting experience, the film remains surprisingly relevant, confronting many of the same issues now confronting a growing percentage of the American working class.

And with that, now for the movie [and do click on the gear and up the resolution to 720p.

From Floyd Corcoran:

Salt of the Earth [1954]

Technoparasites: We paid, they profit

The “innovative” corporations so admired by neoliberal capitalism and its cheerleaders in the Forth Estate are innovators, but not so much of technology but of ways to package it, then in using some of the profits they’ve made off taxpayer-funded research into changing laws to make ever more profits while those who paid for all that research are driven deeper into economic despair.

If you consider all that a bit harsh, then pay close attention to the dissection of an iPhone during the first part of this latest documentary from the Dutch public television documentary series VPRO Backlight:

VPRO Backlight: The Smart State

Program notes:

We think new technology is developed by hip companies like Google and Apple. But is this true? VPRO Backlight explores the innovation climate in Europe, to find out what role governments and the private sector play in this. Who finances the development, and who profits from it?

What would the iPhone be worth without the internet, GPS and touchscreen technology? All these components didn’t originate from Apple, but from research institutes, universities and government-funded companies. VPRO Backlight explores where new technologies, from medicines to gizmos, come from, who finances their development and who profits from them.

We have gotten used to seeing new technology as something devised by smart, trendy techies at companies like Apple or Google. Italian American economist Mariana Mazzucato delved into the origin of new technology, and found out that governments have more influence than we think.

In her highly acclaimed book The Entrepreneurial State, Mazzucato argues that we should take another look at the source of innovation, and at the role governments actually play in innovation. She claims that technological progress will be seriously delayed if innovation is left only to the private sector. One question is what future governments can still contribute to technological development if they only have the costs, not the benefits. A company like Apple makes a profit with technology co-developed by governments, but like so many other big companies, they barely pay taxes.

VPRO Backlight pays a visit to aircraft manufacturer Airbus, which is teaming up with the European Space Agency for the development of 3D printing. But we also go to the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam, where so-called orphan drugs are developed: medicines for rare diseases that would be too costly for companies to develop without additional incentive measures. And finally, in Denmark the government does have an important role in innovation as a direct venture investor in new technology. Not only the costs are for the government, but also the profits, as with Universal Robots, a manufacturer of smart robot arms, which was sold for hundreds of millions. Does Denmark have the ideal system to accelerate technological development?

While we agree with the analysis of the problem, we think the Danish government investment program is only a half-measure.

What’s wrong with cooperative businesses, where ownership is diffused and related directly to those who do the actual work? And what of other forms of economic organization?

Also, that space race deserves a little more consideration, especially in the light of plans contained in long-secret documents eleased last year.

From the 17 September 2014 edition of Newsweek:

[J]ust-released documents from the 1950s and ’60s, many of which were obtained by the National Security Archive at George Washington University, portrays the much messier—and sometimes quite frightening—story playing out behind the scenes in what is arguably the most important international competition in human history.

Many of the plans were prepared by the American military, which focused on how the moon could be used for fighting. Blueprints were prepared for a military base largely buried under the lunar surface. Designs were drawn up for building nuclear reactors there, although no one seemed to have given much thought about where the radioactive waste would be disposed in the vacuum of space. And detailed studies recommended that the United States detonate a nuclear weapon near or on the moon, partly in hopes of setting off a “moonquake” and partly to scare the crap out of the Russians.

The reasons for frantic scheming on both sides of the Cold War were not just the altruistic advancement of science and a chance to feed national pride. Both countries wanted to get to the moon first because they thought it would give them military superiority in their long, bitter and costly Cold War. “The results of failure to first place man on extraterrestrial, naturally occurring real estate will raise grave political questions and at the same time lower United States prestige and influence,” reads one 1959 Army document about a secret program called Project Horizon. “[Moreover], the extent to which future operations might be conducted in space…is of such a magnitude as to almost defy the imagination.… The interactions of space and terrestrial war are so great as to generate radically new concepts.”

Chris Hedges, fervently hoping for revolution

Chris Hedges rose to the summit of American journalism, winning a Pulitzer Prize and working as Mideast Bureau Chief for the New York Times at the time he resigned following discipline for speaking out against the invasion of Iraq, declaring “We are embarking on an occupation that, if history is any guide, will be as damaging to our souls as it will be to our prestige and power and security.”

Since shedding his role as an exemplar of the mainstream media, Hedges has found a new calling as one of the country’s foremost critics of the media, and of the economic system in which they are based — a system which has produced an ongoing unemployment crisis and left most Americans struggling on the bring of poverty.

And now, in this interview with Vice News, Hedges admits to a fervent hope for a second American Revolution, a stance reflected in the title of his latest book,  Wages of Rebellion: The Moral Imperative of Revolt.

From Vice News:

Chris Hedges on What it Takes to be a Rebel in Modern Times

Program notes:

Bestselling author and Pulitzer Prize winner Chris Hedges sits down with Ben Makuch at the Toronto VICE office to discuss what it takes to be a rebel in modern times. Hedges discusses his new book Wages of Rebellion, an investigation of the social and psychological factors that cause revolution, rebellion and resistance. From Wall Street corruption to why the elites in corporate media have eviscerated traditional investigative journalism, Hedges tries to make sense of the world we live in.

And if you’re wondering about that unemployment figure and why it’s so much higher than the official number, its because the long-term unemployed who have simply given up have been factored out of the data, a decision reached in 1994 under Bill Clinton.

From Shadow Government Statistics, here’s what the real jobless rate would be without the political tweaking: