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.