Comment on Keystone XL Pipeline – open until March 7

30-day public comment period for State Dept Final SEIS started yesterday:

http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=DOS-2014-0003-0001

Here is my comment sent on Feb 16, 2014:

I write to urge you to abandon the Keystone XL pipeline for social, economic, political and environmental reasons. Vancouver B.C. has 26 community centers, some with swimming pools that take your breath away. In addition to game rooms, theaters, gyms and libraries, the centers often serve as surrogate counseling and classroom opportunities. Meal costs are subsidized by the province so the poor are respected and validated. Like the 30-page Canadian health system, community centers have a cushioning and multiplier effect creating a public spirit and joy in being Canadian.

The recent pipeline fires in North Dakota, Kentucky, Manitoba and Quebec should be wake up calls and warnings. Are we living in post-democracy where wake up calls and writing on the wall are ignored, where the state is only an errand boy for the banks and where the transition from empire to republic is forgotten?

According to Swiss economist Hans Christoph Binswanger, the only way to solve these three crises – mass unemployment, environment destruction and trade imbalance – is to break out of the system of quantitative growth and embark on qualitative growth. A job in education costs 1/10 what a job in a capital intensive industry like chemical dyes costs.

According to the neoliberal myth, higher profits would bring more jobs and greater investments. In truth, soaring profits led to companies buying back their stock and speculation on foreign currencies. GE Capital became more profitable than GE refrigerators. In the age of finance capitalism, this economy kills as Pope Francis exclaims.

The future could be bright with community centers, free Internet books and soft power but is endangered by not learning from history or from the financialization/speculation of the 1980s. The top tax rate was above 70% from 1939 to 1982 when it was suddenly cut in half to 35%. We face serious military spending and revenue shortfalls that threaten to be repressed or offloaded on seniors, the poor, students and the disabled. We are so entangled with short-term practical constraints and lobbying that long-term necessities – maintaining the infrastructure, making education affordable and becoming cloud workers with the technological wonders – fall by the wayside. The elite refuse changes in investment, taxation, distribution, labor market and trade policies and the radical system corrections necessary for planetary survival and cling to competition and personal management as the ways to fulfillment.

Thanks for your time. Unlike a chair, an idea can be shared by a whole people. A future of coal trains and pipelines is a dystopia where we imitate “the prodigal son” in the parable or Narcissus who fell in love with his reflection in the pond and drowned. The time is right for alternative economics, reducing working hours, infrastructure investment, person-oriented work, redefining security, health, strength and power.

Posted in 2011 | Leave a comment

Alternative Trade Mandate, 20pp

http://www.alternativetrademandate.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Trade-time_for_a_new_vision-PRINT.pdf

Press release

Over 50 civil society groups demand a paradigm shift in EU trade and investment policies

Today, a European alliance of over 50 civil society organisations [1] will launch the Alternative Trade Mandate [2], a proposal to make EU trade and investment policy work for people and the planet, not just the profit interests of a few. The launch is taking place as EU trade ministers and the European Commission are leaving for the World Trade Organisation (WTO) negotiations in Bali next week.

“The current trade and investment regime, imposed by the EU and the WTO, isn’t working. Prising markets open for global agri-business is wiping out small farmers and is a major cause of hunger. The deregulation of financial services through free trade agreements impedes tough regulation of the financial sector, paving the way for the next disastrous financial crisis. We need to break away from this corporate driven agenda,” says Charles Santiago, a member of the Malaysian parliament, who is in Brussels to support the launch of the Alternative Trade Mandate.

The new 20-page mandate proposes that core principles such as human and labour rights and environmental protection should drive EU trade policy. On several areas, such as food, work, money and raw materials, detailed proposals for change are outlined. One proposal is for the EU to become more self-sufficient in protein and oil crops as alternatives to imports of (genetically-modified) soybeans, palm oil and agrofuels, which are devastating for the environment and small farmers in the global south. The mandate also calls on the EU to hold European corporations accountable for human rights violations, environmental destruction, tax avoidance and tax evasion elsewhere.

The mandate also proposes a new process for initiating, negotiating and finalising trade and investment agreements, giving national Parliaments and civil society a stronger role and thereby rolling back policy-capture by big business.

“EU trade deals are negotiated behind closed doors in the interests of a few rich corporations. The people who are affected by these deals have never been asked what they really need. We want an open and democratic process, controlled by the people of Europe and their elected representatives, rather than unelected technocrats and corporate lobby groups,” says Pia Eberhardt from Corporate Europe Observatory, a member of the Alternative Trade Mandate Alliance.

The proposals outlined in the Alternative Trade Mandate were developed in a four-year process, with public workshops held all over Europe and which engaged a wide range of civil society groups from both within and outside the EU.

A series of papers with more detailed proposals on several pressing issues accompanies the main text [3]. The proposals will form the basis of an EU-wide campaign to make trade and investment work for people and the environment, which will first focus on the European elections next May, asking parliamentary candidates to pledge support for the Alternative Trade Mandate.

“At a time of multiple global crises, the European Parliament needs MEPs who will stand up for trade rules that work for people and the planet. We need MEPs who will bring trade deals out of the shadows and into the light. We call on MEP candidates to stand up for democratic trade and investment rules that serve people, the economy and the environment at large – not just the profit interests of a few,” says Amélie Canonne, co-ordinator of the Alternative Trade Mandate Alliance.

The Alternative Trade Mandate will be launched in Brussels during an assembly this afternoon, where speakers from the global south, crisis-struck countries in Europe, trade unions, migrant groups and the European Parliament will comment on the proposals. Tomorrow, a “walk of resistance and alternatives” will take place through the EU quarter [4].
Contact:

Amélie Canonne, coordinator of the Alternative Trade Mandate Alliance [FR], [EN]

+33.6.24.40.07.06, alternativetrademandate@gmail.com

Pia Eberhardt, Corporate Europe Observatory [DE], [EN]

+49.152.56.30.91.02, pia@corporateeurope.org
Notes:

[1] Current members of the Alternative Trade Mandate Alliance are:

Afrika Kontakt (Denmark), Arbeitsgemeinschaft Bäuerliche Landwirtschaft (Germany), AITEC (France), Attac Austria, Attac Germany, Attac Spain, CNCD (Belgium), Colibri (Germany), Comhlamh (Ireland), Corporate Europe Observatory (Belgium), Ecologistas en Accion (Spain), European Milkboard, Fair Trade Advocacy Office (Belgium), Fairwatch (Italy), FDCL (Germany), FIAN Germany, Food & Water Europe, Germanwatch (Germany), Misereor (Germany), No Patents on Life! (Germany), Oxfam Germany, Philippinenbuero (Germany), Platform Aarde Boer Consument (Earth, Farmer, Consumer – Netherlands), Platform of Filipino Migrant Organisations in Europe, PowerShift (Germany). Seattle to Brussels Network, SOMO (Netherlands), Terra Nuova (Italy), Trade Justice Movement (UK), Transnational Institute (Netherlands), Trocaire (Ireland), Vedegylet (Hungary), War on Want (UK), WEED (Germany), World Development Movement (UK), Za Zemiata (Bulgaria), 11.11.11. (Belgium)

Our supporter organisations: Africa-Europe Faith and Justice Network (AEFJN), Afrikagrupperna (Sweden), Attac Denmark, CEE Bankwatch Network (headquatered in the Czech Republic), Dutch section of Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF – Netherlands), European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU), FAIR TRADE HELLA (Greece), FIOM-CGIL (Metalworkers Federation – Italy), Glopolis (Czech Republic), Traidcraft (UK), Transnational Migrant Platform (TMP)

[2] Download the Alternative Trade Mandate at: http://www.alternativetrademandate.org/news/2013/11/the-atm-document-is-out/

[3] Download the issue specific papers on democracy, food & agriculture as well as investment at: http://www.alternativetrademandate.org/news/2013/05/atm-democracy-consultation-outcome-paper/

[4] For more information on the assembly and the “walk of resistance and alternatives” visit: http://www.alternativetrademandate.org

and 99-pp “State of Power 2014″ from the Transnational Institute,

http://www.tni.org/sites/www.tni.org/files/download/state_of_power_hyperlinked_0.pdf

Posted in 2011 | Leave a comment

Free Internet Book: “Restoring Shared Prosperity,” 211pp

http://www.thomaspalley.com/docs/research/restoring_shared_prosperity.pdf

Profit-worship, race to the bottom, short-term fixation, financialization and commodification set profit above all long-term necessities, socially necessary work and environmental caring. When economics becomes brainwashing in market radicalism (cf. Ulrich Thielemann), problems are called motivational and psychological, not structural and exogenous, not endogenous. Mainstream economics refuses to discuss the financial crisis and repeats the neoclassical mantra of self-correcting markets returning to equilibrium. State indebtedness in bailing out speculative banks with hundreds of billions is swept under the carpet. Private losses mutate into public taxpayer losses. The MIT economist Simon Johnson explains this in his article in The Atlantic “The Quiet Coup.”

Unregulated finance capitalism is like a tiger breaking from his cage, puts the cart before the horse, bridles the horse by the tail and confuses the goat and the gardener. Valuing the worker and dismissing the worker as a cost factor is a contradiction of capitalism.

Expansion of the public sector, closing tax havens ($1 trillion), restoring taxes on the super-rich and corporations, encouraging investments in the real economy, qualitative growth, environmental caring and community centers are signs of the social contract. Generalized security means abandonment of neoliberal myths of self-healing markets, corporate beneficence, nature as free good, external or sink, selective history, exploding inequality and the Orwellian language of CEOs as job-creators and workers as cost-factors.

Economics is pluralist and not brainwashing in market radicalism. The myths of the self-healing/self-correcting market, corporate beneficence and nature as a free good, external and sink must be overcome like the myths of efficient markets, perfect information and speculation as investment. Swiss, Austrian and German economists (e.g. Stephen Schulmeister, Ulrich Thielemann, Peter Ulrich and Elmar Altvater) could help us correct the inflation of the financial sector and the myths of trickle-down economics.and financial products. Albert Einstein said the bomb changed everything except the way we think and the one thing we learn from history is that we don’t learn from history. As war is too important to be left to the generals, development is too important to be left to Goldman Sachs and the extractors. Businessmen are not the only ones who know about growth and development. – See more at: http://www.thomhartmann.com/forum/2014/01/tiger-and-his-trainers#sthash.4RtMjRV7.dpuf

Restoring Shared Prosperity: A Policy Agenda from Leading Keynesian Economists.Editors: Thomas I. Palley and Gustav A. Horn.

http://www.thomaspalley.com/docs/research/restoring_shared_prosperity.pdf

The economic recovery in the US since the Great Recession has remained sub-par and beset by persistent fear it might weaken again. Even if that is avoided, the most likely outcome is continued weak growth, accompanied by high unemployment and historically high levels of income inequality. In Europe, the recovery from the Great Recession has been even worse, with the euro zone beset by an unresolved euro crisis that has already contributed to a double-dip recession in the region.

This book offers an alternative agenda for shared prosperity to that on offer from mainstream economists. The thinking is rooted in the Keynesian analytic tradition, which has been substantially vindicated by events. However, pure Keynesian macroeconomic analysis is supplemented by a focus on the institutions and policy interventions needed for an economy to generate productive full employment with contained income inequality. Such a perspective can be termed “structural Keynesianism”. These are critical times and the public deserves an open debate that does not arbitrarily or ideologically lock out alternative perspectives and policy ideas. The book contains a collection of essays that offer a credible policy program for shared prosperity, rooted in a clear narrative that cuts through the economic confusions that currently bedevil debate.

Contributions by Richard L Trumka, Thomas I Palley, Gustav A Horn, Andreas Botsch, Josh Bivens, Achim Truger, Jared Bernstein, Robert Pollin, Dean Baker, Gerald Epstein, Damon Silvers, Jennifer Taub, Silke Tober, Jan Priewe, John Schmidt, Heidi Shierholz, William E Spriggs, Eckhard Hein, Heiner Flassbeck, Gerhard Bosch, Michael DauderstädtThe book is available for $7.52 at AMAZON.COMA free PDF is available HERE.

Financialization: The Economics of Finance Capital Domination
by Thomas Palley, Palgrave Macmillan, May 2013

This book explores the process of financialization whereby economies are increasingly dominated by finance capital. This process is characterized by rising income inequality, wage stagnation, increased indebtedness, a rising financial sector share of profits, and tendencies to generate asset price bubbles. The financial crisis of 2008 and the subsequent recession and stagnation represent the latest phase.

The book provides a comprehensive treatment of these developments, beginning with a presentation of the empirical evidence. That is followed by economic theory chapters dealing with the macroeconomics of financialization; business cycle effects; microeconomic developments; tendencies toward Minsky-style economic instability; and economic growth effects. The final section of the book focuses on the political economy of financialization and policies to stabilize financial markets.

Posted in 2011 | Leave a comment

The WPA that Built America is Needed Once Again

http://rooseveltinstitute.org/new-roosevelt/wpa-built-america-needed-once-again

Begun 76 years ago today, the WPA brought America into the modern age. Our times call for a repeat of this effort.

More than three quarters of a century ago, President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared that the “demoralization caused by vast unemployment is our greatest extravagance. Morally it is the greatest menace to our social order.” He also insisted that he would “stand or fall” by his “refusal to accept as a necessary condition of our future a permanent army of unemployed.” On the contrary, he said, “we must make it a national principle that we will not tolerate a large army of unemployed and that we will arrange our national economy to end our present unemployment as soon as we can and then take wise measures against its return. I do not think it is the destiny of any American to remain permanently on relief rolls.”

To put people back to work, FDR launched a series of programs designed to protect America’s environment (through the CCC reforestation programs and creation of the shelter belt in the Midwest to bring an end to the Dust Bowl) and build America’s economic infrastructure. The most famous of these was launched seventy-six years ago today: the Works Progress Administration or WPA. Between 1935 and 1943, the WPA literally built the infrastructure of modern America, including 572,000 miles of rural roads, 67,000 miles of urban streets, 122,000 bridges, 1,000 tunnels, 1,050 fifty airfields, and 4,000 airport buildings. It also constructed 500 water treatment plants, 1,800 pumping stations, 19,700 miles of water mains, 1,500 sewage treatment plants, 24,000 miles of sewers and storm drains, 36,900 schools, 2,552 hospitals, 2,700 firehouses, and nearly 20,000 county, state, and local government buildings.

Conservatives critics charged that the WPA was a “make work” program, but its accomplishments, which touched nearly every community in America, continue to make a mockery of this charge. The WPA put millions of skilled and unskilled laborers back to work — it was a requirement of the program that all those involved in the projects, from the architects and engineers down to the construction laborers, be hired by WPA dollars. It provided the critical economic infrastructure needed to bring the United States into the modern age.

It’s free! Sign up to have the Daily Digest, a witty take on the morning’s key headlines, delivered straight to your inbox.

Sadly, many of the conditions that led to the creation of the WPA are once again with us today: high unemployment and a crumbling economic infrastructure that is rapidly rendering the United States less and less competitive in the global economy. This sorry state of affairs is detailed in a recent article in The Economist, which notes, among other things, that the United States’ public spending on transport and water infrastructure has fallen steadily since the 1960s and now stands at a paltry 2.4% of GDP. Meanwhile, Europe spends on average 5% of GDP on infrastructure and China is spending 9%. In fact, the United States, according to the article, does not spend nearly enough just to maintain, let alone expand, its existing transport and water systems. The result is that today the US ranks 23rd among the nations of the world in overall infrastructure quality, according to a recent study by the World Economic Forum.

A new and even modest stimulus package would help alleviate this critical problem and provide millions of skilled and unskilled jobs, but the deficit hawks in Congress will have none of this. They insist that such a use of government is contrary to the American way.

To this, FDR’s would no doubt reply:

[T]o those who say that our expenditures for Public Works and other means for recovery are a waste that we cannot afford, I answer that no country, however rich, can afford the waste of its human resources…

In our efforts for recovery we have avoided on the one hand the theory that business should and must be taken over into an all-embracing Government. We have avoided on the other hand the equally untenable theory that it is an interference with liberty to offer reasonable help when private enterprise is in need of help. The course we have followed fits the American practice of Government — a practice of taking action step by step, of regulating only to meet concrete needs — a practice of courageous recognition of change. I believe with Abraham Lincoln, that “The legitimate object of Government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done but cannot do at all or cannot do so well for themselves in their separate and individual capacities.”

Isn’t it time we rebuilt our nation and put people back to work? Time for a new WPA?

David Woolner is a Senior Fellow and Hyde Park Resident Historian for the Roosevelt Institute.

Posted in 2011 | Leave a comment

VIDEO: Koch Brothers Exposed, 2012, 1 hr

to watch the 1 hr video from www.hulu.com, click on

Millions of dollars are spent on the propaganda that social security is going bankrupt, raising the retirement age and privatizing social security into private retirement accounts.

Posted in 2011 | Leave a comment

The Resilience of Neoliberalism by Vivien Schmidt and Mark Thatcher, Nov 2013

to read the article by Vivien Schmidt and Mark Thatcher published on Nov 20, 2013, click on

http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/archives/37626

Given the abject failure of the neoliberal policy offer, why has it persisted as the dominant approach to policymaking and is there any way out? Vivien A. Schmidt and Mark Thatcher propose five lines of analysis to explain its resilience: the flexibility of neoliberalism’s core principles; the gaps between neoliberal rhetoric and reality; the strength of neoliberal discourse in debates; the power of interests in the strategic use of ideas; and the force of institutions in the embedding of neoliberal ideas.

Despite the economic crisis that hit the US, the UK and Europe full force in 2008, political leaders have made little attempt to rethink the neoliberal ideas that are in large part responsible for the boom and bust, let alone to come to terms with how immoderate the ‘Great Moderation’ really was. Much the contrary, neoliberal ideas continue to be the only ideas available. In the financial markets, where the crisis began, re-regulation remains woefully inadequate, while the only ideas in play are neoliberal, either for more ‘market-enhancing’ regulation or in favor of greater laissez-faire. The biggest puzzle, however, is the response to the crisis by Eurozone countries that have embraced ‘market discipline’ through austerity and, in so doing, have condemned themselves to slow or no growth. This is in contrast to the US, which has posted better economic results, despite being torn between Republican fundamentalists advocating austerity and a more pragmatic leadership focused on growth.

Despite protest movements like Occupy London, neoliberalism has proved resilient

Our question, then, is: How do we explain the resilience of neoliberal economic ideas?

and Mark Fiore’s video: Ayn Rand visits the day after Christmas
http://vimeo.com/82649027

Posted in 2011 | Leave a comment

The Socialist Origins of the Pledge of Allegiance by Peter Dreier

to read Peter Dreier’s article published on 12/24/2013, click on

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/peter-dreier/pledge-of-allegiance-origins_b_4497369.html

“Francis Bellamy, a Christian socialist, wrote the Pledge of Allegiance in 1892 as a critique of the rampant greed, misguided materialism, and hyper-individualism of the Gilded Age. But you’d never know that by reading CNN contributor Bob Greene’s column earlier this week called “The Peculiar History of the Pledge of Allegiance.” He sort of air-brushed Bellamy’s politics out of that history. This is typical of how pundits and politicians often rewrite and distort history to reflect their own peculiar views…

America now confronts a new version of the Gilded Age, brought upon by Wall Street greed and corporate malfeasance. The gap between rich and poor is still widening. Americans are feeling more economically insecure than at any time since the Depression. They are upset by the unbridled selfishness and political influence-peddling demonstrated by banks, oil companies, drug companies, insurance companies, and other large corporations. They are angry at the growing power of American-based global firms who show no loyalty to their country, outsource jobs to low-wage countries, avoid paying taxes, and pollute the environment.

When we recite the Pledge of Allegiance, we should remind ourselves that it was written by a socialist who believed that “liberty and justice for all” meant more equality and a stronger democracy.”

Peter Dreier teaches politics at Occidental College and is author of The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame, published by Nation Books.

Posted in 2011 | Leave a comment

VIDEO: Jesus Rebranded by Mark Fiore

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/12/20/1263810/-Jesus-Rebranded??detai…

Between the “War on Christmas” and the accusations that Pope Francis is a Marxist, some people can’t seem to make up their mind. Who better to wage a war on Christmas than the people who want the Pope to be more of a capitalist! Seems like the most holy Christmas ever was one without rampant consumerism. (Remember, Joseph and Mary had the nerve to stay in a place for free on Christmas Eve– sounds like a couple of moochers to me!)

Amidst the imagined attacks on Christmas, Rush Limbaugh and some Fox News characters accused Pope Francis of being Marxist after he said some critical words about our economic system. Never mind that Pope Benedict had similar complaints. Everything has been coming up Pope Francis lately, who was picked as Time’s “Person of the Year” and was featured on the cover of the New Yorker. Having been raised Catholic and having done plenty of cartoons about the scandals in the Catholic Church, I’m happy that we’re talking again about things like helping the poor, imagine that.

Enjoy the cartoon, and be sure to comment, share and pray I don’t get struck by lightning for blasphemy. As usual, you can also find more links to news stories behind this cartoon on my website.

https://www.markfiore.com/

Posted in 2011 | Leave a comment

VIDEO: “Super Amigos,” 2007, 1 hr 12 min

VIDEO: “Super Amigos,” 2007, 1 hr 12 min
Enjoy this call to utopia/social planning/resistance and solidarity!

http://www.snagfilms.com/films/title/super_amigos

Posted in 2011 | Leave a comment

The Soup Kitchen State Grows by Christoph Butterwegge

“Old age poverty is the result of deregulation of the labor market and dismantling the social state. Need justice and distribution justice have always existed in the political realm. The task of the social state was to fight poverty and protect citizens from standard life risks, sicknesses, accidents and so forth… Only the rich can afford a poor state.

We have a crisis of the representative system of democracy and not only a crisis of the social state, the economy and the financial market! The socially disadvantaged are so disillusioned that they do not participate in political activities and decision-making processes. A democracy looks different. For me, democracy means that all persons living in a country are able to jointly decide politically about the country’s fate and their own fate. They cannot do this when they are hopeless, if their social security is endangered or hangs by a thin thread because they worry about not being able to pay their rent next month or their electricity and gas may be turned off… The wealth of the country cannot be concentrated in a few hands so hardly anything is left for the great multitude of citizens…”

to read Christoph Butterwegge’s “The Soup Kitchen State Grows” published on 11/25/2013, click on

http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2013/12/426105.shtml

Posted in 2011 | Leave a comment