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Wards of the Nanny State

When an opponent declares, ‘I will not come over to your side,’ said in a speech on November 6, 1933, “I calmly say,...

The Nanny State Is Chemically Castrating Our Children’s Brains

Dave Hodges RINF Alternative News Government should not be in the business of mandating personal choices and government should never be allowed to legislate choices which should be...

The Tyranny of the Nanny State, Where the Government Knows What’s Best for You

John W. Whitehead Surveillance cameras, government agents listening in on your phone calls, reading your emails and text messages and monitoring your spending, mandatory health...

Ultimate Nanny State: China Forces Children to Visit Parents

bbc.co.ukJuly 2, 2013 Grown children in China must visit their parents or potentially face fines or...

Malkin: ACA Has Deputized Gun-Grabbing Doctors to Pursue ‘Nanny State’ Agenda

As expected, as soon as the Obama administration released their list of executive orders to help curb gun violence, the right wing went into full blown hissy fit mode. It seems Michelle Malkin took a page straight out of Limbaugh and Drudge's book on Fox this Thursday afternoon during this interview with Megyn Kelly.

Drudge And Limbaugh Misrepresent What Obama And The Affordable Care Act Say About Doctors And Guns:

As soon as President Obama's new recommendations for gun violence prevention became public, right-wing media immediately claimed the president was issuing an executive action requiring doctors to ask patients about their guns. This is false. The president's released proposals only clarify that nothing in the Affordable Care Act changes longstanding law: doctors are still free (but not required) to discuss with their patients any health hazards, including a lack of gun safety at home or elsewhere.

Among the White House proposals for gun violence reduction, the president announced that the administration will "[c]larify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors asking their patients about guns in their homes." Nowhere in his proposal did he instead require doctors to ask about guns. The Drudge Report, however, immediately splashed across its website this graphic:

drudge ACA gun.jpg

Rush Limbaugh picked up on this flatly inaccurate claim that the president required doctors to ask their patients about "gun ownership." Rather than explain the president's executive action only indicated future orders, regulations, or guidance will clarify that no law - including the ACA - prohibits them from discussing gun safety with their patients, Limbaugh reported it as a new directive that "deputizes gun-snitch doctors": [...]

Limbaugh concedes that the executive action doesn't literally say that doctors are required to ask about gun safety, but rather, in his interpretation, "the executive action today is almost essentially requiring it." The president's proposal was likely a direct response to these types of wildly erroneous interpretations of the health care reform law and executive orders that were already floating around the right-wing blogosphere, before Limbaugh added his analysis.

Go read the rest for more on how the right is lying about the language in the law. Malkin did the exact same thing during the interview above with Megyn Kelly and in a post at her blog the previous day. (Warning, link goes to Malkin's site.)

The anti-gun doctors’ lobby has a friend in Obama:

Anyone with kids knows that the invasive, anti-gun doctors’ lobby has been around a long time.

Flashback October 2007: Is your pediatrician using your kid to spy on you?

Flashback July 2008: More nosy doctors who don’t like guns

The liberal leadership of the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics have long been filled with notorious gun-grabbers — and they’ve promoted years of junk science to pursue their Nanny State agenda.

Now comes President Obama, who has deputized doctors to “help” snoop on law-abiding, gun-owning patients even further. Moreover, the White House has now lent federal support to doctors’ groups trying to fight state efforts to protect gun owners’ privacy: [...]

Political malpractice plus medical malpractice in the name of saving the children is a recipe for authoritarianism. The Hippocratic Oath has been turned on its head.

Malkin seems to have a little trouble understanding the difference between "does not prohibit" and mandates. Who knew we had all of those evil liberal doctors out there who are more worried about taking away everyone's guns than doing their job and providing health care to their patients. Be afraid... be very afraid!

The State’s Economic War Against Blacks

Donald Trump makes an essential point when he visits black churches and predominantly black inner-city neighborhoods and tells the people there that they “have...

How New Jersey Has Embraced "State-Sanctioned Loan-Sharking" to Students

New Jersey has the country's largest state-based student loan program. It's also incredibly unforgiving. For this ProPublica Podcast, I talked with our...

Big Nanny Government’s Assaults on Light Bulbs, Coal

Chip Wood If you like your light bulb, you can keep your light bulb. Actually, just like Barack Obama's promise regarding health insurance, this one's not...

New ban in nanny city San Francisco? Releasing butterflies could soon be illegal

​San Francisco, California could soon be the first city in the United States to adopt a law prohibiting the release of commercially-bred butterflies, a...

Microsoft’s “Smart Cities” Ideal Template for Stasi Police State

Kurt NimmoInfowars.comJuly 12, 2013 Smart cities are designed by corporations like IMB and Cisco...

Nanny Mike Strikes Again: Plans to Force Citizens to Compost

Kurt NimmoInfowars.comJune 17, 2013 San Francisco’s bins for mandatory recycling. Photo: Kenneth Lu New York...

Mayor Bloomberg Named "Nanny of the Month" – Again

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (shown) has been named Reason magazine's "Nanny of the Month" for May, marking the third time the controversial thee-term...

Mayor Bloomberg Named "Nanny of the Month" – Again

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (shown) has been named Reason magazine's "Nanny of the Month" for May, marking the third time the controversial thee-term...

Pitbulls Used to Be Considered the Perfect “Nanny Dogs” for Children — Until the...

Despite their reputation, the United Kennel Club doesn't recommended using pitbulls as guard dogs because they're too friendly with strangers.

January 30, 2013  |  

For most of the 114 years since the American pitbull terrier was first recognized by the United Kennel Club, the breed was rightly seen as the perfect “nanny dog” for children because of its friendly nature, loyalty and stability. As the ASPCA notes, the pitbulls were “once considered especially non-aggressive to people.”

Today, as any owner of a “pitbull-type” dog* can attest, parents often recoil in horror when they spot one of these animals, pulling their children close as if to protect them from a marauding werewolf. Fanciful myths about the breed abound, and some public officials have compared their bites to those of sharks and tigers.

Since the 1980s, the media have falsely portrayed the pitbull as a bloodthirsty monster, inherently more dangerous than other strong breeds of dog. There is absolutely no factual basis for that narrative, but it's led to a vicious cycle in which people who want a badass dog to fight, or to guard property, or to intimidate rival gangs tend to choose pitbulls (or Rottweilers, another much-maligned breed). Pitbulls are the dog of choice for irresponsible breeders, dog-fighters, people who want a tough-looking dog to tie up in their yard and those who refuse to have their male dogs fixed because they think those big, swinging balls makes them look tough by proxy ( 86 percent of fatal canine attacks involve an unneutered male, according to the American Humane Society).

A 2009 study in the Journal of Forensic Science ($$), found that the owners of vicious dogs, regardless of the breed, had “significantly more criminal behaviors than other dog owners.” The researchers added that “vicious dog owners were higher in sensation seeking and primary psychopathy,” and concluded that “vicious dog ownership may be a simple marker of broader social deviance.” And according to the ASPCA, “Pit Bulls often attract the worst kind of dog owners.”

All of those human failings lead to poorly socialized and potentially aggressive dogs. It is because pitbulls are disproportionately favored by these kinds of owners that they're responsible for a statistically outsized share of serious attacks on humans. These incidents are then reported – and very often misreported – with breathless sensationalism by the media, and the cycle continues.

Meanwhile, advocates say that pitbulls are the most frequently abused, tortured, abandoned and euthanized breed of dog in the United States. Shelters across the country are overflowing with pitbull mixes. Because of their stigma, they're often difficult to adopt out; a ride to the shelter is almost always a one-way trip for pitties.

Image courtesy of Karen Delise

We have tragically betrayed our children's beloved nanny-dogs, raising them irresponsibly, training them to be aggressive and then turning them into pariahs when they behave as any dog would in similar circumstances.

The Facts

According to the American Veterinary Medicine Association, “controlled studies have not identified this breed group as disproportionately dangerous.” The American Temperance Testing Society (ATTS) puts thousands of dogs – purebreds and spayed and neutered mixed-breeds – through their paces each year. The dogs are tested for skittishness, aggression and their ability to differentiate between threatening and non-threatening humans. Among all of the breeds ATTS tested – over 30,000 dogs through May 2011 -- 83 percent passed the test. How did pitbulls do? They showed an above average temperament, with 86 percent making the grade. Pitbulls are the second most tolerant breed tested by ATTS, after only golden retreivers.

Pitbulls do not have special “locking jaws” – that's pure mythology. They don't demonstrate some sort of special shaking action when they bite – all dogs display similar biting behavior. Pitbulls do not exert an unusual amount of bite-force for their size. Multiple studies have found that bite force correlates to body-weight, and tests of three breeds conducted by National Geographic found that the American pitbull terrier exerted  less bite-force than German shepherds or Rottweilers.

Capitalism in Crisis: Richard Wolff Urges End to Austerity, New Jobs Program, Democratizing Work

Truthout needs your support to produce grassroots journalism and disseminate conscientious visions for a brighter future. Contribute now by clicking here.

As Washington lawmakers pushes new austerity measures, economist Richard Wolff calls for a radical restructuring of the U.S. economic and financial systems. We talk about the $85 billion budget cuts as part of the sequester, banks too big to fail, Congress’ failure to learn the lessons of the 2008 economic collapse, and his new book, "Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism." Wolff also gives Fox News host Bill O’Reilly a lesson in economics 101.

TRANSCRIPT:

AMY GOODMAN: "Anda," music by the pianist, arranger and composer Bebo Valdés. He died Friday at the age of 94. The son of a cigar factory worker and grandson of a slave, he studied classical music at the Conservatorio Municipal in Havana and became a favorite collaborator with the great Cuban singers of his era, including Beny Moré and Pío Leyva and Orlando Cascarita Guerra, along with Americans such as Woody Herman and Nat King Cole, was considered a giant during the golden age of Cuban music. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report.

Our guest is Richard Wolff, a professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, now at New School University, author of a number of books, including Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism.

I want to talk about austerity here at home. This is House Speaker John Boehner speaking last month defending the $85 billion budget sequester cuts that took effect on March 1st.

HOUSE SPEAKER JOHN BOEHNER: The American people know, the president gets more money, they’re just going to spend it. And the fact is, is that he’s gotten his tax hikes. It’s time to focus on the real problem here in Washington, and that is spending.

AMY GOODMAN: House Speaker John Boehner. Professor Richard Wolff, your response? And also, that the Obama administration was warning catastrophe if sequestration took place. It took place.

RICHARD WOLFF: Well, it’s a stunning comment on our dysfunctional government built on top of a dysfunctional economy. Here we are in the middle of a crisis. We have millions of people without work, millions of people losing their homes, an economy that doesn’t work for the vast majority. The United States government is one of the major customers for goods and services in America. Sequestration is simply a cutback in government spending. It doesn’t take rocket science to understand that if the government, as the largest single buyer of goods and services, cuts back on the goods and services it buys, that means companies across America will sell less, and they’ll have less need of workers, and they will lay off workers. So, this is an act that worsens an unemployment that is already severe.

If you put that together with the tax increase on January 1st—and let me say a word about that. We heard a lot of public debate about taxing rich people, not taxing rich people, Republicans and Democrats, but the tax on the wealthy is small compared to the tax on the middle and lower incomes that went up on January 1st. When we raised the payroll tax here in America from 4.2 to 6.2 percent, we raised over $125 billion—huge amount of money, much more than was raised by taxing the rich—and we savaged the middle- and lower-income groups in America, those that in the presidential election both candidates had sworn to save and support. We attacked them, thereby limiting their capacity to buy goods and services because we taxed them more.

You put together the taxing of the middle and lower incomes with the cutbacks of government spending, and you’re going to do what every European country that has imposed austerity has already discovered: You’re making the problem worse. So with all the homilies that Mr. Boehner can put out there about how spending is a problem, this abstract idea doesn’t change the fact you’re making the economic conditions of the mass of people worse by these austerity steps, not better. And that ought to be put as the fire burning at the feet of politicians, so they stop talking these abstractions and deal with the reality of what they’re doing.

AMY GOODMAN: So what do you think needs to be done?

RICHARD WOLFF: A radical change in the policies. And I think it has to go far beyond simply reversing this austerity program, which, again, just for a word about history, back in the 1930s, the last time we had a breakdown of our capitalist system like this, we didn’t have austerity, we didn’t have cutbacks. We had the opposite. Roosevelt, in the middle of the '30s, created the Social Security system, went to everybody over 65 and said, "I'm going to give you a check for the rest of your life." He created the unemployment compensation system, giving all the unemployed for the first time checks every week for a year or two. And he created a public employment program and hired millions of workers. It’s the opposite of austerity. So any politician who says, "We must do this, because there’s no option," has forgotten even the American history of not that long ago.

So, the first thing I would do is go in that direction—not austerity, but its opposite. But I want to go further, because I think our problem is deeper. This crisis wasn’t supposed to happen. When it happened, it wasn’t supposed to last a long time. All of that has been proven false. The problems run deep. And I think what we have to do, and what that book tries to do, is to talk about reorganizing our economy so that for the first time we can say we’re not only going to get out of this crisis, we’re taking the kinds of steps that can prevent us from having them over and over again as our unstable business-cycle-ridden economy keeps imposing on us. So, for me, it’s the more profound change that we finally have to face, painful as it is. After 50 years of a country unwilling to face these questions, I think we need basic change. And that’s what I spend most of my time stressing.

AMY GOODMAN: Before we talk about the basic change, "democracy at work," as you put it—

RICHARD WOLFF: Right.

AMY GOODMAN: —what could Obama do without congressional support right now?

RICHARD WOLFF: Well, I think, in many ways, he could initiate a public employment program. I think it’s long overdue that he find all the ways available to him to say what Roosevelt said—and not that Roosevelt did everything correctly, and not that he’s a genius or any of that, but to take some lessons from those people in our country before who took steps that were successful.

AMY GOODMAN: I mean, Roosevelt didn’t plan on doing this when he first took office.

RICHARD WOLFF: Absolutely. He had pressure from below. The CIO, the biggest union-organizing drive in American history, never had anything that successful before.

AMY GOODMAN: As in AFL-CIO.

RICHARD WOLFF: That’s right. And with the socialist and communist parties, who were strong at that time, working with them, they organized millions of Americans into unions who had never joined a union before, and they pushed from below in a very powerful way. And they changed Mr. Roosevelt, showing that politicians, if subject to pressure from below, can change—same lesson that Cyprus has just taught us yet again. So, my response is: Learn from that. Roosevelt went on the radio to the American people and said, basically, "If the private sector either cannot or will not provide work for the millions of Americans that need and want to work, then it’s my job as president to do it." And he did it.

And I think Mr. Obama could and should overcome whatever has made him hesitate. We in this country not only don’t have a federal employment program, the Republicans and Democrats haven’t even put it on the floor to debate it as an important issue, even though it comes out of our own history. So I would say, put us—put our people to work. They want to work. The Federal Reserve says 20 percent of our tools, equipment, factory and office space is sitting idle, unused. So we have the people who want to work; we have the tools, equipment and raw materials for them to work with. And lord knows we need the wealth they could produce. Put them to work, and make it a national issue that that happen.

AMY GOODMAN: Where does the money come from?

RICHARD WOLFF: Well, Roosevelt went to the wealthy, and he went to the corporations, and he said to them, "You must give me the money to take care of the mass of people, because if you don’t, we’re going to have a catastrophe in this country. We’re going to have a social revolution." My argument is, let’s go back to the same tax rates that Roosevelt imposed, or at least in that neighborhood, which is much higher on wealthy people and much higher on corporations than we have today. That’s what he did. That’s how he funded it.

And in case our politicians are worried, let’s remind them: Mr. Roosevelt, who took those daring steps, was re-elected to be president four consecutive times, the most popular president in American history. It’s not a dead-end political decision. It’s the best decision a president could make to leave his legacy in history, that, we are told, our presidents care so much about.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Richard Wolff, author of Democracy at Work. Again, before we talk about "democracy at work," I wanted to go to a recent hearing in Washington. Executives with the banking giant JPMorgan Chase appeared before a Senate panel earlier this month to answer questions around so-called "London Whale trades" that cost the bank more than $6 billion and derailed financial markets worldwide. This is Arizona Republican Senator John McCain criticizing JPMorgan’s actions.

SEN. JOHN McCAIN: JPMorgan completely disregarded risk limits and stonewalled federal regulators. It is unsettling that a group of traders made reckless decisions with federally insured money and that all of this was done with the full awareness of top officials at JPMorgan. This bank appears to have entertained—indeed, embraced—the idea that it was, quote, "too big to fail."

AMY GOODMAN: Ashley Bacon, JPMorgan’s interim chief risk officer, testified at the same hearing.

ASHLEY BACON: I don’t think it is too big to fail. I think there’s further work that needs to be done to demonstrate and document that, and it’s in process. I’m not leading that process or deeply involved in it, but I think it is—it’s something that needs to be demonstrated to everybody’s satisfaction.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Ashley Bacon, JPMorgan’s interim chief risk officer. Can you explain what took place here and what is happening?

RICHARD WOLFF: Yes. On the question of "too big to fail," there really isn’t much to say. In 2008, our banks failed—all of them—the way the Cyprus banks failed and for very similar reasons. They took in a lot of depositors’ money, and they made risky bets they shouldn’t have made, and they failed, and so they didn’t have the money to honor their obligations, and they turned to the government for a bailout. And when the government hesitated, because it’s public money to bail out a privately failed bank, they were told, in another kind of blackmail, "We’re too big to fail. If you don’t bail us out, we will collapse and take the entire economy with us." And that was a persuasive argument. Particularly after they allowed Lehman Brothers to fail and that nearly did take the economy with it, that was a convincing argument.

You would have thought they had then learned the lesson about the problem of a too-big-to-fail financial institution. If you thought that, you would have been wrong, because the same banks that were too big to fail in 2008 are, all of them, bigger today. So we didn’t learn the lesson. We didn’t break up the banks. We didn’t limit, control their growth. They’re bigger now than they were then. And in a sense, maybe shame on them the first time, but having allowed this to happen, it’s shame on us.

Number two, we seem to need, as a nation, to believe that we have the power to control, limit or regulate, whether it’s the Glass-Steagall Act that came out of our disaster of the 1930s or the Dodd-Frank Act, which came out of the disaster that started in 2008. We seem to want to believe we can leave in place private banks, no matter how big they are, and hedge them about with regulations. The proof of the Whale trades in London, the proof of everything we know, is that these banks have the money, the staff, the resources to work their way around the regulations at least as fast as we impose them on them. That’s what these hearings fundamentally show. They can make trades that are too risky. They can lose wild amounts of money. They can turn to the government and demand to be helped and bailed out each time. And they get it. We are telling them, in a classic example, "Look, do whatever you want. You don’t have any risk of fundamental failure and punishment." Regulation doesn’t work, because we believe in place an entity, a large corporation, with the money and the incentives to get around it.

AMY GOODMAN: Interestingly, Jamie Dimon, the head of JPMorgan Chase, did not testify. He was brought before the Senate, what, about last June, where the senators were asking him for advice. And then, when you looked at the senators on the Senate committee and how much money JPMorgan Chase had given each of them, we’re talking about millions of dollars went to many of them.

RICHARD WOLFF: When I say that the big corporations, particularly the banks, have the resources and the incentives, I’m being polite. Yeah, part of the resources are going into literally making sure that the political regulator is a good friend and understands the complexities. In simple English, they are buying their way into the situation we watch, which is: "We will pretend to be regretful. You will pretend to be protecting the public. You will make regulations that we help you write so that we can get around them." It is something that ought not to be allowed to continue, because we’re living the economic crisis that comes from that way of doing business.

AMY GOODMAN: What lessons have been learned since 2008? And today, could the U.S. see the same situation as Cyprus?

RICHARD WOLFF: Absolutely. We have banks that are literally telling us, because we know from our controls that they are trying, even, to regenerate it. They’re trying to get people to borrow more money again. We’re not changing the wage structure of America, which means that Americans are required to go into debt to supplement their wages. You know, the irony is, we are trying, in the language of some of these folks, to kickstart our economy, to get it going again. But the problem is, our economy was a train heading into a stone wall in the first years of this century, and if we get our economy going again, without fundamental changes, what we’re doing is putting that same train back on the track heading towards the same wall. Cyprus shows us what’s happening.

But we don’t have to take just small countries. Take Great Britain, our classic ally. Their economy is now in the second or, in some people’s minds, the third recession within the crisis since 2007. They are following an austerity problem—process exactly like that supported by Mr. Boehner, and the economic downturn in Great Britain is catastrophic for that society. And so, we have this image of a future for us, if we don’t make fundamental change, but everyone wants to put it away and pretend that we can let it go by itself or a few regulations will solve the problem. They haven’t. They’re not doing it now elsewhere. That’s not a strategy we should pursue in this country, either.

AMY GOODMAN: When we come back, we’ll talk to Professor Richard Wolff about the alternatives, about, well, what he’s put forward, Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism. This is Democracy Now! We’ll be back with Professor Wolff in a minute.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: We continue with Richard Wolff, professor emeritus of economics at University of Massachusetts, Amherst, visiting professor at New School University here in New York, does a weekly program on WBAI in New York called Economic Update every Saturday at noon. His latest book is Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism. So what exactly do you mean by this?

RICHARD WOLFF: What I mean is a change in the enterprises that produce the goods and services we all depend on and provide the jobs we all need and want. I think those have to be, in a fundamental way, democratized. So let me begin in that way.

We live in a country that says it goes to war around the world to bring democracy and that its central, most important political value is democracy. If you believe that—and I am a fervent supporter of democracy, and obviously you are—you’ve named your program that way—then we ought to have democracy in the place where we as adults spend most of our time. Five out of seven days we go to work. We walk into a place where we use our brains and our muscles eight or more hours, five out of seven days. If democracy is an important value, it ought to be right there, first and foremost. But we don’t. We basically have a situation where, for most of us, we go to work in a place where the decisions that are made are made by a tiny group of people. The major shareholders who own the block of shares in our system select a board of directors, 15 to 20 people, and they make the basic decisions: what to produce, how to produce it, where to produce it, and what to do with the profits. The rest of us must live with the results of that decision.

So if that tiny group of people make a decision to close the factory in Cincinnati or the office in Atlanta and move to Shanghai, the chips fall where they may. If they decide to use a toxic technology that’s not good for the air and water but is good for the profits, they do, we live with the results. And when they decide to take the profits of their business and to give enormous pay packages to a handful of top executives and big dividend payouts to their shareholders, which of course they do, since they’re in a position to do it, and the rest of us suddenly have to take out absurd debts to get our kids through college, then that’s the inequality of income and wealth that we have in America.

So, I look at this decision-making apparatus, I say, "Why are we surprised that they make the decisions the way we do—they do?" We all live with the results, and we have no say in how those decisions are made. It’s not democratic. That’s the first thing. But the second thing is, we’re now in five years of economic crisis that indicate that way of organizing the decisions doesn’t work for the mass of people. It works for them. The stock market’s back. The profits of big corporations are back—surprise, surprise—given who makes the decisions. But we are left.

And so, for me, the solution is, let’s face this. Let’s build an option, a real choice for Americans, between working in a non-democratic, top-down-organized capitalist enterprise or in what, for lack of a better term, we can call "cooperatives," workplaces that are organized democratically. I think we’ll have less inequality of income, we will have less pollution of our environment, and we’ll have less loss of jobs out of the country, if those decisions were made by the people, as they should have been from the beginning, who will not make the kinds of decisions that got us into the mess of economic crisis that we’re in now.

AMY GOODMAN: In June, you wrote a piece, Richard Wolff, in The Guardian called "Yes, There is an Alternative to Capitalism: Mondragon Shows the Way." Mondragon, Spain’s renowned co-op where all enterprise is owned and directed by co-op members. At the Green Party’s convention last year, the keynote speaker, Gar Alperovitz, said the Mondragon model is being replicated here in the United States. I want to just turn to a clip of what Gar Alperovitz said, the professor of political economy at the University of Maryland.

GAR ALPEROVITZ: So, in Ohio, the idea of worker ownership is a bigger idea. Lots of people understand it. And in Cleveland, building on the Mondragon model—some of you know about the Mondragon model—and other ideas, there are a series of worker-owned, integrated co-ops in Cleveland in a neighborhood where the average income is $18,000 per family. And they have got these co-ops, not just standing alone, but linked together with a nonprofit corporation and a revolving fund. The idea is to build the community and worker ownership, not just make a couple workers richer, to say the least, not rich, but to build a whole community, and to use the purchasing power of hospitals and universities—tax money in there—Medicare, Medicaid, education money, buy from these guys, and build the community. That model—and it’s the greenest for—one of the things is the greenest laundry in that part of the country, that uses about a third of the heat and about a third of the electricity and about a third of the water. They’re on track now to put in more solar capacity that exists—one of the other worker-owned companies—that exists in the entire state of Ohio. These are not little, dinky co-ops.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Gar Alperovitz talking about the Mondragon model here. And when we were in Spain, Democracy Now! went to Mondragon and interviewed one of the cooperative members, and we’ll link to that at democracynow.org [ Click here to watch the interview with Mikel Lezamiz, director of Cooperative Dissemination at the Mondragon Cooperative Corporation in Spain’s Basque Country. ] But, Richard Wolff, talk about that model and what’s happening here.

RICHARD WOLFF: Well, the model of Mondragon is so interesting, not only because it’s a real co-op, where the workers make the decisions—what to produce, how, where, what to do with the profits. And just to mention one of their achievements, they have a rule that the highest-paid worker cannot get more than a maximum of eight times the lowest. In our society, it’s typical in our large corporations that the CEO gets 300 to 400 times what the lowest worker. So, for those of us that are interested in a less unequal society than what we have here in America, the lesson is, if you cooperatize your enterprise, that’s a sure route to get there. And we haven’t found any other route that is just as effective.

So, the importance of Mondragon is, they start in the middle of the 1950s with a Catholic priest, Father Arizmendi—I always have to remember it—with six workers in the north of Spain, desperately trying to overcome the unemployment there. And here we are over a half a century later. Having to compete with countless capitalist enterprises, they won that competition. Trying to grow, they have a growth record that would be the envy of any capitalist corporation. They went from six workers in 1956 to 120,000 workers today in Spain.

AMY GOODMAN: And they are making?

RICHARD WOLFF: And they are making everything. They make dishwashers. They make clothes washers. They raise rabbits on farms. They do high-tech research, together with General Motors and Microsoft as some of their partners there. They do an immense array. They’re really a family of 200 to 300 co-ops that are united within the Mondragon cooperative corporation. So they’ve shown the ability to grow. They’ve shown the ability to adapt. They’ve shown their competitive power. They have—excuse me, they’ve shown all the different ways that a corporation can develop without a top-down hierarchical, undemocratic structure. So we don’t have to choose between effectiveness, growth, job, security, and a cooperative structure. The cooperative structure can be a way to get there.

Here in the United States, we have lots of such co-ops developing. There’s one even named after Father Arizmendi in California in the Bay Area. There are six Arizmendi bakeries and coffee shops that were set up on that model. They started with one; they’re now six. Hint: They’ve grown. And you can do this. And all over the United States, there are these efforts, often done by people who want a different kind of life. They want to be in charge of their own job. They want to have a sense of control and a sense that they’re not just a drone doing the work, but they’re part of the folks who design and direct. It brings out new capacities. It makes you more happier to go to work. It’s a more satisfying job life than you would otherwise have. So I think it recommends itself on all kinds of levels.

One other example, we can learn something from a country called Italy that we admire for its cuisine and its lovely countryside. They have a law there, passed in 1985, called the Marcora Law after the name of the legislator. Here’s what it does. It offers a choice to unemployed workers. You can take a dole every week, an unemployment check, the way we do in this country, or you have an option, an option B that we don’t have. If you get at least nine other workers to make the—unemployed workers, like yourself, to make the following choice, here’s what you can get. As a lump sum, you can get your entire unemployment program of two years of checks in your hands right at the beginning; you have to have nine other workers or more, and you have to use that money as the start-up capital for a cooperative enterprise. The idea of the Italian government was, if we give workers this to set up a job and an enterprise, they will be much more committed to it than they would if they didn’t have that role.

AMY GOODMAN: How do they know they’ll do it?

RICHARD WOLFF: They don’t. But they know those workers have an incentive, because if they don’t make that work, they can’t go back and collect unemployment. That’s what they got. The government doesn’t spend much more money than it would have anyway, but it creates jobs, and it creates workers committed, because it’s their enterprise, to make that work as their personal solution and as a way not only for them to survive, but for the whole of the Italian society for the first time to see what it’s like to have an enterprise where you run the affair.

You know, here in America, we want to believe in freedom of choice. Let’s give our people freedom of choice. They can have the choice to go work in a top-down, capitalist enterprise—what we’re used to—but if we develop the alternative, really a program of co-ops around the country, then American young people and older people could say, "What would it be like to work there? Let’s see what that’s like." And then we would have the choice we do not have in this country now.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Wolff, before we end, I want to turn back to the crisis in Cyprus and relate it to what’s happening here. Bill O’Reilly of Fox News warned his audience last week that Cyprus and other European countries are facing economic hardships because they’re so-called "nanny states."

BILL O’REILLY: Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, now Cyprus, all broke. And other European nations are close. Why? Because they’re nanny states, and there are not enough workers to support all the entitlements these progressive paradises are handing out.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Bill O’Reilly of Fox News. Richard?

RICHARD WOLFF: You know, he gets away with saying things which no undergraduate in the United States with a responsible economic professor could ever get away with. If you want to refer to things as nanny states, then the place you go in Europe is not the southern tier—Portugal, Spain and Italy; the place you go are Germany and Scandinavia, because they provide more social services to their people than anybody else. And guess what: Not only are they not in trouble economically, they are the winners of the current situation. The unemployment rate in Germany is now below 5 percent. Ours is pushing between 7 and 8 percent. So, please, get your facts right, Mr. O’Reilly. The nanny state, you call it, the program of countries like Germany and Scandinavia, who tax their people heavily, by all means, but who provide them with social services that would be the envy of the United States—a national health program that takes care of you, whether you’re employed or not, and gives you proper healthcare. In France, for example, the law says when you go to work, you get five weeks’ paid vacation. That’s not an option; that’s the law. You get support when you’re a new parent for your child care and so forth. They provide services. And they are successful in Germany and Scandinavia, much more than we are in the United States and much more than those countries in the south.

So they’re not broken, the south, because they’re nanny states, since the nanny states, par excellence, are doing better than everyone. The actual truth of Mr. O’Reilly is the opposite of what he says. The more you do nanny state, the better off you are during a crisis and to minimize the cost of the crisis. That’s what the European economic situation actually teaches. He’s just making it up as he goes along to conform to an ideological position that is harder and harder for folks like him to sustain, so he has to reach further and further into fantasy.

AMY GOODMAN: In our last minute, other cures for capitalism, as you put it?

RICHARD WOLFF: Well, I think that there’s a set of fundamental reorganizations. When you have a private banking system in the United States, the way we did up until, say, the 1970s and '80s, you had it in a position relative to the economy that made a certain sense. But over the last 30 and 40 years, for a whole host of reasons, we have made debt a central part of the economy. Today it is not unusual for a person who goes into a grocery store to get a bottle of water to use a credit card, basically to make a loan in order to buy that bottle of water. Everything that consumers do is now mediated by debt. Everything corporations do, and as we look around the world, the governments are in debt. Debt is everywhere. It has become the water we swim in, the air we breathe. That puts the banks in an unbelievably powerful position, because they're the repository of the means to borrow. If we’re going to make an economy dependent on debt, we can’t leave the power to control that—

AMY GOODMAN: We have 10 seconds.

RICHARD WOLFF: —in the private hands of banks. Either we don’t become a debt-ridden country, or we make borrowing and lending a social program. We can’t allow private banking. It doesn’t work. It needs to be changed.

AMY GOODMAN: Richard Wolff, I want to thank you for being with us. If you’d like a copy of today’s show, you can go to our website at democracynow.org. Richard Wolff is professor emeritus at University of Massachusetts, teaches at New School University.

Germany, Spain Set To Pull The Plug On Green Energy

Over ten years ago, when Europe was a bright and shining example of experimental monetarist "brilliance", and when the money was flowing, the continent decided to do the ethical thing and actively promote the pursuit and development of renewable energy through countless government subsidies. As a result, Germany and Spain became the undisputed leaders in the race for a green future, and both created similar laws to encourage the development of renewable energy. There were two problems: i) green energy, while noble in theory, is about the worst idea possible when it comes to profitability and capital self-sustainability and constantly needs governmental subsidies, and ii) it was the end consumers who would pay for the government's generosity, in the form of a surcharge on electric bills. In Germany, for example, as the industry grew (in size, and thus in losses) demand for the subsidy increased, driving the surcharge higher. In January, the surcharge, which amounts to about 14% of electricity prices, nearly doubled to 5.28 euro cents per kilowatt hour.

And, as the WSJ so deftly explains, "that means ordinary consumers shoulder the lion's share of the costs for what the German government calls its "energy revolution." And here is where a third problem comes into play, because while German and Spanish consumers were happy to pay a surcharge in the golden days of a Dr. Jekyll Europe when everything was great, soon Europe become a doomed Mr. Hyde-ian Frankenstein monster, with imploding economies, 60%+ youth unemployment and resurgent neo-nazi powers. In short: the German and Spanish consumers have had it with funding an infinite money drain (even bigger than Greece), when cash flow is scarce and getting worse, and have just said "Basta" and "Nein", respectively.

Which means it is now a political issue in Spain, where the scandal ridden Rajoy has never been more unpopular, and certainly in Germany where Merkel faces an election in September and can't allow the public opinion to shift against her. As a result "with Spain in the grips of recession, the government wants to lower consumers' light bills. In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel faces an election in September and hopes to win points with voters by putting a stop to rising electricity bills."  Specifically, "Ms. Merkel's government on Thursday proposed putting a cap on the green-energy surcharge until the end of 2014 and then restricting any rise in the surcharge after that to no more than 2.5% a year. The government also plans to tighten exemptions, which would force more companies to pay, and achieve a cut in green subsidies of €1.8 billion ($2.42 billion). The plan is a quick fix pending comprehensive reform after the election, government officials said."

Spain is not far behind:

The Spanish parliament took a similar step on Thursday, passing a law that aims to curb rising household electricity costs by cutting aid to the renewable-energy industry.

Renewable-energy producers "are going to receive less revenue, but these measures are better for consumers" said Energy Minister José Manuel Soria.

Among the changes in the Spanish system, the new law indexes certain subsidies and compensation to an inflation estimate that strips out the effects of energy, food commodities, and tax changes.

Naturally the response from the subsidized industries has been swift and damning:

Renewable-energy companies said that the government was backing away from previous promises that it would ensure them a reasonable return on their investments.

"Spain's government is trying to smash the renewable-energy sector through legislative modifications," said José Miguel Villarig, chairman of the country´s Association of Renewable-Energy Producers.

Actually all the Spanish government is thing to do is stay in power, and in order to do so, it must stop demanding that its people pay for the development of financial black hole industries.

The immediate result of these steps will be a widespread collapse in the alternative energy space in Europe, which is barely sustainable on an "as is" basis (see Solyndra) with ongoing government funding, and will melt as fast as a snowball in the Iceland thermal when the money is even modestly cut off.

Because like all truly money losing government ventures, one can't mothball a project that by definition has to lose money in hope one day it will be a new money-winning paradigm, especially since the imminent deleveraging wave which will hit the world once Chinese inflation wakes from its slumber, will mean conventional energy costs will once again have no choice but to drop (see: "On This Day In History.... Gas Prices Have Never Been Higher").

Yet all this means is that the government will merely have to find other, more creative ways to lose money now that the alternative energy fad is virtually dead. Luckily, spending money with absolutely nothing to show for it is one thing that every government in the current insolvent global regime, has a peculiar knack for. It also means that thousands of former government workers with no real marketable skills are about to hit the streets demanding more handouts from the nanny state, and lead to yet another wave of European civil unrest just as the 'other people's money' is about to run out.

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Guest Post: Sheeple: Another Look At A Sad Breed

Submitted by Brandon Smith of Alt-Market blog,

Some phrases are endowed with immediately recognizable symbolism.  When we hear them, we instantly know who and what the phrases are referring to, and can even gain a greater depth of understanding to a particular situation just by applying them.  They cause us to step outside our environment and look at it in an entirely different way.  They might make us laugh, they might make us cry, but we are not indifferent to these affecting words.

Throughout history there have always been people who were right, and usually a “majority” that were wrong, on any single issue.  Defenders of institutionalized ignorance argue constantly that truth is “relative”, and that they should not be criticized for having their own "opinions".  They use this relativism as a cover for their unwillingness to admit a lack of knowledge.  I would ask them if they believe that they are always right?  That they have nothing to learn?  If the truth is “relative”, if morality and principle are “gray”, then who in their mind has ever been wrong?  It would seem that the only people they view as absolutely amiss are those who confront the establishment.  Those that question the system they are so addicted to.

What they fail to understand is that their “opinions” were never theirs to hold.  What they believe has merely been conditioned into them.  They are willing to embrace the system no matter how unjust, because their entire identity is predicated on its continued existence.  We do not admonish people necessarily because they are unaware (all of us were unaware at one time or another), but we do admonish them for denying the blatant facts in order to avoid admitting that they are wrong, and that they have perhaps been duped by the establishment.  So, what do we call those people who remain willfully ignorant (or comfortably oblivious) in the face of the facts and follow along with the herd (the mainstream) to the detriment of the truth?

We call them sheeple…

The term “sheeple” has quickly become a word that defines an era.  It is not just a tool for ridicule, though it does indeed seem to hurt the feelings of the ignorant and unaware, which to my mind, is a good thing (If they can feel shame over their factual inadequacies, then perhaps one day they can be redeemed).  No, there is much more going on here… 

When one is surrounded by blatant absurdity and total loss; loss of freedom, loss of compassion, loss of humanity, that person needs a way to describe the horror.  A way to shed light on the dark insanity of it.  A way to remove the barriers of confusion and build a clear path to reason.  He needs to quantify the threat, so that he can move beyond it, and towards understanding. 

In our modern age, we are absolutely stricken with an epidemic of willful idiocy that bears no rational excuse.  A century ago, such behavior in a culture could have been chocked up to a bottleneck in the flow of concrete information.  But today, mankind has a veritable buffet of data at his fingertips at any given moment.  The fact of a thing, the truth of a thing, can be arrived at with a mere modicum of effort and a remedial passion for learning.  We can plead “lack of access” no longer.  The only obstacle left is us…

Yes, our government and our society have become corrupt to the core.  Yes, the traditional sources of information in the mainstream media are utterly useless and dishonest.  Yes, our public educational system is completely federalized, and our schools have been warped into lemming factories where young minds are bled dry of all creative power and individuality.  Yes, the system we are born into is designed to make us stupid.  However, the establishment has not yet been able to extinguish our ability to walk away.  We ALL have a choice:  to be taught by others, or, to learn for ourselves.

At the end of the day, sheeple are sheeple not because they have to be, but because they want to be…

It is the greatest and most exploitable weakness of man; our willingness to sacrifice anything in order to avoid admitting we know nothing.  This is the philosophical slum of the common “sheeple”.  It is pathetic, and it is ugly, and it is a rampant plague upon the world in the year of 2013. 

The time is coming, very soon I believe, when the sub-populous of sheeple will be used as cannon fodder to institute change in America on an unprecedented scale.  It has happened many times throughout history.  The establishment, seeking unlimited power, brandishes the dimmer subsections of the citizenry like a political Louisville Slugger, swinging them about wildly in an attempt to smash the ideological enemies of the state.  Often, the sheeple are oblivious to the fact that they are being used as a weapon against liberty, and against truth.  They only know that they must participate to “survive”, even if that survival ends up being a hollow and meaningless life.

Now more than ever it is important for the Liberty Movement to understand and identify who these people are, and what makes them tick.  Time grows short, and it is easy for us to become mired in the haze of a glassy-eyed herd.  Sheeple can be saved from themselves, but only if they can be made to recognize these particular behaviors as part and parcel of their own folly… 

Institutionalized Laziness

Some sheeple are not ignorant because they are unintelligent.  Rather, they are ignorant because they refuse to expend any energy in discovering the facts of their world.  They have become used to the idea of being “taught”, rather than going out to learn for themselves.  It is easier to be told what to think than it is to develop one’s own world view.  Sheeple often state that they “just want to be left alone”, and “don’t want to think about the troubles of the world”, yet nearly all of them at the same time want to feel as though they have an effect on the future.  They want the benefits of a sound and balanced society but don’t want to put in the work to make such a society possible.  They want “other people” to make the system work, and “other people” are certainly willing to take advantage of sheeple inaction.  Tyranny cannot exist unless people willingly hand over their personal responsibilities to the system.  Sheeple make oligarchy and dictatorship possible.

Arrogance Without Merit

I have met many people in my life that are not fully aware of how their world works or why terrible things happen to them.  This by itself is not necessarily bad.  If one is able to accept that he needs to learn more, then he has far surpassed most of society in the strength of his character.  Unfortunately, sheeple do not share this attitude.  They not only lack remedial knowledge on most issues, they are also unwilling to admit it, and, even viciously attack those who DO have substantial information. 

Is this due to an inferiority complex?  Possibly.  They are so invested in the mainstream world view as presented by media entities and government that they take it as gospel.  They live the mainstream ideal, but, secretly, they harbor doubts.  They know that they do not have the capacity to defend the system if confronted by an intelligent and well-versed opponent, and so, they develop a demeanor of arrogance and contempt for those who question it.  This uppity manner is a defense mechanism meant to hide the weakness of their arguments.  Combined with Ad hominem attacks, distraction, and physical threats, sheeple try to ward off critics so they do not have to engage in a legitimate debate they know they will lose.

Always Worried What The “Majority” Thinks

Sheeple are steeped in the realm of the mainstream.  So much so that they have become nothing but a cog in the machine of the collective mind (or hive mind).  Their entire existence is predicated on blind faith in the system.  If the system is proven to be flawed, then THEY are proven to be flawed by extension.  They will ignore all reason and defend the system wildly, as if trapped by some cult, because their fragile identity is dependent upon the continued prosperity of the establishment.     

Sheeple are in most cases motivated by nothing but fear.  In their early years they likely either caved to the force of peer pressure and learned to diminish their personal pain by constantly conforming to the majority view.  Or, they sought inclusion in the majority very early on and became addicted to the power that the collective is able to wield over others.  In either case, they never actually questioned whether or not the “majority” was right in its behavior.  Instead, they decided at some point in their life that the majority is ALWAYS right simply because it is the majority. 

Never Questions The Professional Class

Sheeple are easily impressed by anyone with a nice suit, uniform, lab coat, or an embossed diploma or title.  They see and revere the costume, regardless of the man inside it.  For sheeple, titles and positions of arbitrary authority make the opinions of a man more than opinion; his opinions suddenly become law.

While a Liberty Movement activist looks for the legitimacy within the individual professional, the sheeple places all faith within the institution that professional represents.  His personal character is of no consequence to them, and the idea that he may have no clue what he is talking about does not occur to them. 

Obsession With The State

Because the average sheeple hasn’t the slightest inkling of how to be independent or self sufficient, they attach their survival to the success of the state.  They see the word of the state as sacrosanct, and have no concept of government by the people.  They will sing the praises of democratic elections and the will of the public in general participation, but, when the state goes against that will and does what it pleases, they will seek to rationalize this criminality. 

For them, government as a construct might be fallible (or not), but this fallibility does not change the finality of state authority.  The government is not to be interfered with and certainly not to be opposed.  To stand against the state is to stand against law, and the law, in their minds, is god.  Questions of morality are irrelevant.  They have become so far detached from their conscience that there is nothing left but a pitch black void, waiting to be filled with the demands of oligarchy. 

When confronted by men who are willing to fight and die to interfere with the abuse of state authority, they respond with shock and revulsion.  How could anyone possibly stand against the will of the mainstream and its government champions?  How dare they defy the establishment!

Blind Commitment To The False Left/Right Paradigm

When confronted, sheeple almost always move immediately to meaningless party labels.  They will attack you as a “Democrat”.  They will attack you as a “Republican”.  But their presumptions of what makes a Democrat or a Republican are entirely skewed and inaccurate.  This is, of course, not really a problem for them.

They will not acknowledge the vast similarities of corruption between both major parties because this does not serve their interests.  They do not WANT to know what Liberalism is versus Neo-Liberalism.  They do not WANT to know what true Conservatism is versus Neo-Conservatism.  They only want an easy way to dismiss you and the information you present without having to think.  The false left/right paradigm makes this possible.

Predictable Responses

Sheeple are highly predictable two-dimensional creatures.  When confronted with their own failings, they will follow a pre-programmed list of responses meant to divert and confuse discussion.

They will claim that “everyone thinks they are smarter than everyone else”, and that really, the “truth is relative”.  History does not support this twisted view, however.  There are always moments in which some people are morally and intellectually correct, while many others are dangerously misguided.  Some people make decisions that lead to chaos and destruction while others make decisions that lead to prosperity and creation.  The truth, the cold hard truth, is NOT relative.  It is unyielding, it is uncompromising, and it is final.  To be successful as human beings requires us to be on the right side of truth more often than we are not.  To assume that the truth is “malleable” to our particular desires of the moment is to always be on the wrong side.

Sheeple rely primarily on character assassination and belligerent disregard for logic in order to derail debate.  They do not attack your position so much as they attack you personally.  They scoff, they giggle, they taunt like children, but when it’s all over they usually say very little of any substance. 

Finally, they will use the weapon of majority opinion as a get out of jail free card, and in most cases this is not a ploy.  They really do believe that if the larger percentage of the public accepts a conviction, then that conviction automatically becomes fact.  Their goal, therefore, is to constantly ride the wave of majority opinion so that they will always be in a position of “righteousness”.  Of course, this way of thinking has in the past led to some of the worst atrocities in recent memory.  The collective mind has no concern for individual freedom, including the freedom to live in peace.  Physical and psychological violence in the name of conformity is very common in such cultures. 

Sheeple are puppets in the game of political reconstruction, and their job is to cheerlead the establishment and to drown out all honest voices.  They are generally remorseless as long as they never have to face tangible consequences for their blind support of the system.  They seek to strengthen the bars of the prison because the outside world of free thought and expression intimidates and paralyzes them.  In an environment where survival is dependent on individual merit and principle, sheeple hold no currency.  No capital.  This might explain their overt hatred of individualists.  For when we in the Liberty Movement seek to unchain and decentralize the world, we indirectly cut the umbilical cord between them and the nanny state.  They see our fight for freedom as a threat to their ease of existence, and their very lives.  Sadly, their “comfort” is derived entirely from our enslavement.

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Modern Day Slavery in Qatar

by Stephen Lendman

Qatar is one of six Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (CCASG). The others in alphabetical order include Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

A previous article discussed appalling migrant worker conditions in Qatar. It has one of the worst human and civil rights records.

Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani rules despotically. Democratic rights are verboten. Torture and other forms of repression are commonplace. 

So is brutal worker exploitation. Foreign nationals suffer most. They endure conditions of modern day slavery.

A new Amnesty International (AI) report is titled "The Dark Side of Migration: Spotlight on Qatar's construction sector ahead of the World Cup." More on it below.

On November 15, Bloomberg headlined "Soccer Is Just Another Word for Slavery in Qatar." 

The International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) chose Qatar as its 2022 World Cup games host country. It was an embarrassing choice.

"…(M)igrant laborers aren't the only ones trapped" there, said Bloomberg. Frantic preparations continue for what "never should have been awarded in the first place."

Zahir Belounis is a French soccer player. For over a year, he's been trying to escape from Qatar. Its repressive labor laws prevent him.

"When you take a job in Qatar, you effectively surrender your passport to your employer."

It's called kafala. It's a sponsorship system. Migrant workers must obtain it. It commits them to bondage. They can't enter Qatar, leave, or change jobs without permission. It's modern day slavery.

The International Labor Organization (ILO) defines forced labor as "all work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty and for which said person has not offered himself voluntarily."

Qatar violates international norms. "(M)any of the abuses that take place which can lead to forced labor are still happening," said the ILO.

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) warned that at least 4,000 workers would die between now and the first World Cup 2022 soccer match if Qatar didn't change its working practices.

"Whether you're a Nepalese construction worker, a Filipino nanny or a professional French soccer player, you're stuck until your 'sponsor' releases you," said Bloomberg.

Belounis hasn't been paid since May 2012. He's struggling to support his family. France hasn't helped. Nor has FIFA president Sepp Blatter. He's "the Oliver Hardy of" world soccer, said Bloomberg.

In an emotional letter to soccer legends Zinedine Zidane and Pep Guardiola, Benounis pleaded for help. "The system in Qatar is killing me," he said. 

"I ask you to use your influence as football ambassadors to talk about what is happening to me and what is happening to many other young men here in Qatar." 

"People are being kept far from their countries because of the exit visa system. This system should not exist, and we need people like you, who love sport and its (good) image, to make our voices heard."

"I speak to you as fathers and as former footballers and I ask you, please speak up and do what you can to help me get home."

Amnesty International (AI) discussed outrageous migrant worker abuses. They're treated like cattle. What's ongoing amounts to forced labor. According to AI's secretary general Salil Shetty:

"It is simply inexcusable in one of the richest countries in the world, that so many migrant workers are being ruthlessly exploited, deprived of their pay and left struggling to survive."

"Construction companies and the Qatari authorities alike are failing migrant workers." 

"Employers in Qatar have displayed an appalling disregard for the basic human rights." 

"Many are taking advantage of a permissive environment and lax enforcement of labour protections to exploit construction workers."

"Fifa has a duty to send a strong public message that it will not tolerate human rights abuses on construction projects related to the World Cup."

"Turning a blind eye to any form of exploitation is unforgivable, particularly when it is destroying people's lives and livelihoods.

Qatari migrant construction workers usually work for small and medium-sized construction companies. They're subcontracted to major ones. They take full advantage of virtual forced labor.

AI published its report days after Blatter met with Sheik Al Thani. He regurgitated the lie told him. He declared Qatar "on the right track" in handling worker rights.

"What was presented to us shows that they are going forward not only today but have already started months ago with the problems with labour and workers," he added. 

The labour laws will be amended and are already in the process of being amended."

Abusive practices continue. Nothing has been done so far to change things.

AI based its report on scores of interviews "with workers, employers and government officials." It documented horrendous abuses.

Dangerous working conditions persist. Wages often aren't paid. Worker accommodations are "shocking." 

Air conditioning is lacking. Workers are exposed to overflowing sewage and uncovered septic tanks. Some have no running water or electricity.

Many migrants feel trapped. Employers prevent them from leaving. Debts mount. They can't support their families. They suffer "severe psychological stress." Some consider suicide. At least one manager called workers "animals." 

They're worked up to 12 hours a day seven days a week. They do it in scorching summer heat. Qatar's labor laws stipulate a maximum 10-hour day. They say no one should work in summer heat from 11:30AM to 3PM.

In recent months, dozens of Nepalese workers died. The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) believes about 12 will die weekly unless abusive practices stop.

Between now and 2022, it thinks at least 4,000 will perish. It bases its estimate on current Nepalese and Indian construction worker mortality figures.

The combination of dangerous working conditions and cramped/squalid/unsanitary living quarters bears full responsibility.

Workers arrive healthy. Many become ill. A shocking number die. On-the-job accidents claim many. Appalling living conditions, inadequate food and water take more.

ITUC general secretary Sharan Burrow said:

"Nothing of any substance is being done by the Qatar authorities on this issue."

"The evidence-based assessment of the mortality rate of migrant workers in Qatar shows that at least one worker on average per day is dying." 

"In the absence of real measures to tackle that and an increase in 50% of the migrant workforce, there will be a concomitant increase in deaths."

"We are absolutely convinced they are dying because of conditions of work and life. There are harrowing testimonies from the workers in the system there."

Around 1.2 million migrants now work in Qatar. ITUC estimates around another million will be enlisted to complete work by 2022.

"Fifa needs to send a very strong and clear message to Qatar that it will not allow the World Cup to be delivered on the back of a system of modern slavery that is the reality for hundreds of thousands of migrant workers there today," added Burrow.

Qatar's kafala system "permits abuse and traps workers," said AI. Doha's main hospital spokesperson said over 1,000 workers were admitted to its trauma unit in 2012.

About 10% were disabled. Some died. AI documented shocking government disregard for migrant worker rights.

They arrive "full of hopes," said AI. They're dashed straightaway. "Please tell me - is there any way to get out of here? We are going totally mad," one Nepalese worker told AI.

He's being worked to death. He hadn't been paid for months. He's prevented from leaving. Other migrants endure the same harshness.

In 2011, AI reported on "False Promises: Exploitation and forced labour of Nepalese migrant workers." It found similar abusive practices in all Gulf States. Modern day slavery thrives.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at [email protected] 

His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."

http://www.claritypress.com/LendmanII.html

Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. 

Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs Fridays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.


http://www.progressiveradionetwork.com/the-progressive-news-hour

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slims1

In 1968, the Phillip Morris Company launched a memorable campaign to sell Virginia Slims, a new brand of cigarettes targeting women, itself a new phenomenon.  It had a brand-new slogan: “You’ve come a long way, baby.”  The company plastered it on billboards nationwide and put it in TV ads that featured women of the early twentieth century being punished for smoking.  In all their advertising, smoking was equated with a set of traits meant to capture the essence of women in a new era of equality — independence, slimness, glamour, and liberation.

As it happened, the only equality this campaign ended up supporting involved lung cancer. Today, women and men die at similar rates from that disease.

Still, women have come a long way since the mid-twentieth century, and it’s worth considering just how far — and just how far we have to go.

Once Upon a Time

These days it may be hard for some to believe, but before the women’s movement burst on the scene in the late 1960s, newspapers published ads for jobs on different pages, segregated by gender. Employers legally paid women less than men for the same work.  Some bars refused to serve women and all banks denied married women credit or loans, a practice which didn’t change until 1974. Some states even excluded women from jury duty.

Radio producers considered women’s voices too abrasive to be on the air and television executives believed that women didn’t have sufficient credibility to anchor the news. Few women ran big corporations or universities, or worked as firefighters and police officers.  None sat on the Supreme Court, installed electrical equipment, climbed telephone poles, or owned construction companies.  All hurricanes had female names, due to the widely held view that women brought chaos and destruction to society.

As late as 1970, Dr. Edgar Berman, a consultant to presidents and to Medicare, proclaimed on television that women were too tortured by hormonal disturbances to assume the presidency.  Few people ran into women professors, doctors, or lawyers.  Everyone addressed a woman as either Miss or Mrs, depending on her marital status, and if a woman needed an abortion, legal nowhere in America, she risked her life searching among quacks in back alleys for a competent and compassionate doctor.

The public generally believed that rape victims had probably “asked for it,” most women felt too ashamed to report rape, and no language existed to make sense of what we now call domestic violence, sexual harassment, marital rape, or date rape.  One simple phrase seemed to sum up the hidden injuries women suffered in silence: “That’s life.”

On August 27, 1970, in response to such injustice, 50,000 women marched down New York’s Fifth Avenue, announcing the birth of a new movement. They demanded three rights: legal abortion, universal childcare, and equal pay.  These were preconditions for women’s equality with men at home and in the workplace.  Astonishingly, they didn’t include the ending of violence against women among their demands — though the experience and fear of male violence was widespread — because women still suffered these crimes in silence.

Those three demands, and the fourth one that couldn’t yet be articulated, have yet to be met.

The Hidden Injuries of Sex

As the women’s movement grew, women activists did, however, begin to “name” their grievances. Once named, they could be identified, debated, and — with a growing feminist political voice — turned into policy or used to change the law.

It turned out that there were plenty of hidden injuries, which women activists discovered and publicized through consciousness-raising groups, pamphlets, and books.  Rape, once a subject of great shame, became redefined as a physical assault that had little to do with lust. Date rape, for which there was plenty of experience but no name, opened up a national conversation about what constituted consensual sex. Few people had ever heard the words “marital rape.”  (“If you can’t rape your wife,” California Senator Bob Wilson allegedly said, “then who can you rape?”)  In this way, a new conversation began about the right of wives to have consensual sex and the nature of power relations within marriage.

From the very beginning, the mainstream media and the public labeled women activists as “lesbians.” Why else would they complain about male behavior? Provoked by constant efforts to “tarnish” all feminists as lesbians, activists chose to embrace the label, rather than exclude lesbians from the movement. In the process, they also began to write about and then discuss compulsory heterosexuality. Together with a burgeoning men’s gay movement, feminist lesbians and gay men formed the Gay Liberation Front in the 1969. Soon, lesbian feminists created an all-women’s group called the Lavender Menace.

The birth control pill and the sexual liberation movement of the mid-1960s gave women new freedoms.  Grasping the limitations of such changes without abortion being legalized, feminists soon joined the medical abortion rights campaign of that era. Determined to repeal laws against abortion, in New York they testified before the state legislature and passed out copies of a “model abortion bill”: a blank piece of paper. Through “public speak-outs,” they openly discussed their own illegal abortions and explained why they had made such choices. In Chicago and San Francisco, activists created clandestine organizations to help women seek qualified doctors. Some feminists even learned how to perform abortions for those who could not find a competent doctor.

Then, in 1973, the Supreme Court handed down its famous Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion and ignited the abortion wars that still rage today. You could even say that this is where the culture wars of the coming decades really began, and you wouldn’t be wrong.

What had feminists started? In essence, they had begun to redefine one “custom” after another as crimes. For instance, one of the greatest hidden injuries suffered by women in those years was the predatory sexually behavior of male bosses. In 1975, a group of women at Cornell University coined the term sexual harassment.  Previously, some women had called it “sexual blackmail,” but when legal scholar Catherine Mackinnon used the new phrase in the title of her 1979 book, Sexual Harassment of Working Women, both feminists and judges began using it in litigation against predatory bosses.  After Anita Hill’s accusations against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas in 1991, the phrase became a household term. In that same year, Congress added amendments to Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, accepting the feminist argument that sexual harassment violated a woman’s right to earn a living and work in a non-hostile atmosphere.

If the naming of sexual harassment changed the workplace, the reframing of wife-beating as domestic violence turned a custom into a felonious crime. At the same time, feminists spread a network of battered women’s shelters across the nation, offering havens from marital violence and possible death.

A Half-Century to Go

If the women’s movement often surprised and sometimes blindsided men, it also radically expanded America’s democratic promise of equality. Women are now everywhere. No one is shocked in 2013 when a woman enters an operating room or a lecture hall.  More than half the undergraduates at most universities are women.

Now, if your boss drives you crazy with sexual advances, you can report him for sexual harassment and sue him in court. If your husband beats you, he can be charged with a felony and, in most urban areas, you can escape to a battered women’s shelter. Women like Marissa Mayer, the CEO of Yahoo!, and Ruchi Sanghvi, head of operations at Dropbox, are some of the most powerful players in the new technology universe. Three women have served as secretary of state and one as national security advisor. Three women sit on the Supreme Court.  Hillary Clinton almost became the first woman president and may still achieve that goal.  Major magazines and newspapers have women executive editors and managing editors — even the New York Times, which waited until 1986 before reluctantly putting “Ms” in front of women’s names on its pages. Hurricanes now bear male and female names. Women in the U.S. military fight alongside men.  They work as firefighters and police detectives, and when a female plumber shows up to fix an overflowing toilet, most people don’t panic.

Because so much has changed, many people, including young women, believe that the longest revolution is over, that we should stop complaining, be proud of our successes, and go home.  Consider for a moment, though, the three demands made in 1970, and the fourth one that couldn’t even be articulated.

As anyone who’s been awake for the last decade knows, despite Roe v. Wade, women can’t access abortion providers in many parts of the country. States have passed laws requiring pregnant women to watch ultrasound “pictures” of their “babies,” and forced them to endure 24- or 48-hour waiting periods so that they can “rethink” their abortion decisions. In May 2012, Utah established the longest waiting period in the nation: 72 hours. In that year, in fact, anti-abortion legislatures managed to pass 43 new laws that, in one way or another, restricted abortion.

In big cities, finding an abortion provider is often not difficult — unless of course you are poor (because the government won’t pay for abortions).  Women in rural areas have, however, been hit particularly hard. They have to travel long distances, pay to stay in hotels while they “rethink,” and then, and only then, can they make the choice that was promised in 1973. So yes, women still have the right to legal abortion, but less and less access to abortion providers.

And what about child care?  In 1971, Congress passed the Comprehensive Childcare Act (CCA), providing national day care to women who needed it.  (Such a law wouldn’t have a chance today.) President Richard Nixon vetoed it that December. Using Cold War rhetoric, he argued that the legislation would harm the family and turn American women into their Soviet counterparts — that is, working drudges. His veto was also payback to his religious supporters in the South who opposed women working outside the home, and so using child care.  It set childcare legislation back until, well, this very moment.

Ask any young working mother about the nightmare of finding day care for her infant or a space in a preschool for her child.  Childcare, as feminists recognized, was a major precondition for women entering the labor force on an equal footing with men.  Instead of comprehensive childcare, however, this country chose the more acceptable American way of dealing with problems, namely, that everyone find an individual solution.  If you’re wealthy, you pay for a live-in nanny. If you’re middle class, you hire someone to arrive every day, ready to take care of your young children. Or you luck out and find a place in a good preschool — or a not-so-good one.

If you’re poor, you rely on a series of exhausted and generous grandparents, unemployed husbands, over-worked sisters, and goodhearted neighbors.  Unlike every nation in Europe, we have no guaranteed preschool or after-school childcare, despite our endless political platitudes about how much we cherish our children. And sadly, childcare has remained off the national political agenda since 1971. It was never even mentioned during the 2012 presidential debates.

And let’s not forget women’s wages. In 1970, women earned, on average, 59% of men’s wages. More than four decades later, the figure is 77%.  When a university recently invited me to give a keynote address at a conference, they asked what fee I expected. I wasn’t quite sure how to respond.  The best advice I got — from my husband — was: “Just tell them to give you 77% of whatever they’re paying the male keynote speaker.”  That response resulted in a generous honorarium.

But what about all the women — widowed, divorced, or single — who can’t draw on a second income from a man?  How can we claim we’ve reached the 1970 equal pay demand when 70% of the nation’s poor are women and children? This isn’t about glass ceilings. What concerns me are all the women glued to the sticky floor of dead-end jobs that provide no benefits and no health insurance, women who, at the end of each month, have to decide whether to pay the electricity bill or feed their children.

As an activist and historian, I’m still shocked that women activists (myself included) didn’t add violence against women to those three demands back in 1970. Fear of male violence was such a normal part of our lives that it didn’t occur to us to highlight it — not until feminists began, during the 1970s, to publicize the wife-beating that took place behind closed doors and to reveal how many women were raped by strangers, the men they dated, or even their husbands.

Nor did we see how any laws could end it.  As Rebecca Solnit wrote in a powerful essay recently, one in five women will be raped during her lifetime and gang rape is pandemic around the world.  There are now laws against rape and violence toward women. There is even a U.N. international resolution on the subject.  In 1993, the World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna declared that violence against girls and women violated their human rights.  After much debate, member nations ratified the resolution and dared to begin calling supposedly time-honored “customs” — wife beating, honor killings, dowry deaths, genital mutilation — what they really are: brutal and gruesome crimes. Now, the nations of the world had a new moral compass for judging one another’s cultures. In this instance, the demands made by global feminists trumped cultural relativism, at least when it involved violence against women.

Still, little enough has changed.  Such violence continues to keep women from walking in public spaces. Rape, as feminists have always argued, is a form of social control, meant to make women invisible and shut them in their homes, out of public sight.  That’s why activists created “take back the night” protests in the late 1970s.  They sought to reclaim the right to public space without fear of rape.

The daytime brutal rape and killing of a 23-year-old in India in early January 2013 prompted the first international protest around violence against women. Maybe that will raise the consciousness of some men. But it’s hard to feel optimistic when you realize how many rapes are still regularly being committed globally.

So, yes, we’ve come a long way, but without achieving full access to legal abortion, comprehensive childcare, or equal pay — those three demands from so many decades ago. Nor have we won the right to enjoy public space without fearing violence, rape, or worse.

I always knew this was the longest revolution, one that would take a century or more to unfold.  It’s upended most of our lives, and significantly improved so many of them. Nothing will ever be the same. Yet there’s still such a long way to go. I doubt I’ll see full gender equality in my lifetime.

Ruth Rosen, a former columnist for the Los Angeles Times and the San Francisco Chronicle, is Professor Emerita of History at the University of California at Davis and a Scholar in Residence at U.C. Berkeley.  She is the author, most recently, of The World Split Open: How the Modern Women’s Movement Changed America. She is on the editorial board of Dissent magazine and is a monthly contributor to OpenDemocracy.net in England. Her op-eds, commentary and articles can be found on the website www.ruthrosen.org.

Guest Post: Why Employment Is Dead in the Water

Submitted by Charles Hugh-Smith of OfTwoMinds blog,

Employment is dead in the water because opportunities for organic expansion are few and the cost basis of doing business in the U.S. keeps rising.

Let's start by reviewing the basics of employment in the U.S. Courtesy of the St. Louis Federal Reserve, here is the non-institutional civilian population of the U.S. (Note that the Civilian Non-institutional Population With No Disability, 16 years and over (LNU00074593)--roughly speaking, the workforce of the nation-- is 215 million).

Here is the percentage of the population with some kind of job: note this could be self-employment that earns $1,000 a year or a job with 4 hours a week; recall that 38 million American workers earn less than $10,000 per year, 50 million earn less that $15,000 a year and 61 million earn less than $20,000 annually. All these numbers are drawn directly from Social Security Administration payroll data.

Here is real (adjusted) gross domestic product (GDP), which includes government spending: (in other words, as you borrow-and-blow trillions of dollars, GDP rises).

Unfortunately, employment hasn't risen along with the population or the GDP: the only metric with any meaning is full-time employment, as self-employed and part-time jobs may pay a few thousand dollars a year and should not be included in the same category as full-time jobs.

In sum: the population and GDP have both expanded smartly since 2000, but full-time employment has barely edged above levels reached 13 years ago.

Academic economists and political progressives would have us believe that the only thing restraining employers from hiring millions more people is lack of access to cheap credit.

The explicit assumption here is that cheap credit is all employers need to expand their workforce. This is so out of touch with reality that it beggars description.Progressives and academic economists generally claim the Federal Reserve's zero-interest policy (ZIRP) and its other policies of flooding the economy with liquidity "are working," i.e. boosting the economy.

Here is what the Fed's policies are boosting: financial sector profits Please compare this chart with the chart above of full-time employment, and then decide where the Fed's free money/easy credit is flowing.

Here are financial profits per capita:

The only way to understand why employment is dead in the water is to stand in the shoes of a potential employer or entrepreneur. Remarkably, this perspective is unknown to economists and progressive politicians because they have never been an employer (and no, hiring a grad student to grade papers or an illegal nanny to watch your kids does not make you an employer.)

I have described this vast divide between small business employers, entrepreneurs and the self-employed and those working in government or Corporate America as one of the least explored social/economic divisions in the nation.

Those who have spent their careers in government or academia have little idea what it takes to hire more people. Number one is a business with strong demand for one's products or services. In a developed world with too much of everything except energy, that is no small challenge: the world is awash in over-capacity in every field except niche industries such as deepwater oil rigs.

Second, you need a process that generates so much value (specifically surplus value) that you will generate immediate profits by hiring more people.

If the value added by additional labor is low, then you have no reason to hire more employees, even if Ben Bernanke personally knocked on your door begging you to borrow a couple million dollars at low rates of interest.

If an additional unskilled worker will cost $10 an hour and might generate $100 a day in additional gross revenues, that is $20 in gross profit. But the overhead costs of operating a business are rising faster than inflation: junk fees imposed by cities, counties and states, workers compensation and disability premiums, healthcare costs (if you hire full-time workers), energy costs, and so on.

For most businesses, overhead costs 50% to 100% of total employee compensation--wages plus benefits and payroll taxes. So adding another employee to gross 20% more doesn't make it worthwhile--it actually generates a loss once overhead costs are paid.

The only time it makes sense to hire another worker is if that worker will create 100% or more surplus value from their labor. For example, a worker paid $200 a day in total compensation generates $400 more in gross revenues--enough to not only support the added overhead but net the business a profit.

In a global economy, competition constantly lowers the premium most businesses can charge. That places most businesses in the vice of declining gross margins and higher labor/ overhead costs. The only way to stay solvent is to grow revenues and slash costs so declining gross margins are still enough to pay the bills and leave some return on capital/time/risk invested.

Cheap credit doesn't create surplus value, increase gross margins or get rid of over-capacity. It is a financial non-sequitur for all but a relative handful of enterprises. The only firms interested in borrowing money for expansion are those relative few in sectors that are not burdened with overcapacity. That might include oil services, network security and a handful of others.

But high-margin sectors such as technology either get funding from venture capital or their high margins generate enough income to fuel expansion without taking on debt.

The only companies borrowing vast sums of money are those paying off higher-cost existing debt with new cheap-credit loans. The savings from lower interest payments don't flow to new hires, they flow to the bottom line and from there to executives, owners or stock buybacks that boost the portfolios of institutional owners.

Employment is dead in the water because opportunities for organic expansion are few and the cost basis of doing business in the U.S. keep rising. That vise forces businesses large and small to reduce labor costs while boosting productivity. There is no other way to stay solvent in a post-bubble, over-capacity, over-indebted consumerist economy awash in too much of everything but energy, common sense and fiscal prudence.

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Baby Death: Bloody Pillow And Blanket Found

An Irish nanny living illegally in America has been charged with violently assaulting a baby who later died.

Aisling McCarthy Brady, 34, from Quincy, Massachusetts, is alleged to have been the sole carer for the girl on January 14 - her first birthday - when she suffered injuries "consistent with abusive head trauma", it is claimed.

The baby, Rehma Sabir, died two days later in hospital after suffering brain damage.

Rehma was also found to have multiple healing bone fractures.

Brady is currently being held on \$500,000 (£316,000) bail after pleading not guilty to assault and battery on a child causing substantial bodily injury.

However, further charges are anticipated following the conclusion of the final report by the Chief Medical Examiner, the district attorney's office said on its website.

Middlesex District Attorney Gerry Leone said: "This is an extremely troubling case, where we allege the defendant violently assaulted a one-year-old child, causing a devastating head injury and broken bones.

"Children are our most vulnerable victims and where, as here, the offender has been entrusted with the care of a child who depends on them, the allegations are all the more egregious."

A statement on the District Attorney's website said: "It is alleged that on January 14, the child was in the care of the defendant, her nanny.

"Through their investigation, including interviews with witnesses, police determined that the defendant had sole custody of and contact with the child during the time that she sustained injuries consistent with abusive head trauma."

Rehma's injuries could have happened at any time, Brady's lawyer told the Associated Press.

Immigration authorities said Brady arrived from Ireland in 2002 and was only permitted to stay for 90 days.

A spokeswoman for Ireland's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said: "We are aware of the case and have been in contact with the family.

"We are ready to provide any consular assistance if it is needed."

The Boston Herald has reported that Rehma's father is from London and her mother is from Karachi, Pakistan.

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