Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Solidarity with Trayvon Martin and his family

Burlington: Hundreds rally in solidarity with the cause of Trayvon Martin. This evening on Church Street at the City Hall steps. Citizens - high school students, parents, city officials - spoke about institutional racism that exists in Vermont.


Monday, March 26, 2012

Another Example of Shock Doctrine At Work or Fuck Morality. It's All About Profits for the 1%

Paul Jay at The Real News Network interviews Gerry Epstein: 'Banking "Technocrats" Undermine Democracy.' How, in Europe and the US, bankers (in a blatant bit of Orwellian language, a.k.a 'technocrats) take control of the political process. Epstein and Jay discuss a secret letter (now leaked) written by the European Central Bank last September,
... it gave very direct instructions, you could say, to then prime minister Berlusconi about privatization, lowering pensions, changing hiring and firing, regulations and laws—all things one would think should be the outcome of the political process within Italy.

All the interview is thoughtful and provocative for all of us to ponder.
Read the text here.


More at The Real News

I liked especially this (my emphasis in bold):
EPSTEIN: Yeah. In Italy, the letter from the European Central Bank to the Berlusconi government said, you have to pursue privatization of public services. And this includes water, privatization of water. And, in fact, just months before, there had been a referendum in Italy about privatization of water, and the voters had rejected it. And now the so-called independent technocratic European Central Bank is coming in and telling them to overthrow what the people have decided and engage in privatization.

Another important goal of these kinds of so-called technocratic policies is to gut labor protection laws. In Italy there are strong protections for—in terms of hiring and firing. And what they're trying to impose are these so-called labor flexibility, with the idea that this is going to generate more economic growth and more employment. But as David Howell from the New School for Social Research, Dean Baker, and others have shown, labor flexibility does not lead to more employment and more economic growth; it just leads to lower wages and higher profits.

JAY: The other thing that seems to be very much in target or focused on is pensions in all countries, the idea, I guess, of lowering pension age and qualifications. Why is that such a big issue in Europe?

EPSTEIN: Well, it's such a big issue in Europe because that's—for two reasons. One is it's a big liability of the government, and so there is a big—a high degree of budget impact on that. But the second is trying to undermine the power of labor and forcing workers into the hands of the banks. So if you reduce public pensions, not only do you make it so that workers have to take any job they can get to support themselves and work longer, but it also gives more room for private pension plans. And as we know from the debate over privatizing Social Security here in the United States, that's been one of the long-term goals of finance. Indeed, the general push of all of these policies is to gut the welfare state as much as policy and return all of these kinds of protections to profit-making opportunities for banks and other private companies.

JAY: Is part of what's happening here—if you look at sort of the underlying economic forces at play here, I mean, one part of it is—and we've talked about this on The Real News quite a bit—the willingness and desire of various elites and financial elites to take advantage of the crisis to undo social policy, New Deal type things in the U.S., welfare safety net in Europe, and all that, and take advantage of sort of the weaker hand of labor and people during this crisis is one thing. But is there also another part of this, which is there's just so much capital with nowhere to go, that because of this unequal distribution of wealth and income, this massive amount of capital in very few hands, and the real economy not a great place to invest in, so what you need to do is pick apart what's—there is of the public sector as a place for this capital to go to? Is that part of what's going on here?

EPSTEIN: Yeah, I think that's a good—I think that's an important aspect. They're trying to destroy all of the publicly provided markets to find new markets in, particularly, a period of slow growth. And in a particular a period when they're actually pushing austerity, the size of the overall pie isn't going to grow much, so they have to chip away at previously protected parts of it.

Part of what is so evil about this whole approach is the transformation, the distortion of language that is part of it, the use of the term technocrat to hide the fact that Trichet, that Monti, Draghi, all of these people have very, very close ties to the big banks. Most of them worked at one time or another for Goldman Sachs or other big financial firms. We have the same kind of thing, of course, in the United States, where we had Larry Summers, who works for the financial sector and makes millions of dollars doing so, being put forward as a quote-unquote "technocrat". We have the Federal Reserve that has engaged, as you know, in all kinds of backdoor bailouts of the financial sector again seen as sort of a technocratic solution, but we see the revolving door between the Federal Reserve and the private financial sector, using the term fiscal consolidation for gutting public services and generating unemployment. All of this is Orwellian language, which is meant to obscure what is really going on, which is the takeover of democratic control, which, as you said, is already undermined by money, and putting it firmly in the hands of the financial sector.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Seven Days Biases

Seven Days, Burlington's "alternative" weekly, has become mainstream. (This move to bland, yuppie-liberal-hipster reporting has been going on ever since I moved to Burlington ten years ago.) The letters below call attention to the paper's anti-alternative biases. Kevin Kelley's article they critique concerns the recent city council candidates from Ward 3.
What I found instead was a biased article giving a voice to only the candidates with major party affiliations and marginalizing the independent candidates, Franco Salese and Ron Ruloff.

At a time when so many people are disappointed with the performance of the major parties, one might think this journalist would have offered a window into the ideologies of the alternative independent candidates. Not only did Mr. Kelley fail in that regard, he additionally referred to these two individuals as “long shots.” Does Mr. Kelley have any statistical data to back up this assertion?

I watched the Ward 3 debates on public access, and from them I learned that candidate Salese is more than just an “Alpine ski coach” “offering a little bit for everyone.” Mr. Salese stated a long list of professional credentials, as well as concrete solutions to many of the transparency concerns voiced by his constituents.

Through these debates I also learned that Ron Ruloff is not just a man who lives in his car. He offered an informed perspective on the city’s financial situation. Did Kelley not tune in? Did he not interview these candidates before sending this article to press? I must assume that Kelley either failed in his journalistic responsibilities or that he views non-Progressive and non-Democrat ideologies as unworthy of print. Additionally, referring to candidate Ruloff as just a guy who lives in his car truly perpetuates a problem in this country: that the homeless are voiceless and irrelevant. Overall, irresponsible journalism permeates this article.

The other letter was written by Ron Ruloff, one of the independent candidates.
I was never interviewed by Kevin J. Kelley or anyone else for the article on the Ward 3 city council race. My views and positions go far beyond stating, to paraphrase your “reporting”: “I live in a truck.” (Which is a statement I never made to you.) You had a reasonably good photo of me, but you might have said you failed to contact me for the article, rather than portraying me as a meaningless entity surviving in an old motor vehicle on the streets.

Your liberal-radical left bias is showing. The Dems and the Progs, with their self-serving, politically correct and anti-Semitic rant, are “objectively” reported as the front-runners. They’re just brainwashed yuppies with a rant: I invited all of them in person to debate me on my show, “Radio Free Brooklyn,” and none showed. None wanted to subject their views to any sort of rational analysis.

Remember, it was the Dems and Progs on the council who paid no attention to the city’s deteriorating finances over the past six or seven years because they’re “volunteers.” Remember, it was Bob Kiss the Progressive who introduced total secrecy into the mayor’s office and an authoritarian form of city government, and who has been allowed to skate free of criminal charges although he illegally diverted some $17 million in city funds. And the same people who are friends of Kiss and Clavelle should be allowed to stay in office? Sure, because of the backing of propaganda sheets like Seven Days, which carefully covers up all liberal malfeasance.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Two Songs from Wartime

Vera Margaret Welch, who performs as Vera Lynn, celebrates her birthday today. She was born 20 March 1917 in East Ham, Essex, England. She is still going strong at 95 and is regarded with great affection in Britain, particularly by veterans of World War Two.

More a song of defiance is this one about the First World War Sung by Chumbawamba, I'd never heard it until this week. And it rings true today.

Monday, March 19, 2012

O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! I'm back!

I'm back among the blogging. Hooray!

On February 17, I received an email from Blogger, announcing that Blazing Indiscretions was no more.
Your blog at http://blazingindiscretions.blogspot.com/ has been reviewed and confirmed as in violation of our Terms of Service for: SPAM. In accordance to these terms, we've removed the blog and the URL is no longer accessible.

Very little information was given about SPAM, but I did find out that Blogger had an automatic SPAM detection mechanism. Surely mine wasn't guilty - at least I thought so. But after clicking away to obtain more information (very badly organised by Blogger), I was able to find out that I could request a review for reinstatement. And fortunately I am registered as a contributor to other blogs - Blazing Indiscretions was listed as deleted, and the reinstatement button was a click away. I gave them my contact info with my request, was told that I'd hear back within 15-20 hours. Nothing, Nada, Zilch came back. And each time I tried to resubmit, all I saw was the date of my request, with no resubmit button. Friend bloggers commiserated with me on my loss. I checked out other blog hosting sites as I considered resurrecting BI. Last Friday, after randomly checking my Dashboard - amazingly, I was able to resubmit a reinstatement request. On Saturday...
Hello, We have received your appeal regarding your blog http://blazingindiscretions.blogspot.com/. Upon further review we have determined that your blog was mistakenly marked as a TOS violator by our automated system and, as such, we have reinstated your blog. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused in the meantime and thank you for your patience as we completed our review process. Thank you for for understanding. Sincerely, The Blogger Team

So I'm back, but Blogger should not leave account holders hanging for such a long time. And they could provide better and faster ways to get information on that faulty automatic spam detection, which I had been told sometimes has "false positives."