Nearly every tool necessary to wage war can now be purchased: combat support, including the ability to conduct large-scale operations and surgical strikes; operational support, like training and intelligence gathering; and general support, like transportation services and paramedical assistance. The demand for these services, in turn, has ballooned: the gross revenue for the private military contractor industry is now in excess of $100bn a year. The privatization of conflict is no longer a trend. It’s the norm.
Detroit Citizens Prepare to Fight Their Corporate Master

Wednesday, 20 March 2013 09:29By Mark VorpahlOccupy.com | Report

 

 

 

Fresh from shoving his “Right to Work for Less” legislation down the throats of Michigan’s workers, Governor Rick Snyder has grown bolder in pursuing a corporate agenda. He has now appointed Kevyn Orr of Jones Day Law firm to act as an Emergency Financial Manager (EFM) of Detroit.

As an EFM, Orr can dismiss elected officials, tear up union contracts, privatize public assets and impose new taxes without a vote. The trappings of democracy are swept away like so many cobwebs. Nearly half of all of Michigan’s African-American citizens are now effectively left with no vote in local government; they are stuck with taxation without representation.

With the appointment of an EFM, Governor Snyder is transforming Detroit into an occupied colony within the State. Instead of guns, the armies sent into Detroit will carry briefcases filled with lucrative contracts to ensure complete corporate domination at the expense of the city’s residents.

Their task will be to find ways to squeeze more labor out of Detroit’s workers while paying them less, open up publicly owned services for private investment, and cut social programs that do not contribute to the enrichment of the 1% by enforcing an austerity program. And the results are predictable: austerity will cause even more unemployment and increase the deficit further just as it has done in Europe.

This development is a bi-partisan affair. While Governor Snyder is a Republican, Kevyn Orr is a Democrat who worked for President Obama’s election. Detroit’s Democratic Mayor, Dave Bing, said of his relationship with Snyder that they are “joined at the hip.”

Who Created the Crisis?

To justify his appointment of an EFM for Detroit, Governor Snyder is citing a state-appointed review team report. The report noted Detroit’s $14 billion debt and the $327 million budget deficit, as well as other issues. What it failed to examine is the billions of dollars banks and corporations make every year as a result of doing business in Detroit.

The city business income tax is only 2 percent while individual Detroit residents pay 3 percent. Michigan’s corporate income tax is a flat rate of only 6 percent, the same rate as the state sales tax, which impacts middle and low-income individuals the most.

The city’s debt would vanish and its budget would flourish if the banks and corporations were paying their fair share for the privilege of doing business in Detroit, Michigan. This is not to mention the $1.1 trillion in annual deductions, credits and other tax breaks that flow disproportionately to the highest income Americans each year on a national scale.

Nor does the report mention that many of the banks in Detroit were bailed out at the onset of the Great Recession with trillions of taxpayer dollars — money that should have been used for jobs and public services. Not only are these banks getting off cheap on taxes while being bailed out, they have actively swindled massive amounts of revenue from Detroit’s citizens.

Credit agencies, like Standard & Poor’s, aggressively targeted homeowners with subprime loans. This has led to fraudulent foreclosures that have driven 200,000 people from Detroit, leaving one-quarter of the city’s houses empty. As a result, both real-estate values and tax revenue have been depressed.

These banks also sold the city interest rate swaps, a financial tool they assured would save Detroit money. Then they set the interest rates artificially low (the LIBOR scandal) so they would make money hand over fist and leave Detroit holding the bill or pay a fee for getting out of their trap.

The banks and corporations are the ones responsible for Detroit’s financial crisis. Yet they are the ones who will reap the rewards of an Emergency Financial Manager. It will be their interests that Kevyn Orr is there to serve, by making sure they get paid first and foremost, above all other considerations.

In a city with an official 10.2 percent unemployment rate, where 57 percent of children live below the poverty line, where street lights are left off, roads left unrepaired, and bus service is spotty, it would be hard to imagine a scheme worse than appointing an EFM. The priorities of this “solution” are in opposition to the values of a community most workers hold dear.

Fighting Back

In defense of these values, Detroit has a long militant Labor and Civil Rights history. It is a sleeping giant that Kevyn Orr’s appointment may arouse. There have already been numerous protests before he has had a chance to get to work, as well as militant sounding statements from some of the city’s elected council people.

What is needed is a social movement that will unite Labor and Civil Rights organizations and get Detroit’s residents out into the streets in mass protest actions. To do this it will not be enough to demand the ouster of the EFM and a return to the way things were before. Detroit citizens have already endured numerous cuts at the cost of their community’s health and the economy’s strength without Governor Synder’s latest extreme measure.

What will involve the most people in struggle is a fight that reflects their values and addresses their immediate demands. Detroit needs good jobs, good schools, repaired roads and city services as well as public programs that will lift up everyone’s standard of living.

In order to do this, debt-service payments should be suspended. Last year alone Detroit paid $597 million for these payments. Even more, the banks and corporations responsible for the city’s crisis should be made to pay billions of dollars in reparations. In addition, they must be made to pay their fair share in taxes.

These measures will revitalize the city and provide it with a stable revenue base for the future. However, because they run into sharp conflict with the corporate agenda pursued by politicians from both the Republican and Democratic parties, it will take a popular independent movement of working people to champion them.

Such a struggle may start in Detroit. If so, its example will quickly spread. This will breathe new life into the Labor and Civil Rights movements if their leaderships are compelled to take on the challenge, rather than depend on the twin corporate parties for the illusion of a national political voice.

That is why what is happening in Detroit deserves our fullest attention. The AFL-CIO and other national organizations must commit to turning around developments in the city with a mass-based national campaign to put workers’ needs above corporate profits.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.

3

There’s a tectonic mindshift going on in the science of economics right now, but you wouldn’t know it by tuning in to the likes of Martin Wolf, Paul Krugman, Andrew Sorkin, Lawrence Summers, Tim Geithner, Ben Bernanke, Dominique Strauss-Kahn or most of the professors teaching Economics 101 around the world. These old-school practitioners of neoclassicism are stuck in the past, versed in only one language: the language of pure, unadulterated money.

As oil reserves dwindle and climate tipping points loom, they babble on endlessly about liquidity, stimulus, derivatives, bond markets, sovereign debt, AAA ratings and investment banker bonuses. They never say a word about melting glaciers, eroding coral reefs, rising sea levels, fizzing oceans or the methane that’s bubbling out of the arctic tundra. Like medieval theologians who argued endlessly about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, today’s economists argue incessantly about how economic growth can be sustained forever on a finite planet. Ten years from now, as the blowback from the externalities of their way of doing business repeatedly hammers us and global warming kicks in with a vengeance, we’ll look back in shock and awe – and wonder what it was about these logic freaks and their money narratives that so mesmerized us.

Five hundred years ago astronomers following Ptolemy’s geocentric model of the universe were tearing their hair out trying to make sense of all their calculations of the sun, moon and stars moving around above us in the night sky. It was only when Copernicus pointed out that we are not the center of the universe – the sun does not revolve around the Earth but rather the other way around – that all their convoluted calculations fell magically into place.

Today something eerily similar is happening in the science of economics: Economists and lay people alike are realizing that our human money economy is a subset of the Earth’s larger bioeconomy rather than the other way around. Over the next few years, as this monumental shift of perspective kicks in, all the economic, ecological and financial craziness of the industrial era will evaporate, and a new sustainable way of running our planetary household will fall magically into place.

Economics students, especially PhD students, in departments around the world have a crucial role to play in ushering in this new paradigm. Go to kickitover.org and join the movement.

—Kalle Lasn on Adbuster.com here.

"Kids For Cash" Scandal Judge Sentenced To 28 Years

Here is a reposting of an article from Care2.com about the judge who unjustly sent roughly 4000 children to private detention centers in return for taking a $1 million bribe from the builder of two private juvenile detention facilities. 

a massive bribery scandal that Mark Ciavarella, Jr. and another judge, Michael Conrahan, devised. According to prosecutors, Conrahan first secured contracts from the state to house juvenile offenders in the private facilities; Ciavarella then presided over the juvenile courts and filled the centers with some 4000 youths, some as young as 10 years old and many first-time offenders, between 2003 and 2008. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has overturned about 4,000 of the convictions issued by Ciavarella, saying he violated the constitutional rights of the youths, including their right to legal counsel and the right to intelligently enter a plea.

The “kids for cash” case also highlights the issues surrounding the privatization of detention facilities for juveniles, inmates and immigrants. As states including California place inmates in private facilities — and private-prison companies reap the rewards –  how can we make sure that their rights are protected? You can’t. Money corrupts this type of system.

In Arizona, Governor Jan Brewer has invested in several private prisons. Now her insistence on passing the state’s anti-immigration law, SB 1070, reveals to me that her plan all along was to fill up these new private prisons of hers with illegal immigrants and then conveniently lose them in the system. Brewer and her investors would have a steady revenue stream if SB 1070 holds up in court.

Think about it, if you had a private prison you would be doing this very thing. If you don’t get a steady stream of convicts you are out of business. This encourages you to be unscrupulous. Where’s the incentive to do the right thing? Let me know when you’ve figured that out.

This is why private prisons ARE and WILL ALWAYS BE a BAD IDEA!

Meanwhile, Mark Ciavarella, Jr. should have gotten the same sentences all 4000 of the kids got. He should serve these sentences consecutively of course, which would come out to a few hundred years.



The Privatization of Stress

The privatisation of stress is a perfect capture system, elegant in its brutal efficiency. Capital makes the worker ill, and then multinational pharmaceutical companies sell them drugs to make them better. The social and political causation of distress is neatly sidestepped at the same time as discontent is individualised and interiorised. Dan Hind has argued that the focus on serotonin deficiency as a supposed `cause’ of depression obfuscates some of the social roots of unhappiness, such as competitive individualism and income inequality. Though there is a large body of work that shows the links between individual happiness and political participation and extensive social ties (as well as broadly equal incomes), a public response to private distress is rarely considered as a first option.13 It is clearly easier to prescribe a drug than a wholesale change in the way society is organised. Meanwhile, as Hind argues, `there is a multitude of entrepreneurs offering happiness now, in just a few simple steps’. These are marketed by people `who are comfortable operating within the culture’s account of what it is to be happy and fulfilled’, and who both corroborate and are corroborated by `the vast ingenuity of commercial persuasion’. Psychiatry’s pharmacological regime has been central to the privatisation of stress, but it is important that we don’t overlook the perhaps even more insidious role that the ostensibly more holistic practices of psychotherapy have also played in depoliticising distress. The radical therapist David Smail argues that Margaret Thatcher’s view that there’s no such thing as society, only individuals and their families, finds `an unacknowledged echo in almost all approaches to therapy’.14 Therapies such as Cognitive Behaviour Therapy combine a focus on early life (a kind of psychoanalysis-lite) with the self-help doctrine that individuals can become masters of their own destiny. Smail gives the immensely suggestive name magical voluntarism to the view that `with the expert help of your therapist or counsellor, you can change the world you are in the last analysis responsible for, so that it no longer cause you distress’ (p7). × 4 × neoliberalism × capitalism × market economy × public health “There are things to celebrate here and there, but there is no momentum behind the positives. All of the momentum is in the opposite direction; every year we get a little poorer, the schools get a little more defunded, the textbooks get a little more revisionist history and industry-sponsored “science”, the corporations get a little more human in court, the jobs with benefits become a little rarer, the playing field gets a bit less level, and the feeling that things have changed for the worse in a very fundamental way nags a bit more insistently.”

(via complice)

Will Americans Allow Public Water to Be Privatized?

A misleading notion is continually raised that using private capital to fund water systems somehow constitutes an innovative approach to financing. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Time and again, municipalities and consumers have suffered under privatized water systems.  

Why not just give private companies like American Water the same tax-exempt status on bonds as public utilities? That’s actually another proposal out there these days. Apparently, this so-called “innovative” private financing requires government tax breaks and special treatment to compete with traditional public financing.

http://ecowatch.com/2013/will-public-water-be-privatized/

Watch on rollership.tumblr.com

I am glad people are publicizing this. Privatization of water is a longstanding global issue. For decades, companies have been “buying” water sources on other continents (in particular, South America) and redirecting the water away from local people to factories (Nestle, Kraft, & Coke do this, to name a few). The water is most often stolen from lands of ancient Native people then sold back to the tribes for a profit, usually to be shared by the local government.

Tribes who could once walk a few yards to gather free water have to travel miles to pay for water by the gallon. Often these water sources have been polluted by the factories causing cancer and other health issues. Entire tribes accrue debt for “stealing” water and many have to leave their homes to find work resulting in the decimation of ancient tribal cultures. Companies have owned parts of the Great Lakes for decades, but in nearly secret ways.

This issue is significant to me because, among it’s obvious appeal to the socially just-minded, it was one of my first wake up calls as a young activist who was learning to recognize oppression as a global mega-system. In these tribes I saw my ancestors, my people’s struggle. In this oppression I saw my participation and benefit as an American and a person of privilege. It was an early heartbreak for me and the scar remains, bonding me to this struggle.

Colonization isn’t over. Perhaps now that this is impacting urban US citizens more people will recognize the damage of privatizing the Earth who belongs to all of us, and to no one.

I just finished watching this! I enjoyed it!

Here’s the trailer

Here is a summary taken from it’s website:

Blue Gold: World Water Wars

In every corner of the globe, we are polluting, diverting, pumping, and wasting our limited supply of fresh water at an expediential level as population and technology grows. The rampant overdevelopment of agriculture, housing and industry increase the demands for fresh water well beyond the finite supply, resulting in the desertification of the earth.

Corporate giants force developing countries to privatize their water supply for profit. Wall Street investors target desalination and mass bulk water export schemes. Corrupt governments use water for economic and political gain. Military control of water emerges and a new geo-political map and power structure forms, setting the stage for world water wars.

We follow numerous worldwide examples of people fighting for their basic right to water, from court cases to violent revolutions to U.N. conventions to revised constitutions to local protests at grade schools. As Maude Barlow proclaims, “This is our revolution, this is our war”. A line is crossed as water becomes a commodity. Will we survive?

Watch on wishful-thinkment.tumblr.com
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