Archive for the ‘Attacks on the Working Class’ Category

Golden Dawn

Konstantinos Georgousis (2013)

Review

Golden Dawn is a remarkable documentary tracing the rise of the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party in Greece. Despite their role in several high profile murders, Golden Dawn has held 18 seats in the Greek parliament since 2012.

Their rapid rise to power relates in large part to dire austerity measures the European Union has imposed on Greece. With 28% unemployment (55% youth unemployment) and drastic pension cuts, many starving Greek citizens join Golden Dawn because of their free food distribution programs.

However as Georgousis makes clear, the strong support Golden Dawn enjoys from police (who openly admit to being members), the media, the Greek Orthodox Church and Greek security services is even more instrumental. In all respects the parallels with Nazi Germany are chilling.

Golden Dawn is notorious for openly beating up and murdering both illegal and legal immigrants – with the police looking on and, in many cases arresting legal immigrants instead of perpetrators.

Only anarchist groups have tried to protect immigrants from these attacks. When they do so, the police step in and arrest, beat and torture them.

In 2012, following the murder of a high profile Greek national, the Greek government finally arrested four Golden Dawn leaders on a charge of criminal gang activity. However instead of stripping them of their parliamentary seats, they then directed Greek jail staff to transport them between jail and Parliament.

What I found most remarkable about the documentary is its excellent footage of actual Golden Dawn meetings and its in-depth interviews with some of its members.

Behind America’s Infant Mortality Crisis

Al Jazeera (2013)

Film Review

Since the mid-1990s, when Bill Clinton eliminated Aid For Dependent Children (AFDC), the US has enjoyed infant mortality rates among the highest in the world. Rust belt Midwestern cities lead the US in infant mortality. The loss of steel, auto and other manufacturing to third world sweatshops has virtually crushed many of these cities, leaving massive unemployment – particularly among African Americans.

Cleveland is the US city with the highest percentage of babies dying during the first year of life – with an infant mortality greater than third world countries like North Korea, Albania, Sri Lanka and Guatemala.

Trying to identify the cause of Cleveland’s skyrocketing infant mortality, filmmakers interview African American mothers and expectant mothers and neonatal specialists. The neonatologists identify prematurity as the number one cause of infant deaths. Factors that contribute to mothers delivering prematurely include homelessness and lack of access to healthy food (or money to pay for it) and prenatal care. Ohio is one of the states where Republican legislators declined federal funds to expand Medicaid (which pays for prenatal care) to the working poor.

The neonatologists also point out the false economy of this ideological stinginess. Ohio’s Medicaid program spends hundreds of millions of dollars trying to keep premature babies alive in state-of-the-art neonatal ICUs – it would cost taxpayers far less to prevent prematurity by ensuring expectant mothers have warm housing, healthy food and prenatal care.

Panama Papers – Shady World of Offshore Companies

Das Erste/NDR (2016)

Film Review

The Panama Papers is a German documentary about the infamous Panamanian law firm Mosack Fonseca, exposed by the Panama Papers leak* in 2015. The law firm, which has offices in 48 countries, assists banks, corporations, heads of state, drug lords and Mafia dons in creating offshore corporations to escape taxes, pension obligations and criminal prosecution in their own countries. In all, Mossack Fonseca has created over 214,000 offshore companies.

The film makers have a particular interest in the German partner, Jurgen Mossack, who immigrated to Panama as a child.

Among the Mossack Fonseca clients highlighted are an Israeli diamond merchant who used his offshore company to bribe a Guinean dictator for free iron mining rights. He later sold them to Brazil for $500 million dollars. Also featured is former Icelandic prime minister Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson, who was forced to step down and he and his wife were discovered to have offshore companies created by Mossack Fonseca.

My favorite segment is the one where the filmmaker goes online to set up his own offshore company for 3,000 euros. Within a week, he receives an official Panamanian address for his company and the minutes of an extraordinary meeting called by the company’s board of trustees. He then flies to Panama to visit his company office – which turns out to be an unoccupied floor in a Panama City office building.


*In 2015 a Mosack Fonseca whistleblower leaked 11 million documents (mainly emails) to a small German newspaper – which immediately shared them with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

My Ballot

Press TV (2016)

Film Review

My Ballot is a Press TV documentary examining which examines whether the millionaires who run Congress can ever represent ordinary Americans facing job loss, pay cuts and school closures. The choice of presenter, a guileless young African American named Robert Sughie, is brilliant. The best segment of the film shows him wandering around the halls of Congress, calling up the net worth of each representative on his Smartphone as he prepares to visit their office. Not a single congressional staffer agrees to speak to him – by phone or in person.

The documentary is chock full of shocking facts about the US Congress. Such as

  • More than half of congressional representatives are millionaires (It’s worse than the Roman senate).
  • In 2014, only 9% of Americans approved of Congress, a worse approval rating than King George enjoyed during the American Revolution.
  • Unlike most democracies, Congress isn’t election by majority rule, but by a simple plurality (ie one more vote than any other candidate). Because the US doesn’t hold run-off elections, representatives can be elected by as little as 30-40% of the vote.
  • From the day they take office, congressional representatives spend 75% of their time fundraising for their next campaign. A big reason why they allow corporate lobbyists to write legislation for them – they have no time to focus on developing policies of their own.

from KASM (Kiwis Against Sand Mining) website

Last Wednesday was a busy day for me with oral submissions to New Zealand’s Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) on sand mining and to the Health Select Committee on water fluoridation. The EPA is considering a renewed application by mining company Trans-Tasman Resources (TTR) to dig up 50 million tonnes of seabed yearly in a 66 sq. km section of the South Taranaki Bight – for 35 years. The EPA refused the company a consent in 2014. TTR has now re-applied.
 

MY SUBMISSION

I am speaking to oppose this consent because I believe that coastal residents who will be negatively impacted by this project should have the final say whether it goes ahead or not. The likely environmental impacts – based on numerous studies in other regions on the effect of dredging and deep sea mining will cause wide ranging damage to deep sea plants and animals (ranging from microscopic to large marine mammals).

Killing the microscopic animals in the food chain has been shown to significantly reduce fish stocks and bird an mammal populations. In prior studies, the recovery period after sand mining was as long as 3-10 years. And none of these prior projects were anywhere near as extensive as TTR is proposing.

Computer Modeling Isn’t Proof

We also don’t see how some computer modelling done tens of thousands of miles away in London that somehow “proves” TTR’s proposal will cause no environmental damage. Surely if TTR were serious about investigating potential environmental harm, they would making more of an effort to study the marine life that already lives in the area they propose to mine instead of sending sediment samples to London for computer modelling. How can they possible predict the likely response of deep sea organisms when they haven’t made an effort to identify and count what’s already there?

With some of our marine mammals – including the Maui dolphin, the blue whale and the blue penguin – already seriously threatened, this major disruption in their food supply has the potential to wipe them out altogether.

Potential Major Harm to Fishing and Tourism

Taranaki’s fishing industry is already in deep trouble with declining fish stocks and the major environmental impact of sand mining also pose a major threat to tourism, which is now Tarankai’s primary industry. People come to Taranaki for surfing and recreational fishing, which are also threatened by sand mining, and for the pristine environment of our coast and beaches.

The people of Taranaki are fed up with being a sacrifice zone for the oil and gas industry, which in my view explains why the vast majority of submissions oppose this proposal. We’re fed up with having our livelihoods, health and quality of life sacrificed to increase the profits of offshore corporations.

Getting Stuck with the Final Clean-Up Bill

There are also major concerns over who will fix the environmental damage when this project finishes – or fails. With the drop in the price of oil, we see numerous oil companies pulling out of Taranaki – leaving us to clean up the environmental risk. With the current glut in the global price of steel – due to major stockpiles in China – we see ourselves in a similar situation in 35 years time when the mining for iron sands either ends or fails.

Lack of Transparency

We also have a problem with TTR’s overall lack of transparency around this application. It appears the real value of this permit is the fact that it’s locked in for a guaranteed period of time – irrespective of future governments who impose stricter environmental regulation. It’s our firm belief that TTR has no intention of exercising the permit themselves. That their main agenda is to obtain the permit and then to sell it on to the highest bidder – not for the iron sands themselves which can’t be sold profitably in the current market – but for the rare earth minerals (which they mention in their application) which have the potential to be far more lucrative.

Like many other locals, I have major problems with any process that allows multinational corporations, to have precedence over democratic efforts of local people to protect themselves against projects such as this one that allow overseas companies to reap all the profit while forcing local residents to bear all the costs.

 

 

 

 

The Handmaid’s Tale is a 1990 movie based on feminist Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel. Sales of The Handmaid’s Tale have recently skyrocketed, largely owing to the extreme Christian fundamentalists in Trump’s new cabinet, his advocacy for military and police expansion and torture and his attacks on women’s rights.

The plot focuses around a military theocracy during a future period in which most have become infertile through toxic chemical exposure. All women are stripped of their rights and all fertile women are enslaved and forced to produce babies for infertile elite couples of the ruling elite.

In addition to the presence of heavily armed military on every street corner, social control is maintained through a perverted fundamentalist Christian doctrine that sanctions slavery and ceremonial rape. Although the lower classes are forced into strict religious conformity, the elite rulers willfully ignore it as they pursue a life of clandestine debauchery.

Last year the film was remade into a 10-part TV series that premiers in April.

Hulu Handmaids Tale Teaser Trailer

tisa-big

Email from Trade for People and Planet Team:

Dear Corporate Greed Resisters,

The Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) is currently being negotiated among 50 countries with the objective of expanding on the existing General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) in the World Trade Organization (WTO).

While President Trump has had a lot to say about the TPP and NAFTA, he has not offered public comment on TiSA, which thus far has major provisions to deregulate and privatize the international service economy, including the financial industry and big data.

Deborah James, Director of International Programs for the Center for Economic and Policy Research, has clearly outlined Trump’s likely incentives to continue with TiSA negotiations. She reminds us that Trump is not against corporate-driven trade agreements. So you can bet that corporations are actively lobbying in Washington for deregulation and privatization, which Trump and his cabinet are actively seeking to implement domestically. Finally, TiSA is focused on services and not necessarily manufacturing, meaning that opposition from manufacturing workers may be lower as the agreement is focused on the service economy.

Here is where things gets scary. Team TiSA – a consortium of multinational financial, logistics, and big data corporations – are looking to set severe limits on how governments can regulate economies domestically while providing strict investor rights provisions. Deborah James outlined ten aspects of TiSA that have been accepted by all parties or are under negotiations that could have significant consequences:

  1. Companies are expanding the category of “services” in order to make it all-encompassing so that the agreement could apply as broadly within the economy as possible.
  2. Offshoring and outsourcing of jobs and downward pressure on wages could greatly accelerate as TiSA would lock in labor, tax, and regulatory arbitrage.
  3. Not only would TiSA promote offshoring of jobs, but it would also greatly expand domestic “inshoring.” Foreign contractors (say from Japan) would be able to bring in workers (say from Philippines) to conduct work inside a consumer country (say the United States) on terms well below the minimum local pay and standards.
  4. The TiSA does not include a labor chapter, and in fact the draft texts only mention labor rights once.
  5. Preventing governments at the national, state, and even municipal levels from supporting local business and local employment.
  6. The principle of “technological neutrality which TiSA negotiators take as a given would have immeasurable job impacts particularly with regard to the “gig” economy. So if a country opened its market to passenger transport services, it could not apply new and different rules to Uber than to traditional taxicabs.
  7. Job loss as a result of privatization would increase as publicly owned utilities would have to compete under the same rules as private companies, reducing the benefits of public ownership, resulting in the elimination of jobs that inevitably follows privatization.
  8. The financial services text of the TiSA is the closest thing imaginable to a guarantee of another job-killing financial crisis. If the draft texts were accepted, the TiSA would constrain governments from implementing most of the regulations that are recognized, both domestically and internationally, as essential to prevent another global financial crisis.
  9. Workers would have to shoulder even more of the tax burden as corporate tax evasions would accelerate.
  10. The TiSA could potentially be used as the basis of a foreign company’s claim against the United States.

For more details on each point, read Deborah James’s entire article here.

The jury is still out on what the actual contents of the agreement will be under the new administration. However, we do know that the TiSA has been and continues to be a notably secretive agreement with no transparency or public participation. Check out this article by the Electronic Frontier Foundation to learn about their proposals to create inclusive and transparent trade negotiations.

We also know that Congress gave the presidency Fast Track authority under Obama, and this authority has been inherited by President Trump. According to Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch Director Lori Wallach, this means that “Congress has empowered Trump to unilaterally launch NAFTA renegotiations or create bilateral deals with Mexico and Canada; determine the contents, sign and enter into deals before Congress gets a vote; and then write implementing legislation and force congressional consideration in 90 days with amendments forbidden and Senate supermajority rules suspended.” This applies to TiSA as well and is why we were so adamant about pressuring Congress to reject Fast Track in the first place.

Please take a minute and resend this email to 2-5 people. The people need to know what is behind TiSA!

Join our weekly National People’s Agenda Call next Wednesday, Feb. 22 at 9pm EST/ 6pm PST. We need to work together to stop TiSA from passing and to fight the consolidation of the global deregulatory and privatizing machine.

Click here to register for the call.

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