News for progressives

Scaremongering is the Only Thing Trump and Republicans Have Got

Counterpunch - Mon, 2018-11-05 15:53

Here it is. See for yourself the terrifying “caravan” advancing through Mexico from Honduras, set to “invade” the US, bringing, according to President Trump and the reactionary media that support him, “rapists, killers, Arab terrorists, and diseases.”

This “caravan,” according to a report in the UK newspaper theIndependent,  is actually an assemblage of several thousand desperately poor Hondurans whose country, besides being one of the poorest in Latin America, is beset by a dictatorial government installed by a US-backed military coup that ousted a popularly elected progressive president back in 2009. It is a society that is wracked by drug-related violence and gangs and military thugs, and that has never really recovered from having been commandeered as a base by the US for covert warfare against neighboring Sandinista-ruled Nicaragua.

The Independent says this supposedly threatening throng of refugees is actually composed of mostly young men and women traveling by foot with young children, many of them barefoot, or in rickety strollers — people who have banded together for protection as they travel northward towards the southern US border through countries like Guatemala and especially Mexico that are hostile towards them.

The very term “caravan” is being deliberately used to mislead. It’s early use was of course to describe travelers in the desert — a subtle suggestion that these desperate Latinos might be Arabs, a group that evokes irrational fear among some in the US ever since 9-11.  But this is no caravan. There are no vehicles or pack animals. It’s just a mass of people trudging by foot to the US border to present themselves as refugees.

Thanks to the right-wing propaganda parroting the president, they will be met there at the crossing points not just by border agents, but by a massive military presence, which by the time they cross the remaining 900 miles they have yet to travel, could number as much as 15,000 US troops — the largest domestic military mobilization since perhaps the Civil War or the crushing of the Bonus March on Washington by disgruntled veterans of World War I when US troops were called into the Capital to fire on and break up the protest by veterans demanding a promised but unpaid bonus for their service overseas.

Trump, trying to rally his rabid, racist base, has called on those troops, who worryingly, are are backed up by gangs of armed right-wing militia groups and solo xenophobic and armed “defenders of the border,” to “fire on” any of the refugees who might decide to throw rocks at them.  In this, the president is taking a page from Israeli Defense Force occupiers of the West Bank in Palestine, where heavily armed Israeli soldiers frequently shoot and kill even young Palestinians who dare to throw rocks at them to defend their families’ homes and land.

Let’s be clear:  After what the US has done to Honduras (and Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua) over the years, it’s understandable that  people there would be trying to get away from their own destroyed country. They are, most of them, probably appropriate candidates for refugee status in the US as they are simply fleeing violence, political repression and worse.

There was a wonderful photo someone posted on Facebook that puts this current group of refugees — a drop in the bucket of US immigration over the years — in perspective. Taken at the turn of the last century, over 120 years ago, it shows a boat, its deck swarming with hundreds of desperate refugees from Europe, arriving in New York harbor, with the caption:

Your ancestors’ ‘caravan’ arriving in New York harbor in the late 19th century.

That pretty much says it all.

This talk about a “dangerous caravan” of criminals preparing to “invade” the US  is just a shameless political hustle by an amoral president desperate to hang onto control of a Congress currently run by a spineless and morally bankrupt Republican Party establishment.

The danger is that Trump’s and the right-wing media’s rhetoric is spinning out of control and that the arrival of thousands of refugees and the stationing of armed troops and private armed citizens could turn into a bloody slaughter of innocent people just trying to save their families from a slow death in their home country of Honduras.

As the author of the destruction of Honduras, the US owes these refugees much better than that.

This entire nation — a people who, with the notable exception of the Native Peoples from whom it was stolen through violence by immigrant hordes who came to these shores escaping similar privations in their home countries, are all descended from immigrants — should be ashamed of the moral cesspool it has become.

(For a great antidote to the depressing situation developing at the border, read what two former US Army Rangers, Rory Fanning and Spenser Rapone, are stying publicly to solders ordered deployed to the border to block the Honduran refugees, suggesting they refuse President Trump’s deployment order.)

Categories: News for progressives

Hate Speech at Homeland Security

Counterpunch - Mon, 2018-11-05 15:53

Someone scrawled “KILL NIGGERS” on the African Burial Ground National Monument in New York this week, not thirty-five feet from the headquarters of the Department of Homeland Security, ICE and the FBI.

The racist graffiti showed up shortly before noon, Thursday, on the burial ground of 15,000 free and enslaved Africans on a memorial sign.

The burial ground sits directly across from 26 Federal Plaza, down the block from the federal and state court houses, a stone’s throw from City Hall. The burial ground is on a short block of Duane street that is also home to the IRS, the NYPD and the US Court of International Trade. The street is closed to traffic by checkpoints and crash barriers and patrolled around the clock by federal police as well as the NYPD, the Parks Department and private guards.

A bare expanse of grass with just a few explanatory plaques, the African Burial Ground attracts passers-by, and Thursday was a glorious day.

Which is to say, someone, most likely in broad daylight beneath half a dozen surveillance cameras, felt confident enough to write “KILL NIGGERS” in capital letters on what has got to be one of the most highly policed blocks in the world.


Will we ever know?  A picture of the graffiti was sent to the Public Advocate’s office and to a City Councillor.  A call was made to the Hate Crimes Task Force, who transferred the caller to the NYPD, who have a precinct office a few feet away. The federal police are aware of the situation, I was told.

Still, as far as I know, only one photograph exists that is not in official hands, and no other press report has so far appeared. The marker was almost immediately cleaned off. A somber African American Parks employee did an assiduous job. It’s protocol, I was told by his boss. Protocol to make anti-black hate disappear?

This very week, researchers at the Brennan Center released a paper on the government’s approach to hate crimes. As many 250,000 take place every year, they report, but only a few dozen are ever prosecuted, even as the clamor and funds for fighting international terrorism grow by the hour. The discounting of domestic cases helps quiet concern they say, and that’s what it felt like to watch that graffiti go so fast.

Semi-instantly, the evidence was gone. The Feds have the tape. We saw something. We said something. What now?



Categories: News for progressives

Socialism and the Ballot

Counterpunch - Mon, 2018-11-05 15:50

In recent elections, it seems American voters have had little choice but to elect candidates they perceive as being “on their side,” or perhaps as being “better than the other guy.” Since the enfranchisement of women and Black Americans in the course of the last century, voter participation has been too easily circumscribed by powerful elements, and often approached as if little more than a championship football game. Damage control is simple enough when just two teams play, when only two rule books vie for predictable outcomes, and when always, always, the rich get richer in the end, win who may. Certainly, to an appreciable extent, voters themselves have co-produced this system. Albeit, this problem is nothing new to anarchists who have long pointed out that democracy’s fundamental flaw is that it pivots on processes, not results.

Now, in a country where monopoly pretends to validate the total success of financial as much as political ventures, there may be a telling irony to the current American political moment, a time in which a protracted battle for supremacy yet rages between the major political parties and underscores, rather than snuffs, radical sentiments and the concomitant trends in voting behavior that bespeak them. For many voters today, these elections indicate a departure from what was not so long ago perceived as “politics as usual.” Obama’s election marked a kind of departure from the Bush-Gore election moment, and now, right-wing populism and white nationalism once again leave their substanceless but de-democratizing watermark on the pages of American political history being underwritten by Donald Trump, a shameless clown.

With this year’s midterms, voters yet witness what has been seeping through the political cracks all along. Rather than being eclipsed by the usual two-party political “football rivalry,” and now a peculiarly self-serving presidency, socialist ideas are being floated with a fresh degree of regularity, and very much at the grass-roots level. Some of this year’s candidates, notably women and members of minority and marginalized groups, folks who propound radical ideas to realize necessary dreams, seek to secure historically off-limits establishment positions. One question is why, now, in this utmost neoliberal moment, do socialist ideas lure voters away from either ideology of the dominant, entrenched camps in support of once unthinkable political victories?

The economists who have published the recent World Inequality Report 2018 offer several income-based observations that elucidate a potential, if partial, answer to this question. For example, Piketty and colleagues state:

“Until recently, most available long-run series on inequality focused on top-income shares. …[W]e present new findings on how the shares going to the lowest groups of populations have evolved. …[B]ottom-income shares have declined significantly in many countries. In particular, we document a dramatic collapse of the bottom 50% income share in the United States since 1980 but not in other advanced economies, again suggesting that policies play a key role.”

Anyone aware of the neoliberal turn ushered in under Reagan and Thatcher could not mistake the year 1980: it all but marks the beginning of the decimation of bottom income shares that is now under study by mainstream economists, who are sounding the alarm. “The income-inequality trajectory observed in the United States,” they write, “is largely due to massive educational inequalities, combined with a tax system that grew less progressive despite a surge in top labor compensation since the 1980s, and in top capital incomes in the 2000s.” Indeed, nearly four decades later, neoliberalism’s downward pressure on workers, the poor, and the marginalized has squeezed the least powerful to a political point of degeneracy pressure, which a star undergoes before eventual detonation. The squeeze is only tolerable to a point, and consequent change is phenomenal.

Under such pressure, what choice do voters have but to vote for candidates sympathetic to the idea of workers controlling the government, and the government controlling the economy? Such is how Danny Katch describes the encompassing pillars of socialism in his book Socialism…Seriously: A Brief Guide to Human Liberation.

Moreover, voters know that socialism is not a pipedream. Piketty’s report possibly provides scientific grounds for steering toward a socialist future. They observe that current economic inequality is “largely driven by the unequal ownership of capital, which can be either privately or publicly owned,” and, globally, current income inequality is going to increase “even more if all countries follow the high-inequality trajectory followed by the United States between 1980 and 2016.” So, given the chance to change from a life lived under capitalism to something else, something much more humane and equitable, socialism amounts not to a “left turn” in the colloquial sense, but very much a “right” one.

But what, exactly, are voters turning away from when they vote at the ballot box? Perhaps unwittingly, Alan Greenspan, appointed Chairman of the Federal Reserve by Reagan in 1987, and serving as chairman until 2006, provides insight into this question in his new book Capitalism in America. Greenspan and coauthor Adrian Wooldridge actually paint a dismal, if mythically American, picture of capitalism, which they claim to be the most democratic, globally.

To them, American capitalism is unlike capitalism elsewhere in the world, where unfortunately it is caught up with “a plutocratic elite” and not of any service to ordinary people. Moreover, they believe American capitalism has allowed some to live financially ascendent lives while the rest, at worst, enjoy the spoils of the individual economic cunning of more successful figures. Yet, these authors also acknowledge some blemishes: “…the mistreatment of the aboriginal peoples and the enslavement of millions of African Americans” was bad but excusable when weighed against all the positives. Furthermore, they claim Americans instinctively surmised that Marx was wrong: workers were not responsible for historical change but the industrious men who pull themselves up by their bootstraps (e.g., Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and Bill Gates).

Another claim central to their argument is that American capitalism has importantly depended on creative destruction, which in turn relies on better machines and business processes, information, cost reduction, efficient use of inputs, reduced transportation costs, and location. But alas, despite having the secret recipe for it, they admit the upsides to creative destruction is not an immediate given for anyone. And if potentially failing to exist altogether were not the worst of creative destruction, that is to say the very heart of Greenspan’s reduction of American capitalism, the authors cede the fallout manifests two ways: “…the destruction of physical assets as they become surplus to requirements, and the displacement of workers as old jobs are abandoned. To this should be added the problem of uncertainty.”

Naturally, this key economic feature in American capitalism begets winners and losers. Greenspan’s fix for making such a system “truly actuarially sound” is simple: reduce “benefit levels … by 25 percent indefinitely into the future, or taxation rates need to be raised”–the latter being a political non-starter, of course.

Yet, history is not inaccessible to the rest of us, and individuals with power similar to Greenspan’s have themselves weighed-in on capitalism from time to time. Nearly a century-and-a-half ago, for instance, John C. Calhoun, asserted “there never has yet existed a wealthy and civilized society in which one portion of the community did not, in point of fact, live on the labor of the other. Broad and general as is this assertion, it is fully borne out by history.” Calhoun further argues “it would not be difficult to trace the various devices by which the wealth of all civilized communities has been so unequally divided, and to show by what means so small a share has been allotted to those by whose labor it was produced, and so large a share given to the non-producing classes.” This flies in the face of Greenspan’s gambit that American capitalism has proven, definitively, that workers are not responsible for historical change.

Prior to Calhoun, even, Andrew Jackson ostensibly bemoaned the rigging of the American government in favor of capitalism and its winners, as well as the inability of American democracy, thoroughly sustained by capitalism, to provide a solution:

“It is to be regretted that the rich and powerful too often bend the acts of government to their selfish purposes. Distinctions in society will always exist under every just government. Equality of talents, of education, or of wealth can not be produced by human institutions. In the full enjoyment of the gifts of Heaven and the fruits of superior industry, economy, and virtue, every man is equally entitled to protection by law; but when the laws undertake to add … distinctions, to grant titles, gratuities, and exclusive privileges, to make the rich richer and the potent more powerful, the humble members of society – the farmers, mechanics, and laborers – who have neither the time nor the means of securing like favors to themselves, have a right to complain of the injustice of their Government.”

Today, while the three richest individuals in the United States and half the country’s population (i.e., its poorest half) possess the same amount of wealth, and when over four-fifths of the wealth created in the last year flowed only to one percent of all people, globally, it makes intuitive sense that people should be wont to–as anarchist thinker Ivan Illich says–“shake off the illusion that men are born to be slaveholders and that the only thing wrong in the past was that not all men could be equally so.” And so, the present critique of capitalism manifests many places, the ballot box being but one of them.

Voters are questioning crisis, whether economic or social. They question the distribution of wealth, what wealth means, and how it gets created. Fairness is questioned: who gets what, why, and for what work? Furthermore, voters are questioning “what counts as labor, how it is organized, and what its organization is now demanding from, and doing to, people,” as Nancy Fraser and Rahel Jaeggi examine in their book Capitalism: A Conversation in Critical Theory.

The same authors indicate that criticizing capitalism entails equity as well as questions surrounding why so few lives are stable or undergirded by “a sense of wellbeing…” Also, why is there such precarity relative to work? Why must voters living under capitalism continue acquiring multiple jobs with “fewer rights, protections, and benefits,” not to mention increasing instances of crushing debt? Fraser and Jaeggi add:

“Equally fundamental questions surround the deepening stresses on family life… Deep questions arise, too, about the increasingly alarming impacts of our extractive relation to nature… Nor, finally, should we forget political questions, about, for example, the hollowing out of democracy by market forces at two levels: … the corporate capture of political parties and public institutions at the level of the territorial state; [and] the usurpation of political decision-making power at the transnational level by global finance, a force that is unaccountable to any demos.”

Rightly, these theorists consider all of the above to be “central to what it means to talk about capitalism today.”

Capitalism and critique notwithstanding, conservative thought leaders in America could not be happier to finger Venezuela as suffering from a failed, tag-team combination of Venezuelan socialism and Cuban communism. They say whereas Venezuela was once among the world’s richest countries, socialism is unequivocally to blame for the bankruptcy and misery that Venezuelans currently face. The old self-evident once again truth emerges in their ploy: heterodox approaches to economic policy and political governance breeds dissonance and suffering time and time again. But really, what is the mis-direction being given here? Simply, resist socialism. The American government itself promotes the same, calling on the international community to help in restoring democracy, or capitalism, in Venezuela through economic sanctions and pressure on the Venezuelan people.

Consider the source of the advice that encourages American voters to resist socialism. In America, the government is not controlled by the workers. What is largely possible for voting constituents to achieve, radically speaking, is to an extent determined by what the state is willing to ordain and prescribe. As Alain Badiou notes, “The State is always the finitude of possibility, and the event is its infinitization.” So, voters must necessarily consider the state also to be preoccupied with what is, or what, for its own sake, ought always to be, impossible. Truly, for for the American state, this is likely imperative to self-preservation in a time of revived interest in socialist ideas.

To the state’s liking, what is possible under the present political arrangement in America is: one, a highly susceptible constitutional government; two, an economic system marked by capitalism; three, law for the sake of property; and four, military and police apparatuses. This arrangement frees the state to further discern what possibilities it will engender and espouse going forward, organizing itself accordingly and, thus far, along two party lines. That anything else outside either the will or the activity of the state will be tolerated endures “only to the extent that it is subtracted from the power of the state,” as Badiou asserts.

As further evidence of this, French anarchist Jacques Ellul provides a historical observation on “technique” and the state in the mid-twentieth century: “…either it receives from the state that sanction which alone can render it efficacious, or it must remain a mere abstraction, an offer without a taker. But who believes that such a noble edifice can remain an abstraction? There is, in any case, one agency which asks nothing better than to intervene: the state.”

In all likelihood, the continued existence of capitalism serves to ensure the dream of socialism be kept alive. And because life becomes increasingly dire for so many while a select few enjoy more and more spoils, it is only reasonable that voters should be acting to materialize some of their dreams by supporting candidates oriented toward socialism. As Ernesto “Che” Guevara once wrote, a revolution is not “an apple that falls when it is ripe.” Rather, “You have to make it fall.”

Today, a vote outside the political binary that perennially conforms American voters to a selection between two all but inevitable evils has dangerous fissures where radical political seeds have been sown, and by some mainstream politicians! The message? Principally, that another world is possible, no matter how dire the outlook at present, and that voters are precipitating the revolution at the ballot box. But for those who continue vote instep with the “spirit of Socialism,” as anarchist writer Rudolf Rocker calls it, that the overarching, albeit nominal, democracy should remain oriented towards processes rather than outcomes is problematic. If the state can know the outcomes or predict them based on the processes in place, or the “sides of the aisle,” then the various administrative tendrils of the bureaucratic corpus can ensure a viable existence going forward.

Of course, talking heads rally behind the state and come to its aid. Economists, politicians, pundits, and so on, all decry the recent upwelling in interest about socialism, contending that much of the original momentum of heterodox economics of decades, and even centuries, past is now lost. Despite the jingoism, both radicals and the uninitiated find themselves in good company at present. The thought of carrying on the radical work initiated by predecessors suffices to inspire them. For, the ideas of socialism are often practical as much as moral ones. Hence, Noam Chomsky instructs that “at every stage of history our concern must be to dismantle those forms of authority and oppression that survive from an era when they might have been justified in terms of the need for security or survival or economic development, but that now contribute to–rather than alleviate–material and cultural deficit.” Indeed, it is the reasonable humanist who sides with Enlightenment ideals and continues the age-old assault on the attendant inequality in society through an entire suite of prudent and necessary means.

Certainly, socialism’s detractors would have all voters believe there is no alternative to the dreadful status quo or its companion hierarchies that brace the current socio-political and economic arrangements. Furthermore, to inquire as to the feasibility of alternatives to the status quo is to welcome the usual self-serving response that guards the thing–perhaps as Badiou says of the “red decade,” beginning with the mid-1970s, which “finds its subjective form in a resigned surrender, in a return to customs–including electoral customs–deference towards the capito-parliamentarian or ‘Western’ order, and also the conviction that to want something better is to want something worse.” Or, in other words, to want socialism in America is necessarily to want to live a life under “failures” of economic and political experiments.

Well, what of the world’s dominant incarnation of oligarchic representative democracy? Indeed, it is like what Badiou asserts of the so-called “Communist hypothesis,” precisely that to compare most any alternative to what American capitalism and its government has espoused and engendered at home and abroad is to risk proselytizing about the benefits of subscribing to the “free world” values whose purportedly necessary protection is used as an excuse to further the state’s waging of endless war around the world. This, too, empowers the West to designate as “bad” anything of its choosing.

Reagan knew this well, and thus enjoyed the cultural currency afforded him by giving an incredible platform to the term “Evil Empire.” But this may also be evidence in support of anarchist Murray Bookchin’s assertion, “There is no future for hierarchical society to claim, and for us there are the alternatives only of utopia or social extinction.” In the face of the current extinction event, which the state has not designated as “bad” enough so as to go to war with it, the sweeping, steady turn towards socialist ideas is precisely a turn away from social extinction and toward something better.

As Katch writes:

“Because we are so used to picturing the masters of both government and economy as narrow centralized powers that rule over us from a handful of buildings, it is hard for us to picture changes in society that go beyond replacing the people in those buildings with others who are hopefully more honest and noble. Socialism wouldn’t just replace those people but the system that centralizes so much power in a few buildings. It would broaden the bases of decision-making to thousands of buildings and public squares and community centers.”

Therefore, so many cast their ballots this year in the hopes of realizing socialist aims: elaborating a system whereby they, the people, “control the government by changing what government means.”

Categories: News for progressives

End the Need for Nursing “Short Cuts”

Counterpunch - Mon, 2018-11-05 15:36

My former student, Sony Georges, has been a nurse in Massachusetts for a decade. He’s become a close friend. (I’m calling him “Sony” here, since, like many nurses, he has expressed fears about retaliation from hospital higher ups if he speaks out publicly in support of ballot Question 1.)

Sony is among the most caring and reflective people I know, the kind of person who looks in your eyes, and you sense depth of human sympathy. Somehow you know this brother has seen some suffering in his life. And it’s true. Born into a small poor country abroad, Sony became an orphan at a young age, before being adopted by a local family. He emigrated to the US at age 13 on his own, settling in Boston to go to school. He was an ‘old soul’ long before I met him in a college classroom, almost a decade ago.

Sony’s desire to become a nurse goes way back to when he was only five or six, when he was forced to watch his own mother die an excruciating death from terminal cancer–without the buffer of modern pain medication. In our first-year writing course, Sony filled pages with the vivid and horrific story of listening at the door, paralyzed by his mother’s pain-blind cries. Peering through the door-crack, he watched helplessly as the sickness tore her apart, even as he was deeply moved by the sight of his grandmother, holding her adult daughter tight, telling her to “Clench your teeth” as she left this world on waves of pain.

Being so young, Sony was mostly kept from that room, but the walls were thin and the screams were loud, and he has never forgotten them. Ever since, he has been driven to aid the sick and the aging, to lessen the suffering of those in need. To provide those in pain with the relief that his mother was denied. (And to send as much of his paycheck as he can back home, where the struggles of poor people are far from confined to the hospital.)


Over these past few months, Sony has been filling up my phone with text messages, often searing with irony and outrage, as he has watched the “No on Question One” propaganda campaign unfold, across Massachusetts television sets and radio ads. He has expressed frustration and even desperation that the well-funded scare tactics of those funding the “No” side have caught on, not only with the public, but even with some nurses he knows personally. Held hostage by CEOs threatening program closings and job cuts, even nurses themselves are not immune to this million-dollar mass manipulation.

“They’re brainwashing us to Vote No,” he tells me. “They’re scaring us. All the powerful people. They got more money and louder microphones.”

Late one night after pulling a double shift, Sony writes me: “The MFs always win because they always find aways to fool poor folks, to scare us and divide us.” Then he slips into the pithy poetry I’ve come to expect from him: “Why must it be that if you want shoes then we must chop off your arm?”

Why indeed. But it’s clear that many people fall victim to this way of thinking. We accept that it’s better to suffer a bad system we know rather than to take a chance at changing it, a project that necessarily involves some uncertainty. Too often, working people are convinced that it’s better to hunker down and cling to what you’ve got, rather than speak out and stand up, taking a risk to challenge the powers that rule over you.

But one thing is clear to Sony, however powerful the appeals to fear and the threats of CEOs may be. “Nurse exploitation happens everywhere. We need a law to stop it.”

He has seen the pervasiveness of the crisis first-hand, mainly in nursing homes:

“As a 23-year old LPN [Licensed Practical Nurse] I was put in charge of 24 sick, old people. I had 24 patients by day. 48 at night. With no help. And no one to cover when a nurse called out sick. It was impossible to get all the work done in one shift.”

“I was stressing, I had to find short cuts, risking patient safety and care, delivering mediocre care that looked better on paper but scandalous in actuality. I was sometimes forced to punch out and keep working. To do my paperwork off the clock.”

Sony recalls a female colleague who was regularly assigned as many as 7 elderly patients on ventilators all at the same time. “It’s insane. That should *never* happen.”

He is painfully aware: Nursing home facilities like these will not even be directly impacted by Question 1, but they speak to the depth of the crisis of nurse-understaffing. “Question One doesn’t go far enough, actually,” Sony tells me. “But it’s a needed step.”

Sony hopes that the ballot measure can be a step towards a more comprehensive and system-wide reform.

When he was first hired as an LPN, Sony (now a Registered Nurse) recalls being told by a supervisor that he needed to cut down his time with patients if he was going to survive on this job: “Forget the literature,” he was told. “Forget what you read in the textbook. This is the real world.” And what “reality” meant in the context of massive understaffing was above all: “short cuts.”

“You are taught to do things that could get you barred from the Nursing Board. Every nurse does it. You’re forced to do the bare minimum. And the higher ups know damn well what is going on.”

He recounts a list of unsafe practices that were considered “normal” in nursing homes. Short staffed, nurse tasks–from assessing skin conditions to delivering foot care for diabetic patients– are regularly delegated to less-trained nurses aides (CNAs). Medications are prepared ahead of time, or crushed and pre-mixed for G-tubes, so CNAs can deliver care that should be done by nurses. Meanwhile, with the CNAs so strung out covering nurse tasks, aged patients are regularly put back to bed unwashed. “That shit happens every day.”

And it takes a toll on nurses themselves, not only physically but psychologically:

“Every day you need to numb yourself to the contradiction. You’ve gone into this profession because you want to care for people, to give people real compassion. But you’re forced to be a part of a system that provides so much shoddy care. A system that makes you feel more like a robot, popping pills and giving shots. With no time to really be there for these people.”


To the propaganda campaign against Question One, Sony is harsh and dismissive. “They say they can’t afford it. But that’s bullshit. They have the money. They’re buying new buildings, expanding, and renovating. Where did they find the money for those projects? They just don’t want to hire more nurses.”

But WE NEED MORE NURSES, across the entire health care system, in this state and beyond.

Better staffing, Sony tells me, will mean that “patients will have more energetic, rested, happier nurses caring for them, giving better head-to-toe assessments, more accurate and timely recognition of patient needs. And no more dangerous short-cuts.”

His hope now is that the tens of millions of dollars being spent by the “No on One” side is going to backfire. As Sony texts me: “Whenever so many rich and powerful fuckers invest so much money in a campaign to fight something, all of us ‘lil folks should be very suspicious.”

Sony was forced to grapple with the reality of human frailty and mortality much earlier than most. And he has devoted his life ever since to studying, training and working to ease the suffering of others. But the system in place now does not let him fully carry forward the mission he inherited by his mother’s death bed. Even the most devoted of healers are hamstrung by this sick system of nurse exploitation.

“The irony is that we have all these resources in this country,” he tells me, “all the machines and fancy buildings, and all this money. But the care we’re giving lacks the humanity that even people in poor counties take for granted as a basic right.”

For my dear friend Sony, the stakes are clear. “This is about the potential well-being of all us. We all end up as patients someday.”


Categories: News for progressives

This Too Shall Pass: “Birthright Citizenship” Kerfuffle is Mostly a Get Out The Vote Tactic

Counterpunch - Mon, 2018-11-05 15:24

In a late October interview with news website Axios, US president Donald Trump announced his intention to sign an executive order doing away with “birthright citizenship” — the notion that persons born on US soil are citizens from birth with no need for any naturalization process.

It’s not exactly an “October surprise.” Trump used  birthright citizenship as a rallying complaint  on the campaign trail in 2016. He’s done nothing about it in the nearly two years since.

Now he’s weaponizing it again, along with fear-mongering about a migrant caravan wending its way through Mexico toward the US, in a last-minute effort drive an extra (and possibly decisive in places) fraction of a percent of Republican-leaning voters to the polls for the 2018 midterms.

After which he will almost certainly go back to doing nothing about it for another two years, until he trots it out a third time when seeking re-election in 2020.

Will he issue the threatened executive order? That seems unlikely, as does the passage of regular legislation ending birthright citizenship. The matter is too clearly settled, and has been for far too long, for a change to pass muster with the courts on any basis other than a constitutional amendment.

Birthright citizenship has been US citizenship doctrine since the country’s founding, in keeping with the English common law tradition of jus soli (“right of the soil”). It was codified in the Civil Rights Act of 1866,  then enshrined in the 14th Amendment, then upheld by the Supreme Court in the 1898 case Kim Wong Ark v. US.

Its likely resistance to easy change is a good thing for at least two reasons, even if you oppose “birthright citizenship.”

First, letting  the president  discard parts of the Constitution at will, or Congress at a lower legislative threshold than the required 2/3 of both houses of Congress and 3/4 of the state legislatures, is inherently dangerous. If they can do it with the 14th Amendment, they can do it with the 1st Amendment (freedom of speech, religion, and assembly), the 2nd Amendment (gun rights), the 22nd Amendment (limiting the president to two terms) … where would it end?

Secondly, with respect to citizenship in particular, does anyone really want to give an ever-changing government discretion to tinker with the longstanding definition? Right now the threat is to “children of illegal immigrants.” Release the genie and who’s to say that three years from now it won’t become “people with fewer than three generations of American ancestors?” Or, for that matter “people who aren’t registered to vote as [insert political party here]?”

Like many libertarians, I hold the whole concept of “citizenship” suspect. No less a light than Thomas Jefferson argued against the notion that a compact entered into in 1787 by one set of people could bind subsequent generations who haven’t explicitly consented.

That said, the Constitution is the set of rules on which the American political class stakes its claim of legitimacy to rule us. If they won’t abide by it, why should we recognize their authority at all?

Categories: News for progressives

On Eve of Election, the Washington Post Keeps Hogan Out of UMD Scandal

Counterpunch - Mon, 2018-11-05 14:46

The scandal engulfing the University of Maryland couldn’t come at a worse time for Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, just ahead of Tuesday’s election.

Fortunately for Hogan, the Washington Post – which wants him reelected, and is highly influential in the vote rich Maryland counties outside D.C. – is downplaying the governor’s role in this sordid affair.

The precipitating event was the death of Jordan McNair. The 19 year old football player collapsed during a late May practice and died in the hospital two weeks later.

The response to this preventable death by the university, and in particular by the Board of Regents, which oversees the school system, made a tragic situation worse.

The Board of Regents can rightfully be called Hogan’s board, as the governor appointed 13 of its 17 members, including its chairman, James Brady, who served as Hogan’s 2014 campaign chairman. Hogan has also appointed two members of his cabinet to the board. Meanwhile the governor’s brother is the school system’s chief lobbyist, a job he got shortly after Hogan took office.

In late October, five months after McNair’s collapse, Hogan’s board was finally ready to act. Rather than fire DJ Durkin, the coach responsible for the toxic culture that led to McNair’s death, the board voted to keep him and instead get rid of school President Wallace Loh. (The board’s vote was taken in secret and it remains so to this day, despite the University of Maryland system being public.)

Notably, in 2015 President Loh renamed the football stadium, which until then had been named for a segregationist. The name change, which was demanded by students, so outraged Chairman Brady that he tried to fire Loh then.

Fast forward to last week, when Hogan’s board opted to keep Coach Durkin and push out President Loh. The board’s decision didn’t sit well with students, players or really anyone. McNair’s father, Marty, said it felt like he had been “punched in the stomach and somebody spit in my face.”

Marty McNair likely had a similar feeling earlier last month when one of the football program’s boosters, who is also a major Hogan donor, said his son was responsible for his own death. “As much as we hate to say this, Jordan didn’t do what Jordan was supposed to do,” Rick Jaklitsch told the school newspaper, The Diamondback. “[T]he kid didn’t drink the gallon [of water] he knew he had to drink.” (After players successfully petitioned to keep Jaklitsch from traveling with the team, he apologized for his comments.)

Hogan’s Democratic opponent, civil rights leader Ben Jealous (who I support), has a different view on what has taken place. “A child has died because of a toxic football culture,” he said. “The buck stops with the governor… It’s his board and his chair.”

In response, Hogan – whose political appointee led the university head first into this scandal – said, “We can’t be playing politics with [McNair’s death].” Hogan also said of the board members, “They can’t be fired by the governor. Mr. Jealous doesn’t understand how state government works sometimes.”

But Jealous, the former head of the NAACP, does know how government works, and protests too. As backlash to Hogan’s board erupted, a fuming governor hurriedly called on the university to reverse course. Less than two hours later Coach Durkin was fired, and Chairman Brady resigned the following day.

This was not the storyline the Post was looking to close out the election with.

The Post’s carefully crafted message throughout the campaign has been that Hogan is beloved by all, even African Americans. The Post prominently featured two polls showing Hogan has black support, while the paper buried a poll showing Jealous crushing the governor by 53 points among black voters. (The Post also buried former President Barack Obama’s endorsement of Jealous.)

Now all the Post’s hard work is being jeopardized by the University of Maryland scandal, the optics of which don’t look good.

The white governor’s board and its white chairman tried to fire the nonwhite school president and instead keep the white coach who oversaw the toxic culture that led to the death of a black player.

It’s not easy to find a way to report on this without making Hogan look bad, but the Post is giving it an honest try.

“[T]his issue isn’t tied to the Black Lives Matter movement,” cautions the Post.

A Post editorial in Saturday’s paper, headlined “The University of Maryland’s self-inflicted fiasco,” avoids blaming Hogan for the mess his appointees created. And a frontpage story from that same day manages to avoid mentioning the governor altogether.

That’s a neat trick to pull on the eve of an election. Like a magician, the Post has disappeared the governor.

The Post’s all-important Sunday edition before the election has four stories that feature the scandal; all of them appear in the Sports section and none of them mention Hogan. The rest of the paper simply ignores the university’s ongoing meltdown.

Meanwhile the front page of the Post’s Metro section has a headline much more favorable to the governor: “Hogan’s fundraising drowns out Jealous.”

Categories: News for progressives

This November, shine a light on gendered violence

Rabble News - Mon, 2018-11-05 07:40
Doreen Nicoll

November is Woman Abuse Prevention month in Ontario. It’s important to remember that intimate partner violence is not a women’s issue, it’s actually a men’s issue -- they are the ones inflicting the harm -- and a human rights issue. Not all men are abusive, but we need the good guys to be allies in the fight to eradicate violence against women and girls.

Here are important facts you should know:

  • A woman is assaulted an average of 35 times before she calls the police the first time.
  • According to Statistics Canada, 70 per cent of spousal violence is never reported to police.
  • On average, a woman leaves an abusive relationship seven times before she is successful.
  • Her chances of being murdered increase nine-fold once she leaves her abuser.
  • Every six days a Canadian woman is murdered by her current or former partner.
  • Every four days a Canadian woman is murdered by a family member.

The Ontario Domestic Violence Death Review Committee (DVDRC) was established 13 years ago “to assist the Office of the Chief Coroner in the investigation and review of deaths of persons that occur as a result of domestic violence, and to make recommendations to help prevent such deaths in similar circumstances.”

During that time, the DVDRC has established that intimate partner femicides are predictable and preventable.

The DVDRC created a list of 39 risk factors involved in cases of lethality. Here are the top 10 factors:

  • A history of violence (72 per cent)
  • Pending or current separation (69 per cent)
  • The perpetrator is depressed (54 per cent)
  • Obsessive behaviour by the perpetrator (53 per cent)
  • There was an escalation of violence (49 per cent)
  • Prior threats or attempts by the perpetrator to commit suicide (44 per cent)
  • Prior threats to kill the victim (44 per cent)
  • Prior attempts to isolate the victim (42 per cent)
  • The perpetrator is unemployed (41 per cent)
  • Victim has an intuitive sense of fear toward the perpetrator (38 per cent)

When several of these factors occur simultaneously, it's a clear indication of impending lethality.

In almost every case, at least one person outside the intimate relationship was aware that something was terribly wrong. But, individuals are reticent to take action because they don’t know what to do.

Woman Abuse Prevention month is usually a time of heightened awareness and opportunities for the public to learn more about this growing pandemic.

But, a search for panels, workshops, community movie nights, and discussions proved fruitless.

In light of this dearth of information, I suggest you check out the Neighbours, Friends and Family (NFF) website to learn the warning signs of abuse and how to safely intervene before it becomes lethal. The NFF site provides information on running your own lunch-and-learn event at work, places of worship, and for interested community groups.

There’s information on identifying and helping a woman at risk; how to talk to men who are abusive; safety planning for women who are abused; and a wide array of infographics and information sheets to share.

At the end of November, the Ontario Association for Interval and Transition Houses publishes its Femicide List, an accounting of all of the women who have been murdered by their intimate partner in Ontario during the past year. The list also includes all femicides or women who have been murdered simply because they were women.

November is a month to learn more about becoming an ally for your mom, sisters, aunties, cousins, co-workers, shop clerks, waitresses, or postal workers who are living with, leaving and healing from gendered violence.

Shine a purple light on gendered violence to make it impossible to hide.

Photo:  Devon Buchanan/Flickr

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Categories: News for progressives

Under the Pakistani volcano

While Khan plays on a complex geopolitical chessboard, Chinese aid could be a financial lifeline as Islamabad faces off against deadly religious extremism by Pepe Escobar (cross-posted with The Asia
Categories: News for progressives

The Pentagon Realised What It Has Done – the Chinese Put the US Army on Its Knees

By Ivan Danilov Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard cross posted with source: In the system of national defense of the US a gaping vulnerability was found
Categories: News for progressives

Moveable Feast Cafe 2018/11/04 … Open Thread

2018/11/04 17:30:02Welcome to the ‘Moveable Feast Cafe’. The ‘Moveable Feast’ is an open thread where readers can post wide ranging observations, articles, rants, off topic and have animate discussions of
Categories: News for progressives

Europe Recognized Ukraine As a Safe Country, by Ruslan Ostashko

Translated and captioned by Leo. Make sure to press CC for English captions.   While various clowns that imitate “Svidomo” (Ukr. – “national conscious”) politics sing the anthem of Ukraine
Categories: News for progressives

Germany is reluctant to fight the war against Russia with the rest of NATO, by Ruslan Ostashko

Translated and subtitles by Scott Humor.   We have received an interesting data in regard with the saber-rattling NATO drill in Norway. German army admits most of its newly acquired
Categories: News for progressives

The MoA Week in Review - OT 2018-58

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama: October 29 - Syria Sitrep - ISIS Defeats U.S. Proxy Force - Again The SDF is very much in trouble. ISIS is still attacking. There is trouble between the locally recruited Arab footsoldiers...
Categories: News for progressives

The Non-Existent Sea of Azov Crisis

By Rostislav Ishchenko Translated by Ollie Richardson and Angelina Siard cross posted with source: After the resolution of the European parliament that, contrary to international law and common
Categories: News for progressives

Trump goes full retard…

I can’t say that I am ‘surprised’, but still, I am.  That he would actually do this really makes reality even weirder than fantasy.  Check out what The Donald posted
Categories: News for progressives

Ottawa school board needs to fully engage black community

Rabble News - Sat, 2018-11-03 02:38
Richard Sharpe

“We are so proud of how your group has advocated for your community.” This comment, made by an Ottawa Carleton District School Board (OCDSB) superintendent, was directed at me after I had given a presentation on the need for race-based data to support anti-racism initiatives in the school board.

A coalition of black community members had begun interventions at the OCDSB over a year ago to push for direct engagement on equity issues. The official’s comment was made in reference to the board’s response to our demands. However, I couldn’t help but interpret it as a figurative pat on the head.

It is not what we are looking for.

I became involved in school board issues last year, when my son was added to the long list of black youth suspended from Ottawa schools. He was suspended for challenging an administrator over what he believed to be racial profiling. As I sought community support to deal with the suspension, I was struck by the fact that almost every black family I encountered had similar experiences. It became clear that this was a systemic problem and that we needed hard data to support our stories.

Just a few months later, the Ontario government issued a directive that all provincially regulated institutions collect disaggregated race-based data to better understand what happens when racialized citizens interface with those institutions.

With that in mind, the coalition was formed to insist that school boards start collecting the data immediately, and that black communities be present through every step of the process. Through our efforts, we were able to force the issue onto the agenda of the school board.

But there has not been a legitimate invitation to us to be at the table as the school board moves forward on design and implementation of a process. We are effectively being told that this is not our place.

After the end of formalized enslavement of black people in Canada in 1834, human bondage was replaced by Jim Crow laws to keep the races separate. The “N” word was replaced by “Negro,” a word not so directly associated with the whips and chains of those earlier years of Canada’s nationhood, but the rules along class and race lines were clear. The term Negro effectively robs us of our connection to our original language, cultural and geographic origins. The term defines us only by our skin colour. For a long time, the term, along with the other societal drivers of the state, framed the status of black people as second-class citizens. We had no real voice in the institutions that impacted our daily lives.

Speed forward to 2016 where, under the backdrop of the United Nations International Decade for People of African Descent, came a UN review of the state of blacks in Canada. The working group outlined 42 recommendations to address anti-black racism across federal, provincial and municipal governments and public institutions. The education systems across the country were called out for practices that adversely targeted black children and disenfranchised their families. This reality we share with our Indigenous sistren and brethren. The OCDSB was one of those school boards interviewed by the UN working group.

For decades, black communities in Ottawa have been saying that the elementary and secondary school systems in this city disproportionately target black children. Black kids are being suspended or expelled for minor offenses or streamed into lower level programs that deny them access to university courses and the higher paying, more fulfilling careers that flow from them. All the while, we were told by board officials “Don’t worry, we know what’s best for your children. We will institute diversity and inclusion training and workshops.”

That, obviously, has not worked so well for us.

Even after the OCDSB adopted, to much fanfare, a proclamation in support of the International Decade for People of African Descent that explicitly speaks to the board’s commitment to engage black communities, we remain sidelined. What we were told by the superintendent after my presentation that evening was that the OCDSB will inform us after their consultant has developed the methodology that will be used to conduct the work.

Although the “N” word has never been verbally directed at us, we continue to hear the refrain.

That we continue to be excluded from this critical work remains unacceptable and reminds us of how we have been treated historically. 

Given the systemic failure of school boards over the decades to address our legitimate concerns, we have very little trust that, if left solely to themselves, the right questions, approaches and methodologies will be used to give us a true picture of what is happening to our children in their schools. This is not just an equity and inclusion issue. This is, at its core, a human rights issue.

After shaking off the vestiges of slavery and later racial segregation that earlier generations had to endure when they came to Ontario, our communities are now comprised of academics and professionals, such as human rights lawyers and performance measurement practitioners to name a few. Our community possesses all the skills the OCDSB needs to contribute to the collection of disaggregated race-based data.

new director of education has been selected to lead the OCDSB in the new year. She is from the black community in Durham, where they grappled with and came to understand how to engage our people as key stakeholders in the success of schooling for our children. We welcome this development. However, will this incoming professional be shackled by a data-collection process that the OCDSB put in place prior to her arrival? Will the process and methodology meet the needs and expectations of Ottawa’s black communities? Will the black communities buy in? Or are we going to be forced to collect our own disaggregated data? What does true parent and community engagement actually look like?

Despite how black folk, as citizens and taxpayers, continue to be treated by the school board, our place is at the table with these people charting a collaborative course for the betterment of all our children.

Richard Sharpe is a community activist adn co-founder of the 613/819 Black Hub. He can be reached by email at

Photo: Kt Ann/Flickr

Categories: News for progressives

The Film The Israel Lobby Doesn't Want You To See

Today The Electronic Intifada published the first two parts of "The Lobby – USA", a four-part undercover investigation by Al Jazeera into Israel’s covert influence campaigns in the United States. The planned broadcast of the film was prevented by Qatar,...
Categories: News for progressives

Ontario should extend moratorium on new permits to take groundwater for bottling

Rabble News - Sat, 2018-11-03 00:49
November 2, 2018EnvironmentFood & HealthOntario should extend moratorium on new permits to take groundwater for bottlingWater is a human right and should not be treated as a commodity. Tell Ontario Ministry of Environment Conservation and Parks to extend the moratorium on new permits to take groundwater for bottling.
Categories: News for progressives

Crashed: How a Decade of Financial Crises Changed the World

Progressive economics forum - Fri, 2018-11-02 23:39

Book Review

Adam Tooze. Crashed: How a Decade of Financial Crises Changed the World. Viking. New York. 2018

The global economic crisis is now more than a decade old, and is far from definitively behind us. Indeed, many fear, with good reason, that the recent, uneven and lethargic global recovery may soon come to an end, and that the next crisis of global capitalism could be even worse than that of 2008.

The financial crisis and resulting crisis of the real global economy triggered by the collapse of Lehman Brothers and other major Wall Street banks has already prompted the release of a small library of books. ( The best, to my mind, is Martin Wolf’s, The Shifts and the Shocks.) But Adam Tooze provides us with the first truly comprehensive account. It is the work of a contemporary historian who draws on political and economic theory to frame a compelling and disturbing narrative, and is likely to become a standard and indispensable reference.

Over more than six hundred pages, Tooze looks at the origins and implications of the financial crisis around the world, proceeding both chronologically, geographically and thematically. In an extraordinary work of scholarship, he surveys the global political economy and financialized capitalism of the pre crisis period, the unfolding of the financial crisis in the United States and Europe, the spread of the crisis to developing countries and Eastern Europe, the extraordinary response of China, the euro zone crisis and the agonies of Greece and Southern Europe, and the political implications of the crisis.

He offers a coherent account of how the crisis set the stage for the rise of right-wing populism around the world, and speculates on how the global economy may evolve in a new age of explicit and escalating rivalry between the United States and China. What is at stake is the possible collapse of the “neo liberal” global economic and political order.

One relatively novel argument made in the book is that the global economy has to be seen, not so much as a set of discrete national economies trading with each other, as a vast “macro financial” web of corporate balance sheets and financial flows. In such a world, states can rapidly experience an exit of capital and economic collapse without necessarily running large trade or public finance deficits, while the hegemonic power, the United States, can readily finance such deficits by virtue of the unique status of the US dollar as the global reserve currency.

Tooze does not look in detail at the underlying contradictions of the pre crisis period, but he does note the key point that growth in an age of rising inequality and redistribution of income from labour to capital was dangerously reliant upon the growth of private debt, speculative bubbles, and the recycling of global trade surpluses to deficit countries, notably from China to the United States.

He broadly endorses the view that neo liberal capitalism has been associated with “secular stagnation” due to inadequate demand, offset only by the massive expansion of debt. As he notes, the fear was that crisis would result from a collapse of the US dollar, but instead it came from the collapse of global finance due to a massive accumulation of bad debts dispersed across the world. In response to the crisis there was, somewhat ironically, a flight to the US dollar as US government bonds were seen as the safest asset available.

Where Tooze departs a bit from the standard account is in his understanding and insistence that this was not just a crisis of the US banks, but a crisis of global and especially North Atlantic finance. Tight links between the Wall Street banks, the City of London, and the major European banks produced a global systemic financial crisis, not a crisis of so-called Anglo-Saxon capitalism as many European critics have argued. The euro crisis was also the consequence of low quality debt and speculative housing bubbles in some countries (the UK, Spain) rather than the excessive growth of public debt. Indeed the fiscal problem of countries hit by crisis in southern and eastern Europe were mainly the result of the crisis of the real economy which increased government deficits and debts, and the decision of many governments (most notably Ireland) to transfer bad bank assets to the public sector.

Building on the historical analysis of Leo Panitch and Sam Gindin in The Making of Global Capitalism, Tooze argues that the global economy has been economically and politically dominated by the United States, which remained in 2008, and remains even more so today, the only power capable of providing global economic leadership. “The crisis had the effect of recentering the world financial economy on the United States as the only state capable of meeting the challenge it posed.” He recounts how the US Treasury and the US Federal Reserve were absolutely key to resolution of the crisis of the banks in 2008, extending liquidity (very low interest US dollar credit lines) to global and not just US banks.

Similarly, massive US government purchases of distressed financial assets to bail out the financial system through the TARP and other programs were extended from the US banks to major European and even developing country banks. Key officials like Larry Summers and Tim Geithner won the day when they argued for “big bazooka, shock and awe” tactics to stabilize the financial system.

While there was a lot of bungling, experimentation and political resistance along the way, the US Treasury and the US Federal Reserve were indeed able to stabilize the US financial system fairly quickly by a combination of outright injections of new capital and arm twisting to force mergers. “Hair cuts” for those who had caused the crisis by investing in high risk, low quality assets and through reckless speculation and outright fraud were modest at best.

These bail-outs have been widely criticized, with good reason, for saving financial capital at the expense of working people who had to endure high unemployment and a huge wave of home foreclosures. But the US political system, even progressive Democrats included, would not even contemplate nationalizing the banks. In that context, a viable financial system and normal credit flows had to be restored by socializing bad debts.

The alternative to bail outs was to experience what happened in the eurozone, a failure to deal with insolvent banks through “extend and pretend” half measures which postponed an outright collapse of the banking system but without dealing with bad debt. “The eurozone, through willful policy choices, drove tens of millions of its citizens into the depths of a 1930s style recession. It was one of the worst self-inflicted disasters on record.” Tooze argues that the euro area also effectively sidelined itself from any pretensions to global economic leadership.

Fortuitously, US leadership also extended to fiscal policy in response to the collapse of the real economy. The stimulus program of the Obama administration could and should have been far bigger and lasted far longer, as was understood by those who had learned the lessons of the Great Depression in the 1930s, but again it was much more significant than similar programs in the UK and Europe endorsed by a new global forum, the G20 as an immediate fix.. Here there was a quick return to fiscal austerity and deep spending cuts long before growth and employment had recovered, with Germany and smaller Northern European countries demanding harsh and indeed sadistic fiscal measure as the precondition for any help to heavily indebted countries. In the most troubled countries, there was a death spiral as insolvent banks became every more shaky as the real economy collapsed and interest rates soared well above those of Germany.

The euro zone as a whole failed to act until very late in the game, when the European Central Bank finally announced in July, 2012 that it was prepared to “do what it takes” to bring down interest rates on debt denominated in euros. This failure was partly due to institutional architecture (the narrow mandate of the ECB, tight rules on fiscal policy) and partly due to German insistence that recovery had to be based on austerity and wage discipline to restore global competitiveness, without heed to the immediate consequences. Greece was crucified as a salutary lesson to others. Today, the banking crisis is far from fully resolved, most notably in Italy, public debt has reached very high levels in some countries where the crisis has hit hardest, and output has grown little above pre crisis levels while unemployment remains very high.

Toooze further notes and details that China was an absolutely key player in resolving the crisis through massive fiscal stimulus, and continued willingness to retain and expand its enormous holdings of US dollars. “China’s response to the financial crisis it imported from the West was of world historic importance, dramatically accelerating the shift in the global balance of economic activity towards East Asia.” To give an idea of the scale, between 2008 and 2014, China built 10,000 kilometres of rail capable of running trains at 360 km per hour, in the process gaining a massive technological advantage. And health care coverage was extended from 30% to 90% of the population through expansion of subsidies and a massive construction program for health care facilities.

Tooze endorses and details the argument that the bail outs of finance, massive unemployment and fiscal austerity set the stage for a major discrediting of centre left neo liberal parties and the rise of right-wing populism in the US, the UK in the form of Brexit, and much of Europe. In the United States “in the name of economic nationalism and the American dream, the right wing claimed the cause of systemic change, while the Democratic Party establishment filled the middle ground the Republicans vacated. “ Trump explicitly challenges the global capitalist order in the form of America first economic nationalism and rejection of global institutions like the WTO.

More widely, “(s)ince 2007 the scale of the financial crisis has placed the relationship between democratic politics and the demands of capitalist governance under immense strain. Above all, this strain has manifested itself … in a crisis of the political parties that have mediated the two.” Moderate parties of the centre left which championed global capitalism and did little to alleviate the impacts of the global crisis on working people have paid a high political price, threatening the future of the global system as is it still exists. Social democracy in the eurozone has massively retreated as the populist right has rejected globalism and even the European Union itself in favour of economic nationalism and racial xenophobia.

Looking to the future, Tooze notes with many others that the recent global recovery has been built on the fragile base of continued growth in debt with very limited reform of global finance. Future crises are hard to predict, but are inevitable. He could, perhaps, have said more about what a stable and equitable growth model might look like. What he instead stresses, rightly, is the crisis of global political capacity to regulate the system. “With Trump as president and the Republicans dominating Congress, it is an open question whether the American political system will support even basic institutions of globalization let alone any adventurous crisis fighting at a national or global level”

The eurozone is seemingly incapable of resolving its own problems, as not just the UK but also Italy and the right in France look to the exits. Meanwhile, “China’s economic triumph is a triumph for the Communist Party. This is still the fundamental reason for doubting the possibility of truly deep co-operation with China in global economic governance. Unlike South Korea, Japan or Europe, China is not a subordinate part of of the American global network.”

We indeed live in profoundly dangerous times. Fortunately Adam Tooze has given us a narrative and analysis that illuminates where we have been, though he has no clear view of how progressive forces should and could re-shape the crisis prone and deeply inequitable global capitalist system created in the run-up to 2008.

Categories: News for progressives

Great Recession at 10: $500k wine & jailing Black footballers for insider trading

by Ramin Mazaheri for The Saker Blog Ten years ago my life was all screwed up by the economic crisis I had nothing to do with. In August 2008 AFP
Categories: News for progressives


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