Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Eye of the Beholder

Wherein lies the beauty?


"I decline to discuss, under compulsion, where I have sung, and who has sung my songs, and who else has sung with me, and the people I have known. I love my country very dearly, and I greatly resent this implication that some of the places that I have sung and some of the people that I have known, and some of my opinions, whether they are religious or philosophical . . . make me any less of an American."
-- Pete Seeger to House Committee on Un-American Activities, August 1955

"Now that I know more, I support the BDS movement as much as I can.”
 -- Pete Seeger,January 2014  (Mondoweiss)
"SodaStream is a company that is not only committed to the environment but to building a bridge to peace between Israel and Palestine, supporting neighbors working alongside each other, receiving equal pay, equal benefits and equal rights. That is what is happening in their Ma'ale Adumim factory every working day...I believe in conscious consumerism and transparency and I trust that the consumer will make their own educated choice that is right for them. I stand behind the SodaStream product...."
 --Scarlett Johansson, January 23, 2014

Wide Asleep in America: Scarlett's Letter: SodaStream's Global Apartheid Ambassador & the Enduring Effervescence of Ethnic Cleansing

Deconstructing Scarlett Johansson’s statement on SodaStream | Mondoweiss

US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation : US Groups Respond to Scarlett Johansson's Defense of Israeli Occupation

Monday, January 27, 2014

Dipsy Doodle:
What "Globalization" Has Wrought

Why the rise of right-wing populism in America and Europe?

by Branko Milanovic, lead economist of the World Bank’s research department, 
via Derek Thompson in The Atlantic

This graph requires some explanation. You've got, first of all, to resist the impulse to see the x-axis (horizontal) as a time line. This chart is a snapshot of the result after twenty years.

As Derek Thompson describes it: "Imagine you lined up every human being in the world by income, divided them into 100 groups ("percentiles") ranging from lowest to highest, and asked: How has the last generation of economic growth been for you?"

This is a graph of real income growth over twenty years for each income percentile of the entire world's population. The x-axis (horizontal) is not a progression over time. You'll get confused if you read it that way. It is just represents the different income percentiles or the world's population. The y-axis (vertical) represents the final result, the net total growth in real income for each percentile over the twenty-years.* So the third dot on the line indicates that the people in the bottom 15% of the world's population saw their inflation-adjusted incomes grow about 57%. From the bottom 15% to about 50% of the world's population saw significant (up to 80%) income growth. These would be the populations of the developing countries, especially the BRICs. 

From about the 80th percentile (the top 20% of the world's incomes) to the 86th percentile (the top 14%) there has been a net decline in real income. Then you see another sharp (60%) increase for the top one percent, and especially the highest tiers therein, of the world's incomes. (That's about $130,000, which would be the income of the top 11-12% U.S. households.)

So a lot of people in developing countries, who have obtained new jobs and incomes in the world capitalist economy -- by some combination of the export of the developed world's capital, the increase of investment by indigenous elites, and the entrance into the capitalist wage economy of the ex- and putatively-still-"communist" states - have seen their incomes increase by the World Bank's calculations. That does not, it's important to remember, mean they are living high on the hog, just that their newly-acquired sweatshop wages put significantly more money than zero in their pockets.  

The big losers, on the other hand, are the sectors of the world's population that had decent incomes, a few notches above average -- the kind of income that allowed for homes and vacations, but not limousines and villas. It's not hard to figure who they are; they're the people on the streets in Athens, Madrid, and Paris, in the state capitol in Wisconsin, and those losing their pensions in Detroit.

Of course, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the people in developing nations earning more income. And there’s absolutely no reason that decently-paid workers in developing countries could not have real income gains as well. The diabolical inverse relation between these two sectors of the world’s population that this graph presents is not a necessary result of “purely” economic factors, but of the political economy of world capitalism. In that political economy, growth in profitability for the top 1% is always the main objective, and is always supported by various (and variable) supporting structures of inequality among the rest of the population.**

As Joe Wiesenthal puts it, at Business Insider:
In the chart you can see how lower income percentiles have seen monster growth since the late '80s. This growth represents the emerging economies and the rise of the Chinese middle class. Then you have the developed world middle class, which has seen almost no real income growth over the last few decades (which probably explains a lot of the current angst over inequality). And then you have the rise of the ultra-elite, the global 1%, which has done fantastically well during all this time.
Thus, this graph partly answers the question: Why the rise of right-wing populism in America and Europe?

The other part of the answer to that question is contained in the sad vacuum at the end of this one: Who, in the "liberal" sectors of the political and media establishments of the "developed world," actually speaks and works for the "lower middle classes" in their own countries? 

[Modified on 1/28/2014 to explain chart more fully.]

[*Added words "the final result" to this sentence on 2/1/2014.]

[**Added this paragraph on 2/1/2014.]

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Keep on Truckling: Mayor of New York's Job "is to be a defender of Israel"

Really?  "Part of my job description is to be a defender of Israel"

Bill de Blasio & Avigdor Lieberman/Bill de Blasio via Wikimedia Commons

Keep on Truckling.

"When you need me to stand by you in Washington or anywhere, I will answer the call and I will answer it happily, because that’s my job."

As it is the job of every major-party politician in the United States. And don't you forget it.

This was the newly-elected "progressive" New York City Mayor de Blasio speaking to AIPAC at the New York Hilton last night, as recounted by Philip Weiss.1 According to The New York Times, this event was a "private” speech. It was kept off his public schedule, and a reporter who attempted to cover the event was ejected by security.  Nothing to see here.

Say Hello to My Little Friend 

By the way, that little fella de Blasio is schmoozing with in the picture above is Avigdor Lieberman, Israel's Foreign Minister.

Lieberman is, shall we say, a colorful character.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Who’s the Boss? The Obamacare Deception

"Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhuman."
attributed to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Is it not painfully obvious to everyone now that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is a complicated failure of a contraption, from a healthcare and a political point of view? Answer: Yes!  Even Michael Moore now admits that “Obamacare is awful.”

Indeed, I contend that:
  • Obamacare is not a public program, but a government-assisted private boondoggle. Its main purpose is not to ensure public health, but to insure the profitability of private health insurance companies and the private pharmaceutical and hospital industries.
  • It is the product of a now thoroughly corrupt political culture in which capital openly buys politicians, elections, and laws.
  • It is failing politically at every level, and is even likely to fail in its actual socio-economic goal of perpetuating the profitability of the private health insurance industry.
  • It cannot be “tweaked” into becoming a real public healthcare program, and every syllable of every argument for fine-tuning it does nothing but waste time and stand in the way of ever getting the single-payer, universal coverage, Medicare-for-all that we need.

Unfortunately, it was Democratic Obama cheerleaders like Moore – who refused four years ago to oppose the program and insist, as they should have (and promised they would!), on a public system – who helped to create the terrible situation we now have. (And Moore still seems to think Obamacare is “a godsend” that can be tweaked into perfection.  See Shamus Cooke’s wonderful takedown of Moore’s weaseling.)

As Norman Solomon put it, with their “disingenuous sales pitches four years ago, President Obama and his Democratic acolytes did a lot to create the current political mess engulfing Obamacare — exaggerating its virtues while pulling out the stops to normalize denial about its real drawbacks. That was a bad approach in 2009. It remains a bad approach today.”

The result has been a situation in which healthcare has become more thoroughly privatized, and the possibility of a single-payer Medicare-for-all system – the cheaper, more effective, already-proven and undeniably popular (favored by two-thirds of the public in 2009) solution – has become deferred even further, and made harder even to see or discuss.

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