Thursday, August 17, 2017

Neoliberalism in an app

GUEST: Tom Slee, software industry critic and author of several books including No One Makes You Shop at Walmart and more recently, What’s Yours Is Mine, Against the Sharing Economy, talks about Uber, AirB&B, and the destruction of the commons.

Tom led us into an interesting discussion of the "commons," community structures that people create and maintain for the good of all. Sometimes these commons are monetized, leading to a few people getting rich by selling what many others have created.

The Internet seems to have accelerated this process, first promising an enhanced "commons," but in the end destroying how communities really work.

Tom adds a good deal of research to his book, showing how a current lack of regulation accelerates the ripping off of the public good. Hedge funds pour billions in, and CEO's become desperate to make a return on investments by squeezing employees and cutting down on safety requirements. 

In a sense, these Internet corporations have not resulted in more freedom at all. Just a more sophisticated externalizing of costs and maximizing of profits. Neoliberalism in an app. 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Three progams

GUEST: Leah Muskin-Pierret, Government Affairs Associate at the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights, talks about supporting grassroots human rights organizations and pressuring members of Congress to speak out on Palestine.

The state of Israel has been hell on the Palestinians, 4.5 million people still living under a sixty year old apartheid occupation. Their treatment ranges from daily subjugation and deprivation in the West Bank to the deadly blockade of Gaza. Every few years, Israel unleashes a high tech slaughter in Gaza, killing 550 children in the last bloodbath.

Americans like to stand apart from all this slaughter. Yet we supply Israel's weaponry and veto UN attempts to condemn these war crimes. In addition the US gives Israel over 3 billion each year despite their dismal human rights record.

But Israel is more than an embarrassment to the American people. It has manipulated the US into endless wars in the Middle East, with Iran as the next target. Trillions of US dollars have been spent on these conflicts, and millions of civilians killed.

The biggest danger that Israel poses, however, is the destruction of our Constitution and its First Amendment freedom of speech. The Israel Anti-Boycott Act now in Congress would criminalize the boycott of Israel's illegal settlements, with the possibility of heavy fines and long prison terms.

Our two NY Senators are cosponsors of this bill. They are also among the highest paid by the Israel Lobby. Schumer even brags that he is the "Defender of Israel." Perhaps he will want to add another feather to his cap if this bill passes, "Betrayer of the US Constitution."

In our pay to play kleptocracy, the Israel Lobby has becomes a malignancy.

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GUEST: Josh Bivens, Director of Research at the Economic Policy Institute and author of "Failure by Design: The Story behind America’s Broken Economy" as well as "Everybody Wins Except for Most of Us: What Economics Really Teaches About Globalization," discusses how our economy is stacked to benefit the very rich.

The most important thing that Josh had to tell us was that trade policy now is very different than trade policy before the 1980's. Josh reminds us that by 1980, most tariffs had been removed. Imports were not taxed excessively and US exports were not hampered by protectionist laws abroad. Free trade agreements were a no brainer.

But free trade agreements now are written by the major corporation specifically to increase their profits and to reduce their labor costs. Agreements are about extending monopolies on medicines, reducing the dependence on American labor, and eliminating environmental protections. They are wish lists for the well heeled, and death certificates for labor and environmental rights.

Josh takes us through the corporate machinations, and the so called "liberal" presidents who have sold us down the river. Clinton turns out to be the biggest lier on free trade, but the rest are not far behind. Liberal Democrats in the White House, of course, paved the way for the fascist and white nationalist we have now. Like most demagogues, Trump saw his chance in the very undemocratic rule of the economic elite. Neoliberalism paves the way for fascism.

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GUESTS: Susan (travel photographer), and Paul Sprachman (academic and translator), will discuss her photography of woman in Iran as well as his translations of Iranian literature. Their presentation "Iranian Women Beyond the Chador" will take place August 4 in Woodstock, NY.

We had an interesting talk with Susan and Paul about Iran. It wasn't political at all, but did portray some of the beauty of the Iranian land and its people.

Now that the empire is convulsing and threatening war in many parts of the world, it is important that we citizens know the terrible price the world has paid for US imperialism in the past: 2 million killed in Korea, 2 million in Vietnam, 2 million so far in the Middle East. The empire is not finished yet, of course, but planning new adventures in conquering foreign lands for corporate profit. You and I watch from the inside hoping to resist in some way. Is that possible at all? Or must the empire run its terrible course to the end?

God gave Noah the rainbow sign,
Won't be water, but fire next time.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Get rid of it; it is your right

GUEST: Harvey J Kaye, Professor of Democracy and Justice Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay and award-winning author of numerous books, including Thomas Paine and the Promise of America, and his newest book, The Fight for the Four Freedoms: What Made FDR and the Greatest Generation Truly Great, talks about the need to rediscover our radical roots.

Rediscovering our roots doesn't sound that radical unless one begins to understand the revolutionary thought that produced the United States of America. 

In a way, our revolution was more a template than permanent way to govern. Try again if things aren't working out says our Declaration of Independence. Your rights come first; discard any rule or government that doesn't live up to your radical expectations. 

Harvey Kaye reminds us that positive changes in American history have always harkened back to these ideas. And it is only because most citizens don't quite understand how dangerous these ideas are that the corrupt leaders of today are able to manipulate both parties and most the media to favor the very richest. The Declaration of Independence has one answer to the kleptocracy that we find ourselves ruled by in this century. Get rid of it; it is your right.


Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Leaving us all vulnerable

GUEST: Alex Beauchamp, Northeast Region Director at Food & Water Watch who has worked on issues related to fracking, factory farms, genetic engineering, and water privatization, talks to us about the Cuomo Tax, the billion dollar giveaway to the nuclear energy industry.

Alex took us through the recent history of nuclear energy in New York State. This latest ripoff of the citizenry has a long history of the very rich determining the very worst and most expensive of energy policies for the rest of us. Nuclear power never really made any sense. Not even the immense problem of nuclear waste was addressed, leaving time bombs where nuclear plants are closed down.

Giving billions more to the nuclear industry so that aged plants can last another 20 years is ludicrous public policy. The giveaway will slow down the transition to renewable energy as well. Incentives for  wind and solar will suffer, bringing the specter of global warming ever nearer.

Our political leaders don't care. They just do what the billionaires tell them to. It is an insane system, of course. A failure of our species to adapt, leaving us all vulnerable if not doomed. Too clever by half.

Can the US be far behind?

GUEST: Andy Clarno, assistant professor of sociology and African American studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago, talks about his new book, Neoliberal Apartheid, Palestine/Israel and South Africa After 1994 that explores racism, capitalism, colonialism, and empire in the early 21st century, with a focus on the relationship between marginalization and securitization.

Sharon, who is from South Africa, helped me with this interview. I hadn't put neoliberal with apartheid, and certainly didn't know the reasons that South Africa remained mired in extreme poverty even after Black Africans had "won their freedom."

The book is a page turner in that it pulls you into aspects of neoliberalism that you hadn't considered. Could it be that all three societies, South Africa, Israel, and the United States will end up with a tiny percentage on the very top, supported and maintained by a huge security force. It is a dystopian vision, but one that we now see emerging in all three countries. 

The role of the oppressed in joining and protecting this gross division between the halves and the have nots is another interesting consideration. South African Blacks without jobs join security firms to protect the very rich. Palestinian security forces make up a good deal of the repressive apparatus that keeps an occupied people subservient. Can the US be far behind?

Friday, June 23, 2017

The truly ugly part

GUEST: Dr. Reza Mansoor, cardiologist, past president of the Islamic Council of New England, and author of Stigmatized: From 9/11 to Trump and Beyond, talks about his work in combating racial hatreds.

Dr. Reza Mansoor is an articulate and compassionate person. Like all true leaders, he refuses to channel hatred, but instead talks of love and understanding.

I asked several questions about his reluctance to consider the role of the United States in the Middle East. Our country has devastated the region, killing millions and driving many more from their homes. It is, of course, the Project for the New American Century, a plan of global domination drafted during the Clinton presidency. 

The current focus on "reforming" Islam is nothing more than a sham. It's like blaming Blacks in America for being shot by racist, white cops. Did Dr. Mansoor feel that this was a good subject to bring up in his talks about racism?

He didn't deny the role of the United States in creating the bloodbath that is the Middle East. But he said that he preferred to reach out rather than blame the American people.

Muslims constitute about one percent of the US population. Maybe speaking truth to power would enflame the American public even more than the racist language coming from our current president and ruling class. Or maybe it is time to fight back and identify the racist elements in our foreign and domestic policy that have enraged a generation of the world's Muslims. 

I don't know the answer. The United States is not above the neoliberal apartheid inflicted on Blacks, Native Americans and other vulnerable minorities. I do know that it must be hard for people like Dr. Mansoor to keep his civility when attacked for his faith. From that I hear, his talk at the Woodstock Jewish Center was not particularly easy, with several in the audience expressing islamophobic sentiments. That brings us to the truly ugly part of this type of racism, the role of the Israel Lobby and many in the Jewish religious community in promoting race hatred in America. 


Explaining to grandchildren

GUEST: Alice Rothchild, obstetrician-gynecologist, Palestinian human rights activist and writer, talks about the making of her new movie: "Voices Across the Divide."

This interview was done by Sharon, our first Activist Radio field reporter. 

Eli and I sat in the WVKR studio spellbound by the interview. Both women were so articulate in conveying the grief and suffering of the Palestinian people during their 50 years of Israeli occupation. 

Oppression leaves lasting scars, even for those who manage to emigrate to a foreign country. But for the Palestinians still there, life is an unremitting series of humiliation and deprivation. The fact that the United States supports this racist atrocity, the longest running apartheid in the world, will be our country's lasting shame. Many of my ancestors were German, and I know what it is like questioning the morality and even the humanity of my own people. How did the Germans do what they did? How did a society become so debased as to commit genocide? 

The genocide of the Palestinian people is fostered and encouraged by the United States. Our tax dollars buy the guns, the cluster bombs, the white phosphorus, and the illegal settlements in the West Bank. Explain that to your grandchildren if you can.