CAN PLASTIC BAGS BRING US TOGETHER? ~by Rhonda Hening
“That’s so ugly, isn’t it? That plastic bag stuck in the tree?”
“Yes, it really is a shame. Those bags get stuck in the trees in our park all the time.”
“Did you know that plastic bags are made with petroleum products?”
“No, I never thought about it before.”
… and there’s my opening. The conversation begins. 😉
No one likes to see plastic bags stuck in the trees of our parks, washing down our storm sewers, stuck to the exhaust pipes of our cars, or stinking until they shred, sloshing in the tides, visible and unsightly during our visits to the beach. When I have exhausted every other way to hold a conversation with someone who opposes my politics, we can always agree that those ‘tree bags’ are an eyesore. It’s a fail-safe opportunity for me to introduce a conversation about how plastics have really invaded our culture, and how plastic contributes, not only to the depletion of fossil fuels, but to the demise of our marine life as well.
Next, I ask them if they have ever heard of the Pacific Garbage Patch. It’s a concentration of plastic and other man-made sludge, estimated to be about twice the size of Texas (so far) and located north of the North Pacific Gyre. It’s driven and held in place by oceanic and wind currents. There are several garbage patches in our oceans, the Pacific being the largest of them.
The plastic and trash enter our waterways by storm sewer outlets, ocean vessel dumping, and various other methods. As it begins to photo-degrade, the plastics are reduced to smaller pieces (some microscopic), and the reduction becomes a toxic soup. The chemicals are consumed by fish, whales and dolphins, among other ocean life, and eventually it kills them. Birds that feed in ocean waters are also victims of the plastic garbage piles. We see their decomposed bodies on the shoreline. All that’s left is some feathers, a pile of bones, and … plastic.
(Here’s a great ABC News Video about it – Disposable Island)
This conversation evokes sympathy from just about everyone. Once I have touched on the dead marine and bird life, I throw in a fact that brings them back home. I ask if they’ve ever heard of method products inc., an eco-friendly company whose products are sold in many high-traffic variety stores. Though it doesn’t claim to be a “green” company, their brand is easily recognized by average shoppers. The method company collects plastic trash from the beaches of Hawaii and elsewhere, and recycles it to create the packaging for their cleaning products. Hopefully, I’ve given my conversation partner a thought or two about using more eco-friendly products.
Then, back to the bigger picture.
“You know, it’s really a shame that we produce so many plastics anyway. They use up much of the oil that we seem to find so precious these days.” That’s when I drop the F-bomb on them – FRACKING.
“Have you ever heard of fracking?” I find many people who are unaware of it, or at least the devastating environmental and health effects that result from it. I tell them about the studies and consequences of the hydraulic fracturing process – everything from man-made earthquakes to flammable “drinking” water from a kitchen faucet. We discuss the impact of Fracking on the people who live in surrounding communities, like cancer and brain lesions! These studies indicate a need for strict regulation: “There have been over 1000 reports of contaminated groundwater since fracking began, and studies also link the extraction process to polluted air, disease and death in farm animals and wildlife in addition to humans. It is also connected to the increase in earthquake activity. Doctors have come out against fracking; it’s been banned in New Jersey, and other states are considering banning it.”
At this point, I am usually met with an incredulous, “Well, that doesn’t seem right!”
“I know!” I agree with them, and then I move to the most important part of the conversation. We need safety regulations, but lobbyists from oil companies, chemical companies and others, such as Halliburton, have swayed legislators who have exempted the process of hydraulic fracturing from some of our key federal environmental laws. “That’s why we have to keep corporations from having undue influence over our government and legislators. We need to reverse the Citizens United decision – you know?”
I have found some people who don’t know about the Citizens United decision or how it’s affecting our nation. I explain the Supreme Court’s ruling and that as a result, corporations now contribute to political interests without identifying themselves or disclosing their donations to the public. These massive donations, PACs and corporate lobbying groups have strong influence over our politicians, and ultimately our laws. They also pour money into media outlets and run dubious ads that influence voter’s choices. Because of the Citizens United decision, the voice of the American people has been pushed nearly out of the democratic process.
I invite them to write to their legislators about fracking and about overturning the Citizens United ruling, and mention that they can go to APV’s website, and use our link to identify their legislators. At that point, I can end the conversation without ever having spoken the words Republican or Democrat, and, yet, we are united in thought!
“Hey, can you give me a hand to get this plastic bag out of the tree? Thanks!”
Bravo! and thanks to APV board member, Rhonda Hening, for contributing this thoughtful post, and for her continuous devotion and active support for so many of the progressive issues confronting us today.
Don’t Mourn. Organize.
Bad news out of Wisconsin last night. Tom Barrett lost to a man who shouldn’t have been elected dog catcher, much less Governor. Scott Walker is also currently the target of a FBI investigation, so he may not sit in that office much longer, but there is no doubt, a lot of people were disappointed last night. I was one of them.
I’m not from Wisconsin, but I know a little of their history. I thought I might share that history to put this defeat into perspective. The first thing you should know is that Wisconsin was the heart of progressive movement in the last century. The second thing you should know –hold onto your hats – those progressives from Wisconsin were originally Republicans. Unlike the pro-business kleptomaniacs of today, the Progressive Republicans, as they liked to call themselves, believed that the business of government was to serve the people. They sought to restrict the power of corporations when it interfered with the needs of individual citizens. In their crusade for reform on a state and national level, Progressive Republicans were led by Robert La Follette, Wisconsin’s governor from 1901 to 1906, and U.S. Senator from 1906 to 1925.
La Follette developed what came to be known as the Wisconsin Idea. According to the Wisconsin Historical Society, he argued that “efficient government required control of institutions by the voters rather than special interests.” He thought that the “involvement of specialists in law, economics, and social and natural sciences would produce the most effective government.” To aid in this endeavor, faculty from the University of Wisconsin played a significant part in Progressive reform efforts, helping legislators draft laws and serving as experts on governmental commissions. While advocating for more scientific and efficient government, many of these specialists were equally persistent in their efforts to expand educational opportunities. Much of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal legislation was drafted by Wisconsin citizens, such as Edwin Witte (author of the 1935 Social Security act), who had been trained by Progressive Wisconsin economics professor John R. Commons. In fact, the momentum of La Follette and his allies rippled down through the decades into John Kennedy’s “New Frontier” and Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” programs.
In many ways, Progressive Republicans of Wisconsin were the exact inverse of today’s Republican party which has abandoned any pretense of intellectual vigor or scientific objectivity. Not a single contemporary Republican candidate could admit to the Theory of Evolution during the primaries, much less support the notion that climate change is a problem caused by man—despite near perfect scientific unanimity on the question. In deference to the ideological zealots on the religious right, they have actively sought to restrict contraceptive options for women across the country and the world–despite its negative impact on women’s health. In deference to ideological free market zealots, they have signed pledges which now make it impossible to balance the budget without slashing social safety nets for millions of America’s most needy, while billionaires have their capital gains shielded from taxes and corporations pay little or no taxes at all. None of this is rational governance. Progressive Republicans would have been horrified to see what the party is doing in their name.
And last night, two billionaires and their surrogates safe guarded Scott Walker, a relentlessly incompetent executive from a recall effort by out spending his opponent about 20 to 1. As Andy Borowitz put it, “Wisconsin: The people have spoken, and they’re both named Koch.”
I think anyone who watched this carefully is disappointed, but Joe Hill—a great progressive and union organizer said it best under much more dire circumstances than these—on his execution day, in fact. He had been accused of murdering a doctor and his son on very scant evidence, but he knew that rational ‘evidence’ isn’t what determined outcomes in cases that involved labor organizers (much less Wobblies!) in deeply conservative Utah. Just prior to his execution, Hill had written to Bill Haywood, an IWW leader, saying, “Goodbye Bill. I die like a true blue rebel. Don’t waste any time in mourning. Organize… Could you arrange to have my body hauled to the state line to be buried? I don’t want to be found dead in Utah.” His last words to the firing squad that day were beautifully brazen as well. He shouted, “Fire”! .
So let’s learn what we can from this moment, but don’t mourn. Organize.
Occupy’s Second Coming – by Jack Johnson
The great writers of the nineteenth century had neither religion nor politics nor aesthetic principles in common. But what they did have in common was a climate of ethical judgment, a moral climate. They shared certain values, they were humanist. If you read a nineteenth century novel today, Dostoevsky or Dreiser, Dickens or Twain, it is recognizable as a novel from the 19th century because of this moral climate. The core question that is asked is not are the characters successful or witty, but are they right? Writers of that period saw the individual struggling to find the correct balance between their independence and individual beliefs and the needs of the collective. There are only a handful of 20th century writers that have carried on this discourse and too many of them are given over to despair. The post-modernists of the 70s and 80s saw almost any political action as futile, compromised, or something of a joke. Some –too many –took ironic delight in pointing out the obvious difficulties. And rather than enlighten, they left one feeling bleak and hopeless. Meanwhile, in the real world, small wars and large wars continued. Corporations were stripped of their essential community based purpose, and instead were turned into the raw machines of profit. Yet, despite this sea change, our writers seemed stuck in a kind of identity crisis, a second gear, neither willing or able to tackle political issues of the day. Our popular culture essentially gave up on political man. News shows only pretended to objectively cover politics, and then only covered scandal. People forgot what it was to be politically or ethically engaged. During this same period, roughly from the late 1970s to 2012, our industrial base was eviscerated, our addiction to oil became deadly, and the American middle class saw their healthcare costs sky-rocket, their pensions raided, and their educational institutions privatized for the profit of a few. None of this is a coincidence.
As Christopher Hedges points out, “We have been, like nations on the periphery of empire, colonized. We are controlled by tiny corporate entities that have no loyalty to the nation and indeed in the language of traditional patriotism are traitors. They strip us of our resources, keep us politically passive and enrich themselves at our expense. The mechanisms of control are familiar to those whom the Martinique-born French psychiatrist and writer Frantz Fanon called “the wretched of the earth,” including African-Americans. The colonized are denied job security. Incomes are reduced to subsistence level. The poor are plunged into desperation. Mass movements, such as labor unions, are dismantled. The school system is degraded so only the elites have access to a superior education. Laws are written to legalize corporate plunder and abuse, as well as criminalize dissent. And the ensuing fear and instability—keenly felt this past weekend by the more than 200,000 Americans who lost their unemployment benefits—ensure political passivity by diverting all personal energy toward survival. It is an old, old game.”
Hedges goes on to note that what fosters revolution is not misery, alone, but the gap between what people expect from their lives and what is offered. As if in response to this syllogism, on September 17th of last year, activists and students descended on Wall Street and said, essentially, the gig is up. The scam must stop. The financialization of the world is killing our Earth. The Occupy Wall Street crowd did not operate in a vacuum. They were following The Arab Spring and the European Indignados. In fact, Spaniards from Puerta del Sol marched with us on Wall Street in those beginning days. And, on cue, it would seem, the Indignados in Spain have returned. They have reoccupied the Puerta del Sol as part of a global day of action to commemorate the first anniversary of the 15-M (May 15) movement. Hundreds of thousands of Spaniards amassed in the square, some dancing joyfully, others debating the replacements for capitalism. According to an article on roarmag.org, a message circulating on Twitter yesterday perfectly caught the mood in Madrid:
“This is not an anniversary — it’s a tradition!”
In a few more months, the United States will have its own anniversary. In advance of that, Noam Chomsky, MIT linguist and political activist, outlines the reasons Occupy should make a come back, and, seeing the challenges ahead, he offers a warning as well:” Unless the spirit of the last year continues to grow and becomes a major force in the social and political world, the chances for a decent future are not very high. ”
Read more below…
Chomsky: Do We Have the Makings of a Real Revolution?
Just like Rape
If we could get a breed of gals that didn’t care, now, for their young uns…would be ’bout the greatest mod’rn improvement I knows on … ~Uncle Tom’s Cabin
The Nation’s Reproductive Rights and the Long Hand of Slave Breeding, by JoAnn Wypijewski, takes a step back to look at the big picture of “choice” in the U.S and how it applies to the conservative war on women.
Wypijewski speaks of her sister’s upcoming book, and her new-found reasoning that includes the propagation of slaves as an important consideration in the legislation we’re facing, and the equal rights of women in general. She finds there “is another logic, and it calls us to complete the unfinished business of emancipation.”
I like the article, but find it falls short by not including some of the other proposed legislation that adds reason to the madness. Those would include the push to end labor unions, repeal our child labor laws, and Virginia’s new law, for example, that allows discrimination against adoption on the basis of any moral reason a contractor puts forth to keep children’s rights under state control.
If all the outsourced jobs and industry return to American soil only after we’ve achieved a “competitive” edge – and they will – what does that mean? It means cheap labor, and lots of it. It means that the organization of workers will have been rendered futile. It means our corporations can compete with China’s standards of employment. It means child labor, something we put behind us long ago.
The concerted stages of deregulation for corporate profit over the people’s safety and workers’ rights in our country are all frightening to me. I think a large voting bloc is being used to promote corporate interests.
Abortion isn’t the issue we’re dealing with in the war on women. I think it’s about control … just like rape.
Dying for Work
Worker safety comes before corporate profit only when politicians and business alike understand the advantage to being “on the side of the angels“.
Once learned and understood, we’re supposed to have safe working conditions for good reason. This morning, in Dying for Work, Leo Gerard, International President, United Steelworkers, brings back to the surface something we know, or should know, in the light of new-found accountability under corporate personhood.
If corporations are people, as Mitt Romney and the Republican majority on the Supreme Court claim, then their privileges as humans come with the responsibility to act humanely. Corporate-people must fulfill their obligations to workers and communities. Profit can’t be their sole raison d’etre. That’s not how it is with flesh-and-blood people. If it were, then society would condone profit-motivated murder, like killing a parent for insurance money. Now that they’re people, corporations have an even greater duty to prevent deaths on the job. And if they don’t, they must be held accountable in criminal court the same way a money-grubbing son would be if he murdered his parents for the life insurance
The legacy of those who died on March 25, 1911 should be honored, but unless enforcement effectively deters profit-driven corporate offenders, it’s meaningless.
The Invisible Hand Pummeling Public Schools
I can’t think of a more despicable or far-reaching example of ideology being forced on Americans than the money-grabbing obsession with dismantling our time-honored public school system. School choice, vouchers, corporate scholarships, educational freedom – call it what you like – the privatization of public schools is a movement on steroids. Every day the states are hit with new bills to aid neoliberals in their goal to educate Americans “their” way. The means to that end vary for different blocs of support, but all roads meet where powerful people control and market information.
A generation or two down this widening road to schools with selective entry and exit for students, religious indoctrination and poorly regulated online learning for the masses, the real people of America, our strength, will rely on the free market crumbs that fall from the learning opportunities available to the elite. Trickledown education is in the making.
Bit by bit, new interpretations change the meanings of our laws. Remember how that happened in Orwell’s Animal Farm?
No animal shall sleep in a bed with sheets.
No animal shall drink alcohol to excess.
No animal shall kill any other animal without cause.
No public school shall proselytize except by students.
Remember when public schools were not missionary fields? Just yesterday, the Florida Senate advanced a bill to allow prayer led by students. Proponents of religion in schools call this one “a God-given loophole” – peer evangelism. And of course, as religion gains ground in public schools to appease the religious right (a targeted voting bloc), separation of church and state, a main and valid objection to privatization is being overcome. As the separation objection loses its punch, vouchers allowing taxpayer money to be funneled into private schools become six of one, half-dozen of the other.
In How religion is infiltrating public schools, Katherine Stewart highlights this Animal Farm type “modification” made by the Supreme Court differentiating school-sponsored speech from student speech, allowing students to proselytize on federal property.
In New Heights Middle School in Jefferson, South Carolina:
School-sponsored prayers routinely opened and closed assemblies and performances. Religious messages made their way into lesson plans, and religious iconography decorated the walls. Students were punished for minor infractions by being told to write out sentences proclaiming their faith in God.
A number of these activities … appear to be violations of the clause in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution intended to maintain separation between church and state. And the school board admits as much in its proposed settlement of the ACLU case. Yet an even greater number of religious activities in public schools have recently become legal as a result of novel interpretations of the Constitution handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court. Ironically, had the administration of New Heights been a little smarter, it could have achieved its apparent goal of using the school’s position of authority to spread the word of God among its captive students without running the risk of being sued. Thousands of other schools across the country do just that.
All taxpayers shall contribute to public education unless they don’t.
Diverting funds away from the public schools through vouchers and other means will exacerbate every problem in the system, effectively breaking it. Defunding, attacking teachers and unions, etc., is the means. The golden rule in the neoliberal sweep to privatize the public good is: First, break it. Second, get paid to rebuild it in your own image. Third, funnel the money and benefits up to the top.
Money talks, regulation walks – The Cash Cow for Now
How Online Learning Companies Bought America’s Schools by investigative journalist Lee Fang, points out the astonishing amount of investment capital flowing into online education. The rush to privatize in this way by businesses and “philanthropists” like the Koch brothers, is pretty transparent. Rupert Murdoch called it “a $500 billion sector in the US alone that is waiting desperately to be transformed.”
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and the State Policy Network (SPN) have been the pivotal organizations aiding in the campaign for virtual schools.
Since 2005, ALEC has offered a template law called “The Virtual Public Schools Act” to introduce online education. (…)
SPN has faced accusations before that it is little more than a coin-operated front for corporations. For instance, SPN and its affiliates receive money from polluters, including infamous petrochemical giant Koch Industries, allegedly in exchange for aggressive promotion of climate denial theories.
It’s not a leap to assume that when corporations are in control of education, so will be information.
Typical of neoliberal fancy, virtual schools lack regulation and public debate. And without sufficient oversight or quality control, most online learning companies receive the same amount of taxpayer funding per-pupil as brick and mortar schools. Saving on the teacher-to-student ratio, costs for classrooms, transportation, meals, security, equipment, maintenance and other building support staff – and many other expenses associated with traditional learning, the profit margin for virtual education companies is so seductive that obscene amounts of their money is spent to lobby our lawmakers.
“Moe has worked for almost fifteen years at converting the K-12 education system into a cash cow for Wall Street. A veteran of Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch, he now leads an investment group that specializes in raising money for businesses looking to tap into more than $1 trillion in taxpayer money spent annually on primary education.” (…)
“In March, while busting the teachers unions in his state, Walker lifted the cap on virtual schools and removed the program’s income requirements.
State Representative Robin Vos, the Wisconsin state chair for ALEC, sponsored the bill codifying Walker’s radical expansion of online, for-profit schools. Vos’s bill not only lifts the cap but also makes new, for-profit virtual charters easier to establish.
Online learning in K-12 schools is still growing explosively, and public support for this arm of privatization is just baffling. Early on, it was promoted for computer literacy and otherwise unavailable courses, but that’s a distant memory. In 2006, Michigan stepped forward to become the 1st state requiring online learning for high school graduation, regardless of need.
If the public has been reticent in its opposition to online education, it may be because information on its success or failure to actually educate is hard to come by and often skewed. Its promotion has been framed to cover the bases, appealing to the voting blocs of rural communities, urban communities, home schoolers, the parents of children with special learning needs, and a myriad of “bully” and other social issues, including student acne. But the bottom line is profit for the few, poor education for the many.
While different issues continue to plague the most basic requirements for virtual schools to actually educate, they are not without some easily understood merit in the cases of some students. But one-third of our high school students drop out, and truancy issues usually precede throwing in the towel. Obama would like for the states to enforce education requirements to age 18. I think that would force many students into online study (a boon for business) where truancy is already a problem for students who have left traditional schools in favor of virtual classes, and where there’s no viable way to track online attendance.
To me, this doesn’t sound like an honest effort to educate; it sounds like a get-rich-quick scheme at the expense of education and the taxpayer:
“By almost every educational measure, the Agora Cyber Charter School is failing.
Nearly 60 percent of its students are behind grade level in math. Nearly 50 percent trail in reading. A third do not graduate on time. And hundreds of children, from kindergartners to seniors, withdraw within months after they enroll.
By Wall Street standards, though, Agora is a remarkable success that has helped enrich K12 Inc., the publicly traded company that manages the school. And the entire enterprise is paid for by taxpayers.
The state audit of the Colorado Virtual Academy, which found that the state paid for students who were not attending the school, ordered the reimbursement of more than $800,000.
With retention a problem, some teachers said they were under pressure to pass students with marginal performance and attendance.
Students need simply to log in to be marked present for the day, according to Agora teachers and administrators.” (emphasis mine)
Profits and Questions at Online Charter Schools
So, yes. Online learning would reduce class sizes in traditional schools. But as the public school system is being privatized, who is that intended to benefit? Corporations! And another neoliberal offering we hear a lot about these days would have the same effect: repealing child labor laws. I think it’s clear that the motive behind these efforts aligns less with the people of America caring for and educating our children, and more with washing our hands of the responsibility. Every relationship of ‘hegemony’ is necessarily an educational relationship. ~A. Gramsci
Apple, Martin Luther King, the Wright Brothers and Bernie Sanders?
People don’t buy what you do – they buy why you do it. ~ Simon Sinek
Senator Bernie Sanders, December 8, 2011
The Saving American Democracy Amendment
The Petition to Support the Saving American Democracy Amendment
One of the 10 most watched TEDTalks of all time:
APV is a part of the Move to Amend Movement.
LOS ANGELES POISED TO BE THE FIRST MAJOR U.S. CITY TO CALL FOR END TO CORPORATE PERSONHOOD
Grassroots Momentum Builds Toward Passage of a Constitutional Amendment
LOS ANGELES, CA – Next week the Los Angeles City Council will vote on a resolution that calls on Congress to amend the Constitution to clearly establish that only living persons — not corporations — are endowed with constitutional rights and that money is not the same as free speech. If this resolution is passed, Los Angeles will be the first major city in the U.S. to call for an end to all corporate constitutional rights.
The campaign in Los Angeles is the latest grassroots effort by Move to Amend, a national coalition working to abolish corporate personhood. “Local resolution campaigns are an opportunity for citizens to speak up and let it be known that we won’t accept the corporate takeover of our government lying down,” said Kaitlin Sopoci-Belknap, a national spokesperson for Move to Amend. “We urge communities across the country to join the Move to Amend campaign and raise your voices.”
Earlier this year voters in Madison and Dane County, Wisconsin overwhelmingly approved ballot measures calling for an end to corporate personhood and the legal status of money as speech by 84% and 78% respectively. In November voters in Boulder, Colorado and Missoula, Montana both passed similar initiatives with 75% support.
“We are experiencing overwhelming support for what may be a historic turning point in restoring a voice to the voters and setting an example for the rest of the country,” stated Mary Beth Fielder, Coordinator of Move To Amend LA. “This action would provide the basis for overturning the recent Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.”
Move to Amend volunteers in dozens of communities across the country are working to place similar measures on local ballots next year, including West Allis, WI, a conservative suburb of Milwaukee where last week local residents successfully qualified a measure for their spring ballot.
Move to Amend’s strategy is to pass community resolutions across the nation through city councils and through direct vote by ballot initiative. “Our plan is build a movement that will drive this issue into Congress from the grassroots. The American people are behind us on this and these campaigns help our federal representatives see that we mean business. Our very democracy is at stake,” stated Sopoci-Belknap.
The campaign in Los Angeles is endorsed by a growing list of organizations including Common Cause, Occupy LA, LA County Federation of Labor, Physicians for Social Responsibility, The Environmental Caucus of the CA Democratic Party, Southern California Americans for Democratic Action, MoveOn LA, Progressive Democrats of the Santa Monica Mountains, Democracy for America, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Strategic Actions for a Just Economy, AFSCME 36, LA Green Machine and California Clean Money Campaign.
Please join APV in support of the Move to Amend movement. We need your help!
The Alliance for Progressive Values ~ Giving your values a voice!
Bill Moyers: “Our Politicians Are Money Launderers in the Trafficking of Power and Policy”
If you haven’t seen this heartfelt speech until now, it might be because it was hacked shortly after it went up on Thursday. The culprit probably wasn’t an Arlo Guthrie critic, so my guess is someone feeling protective of a broad group of plutocrats. Anyway, take the time while it’s still up to read this well-respected, time-tested gentleman’s assessment of what has happened to our country, and the lyrics he looked to for inspiration.
He speaks passionately about America’s plutocracy, “where political power is derived from the wealthy and controlled by the wealthy to protect their wealth.”
Moyers and many others believe it was a plan that got its big kick-off from Lewis Powell, Jr.’s confidential memorandum, Attack of American Free Enterprise System. A copy of it is in an earlier post remembering the manifesto’s fortieth anniversary. It’s surprisingly short for all the damage it’s done, whether or not Powell realized its horrific potential.
Another interesting, infamous memo, sent only to its wealthiest customers, was from Citigroup in 2005. In The Plutonomy Symposium Rising Tides Lifting Yachts, global strategist Ajay Kapur came up with the term “Plutonomy” describing our massive income and wealth inequality. He discusses the advantages for the wealthy almost gayly, advising patrons that “… these wealth waves involve great complexity exploited best by the rich and educated of the time.” The arrogance in the two-part memo is deafening:
This imbalance in inequality expresses itself in the standard scary “global imbalances”. We worry less.
Also, in part 2, on March 5, 2006, some of the no-nos for their beloved “Plutonomy” are shared. Though it wasn’t intended for the 99% to see, it’s interesting how their risk list stacks up today.
RISKS — WHAT COULD GO WRONG?
Our whole plutonomy thesis is based on the idea that the rich will keep getting richer. This thesis is not without its risks. For example, a policy error leading to asset deflation, would likely damage plutonomy. Furthermore, the rising wealth gap between the rich and poor will probably at some point lead to a political backlash. Whilst the rich are getting a greater share of the wealth, and the poor a lesser share, political enfranchisement remains as was — one person, one vote (in the plutonomies). At some point it is likely that labor will fight back against the rising profit share of the rich and there will be a political backlash against the rising wealth of the rich. This could be felt through higher taxation on the rich (or indirectly though higher corporate taxes/regulation) or through trying to protect indigenous [home-grow] laborers, in a push-back on globalization — either anti-immigration, or protectionism. We don’t see this happening yet, though there are signs of rising political tensions. However we are keeping a close eye on developments.
Copies of the Citigroup memo disappear quickly from the internet, but I found them for now. (Part One, Part Two) If those are taken down, there are excerpts in The Wall Street Journal and Daily Kos.
And then, of course, the lovely lyrics and song by Arlo Guthrie ~ Patriots’ Dream
On Tuesday night, as if Thomas Jefferson had been waiting to exhale for 235 years, we seem to have won a debate that would give him the go-ahead. The question posed was: Is the US Declaration of Independence illegal?
In the winning argument, American lawyers concluded:
Under basic principles of “Natural Law”, government can only be by the consent of the people and there comes a point when allegiance is no longer required in face of tyranny.
The legality of the Declaration and its validity is proven by subsequent independence movements which have been enforced by world opinion as right and just, based on the fundamental principles of equality and self-determination now reflected in the UN Charter.
For this century, though, a better question might be: How is independence declared at all, and especially in a way that does not involve violence?
Resulting from a deportation conflict with the U.S. government in 1972, John Lennon and Yoko Ono tried it this way:
Looking back at their agenda and the motive behind the deportation effort, uncomfortable thoughts of negligence and procrastination came to mind and I wondered if anything has changed at all.
Injustices around the world prompted Lennon to use “his popularity for fund raisers, voter-registration drives, and anti-war rallies and concerts. These activities were planned to take place in many of the presidential primary states in 1972, and this deeply troubled Richard Nixon and the Republican Party. Consequently, many Republicans feared that Lennon, through these motivated activities, would jump-start the anti-war movement, resulting in the majority of young Americans voting against Nixon in the upcoming election.
Through the Freedom of Information Act, it was revealed that on February 4, 1972, Senator Strom Thurmond wrote a memo, classified as secret, citing Lennon as a danger to the Presidents’ 1972 reelection campaign. So what could the Republicans do to prevent this? Easy they thought – just revoke Lennon’s visa. Thurmond said further that “if Lennon’s visa is terminated, it would be a strategy counter-measure.” He further advised that “caution must be taken with regard to the possible alienation of the so-called 18-year-old-vote if Lennon is expelled from the country.”
[…] Was John Lennon successfully deported – no. However, in 1975, the chief counsel of the INS resigned, and after doing so, publicly stated that the United States government, i.e., the Republican Party, spent millions of tax dollars, and conducted a more vehement attempt to deport John Lennon than it did in trying to throw out Nazi war criminals. It should be noted too, that all activities involving Lennon, or his intended activities, were protected under the First Amendment, which extends this protection to both citizens and non-citizens alike. John Lennon broke no laws in trying to fight for the many injustices he believed in. ~by John T. Marck, I Am The Beatles, John Lennon the Immigrant
So … in spite of taxpayer-funded dirty tricks, they were actually successful – a comparatively irrelevant gain, though, ending in the tragic loss of a dearly precious life. But can we conclude that John Lennon’s deportation experience and the declaration of Nutopian independence demonstrate that standing symbolically and nonviolently against injustice, corruption, secrecy and abuses of law enforcement is a noble endeavor worthy of us all? I believe so. And I think we’re headed in the right direction.
But what about entire nations declaring independence? According to one American historian:
The source of the powers of congress is to be sought solely in the acquiescence of the people, without which every congressional resolution, with or without the benediction of popular conventions or state legislatures, would have been a mere brutum fulmen; and, as the congress unquestionably exercised national powers, operating over the whole country, the conclusion is inevitable that the will of the whole people is the source of national government in the United States, even from its first imperfect appearance in the second continental congress.. Cyclopædia of Political Science. New York: Maynard, Merrill, and Co., 1899.
In theory, then and now, the people rule collectively – at least in America. As surely as the American lawyers argued Tuesday night, “Under basic principles of “Natural Law”, government can only be by the consent of the people….” We either legitimate our congress, our popular government, or their decisions are mere inert thunder.
That’s a nice theory, but unfortunately somewhere along the line, and especially with corporate personhood, the rule of the people was given over to the rule of the money, and inert thunder is accepted as the law of the land.
Looking to the Tibetan people’s struggle for independence (a people who have positively moved in the direction of non-violence), returning to an independent sovereign state has proven to be a futile effort in the “principles of equality and self-determination” that validate a Declaration of Independence – this also argued by our lawyers.
“China’s policy of occupation and oppression has resulted in no more or less than the destruction of Tibet’s national independence, culture and religion, environment and the universal human rights of its people. But having no representation in the United Nations, the world largely stood by and allowed China’s occupation and destruction to happen.” Issues facing Tibet* today describes the human rights and environmental atrocities that afflict a nation of once proud and self-determining people – and frankly, some of it is way too close to home.
And so, our lawyers argued for validity on the basis of “subsequent independence movements which have been enforced by world opinion as right and just”, and are “now reflected in the UN Charter”, but that was more or less a convenient and exclusive argument reserved for the elite nations backed by a document that is neither abided by nor enforced by our own government. It was certainly not a point inclusive of what is “right or just” for the people of Tibet.
When people’s rights, values and money are consumed by states and corruption, of course the pattern for violence is more concentrated in recovery efforts well after the fact than in efforts to regulate and prevent a corrupt government’s economic and legislative overreach.
Of the many examples of violent recovery efforts from such overreach, the people of Southern Sudan have been plagued with civil war on and off since 1955. Two million are dead and four million have been displaced since 1983, resulting overall in the mass destruction of a lovely people and culture. Whether or not nonviolence will last in a nation fraught with war for generations of citizens is questionable, as also exemplified in areas like Israel and Palestine. Attrition ensures that the people themselves have no standard for living in peace. Chronically bad situations during the prolonged catastrophe of war with its societal disorganization, malnutrition and disease, crime and overwhelming fear, often result in a people characterized as living almost for safety alone. The natural rhythm and balance afforded a life in peace and safety is unrealized, and even after the danger subsides, our human preference for the familiar tends to render the people of those war-torn nations as unsafe children in their desire for safety, and in that way they remain vulnerable, abused children of violence and war.
On the other hand, and more recently, a better result will come for the people of Iceland, who have been standing up together to face the economic and social injustices brought on by their corrupt state. Being progressive, they’ve taken “the bull by the horns”, and their noble and nonviolent correction is ending that economic injustice and the ruining debt imposed on the nation’s people in a way that will serve and protect generations to follow. And the Icelandic people have written a new constitution, independent of their parent country, Denmark.
When social and economic injustice come to the people of a nation and they do not stand together and act to correct it, if inequality results in abuses and the exploitation of social weaknesses, if the flow of information is controlled, if the validity of elections is questionable, if the allegiance of elected officials can be purchased, … and all while knowing that violence and war can be the default result of the people’s negligence and procrastination in facing those abuses, then generations to come, tomorrow’s children and theirs, are not being given a fair opportunity to live in peace … whether or not a congress or a declaration of independence is legal or approved by the oppressors.